Black History Month
Janet Campbell is the R&R Delivery Authority HR Director. With experience from OfCom and ACAS, Janet joined the team as a highly recognised HR professional and shares her experiences and thoughts for Black History Month
With the start of Black History Month, and our celebrations of prominent Black Britons at the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal programme, I have been reflecting on my own experience growing up. My own education in UK black history has been a direct result of my own literary choices as an adult - Black history was not part of any history lessons when I was at school. Even looking more recently, and raising two Black sons, Black history in their school was generally summed up by the class watching the programme ‘Roots’. Being older and wiser, and being able to be unapologetically me, if I was faced today with some of the conversations I had had with their teachers when my sons were younger, my response to the curriculum provided in schools would be very different in order to provide an equality of experience from a young age. Black History is our history.
Moving forward to more recent events, the death of George Floyd and countless others, has provided a catalyst for us to do better, have some courageous conversations about race in the workplace and to begin to widely talk about systemic racism and barriers that are still in place in our own country as well as the USA. I would like us to be looking beyond the term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). There are many different cultures and groups of people, and their experience of racism is not the same. We need to understand these different experiences and avoid being complacent in our approach to inclusion of Black people. In previous roles, I have frequently been the only Black person in the room at senior meetings and it can be frustrating when asked to answer for every Black person. Disaggregating into different ethnicity groups, as we are doing at the very start of our work in Parliament, will help us to give a voice back to Black people and ensure that we don’t miss their views and experiences in the workplace.
I am glad that Black History Month is moving beyond the recognition and celebration of Black people in sports as being the only role models. This was one of the aims of Jacqui McDonald’s book, ‘Portraits of Black Achievement’ and I was very pleased to be featured because it really went some way to highlight the different career paths available and provide a range of positive Black role models with successful careers. Going forward, it is important that Black colleagues feel that conversations about race are welcomed and supported all year round as well as in Black History Month, and I am hopeful that in light of the recent events, the tide is turning in the UK.
By signing the Race at Work Charter, the Restoration and Renewal programme is demonstrating its commitment to making those differences for our current and prospective Black employees. Black history is Britain's history - including, and especially, in the history and future of our Parliament. We will lead our work on the actions composing the charter with authenticity and embed it in everything we do. I was proud to join the R&R programme and to see that Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is being embedded so early on. It was great to see that both the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority boards and executive teams are engaged and interested in this important area of work. Accessibility and Inclusion is a strategic theme for R&R that allows us to draw our focus in this area, not only for how we operate as organisations but also how we restore and renew the Palace of Westminster. I genuinely want to make a difference and am looking forward to bringing this Charter to life.