Celebrating Black History Month

Black History MonthWith You staff reflect on Black history, the experience of being Black in the UK and how we can better support Black communities in our work.

People from Caribbean and African backgrounds are fundamental to British society. Black History Month is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate, share and appreciate the full impact of our cultural history.

Black History Month is also an opportunity to recognise the challenges our communities face in contemporary UK life. While these experiences have received greater mainstream attention in recent years in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Windrush Scandal, for us members of Black communities they’ve always been there. Negotiating these challenges is part of our lived experience in the UK.

Four of our staff with a Caribbean or African cultural background have written about their culture, their experiences as a Black person and reflected on how we can better support the Black community in our work.

Zara

Black History is more and more important to me the older I get. In many ways, it’s helped shape who I am.

My mum was born in Barbados and my dad in Jamaica and they both came to the UK in the late 60s. I was born in South East London and moved to Kent in 2013.

Caribbean culture is a huge part of my life and it goes beyond the food and music. Family is one of the most important parts of our culture from respecting our elders to family celebrations. I have fond memories of the Nine Nights for my paternal grandparents, events which celebrated their lives for nine nights after their deaths. Being surrounded by those that loved them and knowing I had my community to lean on helped get me through that time.

I’m a firm believer that representation matters and seeing many great achievements by Black people makes me feel like I have generations of supporters. One person in particular who inspires me is British Nurse Mary Seacole, a strong woman who didn’t let anything get in her way while supporting people.

Equally, I’m inspired by my paternal grandmother. Before she passed she was a true force to be reckoned with. She came to the UK as part of the now named Windrush Generation and worked her whole life alongside my grandad while supporting nine children and then countless grandchildren. I was fortunate to spend lots of time with her and her legacy lives on in us all. I have taken on her strength of character, her resilience in the face of adversity, her kindness and her fight.

I grew up in South East London and, although there were experiences of racism, I always felt that, because I lived in such a diverse area, people had my back and I, perhaps naively, did not understand the full impact of systemic racism.

Within six months of moving out of London, my six year old son was called the N word at school. As a family we’ve experienced numerous other racist incidents over the last 8 years. This led me to start PART (Panda Anti-Racism Team). We deliver anti-racism education in schools and were recently shortlisted for a Community Organisation National Diversity Award. More recently I’ve started a new role at With You as an interim Diversity and Inclusion People Partner, supporting the organisation to move forward to become a more inclusive place to work.

I’ve had lots of support from my family, colleagues at work and local community in these efforts. Although I think we have a long way to go to end racism, if we stay united we will make a difference.

I work in youth mental health. I’d like to see us reach more Black communities in our work, build trust and educate all to break stereotypes and reduce stigma. Everyone should feel comfortable accessing support regardless of their race or background. Within my role at our Mind and Body programme. I feel that it helps students to see someone that looks like them. This led to increased numbers and disclosures from Black students. I’m a huge advocate for education and if we can educate young people on mental health, racism and equality we will make a difference.

Read the full blog post here.


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