Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like writing about yourself and your race was the hardest thing to do.
When readers open my blog, I don’t want you to be bombarded with negativity and typical subjects that surround black history month, such as Slavery (there is more to black history than slavery). So instead, I want my blog to be a safe space, an expression of positivity and a chance for you to get to know me, a young black female living life to the max. I hope you enjoy.
"Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.”- Janelle Monáe
I would love to say that my life as a young black woman has been sunshine and rainbows, where racial discrimination has never occurred, but unfortunately that would be a lie.
I don’t let the colour of my skin define me or hold me back, but I know all too well that being black unfortunately can come with its challenges.
As a student I worked as a personal shopper, and I remember a customer not wanting to be served by me and wanting my colleague to handle the purchase instead, simply because I am black. In all honesty at the time, I wasn’t overly bothered. If that’s how the customer felt, then I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day. I accepted it and carried on but my Manager was outraged and banned them from the store. It was a great feeling to know that people could see such things and have my back, standing up to racism.
Performing arts was a HUGE part of my life growing up and, on a few occasions, I was rejected for lead roles. Not because of my talent but because of the colour of my skin. It wasn’t like today where we now have a black Ariel or black Annie – I wished I could take centre stage and play the lead, but it wasn’t an option at the time. It was extremely frustrating to be limited by the colour of my skin but I would brush it off and keep trying. It was not ok then and it’s not ok now.
“Your skin tone is too dark”, I was once told by my agent (ironically, he was black himself), a tough pill to swallow. My skin tone wasn’t the ‘in thing’ and wasn’t desired by clients. Fast forward 15 years and now people who look like me are getting lead roles and being put centre stage – it’s funny how things change.
I should celebrate seeing people like me in leading roles and on front covers of magazines, but sadly I question at times the integrity of it. Whether they were put there because of their talent, or because they are ticking the inclusivity box. Controversial, I know, but having one black person as a token isn’t inclusive.
Will racism ever be completely eradicated... Perhaps not, but one thing is for certain, no change will happen overnight. It will take a conscious effort by everyone to call out such injustices and raise awareness of the wrongdoing within society. By spreading love, knowledge and awareness it empowers people to make a change and stand up to racism. This is also why I love Black History Month! It gives people the opportunity to celebrate as well as shine a light on the remarkable things we have achieved throughout history and reflect on the past.
I want to shout out some of the inspiring Strong Black Women who have made waves in the UK, Black women’s leadership isn’t just about their strength and perseverance. It’s about how consistently they show up and fight for the common good knowing full well that they may not be heard.
- Claudia Jones launched Britain's first major black newspaper, the West Indian Gazette and in 1959, she helped to found Notting Hill Carnival.
- Diane Abbott became the first black woman to be elected to Parliament in 1987 and is currently the longest-serving black MP in the House of Commons.
Earlier this year, I became a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) champion at Baringa and joined the Ethnic Diversity Network (EDN) and Black at Baringa network. I chose to take this on as I really wanted to make a difference and in joining these networks, I have been given to opportunity to organise events for all to enjoy within Black history and participate in open discussions about race and diversity. This is the first time in my career I’ve been part of a network like this, and it is something I feel proud of.
The theme for this year’s Black History Month is self-care and wellbeing. The ‘Black at Baringa' network has organised several events to provide an opportunity for us all to invest in our wellbeing, learn about Black British history, and most importantly have fun whilst building our networks.
Some examples of events EDN and Black at Baringa have hosted this month:
- Self-Care and Confidence Workshop - a one hour workshop focusing on practical tools and techniques to build confidence and prioritise self-care - Hosted by External Speaker Bami Kuteyi.
- Black Pound Day - to support Black owned businesses and the Black Pound Movement which looks to address the retail and economic inequalities that affect Black communities in the UK.
- Black History Month Personal Journeys Event - we get to hear from four incredible external speakers on how they have managed work-life balance throughout their careers and broken the glass ceiling as Black leaders in their field.
The representation within these networks is nothing short of amazing. They assist in building pillars of confidence, creating safe spaces to be heard and opportunities to be seen and share and because of these networks progressive connections are made in the workplace. I am so proud to work in an organisation that invests so much in its people and the D&I agenda.
For me, Black History Month is a time to celebrate, reflect on history and appreciate Black culture and we most definitely have a rich culture! I hope we can move away from tokenistic celebrations and really start educating the true nature of Black History.
My personal experiences may not have always been good, but I have never and will never let that stop me from achieving what I want.
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL — be proud of the skin you’re in!
Thank you for reading.
About the author and this series:
Parris is an EA in Baringa’s Business Enablement team. She’s been an EA for over 9 years and is passionate about D&I and all for spreading Love not hate.
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