Christopher Joell-Deshields leads on embedding equality, diversity and inclusion at Sense. In this blog, Chris tells us what Black History Month means to him and how we can all get involved.
After the murder of George Floyd, we’ve seen a global spotlight put on Black lives and the inequities that exist. This has led to many of us wanting to learn more about Black history and culture.
And Black History Month provides that starting point. Maybe you want to learn about yourself as a black person or maybe you’re an ally looking for a deeper understanding of racism or inspiring historical events such as the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963.
So much Black History to celebrate
There is much to be celebrated in arts and culture, TV and radio, politics, businesses, and education. In fact, in every part of society.
Some of the heroes from history are household names such as Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. But you might not know of black inventors like Lewis Latimer and the nineteenth century composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Why is it important?
Black History Month is a time to recognise the past, evaluate the present, and plan for the future. While we celebrate and remember Black History, we cannot forget the mountain we need to climb to eradicate social injustice.
What is Sense doing?
At Sense, we’re all about inclusion. We’re currently campaigning to make sure disabled people are included in next year’s Covid-19 inquiry. And our ongoing Left Out of Life campaign is all about breaking down the barriers faced by disabled people.
But that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. In 2020, we committed to becoming an anti-racist organisation. Back in May, I was proud to launch Sense’s first equality, diversity and inclusion strategy. As an employer, we value all elements of cultural diversity. We’re striving for a culture where everyone at Sense can bring their whole self to work.
We’re also really proud to have a staff network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues. This is group is led by staff and it’s a space to share ideas and worries through open dialogue. And everyone is welcome! It’s an open group and we welcome everyone to join as allies.
How to be an ally in Black History Month
Like I say, we always welcome allies! And I’ve got three tips for anyone who wants to be better ally.
Number one: don’t be afraid to confront your own biases. Number two: take the time to educate yourself. And number three: support Black charitable organisations in your community.
And if you’re not sure where to start, I recommend reading Haben Girma’s book: Haben: The Deafblind Woman who conquered Harvard Law.
Or you could check out the Black History Month website – they have a wealth of stories and resources.
And remember: get involved and you’ll be making a difference.