Celebrating Black History Month

28/10/22 – Blog

At Medigold Health, we have always been committed to ensuring that our workforce is representative of every section of society and that all our colleagues, no matter what their heritage, ethnicity or the colour of their skin, feel respected and valued and are given equal opportunities to succeed and reach their potential.  

In support of Black History Month this year, we invited members of our team to share their thoughts on what Black History means to them and why it’s so important.  

Here’s what they had to say: 


We Depend on Diversity 

Calum Howell, Senior Occupational Health Technician

What is your family background?  

Mixed – White black Caribbean. My Mother is Irish and my Father is Jamaican.

What does Black History mean to you? 

It is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement. It allows us the opportunity to acknowledge blackness and how it permeates all aspects of society.

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace?  

Listen to what people are saying and listen to a range of voices. Be proactive in your education and don’t expect others to educate you. Acknowledge and respect differences and help amplify the voices of people from BME backgrounds. Importantly, take action, and stand up when you hear something you deem improper.

It is also important to understand that everyone is going to make mistakes, so be open to feedback, accept criticism and use it as an opportunity for self-growth, understanding and doing better in the future.

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?   

I think it has been a step in the right direction by highlighting the inequalities faced by black and minority ethnic groups.

Which great Black activists have inspired you?  

John Archer, who was the first black mayor in London, and Paulette Wilson, who fought against her deportation following the Windrush scandal.

 


Katia Rock, Associate Director of Nursing

What is your family background?  

My father is from Grenada, known as the Spice Isle, and my mother is from the dual island of Trinidad and Tobago. Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago are beautiful Caribbean islands located in the West Indies. My parents migrated to Britain in the 1960s. I was born and raised in Southeast London with my two sisters. I am proud of my heritage and have many fond memories as a child spending summer holidays in these Caribbean Islands learning about the history and the culture, and enjoying the amazing cuisine.

What does Black History mean to you? 

Black History Month represents Black influence around the world. It is an opportunity to shine a positive light on Black achievements. Celebrating the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of Black history empowers us all to contribute fully to our local community and, more importantly, allows the community to develop a better understanding of all those individuals and groups who form a part of it.

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace?  

Racism is not innate, no one it born racist; it is a learned behaviour. The immediate action we can all take in the workplace is to call it out and openly condemn racism in all its forms.

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?   

There has definitely been some progress and some positive behaviour changes around diversity in the UK. Most companies, for example, have now implemented a diversity policy. This development has made me feel more empowered and encouraged me to apply or put myself forward for any position knowing that I will be given a fair chance despite my background.

Which great Black activists have inspired you?  

The Hon. Dr. Eric Williams – his determination to empower and to educate to emancipate changed the face of education in Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr Williams was the country’s first Prime Minister a noted Caribbean historian. He led the country to independence from British colonial rule in October 1956. Central to his vision was free education, affordable housing, a good health system, and social welfare for those most in need. Some of his views were deemed to be at times controversial, however, he understood that independence was more than political freedom, that it also meant dismantling structures that prevented freedom.

There’s also civil rights activist Paul Stephenson (OBE) – he showed that it is important to stand up for what is right, no matter how big or small the fight.

When Paul arrived in Bristol, he witnessed the racism that many Caribbean immigrants were experiencing. The Bristol Omnibus company refused to employ Black or Asian drivers. Paul called for a bus boycott, which lasted 60 days. On the 23rd of August 1963, the bus company announced that it would start hiring Black and Asian Drivers. Later, in 1964, Paul was refused service at a pub because he was black. In protest he decided to stay until he was served. He was subsequently arrested and the trial received media attention, forcing Britain to confront its racism. This time, his action influenced change in law – the 1965 Race Relations Act was passed, making racial discrimination illegal in public places.


Tosin Yakubu, Commercial and Procurement Agent

What is your family background?  

I was born in Lagos, Nigeria; both my parents are also from Nigeria.

I moved to the UK in 2020 with my wife and child. My wife and I are both Nigerian but from different cultures; Yoruba is my mother tongue while hers is Igbo. I love and enjoy the diversity in my family, as we continuously learn each other’s culture and language.

There are over 525 native languages spoken in Nigeria, however the official language is English, as this was the language of Nigeria’s colonist, Great Britain.

What does Black History mean to you? 

