October marks the start of Black History Month in the United Kingdom - a tradition inspired by its US counterpart, but one that celebrates the uniqueness of the Black British experience.
This year, the theme chosen by the official Black History Month UK magazine, ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’, is especially poignant. The African and Caribbean diaspora has, without a doubt, enriched the very fabric of Britain, both economically and culturally. From food to music, to language to literature, Black Brits have been and continue to be trailblazers and changemakers across a range of industries. In fact, in the music video for his latest single ‘Mel Made Me Do It’, rapper Stormzy made a point of highlighting this Black British excellence, with cameos from the likes of author Malorie Blackman (our first Black Children’s Laureate), footballing legend Ian Wright, singer Gabrielle, DJ Trevor Nelson and founder of Soul II Soul Jazzie B to name a few.
But the remarkable achievements of the Black British community have not come without significant systemic challenges, many of which still exist today. Black people in the UK continue to battle institutional racism - in the workplace, in education, in healthcare, in criminal ‘justice’. Against a backdrop of: underrepresentation in (and, historically, active exclusion from) key industries, macro and microaggressions about our names, our cultures, our hair; being sent to schools for the educationally ‘subnormal’; a five-times higher maternal mortality rate for Black women; and ongoing racial profiling and discriminatory stop and search, it is undeniable that the Black community’s achievements are despite the society we live in, not because of it.
Therefore, whilst Black History Month is predominantly a time for celebration, it is also a time for societal reflection and introspection: what concrete steps can we take - individually and collectively - to chip away at these challenges, these barriers? A good starting point would be a conscious effort to amplify and support Black history, Black voices, and Black-led initiatives aimed at creating opportunities for Black people.
EMEA Black @ Z seeks to play its part via education, leading professional community engagement to increase representation in tech, and creating a safe space for its Black employees to thrive. This Black History Month we will be doing just that with a range of events, including a discussion on the Windrush Generation and the ongoing Windrush Scandal and co-hosting a session on how to be a better ally in the workplace as part of Zscaler’s ‘Onwards and Upwards’ professional development series.
So, as we dance to the rhythms this month, let us also learn from the blues. Let us use our movements and our words as a driving force for action, because it truly is a time for change.