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 Legal Manager, Mo Dampha.
What is your ethnic background and how do you celebrate it?
I am Black British African. I was born in the Gambia and moved to England in the mid-eighties.
What does Black History Month (BHM) mean to you and why is it important to celebrate BHM?
It pains me so much that we are supposed to tell our rich and diverse history in one month. Our history should be celebrated and taught every day. For me, it’s more than that just a celebration, but also an opportunity for me and my family to learn and increase our knowledge of Black history and prominent Black figures.
This year’s BHM theme is ‘proud to be’. What does this mean to you?
For me ‘proud to be’ means loving every bit of being Black, it means being me, no apologies, head, and shoulders high whenever I walk into a room.
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?
While I was not shocked about the attitude and behaviour of the police towards Black people in the US and the UK; this was a harrowing incident and I could not watch the video for many months. I think what I have learned is that many people completely dismiss Black people’s lived experiences. But on a positive note, I found a lot of allies and people wanting to stand side by side in our fight for racial equality.
Being a Black leader in the Civil Service, what challenges have you faced on your career journey, and how have you overcome these?
There simply aren’t enough Black leaders in the Civil Service. I feel there is pressure for people like me to break barriers and open the door for others. For me, this means trying to be as visible as possible and progress as high as I can in the Civil Service. It can be difficult when you attend meetings and you are the only Black person there in the room, but that should not discourage people from fulfilling their ambitions and goals.
Which Black person from history or today inspires you?
Nelson Mandela, for his intellect, strength, and leadership.