October is Black History Month (BHM), an annual commemoration of the history, achievements, cultures and contributions of Black people in the UK.
I’m the executive sponsor of the Humber and North Yorkshire (HNY) Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Staff Network of Networks and I’m the executive director of people for HNY Integrated Care Board (ICB) – I am hugely committed to our work on equality, diversity and inclusion.
I am a white woman and am therefore conscious that I will never understand how it feels to face the barriers our colleagues from an ethnic minority face, every day, in home and at work. The increased risk during the pandemic, the health inequalities, the reduced chances of career progression or the microaggressions and everyday racism that we know are a stark reality.
How could I possibly comment on what that feels like? I can’t. I haven’t lived that reality.
But there is something I can do.
I can stand up as an ally and commit to taking action.
I can use this month-long event to not only recognise and celebrate the contributions of people from an ethnic minority background across HNY, but to also educate myself on the experiences and inequalities that people still face.
There’s a quote that does the rounds in leadership circles that says: “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” So I ask myself, why should our Black colleagues have to accept this?
They shouldn’t. We as a workforce, as human beings, shouldn’t walk by – being a bystander to inequity should not be ok.
The theme for this year’s BHM is ‘time for change: action, not words’. We have seen action taken across HNY since 2020 in the creation of our network of networks where staff network chairs from partner organisations inform our ongoing work.
The network at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has co-created and launched the first anti-racism toolkit and reporting mechanism in our region.
We’re working on a development programme for colleagues from an ethnic minority in the VCSE sector and with NHS England to secure development opportunities for staff network chairs.
We will not stop there; it is not enough and there will always be more we can do.
But change doesn’t happen purely through top-down directives – it will take all of us to ensure this is a safe, happy and healthy system where everyone can feel that they belong.
So I’m calling on colleagues across HNY to embrace the month of October as an opportunity to stand up. To move from being bystanders to upstanders, from allyship to action.
A great place to start would be to attend our panel discussion event taking place on Thursday 13 October 2022, 3-4.30pm via MS Teams. ‘HNY Black History Month: In Conversation’ will see a panel of colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds discussing this year’s theme and what makes a good ally.
You could also join the Humber Social Work Teaching Partnership’s ‘becoming an anti-racist practitioner’ event on Thursday 20 October 2022 and find out what more you can do to commit to being anti-racist.
Details of both events can be found later in this newsletter.
So this month, please take this opportunity to listen, to really listen and to learn about what you can do to help tackle the inequalities that we know exist. Step up and step forward as an ally, don’t walk past the standards we know are not ok.
Join me in standing up and walking towards making things better this BHM; during October and beyond.