It's Black History Month and plenty of organisations are sharing resources, information and activities to celebrate the achievements of people of colour. We take this chance to reflect on our own progress towards being a just and equitable workplace and providing young people of colour, and staff, the best support possible.  

Hear the thoughts of three members of ‘The Global Majority’*, Creative Youth Network's staff forum for people of colour. 

Rebecca Scott - Station Manager 

It’s been a few months since the Black Lives Matter campaign reached what we hope is a pivotal point in its journey, the world-wide awakening that black people matter, and I am hopeful.  

We’re starting to see the momentum to rid society of systemic prejudices and discriminations that have actively held, and continue to hold, black people back, and people of colour are being recognised for their contributions in all areas. That’s right, we’re not just good at music and sports! 

The years events encouraged me to reflect on my own experiences as a woman of colour both in my personal life and at work, and in June this year I wrote blog on my reality at Creative Youth Network. I recognised that I had all too often turned a blind eye to ignorant behaviours of some of my white peers and colleagues due to fear of being isolated and the need for acceptance. 

It also highlighted the uncomfortable truth that as an organisation where only 6% staff are BAME and 85% white, we were clearly not doing enough to recruit, support and retain staff members of colour and it questioned whether we were adequately able to support our young people of colour. In all areas related to equality and diversity we needed to do better.  

So, I’m glad that we find ourselves here, during Black History Month, with a plan to turn this around. 

Our progress

We now have an established Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Steering Committee. The group acts in an advisory capacity to the organisation ensuring that staff are treated fairly, that any forms of discrimination are actively challenged and wherever we can, and as often as we can, that we encourage the celebration of staff diversity.  

The Committee has been running since January and we are now at the stage of publishing the first draft of our EI&D statement and action plan. There are seven of us in the group from all areas and levels of the organisation. In addition to this, we now have forums to support our LGBTQ+, Neuro-diverse and disability and BAME staff communities. 

As a member of the BAME forum, I can see that what started as focus group is quickly evolving into a safe space to chat and address some of the wider issues, and on a personal level, the conversations I’ve been able to have with other staff members of colour has allowed me to feel less isolated and more empowered to speak up when I’ve encountered discrimination, not just at work and not just on my own behalf.  

The BAME staff forum are a modest group of nine so far but we plan to be more! We want to increase the opportunities for people of colour at Creative Youth Network (young and old) and create the environments that allow us to thrive and succeed.   

We’ve also renamed ourselves The Global Majority. We weren’t all that comfortable with the BAME label and whilst we recognise that this is widely used term for people of colour, we felt that the Global Majority better mirrored our aspirations to be viewed with significance 

So, here, in Black History Month, The Global Majority are proud to lead on CYN’s efforts to celebrate and support the black community. 

Samia Saidi - Team Leader for Targeted Youth Services in Bristol North

Team Leader for Targeted Youth Services in Bristol North talks to Rebecca about why she's passionate about The Global Majority Group, and what she hopes it will achieve. 

Emma Ako - Receptionist and Creative Practitioner

Hi lovely reader, I’m one of the receptionists at Creative Youth Network and a creative practitioner. I joined The Global Majority for a few reasons so get ready! I want to have a safe place to have a rant about institutionalised racism and glass ceilings in the workplace - and boy, do I rant or what! But also, to share ideas on how to tackle this problem with other people who are in the same/similar situation and gain different perspectives.

I’m incredibly passionate about helping to empower young people, especially Black youth, to become the best that they can be and take control of their narrative. However, I believe that they can only become what they see, so what use is my/our constant preaching to them if we ourselves aren’t even able to access the spaces where life-impacting decisions are made? So, I hope we can use this space to come up with ways to navigate racist practices in the workplace as well as create a platform to have an open and honest discussion with the senior leadership teams, who are all white.

I’d love to see this materialise the most in the youth team – there's a massive lack of diversity which impacts the youth from non-Black backgrounds.

What we have planned for the future 

So to get things moving, we're planning a couple of CAMEROONIAN DANCE CLASSES! There’s a well-known, Bristol-based dancer and choreographer called Louis Eboa who’s from the same town as my mum in Cameroon. We’re planning in some of his classes and I’m looking forward to this because I want Cameroonian history to be tied into Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade, as Edward Colston enslaved people from this country, some who ended up in Bristol. I know it’s a tough subject, but we can’t keep sweeping it under the rug anymore. So, what better way than to approach it with fun and creativity? 

Beyond this, I’m also looking forward to discussions around mental health and racism with the latter being led by non-Black people. UWE hold some great lectures which I want to attend. I think that the whole of BHM and beyond will be interesting – I hope that we’re able to move on from performative activism to real change.  Here’s to the future! 

If you’ve got thoughts and suggestions about what’s working for you or where you are, let us know. Join us on this journey to empowerment for people of colour, this month and beyond!