Michelle’s Black History Month Blog: Every Day is Black History

WIP staff member Michelle writes about why the celebration of Black culture and history needs to go beyond one month.

It amazes me that we feel the need to celebrate Black people in a month or day, I am Black every day. We, unfortunately, live in a world that will often overlook the celebration and contribution from Black people, which is such a shame.

As a second-generation Black woman, I have a Black mother and mixed-race father and my grandmother on my father side is white. Growing up, I never once noticed or even questioned why we had different skin tones or spoke with different accents. Why would I?

So, why do they stare at me when we walk down the street? Why has the police been contacted by the local community as I approach my grandmother’s home? Do we not live in the United Kingdom? It’s 2021. Do we not all claim to follow and promote equal rights, equality and diversity within our workplaces? It is my opinion, that we have a long way to go…

As a Black woman, I will never forget the sacrifices made before me. See, for me to celebrate Black history I must also celebrate and promote the now. In this present time and moment, we need to demand and champion change. Despite our weary and negative experiences, we must be open to the need for opportunity.

You, yes you... Apply for that Senior Management job!

Never ever forget that one small act can create change and encourage a nation behind you!

Our Black culture and history is beyond a month. Please stop celebrating by requesting to eat Caribbean or African food as a team. Think about it, do we request a traditional English roast from white or non-Black people once a year?

Take the time to think about why we send and share a Black history poster, why is this information only shared now? Shouldn’t our values and integrity towards others be the same for all human beings generally?

How do we collectively celebrate Black culture?

We celebrate by exposing truth; question why there is limited Black history in schools; share the injustice and racial structures within the criminal justice system and ask why are young Black boys stopped more than any other race, yet we are the minority?

OK, let’s look from a more personal perspective, I am sure many can relate. I apply for a managerial position; I am shortlisted and invited to an interview. I

attend and sit in the reception area, a lady walks in my direction and calls my name.

“Michelle”, I stand, but the lady walks straight passed me.

Why is she looking at me with a shocked face? Oh, she didn’t expect Michelle to be Black. As I walk into the interview room I am greeted by all white panel, not one person looks or represents me or my culture.

Time to wake up if you truly care

As the interview commences, I am questioned and asked for further clarity of my qualifications/experience with surprised looks on faces. The conversation then moves on, to the panel over-celebrating my achievements. As if I am not supposed to have been able to meet their standards.

See for a lot of Black people this now becomes a crossroad, do we comply comfortably with the master’s house? It seems safer to just go along, ignoring the discrimination we have just experienced. Or do we make a stand? Knowing that it’s the hardest decision to make, without a firm outcome but knowing there will be consequence.

We are in 2021, there is no longer an excuse or room for bias discrimination or for a lack of diversity (Black) within managerial positions.

I celebrate being Black every day! Just look at our ability to overcome and still rise.

Have we not all had the talk? You know the talk with our parents or guardians? “My child, you are Black which means you are the minority, in order for you to be given the opportunity, you create it yourself or work 10 times harder.”

I encourage you to walk into every room knowing who you truly are! Be thankful to our parents and grandparents who had it 100 times harder than us, so believe a change will come! It was only 75 years ago the Black population came to the United Kingdom, with only the clothes on their back! No inheritance, no home, no job, just a dream! This is why I celebrate being Black every day.

How do you celebrate Black history?

Look around you, the need to celebrate and promote opportunities for Black people is clearly evident. We are in the room but not provided an opportunity to be a decision-maker!

To all Black people, let’s also seek a time of reflection and truth. Let’s get deep, never forget the past! But let’s also remember that not all white or non-Black people are against us. Let’s make healthy judgments, based on individual experience. A colour or skin tone does not determine true character, love, support or kindness. Our acts will.

Let’s also respect and celebrate ourselves as Black people, as one, despite the island or country we come from.

Let’s continue to celebrate and make history.