Black History is an important focus to bring hidden histories to light, to consider how the potential biases of historians from the past may have affected how events were documented, and to evaluate the importance of multifaceted perspectives and the achievements of great minds.

I love what it means to be black. As a culture, we are intelligent, full of strength, bold, full of melanin, innovative, rich and diverse. Black History is important to me as it reminds me of how far we’ve come, how we have prospered and how our culture is something beautiful that deserves to be celebrated.

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace?  

Firstly, I believe we all have a role to play in reducing or eliminating workplace racism.

There should be a fundamental awareness and understanding of racism at work and of the changes in culture, behaviours, policies, practices and learning that will make the difference. But we must also be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that many inclusion and diversity efforts in our organisations to date, especially those around race, have not gone far enough.

We must now get to the heart of the changes we need in our workplace cultures, to ensure those progression opportunities and that sense of safety and trust that underpins inclusion and to make sure we are all given a voice.

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?   

From my own perspective, I believe there is still much work to be done.

According to government data, about 87% of the UK population is White, while the remaining 13% is made up of Black, Asian, Mixed or Other ethnicity. The huge difference in figures leaves little room for people to be able to really feel the impact of the UK’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

I feel the impact will be felt more if the strategy is reformed in such a way that the approach to diversity within organizations, civil services and political power is standardised and that greater emphasis is placed on employing and retaining the best talent for senior level roles in workplace and political roles.

Which great Black activists have inspired you?  

My first list is the “Big 6” of the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King Jr, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young and John Lewis, who was the youngest organizer of and speaker at the March on Washington.

My second list would have to be Great Nigerians, including Wole Soyinka (Nobel laureate and political activist), Ken Saro-Wiwa (writer, businessman and environmental activist), Gani Fawehinmi (human rights lawyer and activist), Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (women’s rights activist and pioneer African feminist), Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (musician and activist) and Chinua Achebe (writer, novelist and social critic). These great minds have all made a huge impact on the world, as has our country as a whole. Nigeria has grown to become Africa’s largest economy, and today it is the most populous Black nation on Earth.


Ife Longe, Client Relationship Manager

What is your family background?   

I am of African descent; I was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to the UK to further my education and work.

What does Black History mean to you? 

Personally, I view Black History as an opportunity to shine a light on the black people that have contributed positively to our society. It is also an opportunity to bring forth a different, inspiring narrative of black people in our society and around the world.

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace? 

Workplaces need to have an open, safe environment so that people feel free to report any racial issues, such as microaggressions, and can be confident that they’ll be listened to. It is also important for everyone, especially the management team, to remain vigilant in the work environment, ensuring that racist behaviour remains unacceptable to any degree.

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?   

Personally, I have not experienced a significant difference, however we are headed in the right direction and awareness is growing of the importance of diversity in our society.  

Which great Black activists have inspired you? 

I grew up listening to Fela Kuti, who as well as being a pioneer of Afrobeat was also considered an activist in his own right.


Dolores Valentine, Team Manager – Customer Services 

What is your family background?  

My ethnic background is African American. I immigrated to the UK in 2005 with my Mom to be nearer to my maternal family.  

What does Black History mean to you? 

To me, Black History is about acknowledging and celebrating black men, women, non-binary, trans and disabled people.  

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace? 

When we witness racism within the workplace, we need to speak up. Silence only causes further damage. 

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?   

Honestly, no. I think the UK has a long way to go to. To me it appears that people would much rather not acknowledge that issues exist than take accountability for themselves, colleagues, friends or family. 

Which great Black activists have inspired you? 

Black activists that currently inspire me include Jackie Aina, Evelyn From The Internets, Tarana Burke, bell hooks, Brittney Cooper and Kat Blaque. 


Silvia Ezoba, People Advisor 

What is your family background?   

I am of African heritage, and originally from Nigeria. I lived and grew up in Ireland and moved to the UK for work and to continue my studies in Human Resource Management. 

What does Black History mean to you? 

For me it’s an opportunity to celebrate the great achievements of inspirational figures, to acknowledge how far we have come and to focus on the efforts we are making to ensure more inclusive future.  

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace? 

