Proud to Be: Why we need Black leaders across all sectors

featured-post
category - black lives matter
sector - diversity & inclusion
type - opinion
Opinion
category - black history month
The Future Laboratory’s Alena Joyette and Paige Owusu discuss why year-round representation and celebration of Black talent is long overdue

Every October, Black History Month UK shines a light on the contributions and achievements of Black culture. It’s an opportunity to write history in our own words by acknowledging the contributions and achievements of Black people. This year’s theme, Proud to Be, encouraged Black communities to celebrate and share pride in their heritage and culture.

Looking back to last month, we wanted to talk about what pride for looks like for us: Black men, women and non-binary people who inspire us and continue to significantly influence and change the world around us.

Alena Joyette: Lavinya Stennett founded The Black Curriculum to address the lack of Black history in the British school curriculum. Since 2019, it has created a 12-topic curriculum that focuses on Black history and Black experiences, and is delivered to schools and businesses across the country. Lavinya saw a massive gap in the knowledge of young people not being addressed by the government and worked with other Black people to rectify it.

The multi-talented Issa Rae is an actress, writer and producer. In 2011 she started a massive cultural shift with her hit show, Awkward Black Girl, through a heart-warming and relatable portrayal of Blackness. A decade later, with 22 films and tv shows now in production, a haircare company and high-profile campaigns, she is the pinnacle of Black excellence.

My favourite thing about her is that she continues to challenge the notion that Black women must be humble or minimise their achievements. After winning an award at the Women in Film Gala she stated: ‘Emerging Entrepreneur Award… duh, bitches.’ The energy she possesses about being deserving and worthy of her accomplishments due to her hard work and commitment is contagious and necessary.

Published by:

4 November 2021

Author: Alena Joyette and Paige Owusu

Image: Yinka Ilori is a Nigerian, London-based designer who calls on both his British and Nigerian heritage in his work, photography is by Mark Cocksedge

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Designer Cynthia Voza Lusilus is exploring how design can promote conversation and action relating to wellbeing and spirituality among Black families.

Paige Owusu: I feel pride in the bond that exists in our global community. When France won the World Cup in 2018, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy even though I had no connection to the country. Seeing second-generation Black immigrant men winning and succeeding in a country where they are deeply marginalised was empowering. I feel relief when I see other Black people in predominantly white offices because we have a shared experience of feeling like we do not belong. But Black is a support network, we show up as a community to consistently demand equality and justice, while inspiring each other.

I want to see Black history being taught in our education systems and to stop erasing Black British history. Without the Windrush generation rebuilding modern Britain, we wouldn’t be where we are today and that needs to be recognised. The spotlight should not be given to Black achievements just for one month a year because we contribute to everything all year round. I want to see more positive representation of Black people on tv that builds on the cultural shifts that Issa Rae started and challenges the incredibly problematic characteristics of aggression, laziness and law-breaking commonly associated with Black people by replacing them with successful ideals and role models such as Channel 4’s Highlife.

To achieve all of this, we need more Black leaders and decision-makers. Organisations cannot be diverse if people of the global majority consistently face barriers to promotion within a white-led leadership team. Measures must be put in place to ensure a truly level playing field so we can honour the legacy of Black leaders like Lavinya Stennett and Issa Rae.

Paige Owusu is People and D&I Assistant, and Alena Joyette is Senior Business Development Manager and Diversity & Inclusion coach at The Future Laboratory.

‘The spotlight should not be given to Black achievements just for one month a year – we contribute to everything all year round’

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