What we can learn during Black History Month

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is marked annually in October to commemorate the achievements and contributions of Black people to social, political, economic and cultural development. Its purpose is to promote and foster an understanding of Black history and the African/Black Diaspora.

Whilst the UK observes it in the month of October, across the pond (in the US) where it originated, and in other parts of the world, it is celebrated in February. This is because the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, the slavery abolitionist, and Abraham Lincoln, fell in this month.

It was first introduced in London in the 1980s with the purpose of bringing the community together to challenge racism, educate one another and celebrate Black history.

At Tide, we are observing Black History Month by coming together to; have open and honest discussions about topics, such as racial discrimination, share stories about Black people in history, educate each other, and celebrate the incredible food from the Black Diaspora.

In this blog, people from across Tide have shared what Black History Month means to them.

Eric Henry – KYC Analyst

“Black History Month can mean different things to different people and can be expressed and celebrated in various ways.

Black History Month to me is a month of reflection of past significant events and the strength the African and Caribbean community had in overcoming political, social and cultural discrimination. Such events include Nelson Mandela being the first Black president of South Africa, prohibiting all discrimination after being imprisoned from 1964 to 1981. To more recent events like Black players in the England football team dealing with and overcoming racist chants.

Amongst reflecting, this is also a time to celebrate. It does not have to be past significant events as mentioned earlier, it is a celebration of people closer to me personally. Celebrating family members who have had to migrate to a new destination and start a new beginning to provide a better life for their family, whilst also having to deal with struggles such as racism and discrimination.

Black History Month is a month which reflects Black history and reinforces the fact that people of all races should be treated equally.”

Eric, our KYC Analyst

Kojo Boateng – KYC Analyst 

“Black History Month to me is a month in which we can truly embrace great Black men and women. 

The great thing is, it doesn’t matter which era you look at, there have always been great Black people who have contributed to change. I believe these figures have been overlooked and often taken for granted.

Growing up and learning history in school, there wasn’t much taught about strong black individuals, most of the stories that I heard about Black people were about slavery and apartheid. Which is not strengthening and empowering to Black people. 

I feel like the younger generation do not know or understand what Black people had to go through and understand that we have come a long way. Saying that, we still have a long way to go. 

Being born and raised in the UK it sometimes feels like I am disconnected from my culture/heritage. This month helps remind me that I am not the only one, and that there are many similarities between all cultures. I learn something new all the time about the amazing milestones Black people are achieving now and have hit throughout history.”

Jason Creavalle – KYC Analyst 

“Black history month to me is a momentous occasion, which allows us to celebrate all the great achievements the African and Caribbean community have accomplished over the years. 

It’s a time to remember; great leaders and iconic figures who helped pave the way to allow equality and self-discovery. An opportunity to discover legendary role models, who can illustrate the importance of Black empowerment. Overall to me, it’s a reminder that we have come a long way, reshaped our own destinies and a life lesson that ‘all great achievements require time.’ – Maya Angelou.”

Joan Lilian-Asima – Collections Manager 

For myself, Black History is represented throughout the year in my everyday settings, ranging from the music I listen to, the food I eat and the languages I speak.

But its observance in the month of October is a good focal point for reflection, learning and celebration. It aims to foster further knowledge and understanding of Black histories. Highlighting the contributions made by Black people to the development of various areas within societies. Countering the negative perceptions and labels applied to them, thus reclaiming Black Pride.

There is still a lot to be done to encourage equality and acceptance. Celebrating Black History Month creates a forum for healthy dialogue on the topic of ‘race’. It allows for each generation to reaffirm the principles of equality and opportunity, whilst engaging with history ‘as a way to understand the present and possible futures’.”

Jamel Quaye – On-Boarding Team

“Black history month to me means a time to reflect and celebrate the achievements, culture and rich history of Black people. I believe it is important to celebrate and acknowledge those who took a stand and made an impact in the world where we were not accepted. I am very fortunate to have known the history of my roots and blessed to still have an influence in my life, so I can be reminded of how far we have come as a race and how we have overcome our struggles. My family history has become more important to me as I have gotten older, I believe we should try to reach and inspire the next generation so we can teach them why months like Black History Month are so important and how we can move forward and become better as people.

Most of all this celebration makes me proud of my country because, for all the challenges that exist in Britain today, whilst there is undoubtedly always further to go, we are working collectively to make a change. This month is a time to recognise buried histories, embrace equality and inclusion, and continue to help create a better society. I hope that October will see many other communities embracing difference and coming together in this annual celebration.”

