By Sally Ngbeken, Paralegal

Black History Month has been celebrated nationwide in October for almost 40 years. It’s crucial as it reflects on both the hard times but also the celebration of black people’s contributions and achievements in the UK, helping to keep the history alive and relevant in today’s culture. It’s celebrated with various events across the country including talks, exhibitions and concerts. It’s a celebration of great role models who inspire me to continue to make a positive impact in society.

In honour of Black History Month, Co-op looked closer to home. The Rise network selected 31 individuals to celebrate throughout the month, highlighting Black-British pioneers who’ve enhanced British society through their contributions to science, economics, entertainment, culture, politics and beyond.

When I started working at Co-op I joined Rise, the network that represents colleagues of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (BAME) to get involved in the conversations and events that were happening. Throughout October these events have included lunch and learns, a BAME focused mini-hackathon and even the Rise anniversary celebration.

Attending these has taught me to understand that people are moulded by their environment and everyone has personal bias – it’s about recognising this and doing everything you can to challenge pre-conceptions and retrain how you think. This comes from a place of being curious and wanting to learn. Be brave and ask questions, as long as you ask from a place of kindness it’s good to educate yourself and learn about different cultures and challenge yourself.

This fact sheet has a bit more information about Black History Month and I have a couple of tips to for anyone who wants to do more:

  • Challenge any bias. We know statistically in the UK colleagues with non-British sounding names are less likely to be hired. Issues like this need to be tackled to make it fairer for everyone. It’s about allowing everyone to have equal opportunities to be evaluated purely on their talent, skills and contribution to our society
  • Make people feel included. Simple things like acknowledging people’s presence, being curious, and recognising the need for knowledge sharing of what could affect black people in the workplace and in our communities

Whilst there’s been progress, there’s still room to grow but I believe the future is looking bright and I have hope that Co-op will continue to take positive steps forward.

Take a look at the Rise Yammer Group for more information, or sign up to become a member here.



Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. I found the factsheets on the Black British pioneers really interesting. I had never heard of most of them before and it just goes to show that we need to shout about our achievements more, and keep learning, too! It’s so important that young people of colour have people in positions of success and leadership to look up to. if you can’t see people like you at the top, you start to believe you can’t make it!

  2. Brilliant article. It’s really important to continue this kind of dialogue. People probably think they are more ‘woke’ nowadays but there is much learning and understanding left to be done. I have read some really silly things, the absolute worst was from someone who felt disadvantaged because they are straight, white and male… We need more awareness like this to show the hurdles and struggles people still face in modern Britain today because of prejudice, discrimination, ignorance and hate. Unfortunately in our current climate we are becoming less tolerant and more divided than ever. Thank you.

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