Inspired by Black Lives Matter, this year’s special BHM campaign is ‘Proud To Be’ where Black and Brown people share what they are proud of.
Today I’m pleased to share my story, where I talk openly and honestly about my heritage and culture and what it was like growing up as part of the UK’s Black community.
First a bit about myself. I have been with DCC since 2020, working within our People Team. I live in South-East London and I am very proud to be of Jamaican heritage.
I absolutely loved growing up as part of the Black community in the UK! London is such a diverse place, and I was constantly surrounded by people who looked and sounded like me.
I also love that I get the chance to educate myself on other cultures within the community. I have embraced the history, food, language, clothes, and music of other Caribbean islands as well as African countries.
There have been several challenging moments growing up and I don’t like to dwell on the negative events, but I have been stereotyped, racially abused, and harassed by police. As an adult, I still have many challenges I face, especially in the workplace. I could probably add “model” to my CV with the number of times I have been asked to be on companies’ home pages to showcase how diverse they are, despite being the only person of colour within the company.
I visited Jamaica every year to see my family so I have always been close to my culture, food, dialect, and history. In England, my mother and I would often visit exhibitions and plays that display black stories and experiences. Also, we own several pieces of black art and games at home, so I was always reminded.
We focused a lot of our attention on celebrating black history, past and present. This was so important for me because I never got the opportunity to do this in school.
Many schools within the UK do not understand the importance of black history month for children. When I was at school there was a heavy emphasis on slavery and black American revolutionaries, but that was it. There was no focus on the inventors, African royalty, and stars that weren’t in the sports or music industry. It had a negative effect on me and other black students around the UK, because it showed we weren’t being celebrated outside of talent within schools. I want the next generation to learn about the whole picture of our history and not just the negative segments. I want them to learn more about black history outside of America and to celebrate us more.
The Black Lives Matter movement was very important and needed to happen to spark conversations. But for many organisations I believe it was very performative and only lasted a few months, before dying down. Nothing has actually changed. I think for it to make a real impact more training needs to be done on equality and unconscious bias, especially for managers.
Black history month is important to me because it’s an opportunity to appreciate our achievements beyond slavery and racism stories.
It has the same effect as valentines has on me, even though you should show love every day, it’s amazing to be intentional with love on this chosen day. Our history shouldn’t be limited to once a month, but BHM is a chance to celebrate with others our successes and pride.
My ask to all during BHM is to enjoy the month, enjoy new cultures, new languages and new cuisines. Have fun this month.
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- George Eykyn, Director of Corporate Affrairs,
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