Posted on: 27 October 2023
Sheila Nursimhulu, co-chair of CNWL's Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network reflects on Black History Month 2023.
The end of October is here and it’s officially the end of the Black History Month.
Reflecting on the events of the last 4 weeks, it’s made us realise how far we have come and how much further we need to go to achieve equity.
From both my perspective and that of Adam Sobrany, co-chair of BAME Staff Network, we have learned so much in the process of putting together the plan of events for the Black History Month. It was hard work initially to get things off the ground, but we did not give up.
Hard as it was, we felt the workplace is a community where we spend so much of our working life and that, an event such as the Black History Month could not pass without us creating opportunities to learn, share and celebrate with our colleagues who are from African/Black Heritage.
As co-chair of the BAME Staff Network, we want to continue to remind colleagues from African/Black heritage that you have a voice and we want to celebrate and recognise your dedication to CNWL and British society as a whole.
We felt there was no better time to raise awareness about a number of issues that affect people from the BAME community which we did on week one through discussions on inequality in health which also included the very important matter of blood donations amongst the Afro-Caribbean and other ethnic minority groups which was delivered by the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT). A further session with Carole Webley-Brown and our own Jenny Lanyero highlighted the importance of identifying health inequalities and how working in partnership with the community they can be reduced. Creating local partnerships can improve health outcomes for our communities, particularly those of BAME background is a key Trust priority.
As a way to give a voice to our colleagues on what the Black History Month meant to them, we were able to capture this through the brilliant contribution of those who took part in the series of podcasts, video and text on week two of the Black History Month. Thank you to all those who took part in the podcasts.
In the third week of the Black History Month which was dedicated to career progression and how the Trust can attract, include and retain staff, in line with a key principle of our Trust Strategy. Nick Green, Chief People Officer, very kindly hosted a session with several Trust staff on, ‘Why is it important to see home-grown talents coming through the ranks?’ In this session, we heard great inspirational stories and journeys from high achievers within the Trust who are from African/Black descent. We learned about their resilience, patience, support from great leaders/enablers and hard work of Trust staff who are now in leadership roles.
On this week, we also benefitted from workshops from the Speak Up Guardians on Freedom to Speak Up. I learned from this workshop that most of those who access this service are from non-BAME background. This tells me that more work needs to be done to make sure that Trust employees who are from BAME background have confidence in accessing this very important resource that is made available to us all by the Trust.
The other matter that the BAME Staff Network wanted to raise awareness about is the benefit of career coaching. CNWL Career Coaches from Jameson and Diggory very willingly gave up their time to run a session on this and the Head of Coaching and OD Lead contributed to discussions on the value of mentorship.
The last week of Black History Month which was dedicated to allyship and overcoming adversity was equally valuable. A number of White allies shared with us what allyship meant to them in practice and we heard about their vision for equity, fairness and straightforward good line management as a way to create opportunities for progress for BAME staff.
The last two events saw us benefitting from speeches from two inspirational and impressive speakers, Dwayne Field and 16-year-old Michael Akinyemi.
Dwayne shared with us how he overcame adversity as a six-year old moving to the UK from Jamaica and being a victim of gun and knife crime to becoming the first Black expeditioner to walk over 400miles to reach the Magnetic North Pole.
Michael, an aspiring future medical student who won the Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge in 2022, told us about his journey as the child of hardworking immigrant parents and discussed so powerfully how eloquence and culture can coexist and the fact that excellence knows no race or colour. Watch this video of his speech here.
Overall, it’s been an enriching experience of sharing and learning.
But, we cannot not stop here, we must all continue to listen, to share and to inspire.
For those who have been too busy to attend the various events due to their work schedule, all the events have been recorded and can be accessed through Trustnet. Please search ‘Black History Month’.
Last but not least, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has assisted us in achieving the calendar of events for the Black History Month.
Services celebrating Black History Month
Thank you to everyone who hosted events throughout Black History Month or wore red to mark our Show Racism the Red Card campaign.
- Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service - Images 1 to 5 in the slideshow
- Triage and assessment team at bentley House in Harrow - Images 6 to 8 in the slideshow
- Occupational Therapy team at 2 Colham Green Rehab Unit - Images 9 and 10 in the slideshow
- Archway Sexual Health clinic - images 11 to 13