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 Head of London Business Centre, Clive Newsome.
What is your ethnic background and how do you celebrate it?
I am Black British of Jamaican heritage. I enjoy Black performing arts. In 2019, before COVID-19, I saw the play When the Crows Visit at the Kiln Theatre. My daughter is a dance choreographer, so I also saw her show Emancipation of Expressionism, which showcased the work of predominantly young Black creative artists, at the Barbican. Those days feel like a long time ago now – hopefully, now the restrictions have been lifted we can get back to live performances.
What does Black History Month (BHM) mean to you and why is it important to celebrate BHM?
For me, it’s a period of reflection on progress made as well as to celebrate achievements. Historians and commentators have under-valued the contributions of Black people over many centuries. That false narrative is still prevalent in modern-day perceptions and continues to have a negative impact on generations of Black people in many walks of life. I feel that BHM gives a window to celebrate the positives that we have brought globally, to our local communities and to understand the context of those achievements.
Why is it important for organisations to participate in BHM celebrations and engage employees?
To understand the perspectives of minority groups as this builds relationships and makes us all stronger which can only make for better decisions whether that is with our people or in delivery.
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?
One of my favourite James Baldwin quotes sums it up for me: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
What do you hope colleagues will take away from this year’s BHM celebrations?
We have had a number of events in the CPS London area that have been really informative. So, I hope these sessions act as a source of learning and inspiration. I also hope that we learn to be more courageous in having open conversations which will help things to progress.
Which Black person from history or today inspires you?
Muhammad Ali – intelligent, courageous, made sacrifices true to his principles and was funny.