Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Black History Month at Corndel 2021

28 October 2021
Business Women leading meeting

Since 1987, October has marked Black History Month in the UK. At Corndel, we came together to discuss why Black History Month matters to our employees as well as within the wider societal context.

The essence of Black History Month

Black History Month (BHM) recognises the contributions and role that Black Britons have played throughout British history. The month came into existence due to the realities of prejudice and discrimination faced by Black people which resulted in them being overlooked and ignored across our institutions. Across the month of October, BHM represents a time of education and striving towards an equitable world.

How we celebrated at Corndel

Corndel celebrates the diversity across our organisation and is fortunate to be championed with an internal EDI Employee Resource Group (ERG). These Corndel employees, raise awareness and continue the conversations that need to be had around diversity and inclusion – internally and externally. EDI is grounded in all the work we do and for Black History Month, we took the opportunity to bring the company together to educate, share, express and drive the importance of black history.

The aims of the session were:

  • Acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Black people
  • Counter the relative invisibility of Black Britons
  • Challenge negative stereotypes across popular culture
  • Counter racism
  • Learn about the history not taught in school curricula

We asked our employees what BHM means to them. Members of the ERG and across Corndel shared insights into the importance of the month of October for celebrating BHM.

Alice McGeever, Director of Curicculum Business Administration explained that “BHM is about learning the context behind why society is the way it is. You can't truly appreciate the discrimination that people face if you don't have an understanding surrounding the actions and legacies of the past. BHM is an opportunity to hear stories and educate ourselves, and reflect on what we can do to contribute to a fairer society.”

Black history from a personal perspective

We had the privilege to hear some incredible stories from individuals of the Windrush generation and understand what they went through in Briton during some very trying racial times. For those who don’t know, the windrush generation refers to migrants from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries who had been asked to immigrate to the UK between 1948 and 1971

However, when they arrived, they were met with racism, discrimination and, treated as second class citizens.

The interviews conducted by Lauren and Shane were shared in the session – where the key themes of discussion were the changes that have occurred in society since their arrival.

A critical change was the introduction of The Race Relations Act of 1968. This was introduced to make it illegal to “refuse housing, employment or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins”.

Lauren and Shane discussed what these conversations meant for them:

“My Grandma came to the UK as part of the Windrush generation. For me, it’s important to see how we’ve transitioned over time, and to have the opportunity to achieve things that seemed impossible for my grandparents. However, we’re not there yet. While things have changed, we are yet to reach a truly equitable society.” 

Lauren Jones – Account Director

“My grandparents came from the Windrush Generation and immigrated from St Lucia and Barbados in the 1960s. The stories of hardship and how people didn’t get the recognition for the work they did, highlights how far we have progressed, but also how much work we still have to do.”

Shane Doughty – Senior Account Manager

Importance of centering lived experiences

In all our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion staff training and the resources we produce, such as our monthly EDI Bulletin, we’re conscious of whose voice we are speaking from and whose voices we are amplifying. In our BHM special we wanted our majority heritage ERG group members to play a leading part and to centre the lived experience of ‘everyday’ exceptional people.

Pavlina Wilkin - EDI Lead and Professional Development Expert

How to go beyond Black History Month

For us to create a truly equitable society, our efforts need to go beyond the month of October. Black history doesn’t just affect Black Britons, but everyone within society.

Different actions you can take to create a more equitable workforce:  

  • Building and improving cultural competency across your workforce. This needs to go beyond unconscious bias training. Instead, practice listening, encourage discussion and more broadly communication skills. Allow people to feel as though their perspectives matter, irrespective of their background.
  • Dedicating time and resources to learning and celebrating people from different backgrounds. Not only will employees feel more included in their workplace, but they are likely to feel more engaged at work.
  • Creating an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion ERG to raise awareness on matters important to them. This creates an environment of employee led action which supports wider diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Mentoring and supporting colleagues in the workplace.

I’m delighted with the way the session was received. Feedback during the session was overwhelmingly positive. People were exposed to history they didn’t know, and where they had previous knowledge, the lived experience brought a rich dimension to that history. We are proud that Lauren and Shane wanted to share their personal stories and those of their family and friends for the enrichment of their colleagues. We agreed to continue educating ourselves, celebrating Black history, taking forward the action of supporting Black businesses and supporting the activists within the workplace who fight for social justice. And finally, making Black History not just about the month of October.

Aquilla Cozzella – EDI Director

Aquilla Cozzella – EDI Director

At Corndel we’re on a journey of embedding cultural diversity as part of our efforts at becoming an anti-racist organisation.

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