Lesson Six - Change the record during Black History Month
Panel talks about diversity may seem like an easy way to engage with Black History Month, especially for companies who are getting involved for the first time. However, it’s worth considering other types of events that could lead to more productive and meaningful conversations with Black professionals.
WHAT BLACK HISTORY MAKERS SAY:
“It’s always the same conversation, I’m asked to do the same things: ‘What’s it like being a Black woman founder?’ ‘What kind of hurdles have you faced?’ Can’t we turn Black History Month into something more focused and tangible.” - Khalia Ismain
“Abolish panel talks! It would be so much more interesting if companies hired facilitators to have the difficult conversations, rather than just inviting Black or ‘diverse’ panelists to talk about the same things each year. Orchestrate hard conversations which don’t rely on Black people constantly having to rehash trauma.” - Chanté Joseph
“Lose the panel events. Conversations need to be had behind doors and then action needs to be taken.” - Khalia Ismain
“Consider hosting ‘unconferences’, which are participant-driven meetings. An event that you think is beneficial to people in the room might not actually cater to the individual nuances and intersections of experiences and identities. We should also move away from referring to the Black community as a singular, because it removes that nuances and intersections of Black and LGBT+, for example.” - Rhammel O’Dwyer-Afflick
“We’re usually just taught about trauma during Black History Month - it’s rarely about celebrating Black British culture.” - Tanya Compas
WHEN IT’S DONE RIGHT:
Black Business Live 2020
Natwest and MWC Global organised “Black Business Live 2020”, a one-day live stream event to celebrate and showcase the positive contribution of Black-owned businesses. NatWest has also recently pledged to boost the number of Black staff in senior roles.
WHEN IT MISSES THE MARK
NNESAGA (a diverse and inclusive platform for gaming and entertainment) voiced an opinion shared by many Black professionals: Black lives and Black experiences are not one-dimensional.
WHAT WE SAY
There is a clear need to expand the narrative beyond trauma and recognise broader Black experiences and success. A simple way for organisations to help change the record is to make space for Black talent to have conversations outside of typical themes and recognise their broader contribution. Particularly during BHM, organisations should also aim to add value to the Black community. Natwest and MWC Global’s 'Black Business Live' event demonstrates this by providing a dedicated platform and resources to support Black businesses while spotlighting talent and contributions beyond stereotypical themes. - Simone Harvey, Director