Black History Month

A message from our Chief Executive Jas Bains:

While it’s impossible to confine hundreds of years’ worth of history to just a few weeks, Black History Month is an opportunity to appreciate the significance of black history and highlight some of the many positive contributions made by people of African and African-Caribbean descent to Wales and the United Kingdom more broadly. I think it highly commendable that black history, reflecting the diverse experiences and contributions of BAME communities to both past and present Wales is set to form part of the Wales new curriculum in 2022. For some it remains an uncomfortable truth but we cannot escape the role slavery, colonialism and the Empire played in our history.

A prominent example of the harmful impact of racism has been the vile comments directed towards footballers. After the Euro 2020 final, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho were deluged with racist posts. When speaking to a parliamentary committee recently, former England captain Rio Ferdinand commented on the abuse directed at them: “When those three players missed those penalties, the first thing I thought was ‘let’s see what happens on social media’.”

As a football fan I have been genuinely impressed with the overall level of respect afforded to the taking of the knee in the games I have attended. I have also observed an incident where a fan shouted racist abuse and within minutes had been reported by his fellow fans and escorted out of the ground by stewards. These actions would not have taken place a few years ago. It goes to show that when good people stand together in common cause, good things can happen.

Though we’ve also seen how not all victims of crime are treated equally. The initial muted reaction of the media to the murder of Sabina Nessa, a woman of colour, has showcased the press’ problematic relationship with diversity and race, and that we have much to do to overcome this inequality of treatment. Again the heightened media coverage only surfaced when the good people said, this cannot be right.

I want to make it clear that as an organisation, we have zero tolerance for racism and any other form of discrimination, but neither should we be naive as to assume it doesn’t happen in organisations like ours. Reality shows that it does.

BAME residents subjected to racist neighbour behaviour, difficulties accessing Hafod services and therefore under-representation among BAME communities, low representation of people of colour across the workforce and colleagues subjected to insidious forms of racism are a powerful reminder there is much more we can and should be doing. That includes a systemic lens approach examining current methods and approaches to establish if inadvertently we are imposing barriers. It also includes a renewed focus reaching out to BAME communities to raise awareness of career and service opportunities. Let’s hope in 12 months time we are celebrating achievements rather than just talking about them.

Whoever you are and regardless of your own ethnicity let’s be proud and appreciate those who have shaped our national story. To quote Catherine Ross, Black History Month Editor: “As always, honouring our past and ancestors is important in shaping our future, but it’s also important to honour our present – and ourselves.”

So please do take this opportunity to celebrate and understand the impact of black culture. Because black history is Welsh history.