Category: BAME, black history month, BAME Inclusion, BAME Diversity, BAME Network, black-future, black, MOD, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Black Lives Matter, Bame recruitment
Mark Hill, Race Network Champion, celebrates Black History Month
For this Black History Month we are very much reflecting on the past, celebrating the here and now and looking to the future. While tangible progress has been made since the arrival of the Windrush generation and those that came before them, we must not lose sight of what still needs to be done to deliver a truly inclusive society.
If Black Lives Matter has taught us anything it is that there is much still to do. For me October is a chance to celebrate and talk about not only the contribution and achievements of Black people in Britain, but those from all ethnic minorities. We have a collective shared history that goes back to Roman Britain. More recently, evidence suggests some of the sailors on Henry VIII’s flag ship the Mary Rose were of north African origin. A history characterised by sacrifice, struggle and service. From the deeds of Mary Seacole in the Crimean War to Dame Donna Kinnair, the current Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. Not to mention Johnson Beharry VC and those who have contributed to the arts such as 18th century black writer and composer Charles Ignatius Sancho. The first Black Briton to have voted in a general election. However, we must not overlook the institutional discrimination, cultural intolerance and prejudice or restrict the conversation and celebration to just October.
Those of you who know me, will be more than aware that I am a white, middle class graduate. As such, I benefit from the privilege this entails. That’s not to say I haven’t experienced prejudice and discrimination, but the privilege afforded me by being in the majority comes with a responsibility. A responsibility to those from not just Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, to champion diversity and inclusion and afford everyone the opportunity to fulfil their potential. This isn’t a selfless aim on my part. I was brought into this world by a member of the Windrush generation, my best friend in my early years, Robert, was of mixed race, my wife hails from Singapore and my children see themselves as having one foot in the UK and another in Asia.
What gives me hope is that society today is markedly different to when I and Robert were growing up. I haven’t been accused of betraying my race for some 15 years and my children only briefly experienced racism at school which stemmed more from ignorance than anything else. So looking to the future I am optimistic. My experience of being accepted as part of an extended Singaporean and Malaysian family and as my daughter loves to point out at immigration in Changi Airport, being the ‘minority’ when we land, reinforces that optimism. That’s not to say it’s going to be easy or comfortable, but it’s a journey we have started on and one that I believe will only enrich society.
I’m going to leave you with ’We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge which for me says it all and like family my hope is that we will support one another and make inclusion part of everything we do.
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