I believe workplaces need to foster a culture of openness, to enable these meaningful conversations to take place. Employers can do this through building relationships with colleagues and learning about their individual experiences. This will help to raise awareness and enable us all to be more socially conscious. Moreover, there needs to be greater equity and fairness in all workplace practices and an acknowledgement that it’s not one size fits all – companies need to have better policies in place so that they are equipped to accommodate all people from all backgrounds, from recruitment right through the employment lifecycle. Family & Friends, Recognition & Respect and Being Better Than Yesterday are cornerstones of Medigold Health’s ‘Genetic Code’, the company values we try to embody every day. I think these ideas should be embraced by every organisation – they create the perfect foundation for achieving greater diversity, building on them will help us get there. 

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?  

Yes, for me, seeing more people from all walks of life represented in different settings has made such a positive difference. Events like Black History Month have brought the problem of underrepresentation to the fore, and as people become more educated and start engaging more with the issue the structural and implicit barriers are beginning to break down, which has led to a more inclusive culture. There is still a way to go, but we are making strides in the right direction.  

Which great Black activists have inspired you? 

There are so many great people who have contributed to Black History and who continue to fight for and engender greater equality. I passionately believe in the power of storytelling to help people relate to others and learn about cultural differences in a visceral wayso I’m really inspired by writers like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. However, I’ve also been really moved by acts of courage displayed by people like Rosa Parks and Angela Davis, who I learnt about as a child, and more recently by Colin KaepernickThey have taught me that we all have a part to play in channelling meaningful change and challenging discrimination and injustice 


Paula Ayoade, Marketing Executive

What is your family background?   

I was born in Luanda, the capital of Angola; my parents are both from Angola.  

Angola was colonised by the Portuguese; Portuguese is my mother tongue and I speak English fluently. We moved to the UK when I was five years old. I grew up in Manchester, I live in Sheffield, and I’m married to a Nigerian. I mention this because although my husband and I are both from Africa our cultures are completely different to each other’s, which goes to show the huge diversity between African countries – that’s the beauty of the continent. 

What does Black History mean to you? 

I believe all of history is important. We shouldn’t have to segregate historical events based on race, religion or where it took place in the world because if we look at the bigger picture it all intertwines.  

The world’s narrative of humanity’s past is beautiful, it’s filled with stirring events and poignant moments and it’s why we are here today, so it shouldn’t be altered, erased or forgotten. What we sadly find is that sometimes people want to create a narrative that suits them, and they have tried to erase certain events. I think that’s why Carter G. Woodson felt the need to create Negro History Week so that black people could be heard. But it shouldn’t have to be this way because Black History is as important as white, Jewish or indigenous history. It has all played an important role and has all contributed to the present we are now living in.   

That’s why we must learn about everything. If our ancestors tried to erase certain events that took place in the past it is our duty today to educate ourselves and each other so that we can have a better understanding of ourselves and others and in general be better towards one another.

What can we all do to take a stand against racism, especially in the workplace? 

Acknowledge that it exists and feel comfortable to talk about it but also act to stop it. This applies to everyone if I’m honest, to the person who is a victim of racism, to work colleagues and to those in managerial roles and HR. If we all work together, we can reduce discrimination and racism in the workplace. It goes back to my previous statement, it all boils down to understanding people. 

When people are open to understanding your background, they can begin to understand who you are. 

Do you think the move towards greater diversity in the UK over the past few years has made a difference to you as a person of African or Caribbean heritage?  

No, it hasn’t made a difference to me. I’ve seen a lot more publications and adverts about it, but it hasn’t made a difference in my life. I read an article that stated that the British colonised 90% of countries on Earth, so it’s understandable that the UK has so many migrants. For that reason, the UK should do better in understanding and respecting people’s different cultures and backgrounds.  

Which great Black activists have inspired you? 

I wouldn’t say I have a specific black activist who inspires me, they all played a great role in paving the way for all of us and they all deserve recognition for what they have done. However, I do have role models who happen to be black who weren’t black activists to the world but who inspire me every day and that’s my parents. Both made sacrifices, faced discrimination, allowed themselves to be vulnerable, educated themselves and work hard to pave a way for me. I am a British citizen, born in Angola but raised in the United Kingdom because of the great sacrifices of my parents. They weren’t activists to the world, but they were activists in my life, and I’ll forever be grateful to them. 

To find out more about Black History Month, check out https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/

To find out about Medigold Health’s values, visit https://www.medigold-health.com/our-values/

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