Celebrating Black History Month 2022
October marks Black History Month in the UK; a time for people from all backgrounds to celebrate and acknowledge the huge contributions people from African and Caribbean heritage have made to society.
The UK has a diverse and multicultural population; however, its roots can be traced back to a much bleaker part of the UK’s history. During the days of the Empire, much of Britain’s wealth and power was obtained due to its involvement in the slave trade. As a result, many of the accomplishments and contributions made by people from Africa and the Caribbean in shaping the UK into the country we know today were overlooked, ignored or simply forgotten.
In response, Black History Month UK was established in October 1987, through the leadership of Ghanaian projects officer, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who worked for the Greater London Council. The event aims to not only address the lack of representation in the UK’s history books, but it’s an opportunity for people to learn more about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes, which despite great efforts in recent years, are still present today.
As well as celebrating the contribution black people have made over the centuries, Black History Month UK Magazine’s theme this year is a reminder that even though it is 2022, there are things that still need to change.
‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’ is a call for everyone to come together around a shared, common goal. It’s asking people to be an ally, in the workplace, in places of education and in the public sphere. It means having policies in place that achieve real outcomes and that you should be practising what you preach every day.
What is Allyship?
Allyship was Dictionary.com’s word of the year in 2021 and is defined as the act of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalised group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view under its leadership.
Increasingly through 2022, organisations are starting to recognise the importance of fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce and are taking action, but it’s difficult to know where to start if this is something you’re looking to introduce. We’ve put together some first steps you can take to promote allyship in the workplace.
How to promote allyship in the workplace
1. Take action to make your organisation a safe space for black people and those from ethnic minorities.
People feel safe in an environment where they know their complaints or issues will be taken seriously and that they can speak up without fear of consequences.
Racism should not be tolerated in the workplace under any circumstances, yet there was an increase in racial discrimination cases brought to the tribunals during the pandemic. To make your organisation a safe space for your employees you need clear, inclusive policies in place, and you need to follow through with them, should an incident arise. Empowering your line managers to know how to effectively and confidently manage difficult conversations, grievance cases or handle the subsequent discipline cases correctly, gives your employees confidence that any concerns raised will be taken seriously.
As a leader of an organisation, visibility of this information is vital to ensure you are acting as an ally. You need to be aware of incidents like this happening and if you cannot confidently say that you have seen or can access this information, then you are not actively addressing the issue.
Racist incidents do occur in organisations, but to truly improve and evolve as a business, these incidents need to be visible, acknowledged as a problem and be dealt with.
Talk to us, if you need to start capturing and understanding this data so that your leadership team can start to take actionable steps to creating a safer space at work.
2. Review your policies and procedures ensuring that they are written with inclusive language
MHFA England’s chief executive Simon Blake, when talking to the Chartered Institute of Managers, said that anti-racism principles and practices should be ingrained into every aspect of employment. “Acknowledging that racism impacts People of Colour and Black people emotionally, mentally and physically – and then taking action – is fundamental to making lasting change.”
By reviewing all of your policies and procedures end-to-end through an anti-racist lens you can ensure they are underpinned by principles that actively value and encourage respectful and positive attitudes to differences, and that you are taking the steps to become a more inclusive employer.
If you are looking to quickly and easily implement new ED&I policies that demonstrate your commitment to protecting and supporting employees in all areas that may impact their wellbeing at work, our experts can review your current policy set to identify where EDI updates are required, find out more here.
3. Promote Black History Month and share resources with your colleagues
Successful workplace cultures ensure that everyone, especially those from ethnic minorities, feel empowered, recognised and listened to by their employers.
When planning activities, involving your employees in discussions is a great way to understand what would really resonate with them – making any activities meaningful and valued. Creating a diversity, equality and inclusion committee that can take the lead on this kind of event and bring lots of different ideas to the table, will help your business create a more diverse environment.
At AdviserPlus, we have an internal Inclusivity+ team which ensures that group members have input into important company choices like supporting with policies and procedures, communications about raising awareness of ED&I issues, providing information about religious celebrations and, overall, ensuring colleagues continue to feel safe, listened to, involved every day and confident to thrive.
This year for Black History Month the inclusivity+ team at AdviserPlus shared 4 ways we can truly honour, respect and celebrate.
- Support black-owned businesses – www.black2business.uk gives a list of black-owned businesses within the UK, ranging from food and drink, fashion, florists etc.
- Learn about noteworthy black figures and their contribution. You can read more here https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/section/bhm-firsts/
- Donate to charities that support anti-racism equality, such as www.stop-watch.org and www.stophateuk.org
- Buy, read and share books by black authors – a starting list can be found here https://www.waterstones.com/black-history-month
Events such as Black History Month are a fantastic way of advocating diversity and inclusion in your business however it shouldn’t be a tick box exercise or only celebrated through October. Organisations and their employees have a responsibility to promote and encourage these initiatives throughout the entire year as part of a continued equality, diversity and inclusion strategy. Not only will this promote a positive, inclusive workplace culture but demonstrates a commitment to empowering employees from diverse ethnic backgrounds, year-on-year.
If you want to take action by checking how inclusive your organisation really is you can complete our ED&I assessment tool and for help making your organisation more inclusive take a look at the ED&I support we offer.