October is Black History Month (BHM), an annual celebration of the contributions of Black people to British society. To celebrate, we asked our members what Black History Month means to them. In this interview, we speak to Senior Business Manager, Ade Olojo.
What is your ethnic background and how do you celebrate it?
I am Nigerian, born and raised in the United Kingdom. Following the completion of my A levels, I went to Nigeria for university; it was quite an interesting experience – especially with my British accent! How do I celebrate it? Nigerians are renowned for being very sociable, and therefore I am sociable by nature. I enjoy Nigerian and afrobeat music, especially the ‘father’ of the genre, Fela Kuti. In addition to music, I like to wear traditional attire when attending social events, such as family weddings. I attempt to cook various Nigerian dishes, that I used to eat when I was younger; unfortunately, with little success – I just cannot cook traditional food like my mother!
This year’s BHM theme is ‘proud to be’. What does ‘proud to be’ means to you?
To me, it means being proud to be who one is, proud of what one has been able to achieve, proud of the skills, knowledge and life experiences one has, and to be able to build on a strong foundation of family, cultural, educational, and Christian values.
Thinking back to the events of 2020, with the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter uprising, what is the one thing you learned during this time?
Life is so precious, and the unlawful and unnecessary harm caused to George Floyd, and other Black victims and their families, is a lasting source of sadness. My primary learning is to the degree to which the injustices met by those who look like me and George Floyd were not recognised by many before his tragic death.
Being a Black leader in the civil service, what challenges have you faced on your career journey, and how have you overcome these?
Looking back there were many challenges faced, promotion disappointments, lack of recognition for achievements and discrimination; yet, one needs to have the confidence to overcome these setbacks by demonstrating a solid work ethic, being respectful to others no matter what position the person holds, and being a person who supports and encourages others.
I have a law degree and joined the CPS wanting to become a prosecutor. After years of trying, I gave up! I now enjoy working with Crown advocates, barristers and solicitors daily. I can exercise my legal knowledge, enjoying the buzz I get when I spot a legal issue that needs to be resolved. In addition, in my late father’s words, I can ‘rise and shine’ and I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Which Black person from history or today inspires you?
There are many but in present times I will choose Denzel Washington – who gave an inspirational speech about ‘falling forward’