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 Crown Prosecutor, Eka Kalunta-Ike.
This year’s BHM theme is ‘proud to be’. What does ‘proud to be’ means to you?
It means living my life without having to compromise who I am to gain access to anything in society. It is being present at the table where decisions are made and being able to voice the opinions of groups that share similar characteristics. It is the inspiration created when I see people that look like me at all career levels and professions.
Why is it important for organisations to participate in BHM celebrations and engage employees?
All the races should be celebrated and acknowledged every day in all circles of life, however setting aside a month means we can promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society. For organisations, it means they can reflect, review, plan and measure progress. It serves as encouragement and a gentle reminder and to all, that we are making progress but more still needs to be done.
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?
It was a sad and sensitive season which forced issues around racial equality to the top of the agenda.
I learned that pain feels exactly the same for all humans despite class, race or social standing in society.
All humans are delicate and I understood more about how concealing negative and raw experiences can impact a person’s future and interaction with the world. It became obvious to me that many were still hurting from their past experiences or history and I felt technology has a role to play in this process.
The positive was to witness the support from the organisation to all staff across the board through open discussion and mental health support. In the days after this incident, as a mental health first aider, I observed that some gained healing and closure relating to very personal past experiences.
I would like to hope that the passing of Mr Floyd has led to the dawn of a new era in the world. It created a positive impact and reminder about fairness, equality and tolerance for each other.
What do you hope colleagues will take away from this year’s BHM celebrations?
I hope my colleagues will have a better understanding of the role and importance of allyship in the workplace. It will encourage colleagues in positions of privilege to set the standards that create a diverse and inclusive working environment. It will be great if there is a realisation that brilliance is in all humans and not pre-determined by skin colour or race.
Finally, colleagues remember that sometimes change can be slow and gradual. It is a process and change takes time!
This means we have to continue with those authentic and genuine conversions even after Black History Month.