Jamel, from our On-Boarding Team

Biyi Adegbie – KYC Analyst

“Black History Month has been the subject of criticism: some argue it is unfair to devote an entire month to a single people group, others contend that we should celebrate Black history throughout the entire year. Setting aside only one month, they say, gives people license to neglect this for the other 11 months.

Despite the objections, I believe some good can come from devoting a season to remember people who have made priceless deposits into the account of our nation’s history.

All too often, only the most negative aspects of Black culture and communities get highlighted. We hear about the poverty rates, incarceration rates, and high school dropout rates. We are inundated with images of unruly athletes and raunchy reality TV stars as paradigms of success for Black people. And we are daily subject to unfair stereotypes and assumptions from a culture that is, in some aspects, still learning to accept us.

As we take time to celebrate this notable occasion, I would like to share what Black History Month means to me. For me, Black History Month is a time of reflection, rejoicing, and recommitting to reach the next generation.

Black History Month is a time to think about what it means to be Black. We stand on the shoulders of giants who sacrificed to pave the way for a better tomorrow.  It is a time to reflect back on the activists and organizers of the past involved in the fight for racial equality. The direct action being utilized by pacifist groups, and the bravery shown in the face of extreme racially motivated violence. It allows me to think back on the progress that was made in a relatively short period of time but then lets me recognize how much more work there is to do. Not only is Black History Month a time of reflection, it is also a time of rejoicing.

Black history is not just about all the bad times we have been through. It is about integrity, leadership, and determination. It is about showing your true character.

How a person deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about their character. Crisis does not necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it. Adversity makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. Every time a person chooses character, they grow stronger.

“Character is the foundation on which a person builds his or her life. It all begins with character because relationships operate on the basis of trust. Character communicates credibility, harnesses respect, creates consistency, and earns trust,” according to John Maxwell. Again, Black History Month is a time to reach the next generation and help shape their character.

Not only is Black History Month a time to reach and inspire the next generation, it is also a time to recommit to making the world a better place.

Black History Month is a time to recommit and go into the world and show that we are equal, have the same rights, and we can achieve at the save level.  As Black people we have a rich history of making our communities, cities, and world a better place. Some believe that Black History month is no longer needed. I disagree.

As a nation, we have come a long way and yet we still have many more mountains to climb and valleys to go through.  If our ancestors did it considering the insurmountable obstacles before them, SO CAN WE!”

Shak Welch – KYC Team Lead

Black History Month is an opportunity to provide education and share cultural experiences with everyone, irrespective of your background! To me, it’s important this month celebrates the journey Black people have had, the influences our cultures have on society and encourages meaningful conversations which seek to bring about a better understanding of being Black. 

I have worked within banking for nearly 10 years, and as a Black female working in a white male dominated industry, I have faced many barriers to progression and how I am perceived. My hair is different to the eurocentric ideal of long and straight (Afro or in long twist), my skin colour is brown and therefore I am immediately seen as ‘other’ and my name highlights I am of Black/caribbean heritage. We have come a long way as a society, but we also have a way to go to make all minority groups feel truly equal.

Throughout my professional career, I have been subject to preconceptions and have witnessed many stereotypes being placed upon Black women. These negative assumptions have affected the pace of career succession for many. A major drawback has been the common misconception of Black women: The Angry Black Women (ABW).

I am pleased that for Black History Month, Tide is hosting a series of open forum discussions run by, and for, Tideans to have open, honest and safe discussions about such topics, with the aim of educating the wider company and for participants to walk away more informed. 

I think that all employers should hold similar forums and actively try to break barriers that minority groups face in the workplace. We can all do more in society and at work to find out about the various cultures we are exposed to everyday. This really starts with a conversation, ‘Tell more about your culture, I’d like to learn…'”

Shak, our KYC Team Lead

Jake Yeboa – KYC Analyst

“In my opinion Black History Month is a chance for the younger generation to understand their roots and why we celebrate them. Having this knowledge is very important because many sacrifices have been made to create opportunities for today’s younger generation. It is more than just a time to celebrate your ethnicity but a time for us to learn about the history of the African Diaspora. I am a product of the African Diaspora and feel connected to our struggles, our resilience and our triumphs. This month represents our unity and effort to do better and our motivation to push through the adversity our community faces.”

Thank you.