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Black History Month and #BlackLivesMatter – what we learnt

By Team CHAMPS

As mentioned in a recent blog from our CEO, Tara Kent, we decided to mark Black History Month by hosting an event, Let’s Talk About Race and Mental Health, to explore the ways in which we can all be anti-racist and how organisations can more proactively support their black colleagues’ mental health.

In hosting this session, which featured the inspirational speakers, Natasha Brookfield-Reid and Marcia Jarrett, we made a commitment to:

  • share one example of racial discrimination we have heard about / witnessed during our lives that might not make the news headlines
  • suggest one way in which we can be proactively anti-racist in our area of specialism

So, to further raise awareness of some of the challenges faced by our black friends, neighbours and colleagues, here are Team CHAMPS’ responses to the above:

Ruth Cooper-Dickson – Founder and MD 

One example of racial discrimination:

I have been in rooms when jokes have been made about those who identify as BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Colour) for example, when I worked in the inclusion space, someone asked me what I did and when I mentioned my title they said, “Oh so you get disabled and black people jobs?“.

One way to be proactively anti-racist:

To commit to keep broadening my reading of anti-racist books and learning. As part of my role at CHAMPS I spend a lot of time on social media and I feel it is important that I am following, promoting and sharing content from the BIPOC community – this is an ongoing process when you show up as an ally.

Tara Kent – CEO

One example of racial discrimination:

In an amateur dramatics group I was part of, I witnessed a casting process that led to someone not being chosen for a role because of their accent, with the majority agreeing that “no one would understand them”.  Listening to the conversation, there were many apparently valid reasons as to why the other (white British and well known to the casting team) person was put in the role instead, and although I didn’t have the courage to challenge it on the basis of racial discrimination at the time, I tried to challenge in other ways and was rebuffed.  I felt very uncomfortable but didn’t know what else to do. 

One way to be proactively anti-racist:

I often share examples and stories of things that impacted my mental health in sessions I run – I am going to ensure that in every session going forward I share an example that tackles racial discrimination (generally unconscious and systemic racism but still racism) to help share what I learned during the session

Tasmin Lofthouse – Marketing Manager (freelance)

One example of racial discrimination:

An old work-friend once told me about a time he was detained in customs for over 24 hours, unable to call his wife, and interrogated when traveling home from a business trip – all because they profiled him based on the colour of his skin. Yet this is sadly something that happens all too often in airport customs, where people are stereotypically profiled based on their race or ethnicity.

One way to be proactively anti-racist:

As CHAMPS’ marketing manager, I believe that I can do more to be actively anti-racist by ensuring we talk about important topics around race and mental health across the CHAMPS communication channels and share the voices of those directly impacted by racism.

Lucy Nichol – PR Manager (freelance)

One example of racial discrimination:

I was doing some research for a character within my fiction project and some of the stories two friends told me about their experiences of being a black woman in the UK really shocked me. I think one of the most impactful examples had to be how somebody changed their name to a more English sounding name as an experiment after having no luck at being shortlisted for job interviews. As soon as she changed her name, the offers came in. Your name is such a big part of your identity – even just simply from the point of view that it’s what you’ve called yourself and how you’ve been known since birth. In my eyes, this is a shocking example of discrimination that is, sadly, unlikely to make the news headlines.

One way to be proactively anti-racist:

As a writer who has written one novel I realised just how incredibly ‘white’ my book was. I therefore committed to writing a black female character as one of the three lead characters in my second project, hence the research mentioned above. We need to stop being afraid of being more proactive in this area and, as long as we research thoroughly and ask for feedback where possible, surely it can only be a good thing to more accurately represent society?

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