Black History is more than just a month

G15 members are marking October as the annual Black History Month, a chance to celebrate, reflect, and discuss the achievements and experience of Black people in the UK.

Today, Violet Pugh - Digital Marketing Manager and Chair of the 'Rise' ethnicity colleague network group at MTVH - writes about what Black History Month means to her.

Violet Pugh

Black History is more than just a month - it’s the make-up of my existence.

It is a time which re-energises my feelings about my identity as a Black African woman living in modern day Britain. It is a time to honour our ancestors and leaders whose ideologies we reflect upon and are at the heart of what makes Britain great.

Black History Month is a time of reflection on the work still to be done, and I also see it as a time for healing old wounds in order to move forward. During Black History Month, I often find there’s a special universal recognition that is bonded to these feelings. It is an invitation for others to join in the ongoing celebration of Blackness. It feels like unity in its highest form.

Each year, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing, celebrates Black History Month. This year, our ethnicity colleague network group; Rise, augmented its all year-round efforts with a number of educational, inspiring and thought provoking panel discussions and webinars. We anchored our events on the theme of ‘how to be an anti-racist organisation’, covering topics such as role models and empowerment to the impact of structural racism and micro-aggressions on well-being.

We had prominent guest speakers including Patrick Vernon OBE and Lara Oyedele and participation from our Senior Leaders at MTVH, including our Chair, Althea Efunshile, CEO Geeta Nanda and Non-Executive Director Ofei-Kwafo Akoto to name a few. We also had our very own internal colleagues participating in a discussion on the power of active allyship in the workplace and what it means and feels like.

Although our celebrations for Black History Month have always been employee-led, this year senior leadership participation has been integral in bringing to life what it means for us at MTVH to be an ant-racist organisation in action.

Whilst our work on equality, diversity, and inclusion is a priority throughout the year at MTVH, the need to celebrate and recognise the importance of Black History Month is more necessary than ever. That’s why it is so important for our Black History Month celebrations to evolve and deepen to keep these uncomfortable and difficult but necessary conversations about the role that race plays within society and our own organisation going.

Our organisation has a long history going back to the 1950’s when our founder Molly Huggins established an organisation to provide homes for Windrush migrants in London. So, race and equality play a significant role in who we are as an organisation. As such, our celebrations for Black History Month aimed to encourage positive change across the organisation whilst keeping this spirit in mind.

I hope for a time when we’ll move from one month of celebrating to unashamed pride in Black British history all year round. The housing sector thrives from diverse and vibrant workforces and communities. So, I’m challenging myself, and sector colleagues to deepen our understanding of each other and continue to build a more just and equitable society.

Happy Black History Month to all.