November 1, 2022

Black History Month interviews

At WeShape, we acknowledge and understand the importance of Black History in the UK. Although appreciation and education on Black History should not be confined to one month, we decided to focus on some of our Black colleagues to find out what Black History Month means to them.

Charlotte:

Charlotte Hamilton- Social media assistant

Q) What does Black History Month mean to you?

"A lot about community, culture, history and family. Celebrating my personal achievements, my families and others in my community. I don’t think it should just be a month though"

Q) Which Black figures do you look up to?

"Ruby Bridges because racism is quite often a ‘war’ in a sense that's waged unfairly on children despite how adults have the most influence and agency to act on it. Children don’t have that and usually have to live without understanding or sense of what's going on and why they're being treated differently in comparison to others because they're Black. It’s quite a difficult yet common decision or even choiceless choice in a way where parents of marginalised people have to choose: would you rather your child have no awareness and potentially endanger themselves or have that heavy weight of reality on their shoulders? I think Ruby Bridges epitomises that well. I don’t know many adults who could endure such a traumatic experience and turn it into a positive. Also, Serena Williams because no one can deny she was the world’s best at women's tennis despite all the hate around her and her family that she is exposed to on a daily basis. Despite all of that, she was still at one point unbeatable for a long while. I think people should have that space to thrive and enjoy things, regardless of the difficulties they face"

Q) Has being Black affected you in your life?

"A big part of my identity is dual heritage. I think it’s important to acknowledge how that has privileged me but also puts me in an awkward state of belonging. It was quite difficult to know how to navigate binaries and expectations of 'too Black' or 'too white'. Especially, because I grew up in traditionally ‘white’ areas. I went to a private primary school in a very socio-economically affluent area, I have two degrees, a supportive family and always a roof over my head. That’s helped me to get to a position I’m very happy with and fortunate for. However, it has been difficult at times in a personal sense to know where I fit in, as a mixed race woman, within that"

Q) What do you think others can do to celebrate Black History Month?

"Being Black is so hybrid and multifaceted, there's so many different ways that you can get educated, involved and celebrate Black culture. For example, if you like cooking, Google recipes from different communities and look into the history behind it. Talking to people as well, neighbours, your friends and colleagues. Think about how you can enjoy and productively move the conversation along and bring others into it. Understanding cultural differences can really enhance your communication and relationships"

To find out more about Ruby Bridges, click here

Craig

Craig Norford- Junior Technical Consultant

Q) What does Black History Month mean to you?

"I feel like Black History is something that should be celebrated all the time but it’s nice that we’re taking a moment just to focus on it. I think it makes me think of my grandparents who were part of the Windrush generation and they’re pretty cool as people. In conclusion, Black History means a lot about family and being proud of my personal success but also the successes of my people and the sacrifices they made. Because we celebrate a lot of people like Florence Nightingale, but not to the same extent as Mary Seacole."

Q) Which Black figures do you look up to?

"I really like Katherine Jackson, she’s pretty badass and so good at what she did whilst breaking through barriers. She really ignored barriers as well, it never held her back from being great, especially in education. From my teaching background as well, I feel like it can be quite difficult being Black."

Q) Do you think being Black has affected you in your life?

"100%, your life experience, the way people interact with you and the way you perceive the world is, in the Western world, heavily dictated by those things. Me wearing a hoodie has very different connotations to a white person wearing a hoodie. And I’ve spent my life walking through the world and watching people be afraid of me for no reason. That does change the way I’ve chosen to present myself. Although being Black can potentially open doors, it can shut a lot doors as well. So yeah, being Black has shaped a lot of things."

Q) What do you think others can do to celebrate Black History month?

"Firstly, people should look at their own circle and who they interact with. I know in Caribbean culture, we’re constantly taking the mick and challenging people as an expression of love. Whereas in other cultures it’s offensive. But when someone’s doing that in a playful way or something, it’s about understanding that cultural communication, finding a happy medium and then respecting that. I think actually you can get so much out of life by doing that. Go and read a book as well, Akala’s book called Natives is so good. It talks about Britain's complex and convoluted history and relationship with race"

Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

Ben

Bernard Simpson- Junior Technical Consultant

Q) What does Black History month mean to you?

"To me, Black History month is important, not just for me being Black person in this country, but for people to recognise that we've come a long way. If you think of a 100m sprint, as Black people we started at the start point but everyone else had a 50m head start. So it just shows that we're still trying to catch up."

Q) Which black figures do you look up to?

"So I'm from Ghana, I was born in the UK but I'm originally from Ghana. So I would say President Kwame Nkrumah. He was a highly intelligent person that did a lot for his country, especially for Ghana being the first independent African country. That takes a lot of determination. A current figure is a hard one, there’s so many people doing amazing things as Black people. One person that stands out to me is someone like Jay-Z because growing up in the neighbourhood he grew up in and the things he did that he had to do to get by vs seeing him now is just so amazing."

 Q) How do you think others can celebrate Black History Month?

"I would say it’s about getting involved and trying to find out more about the culture. I’ll use the workplace as an example. As Black people, we have so much in terms of food and in our culture. So it’s just about some people getting to try and know each other and learn about the culture. You don’t necessarily have to throw a party or anything like that but just get to know your Black colleagues, friends and neighbours."

As WeShape are part of the Tech Talent Charter, we will soon be publishing our diversity statistics to ensure we are held to accountability to do the right thing and constantly improving our talent pool to expand our business. You can also find out more about our impact here.

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