In this black history month feature piece, members of our new equality, diversity and inclusion action group share their views on the importance of celebrating black history, culture and perspectives, and of the need to keep fighting racism in today’s society. Read until the end of this article to see a statement from our executive board regarding this very real issue.
Channelle Anderson, customer experience designer
Mimi Watson, customer relationship manager (tenancy)
Mariam Njie, colleague experience designer
This comment piece was written by Mariam:
2020 has been a rollercoaster for all involved, but especially for black people. We have witnessed the UK’s Windrush generation scandal, the death of George Floyd which resonated so deeply with people across the world because it not only revealed systemic racism in the US, but also closer to home. Black people continue to suffer from profound health inequalities, as unveiled by Covid-19 here in the UK. All this and more has increasingly turned conversations towards black rights and the lack of racial equality in many walks of life.
Originally from Gambia, I did a degree at the University of Buckingham before starting a job as the colleague experience designer on Silva Homes’ graduate programme. In my role, I assess our internal processes and try to find more efficient ways for my colleagues to work. I organise training, internal events, embed our culture and generally do everything I can to help my colleagues excel in their roles.
This year, black history month has been especially significant for me. The recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world has brought an overdue thirst for black history. It has brought about campaigns asking for widespread reformation, including the introduction of Britain's colonial and imperialist history to the national curriculum, as well as demands for a wider change in narrative.
After a summer of racial dialogue, I have valued the opportunity to look to the past, at some of the truly inspiring people who struggled in their lifetimes to build the foundations for the way I live today. There is so much to learn from history, and there are many examples of people who managed to excel, despite the barriers put upon them by society. However, these people were in the minority, and even they had to fight to succeed. Sadly, this is a very common theme I’ve noticed when reading about black history.
Now, with black history month coming to an end, it’s crucial that we continue translating the lessons we’ve learned from the past into actions that will bring about long-term racial equality. I firmly believe that change should be implemented not only by individuals but by businesses, which have a lot of influence within communities. And these same communities enable businesses to succeed.
Inequalities and injustice have no place in businesses, which have a responsibility to be proactively anti-racist. Modern businesses should be bold and show concern for black customers and colleagues. They should demonstrate that they care about the massive inequalities people face in society every day. This is a time when every business should be looking internally and interrogating the way they work, to make improvements that bring about real, positive change.
As a housing association, Silva Homes is responsible for ensuring that all its customers and colleagues have equal experiences, regardless of race, gender, age, etc. I think we can better uphold our social purpose if we consistently put equality, diversity and inclusion at the forefront of every decision we make.
Everyone can play a part in addressing social injustice and inequality and I am proud to work for a business that is interrogating the way it operates to bring about more equality.
I am excited to be able to use my position to inform the steps that bring about change. In my role as Silva’s colleague experience designer and as a member of the equality, diversity and inclusion action group, I can help to improve our policies and processes, so that we can change mindsets and bring more support to black people in our community. I think it’s really important that my colleagues are encouraged to lead with curiosity, move outside their comfort zone and listen to the experiences of others. After everything that’s happened this year, peoples’ mental health is suffering, and I believe that being included and supported is an essential prerequisite to positive wellbeing. This issue is certainly going to be a key focus for me during the next few months.
So, black history month may be at an end, but its relevance continues. We all have a collective responsibility to continue the discourse and develop a strategy where everyone is valued equally, and racial inequality eradicated. Because black lives don’t only matter in the short term.
A supporting statement from our executive board:
At Silva Homes, our colleagues are encouraged to be accountable, creative and engaged in all that they do. This means we do our best for our customers, adapt and strive to improve, and work together to overcome the challenges we face. One very real challenge, which has deep roots in society and affects many of our colleagues and customers, is racism and racial inequality.
We have a zero-tolerance approach towards all forms of discrimination in our business and in the communities where we work and we want this to be reflected in every conversation we have, every policy we introduce and every decision we make. We do have measures in place that help us to be an equal, diverse and inclusive employer and service provider, but we recognise that there is still more that we can do.
As a business, we are taking steps that help us provide a better experience for all 14,000 of our customers and for every one of our 230 colleagues. Our equality, diversity and inclusion action group, which we set up in July this year, is looking at ways we can have open and honest conversations about diversity and inclusion, so that we can introduce measures that improve the experience of everyone in our business and in the communities where we work. Some of the initial steps include setting up a diversity pay gap report, increasing equality, diversity and inclusion training for new colleagues, and raising awareness of different cultures.
This action group’s work is fully supported by Silva’s executive board, and we are committed to helping them achieve their objectives. We look forward to receiving their report and action plan in due course. The powerful, authentic videos and messages in this feature piece underline the need for us to highlight issues of racial inequality and discrimination and to keep working hard to eradicate them.
We strongly believe that by being accountable for our actions, by being creative in the way we seek to improve, and by engaging with everyone in our community, we can continue on our journey towards creating a fully inclusive organisation where our customers and colleagues can thrive.Read more