Black His­tory Month shines a light on a wealth of culture and con­tri­bu­tion

Yorkshire Post - Business - - VOICES - Griselda To­gobo Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, For­ward Ladies

Last year, I was so frus­trated by the lack of ac­tiv­ity to mark Black His­tory Month in my son’s school that my hus­band and I of­fered to give talks to the chil­dren to mark the month. Michael, my hus­band, a gy­nae­col­o­gist and ob­ste­tri­cian, gave a talk of his ex­pe­ri­ence of grow­ing up in East Lon­don to the chil­dren in the se­nior school whilst I did my talk to the chil­dren in the ju­nior school.

For us, it is an op­por­tu­nity to mark the achieve­ments of black peo­ple, to pro­file new role mod­els giv­ing young peo­ple a wider spec­trum of role mod­els to choose from. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for us par­ents as we know our chil­dren will need them as they grow, de­velop their own iden­tity and seek their own ca­reer paths.

We were both amazed by the ques­tions the chil­dren asked and the lack of knowl­edge about Africa, black peo­ple, our rich culture and con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy of the United King­dom. We are both very proud of our African her­itage and the strength of the black race in sur­viv­ing cen­turies of atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against them glob­ally and we en­cour­age young chil­dren of black her­itage to see them­selves as sur­vivors and not vic­tims and to have pride in their her­itage.

We know that their race, iden­tity and sense of be­long­ing will be very im­por­tant as they grow. The re­cent Win­drush scan­dal left many de­scents of that first wave of African Caribbean im­mi­grants ques­tion­ing their be­long­ing in Bri­tain.

For many years black peo­ple have con­trib­uted to the di­ver­sity and eco­nomic suc­cess of the United King­dom and York­shire as a re­gion, how­ever, I fear that our ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum is not mak­ing chil­dren aware of these con­tri­bu­tions. Our chil­dren are grow­ing up know­ing very lit­tle of these con­tri­bu­tions and the achieve­ment of black peo­ple out­side of the stereo­typ­i­cal ar­eas of sports and en­ter­tain­ment. Most peo­ple would know of Martin Luther King and Nel­son Man­dela but would they know of Rosa Parks, Dame Jo­ce­lyn Bar­row, Len Gar­ri­son, Kather­ine G. John­son, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jack­son and their con­tri­bu­tion to so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and sci­en­tific de­vel­op­ment?

The Black His­tory Month was launched over 30 years ago as an op­por­tu­nity to recog­nise, ac­knowl­edge and pro­mote the achieve­ment of black lead­ers across the UK.

The month is not with­out its crit­ics, but for me, any­thing that shines a light on is­sues of black ori­gin and con­tri­bu­tion can only be good in a culture where black peo­ple are still be­ing mis­taken for wait­ers and wait­resses – even when they are head­line speak­ers at an event as Rene Carayol, ex­pe­ri­enced.

Rene Carayol, a lead­er­ship, culture and trans­for­ma­tion ex­pert, visit­ing pro­fes­sor at Cass Busi­ness School with ex­pe­ri­ence on the boards of ma­jor in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, like Marks & Spencer and Pepsi tells his story of be­ing mis­taken for a waiter at a con­fer­ence he was keynot­ing at. He was wait­ing at the venue when a woman handed him her fur coat! Lost for words, Rene went on stage with the fur coat and asked the woman to come and get it and share her story. This neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence turned out to be an ex­cel­lent learn­ing op­por­tu­nity on un­con­scious bias for her and the au­di­ence.

Black His­tory Month means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. For many of us, it is a time to re­flect on the di­verse his­tory of black peo­ple as a race from African, Caribbean and Amer­i­can de­scent.

If you are mo­ti­vated af­ter read­ing this ar­ti­cle and want to do some­thing to mark

Black His­tory Month, why not check out York­shire’s own

Win­drush: A Sharon Wat­son’s move­ment of the peo­ple

.Itis an artis­tic mas­ter­piece which will take you on an emo­tional jour­ney to ex­pe­ri­ence what the first gen­er­a­tion of Caribbean im­mi­grants ex­pe­ri­enced when they came to Eng­land 70 years ago. It is an up­lift­ing dance pro­duc­tion that shines a light on an im­por­tant era of the his­tory of black peo­ple in the UK. See: https://www. phoenix­dancethe­ work/ win­drush-move­ment-peo­ple/

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