What Does Black History Month mean to you? - Carol White | NELFT Talks

What Does Black History Month mean to you? - Carol White | NELFT Talks

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What Does Black History Month mean to you? - Carol White

From Carol White, Integrated Care Director, Havering ICD

When I was asked by Harjit to write a blog for Black History Month, I was surprised as I wasn’t aware I was officially an ally. That said, I am very pleased to be an ally and will do what I can to understand the journey and experience some of my colleagues have.

I have always loved to learn and love history, but until I experienced my first Black History Month, I was unaware that my school lessons in history had not been as helpful or as rounded as they could have been. Imagine doing a course on plumbing, where you get taught to connect the radiators but never how to connect the gas or electric boiler. You only get half the information you need and as a result you can’t do the job properly.

I have only ever been given half the story of my countries history in formal education, so as a result I have had to find some stuff out for myself.  As with all topics some learning comes from books, some listening to people with wisdom, experience and some learning has to be live on the job. The live on the job learning is fraught with possible mistakes but you get to move forward with learning from each mistake. I probably haven’t read enough, and even if did read everything ever written it wouldn’t tell me enough. If I did listen to every persons experience it still wouldn’t allow me have that lived experience.  I may have experienced discrimination but it is my experience and not that of my colleagues/s.  I may have tried to get learn on the job and still made mistakes.

I am not perfect and I strive to be better and more rounded in my knowledge.  I am here to be corrected and taught. My first Black History Month was the beginning of that journey for me and many others who don’t know; what they don’t know, until it is pointed out to them.

When I was at nursing college I did rather well in one of my exams and I was given the Nightingale Award. I was rather pleased with myself at the time; as of course one is allowed to be and didn’t really think much about it afterwards until my first Black History Month when I learnt about Mary Seacole. I had never heard about her before and whilst her story and achievements are better known now as a result of receiving the order of merit in 1991 and being named as the greatest black Briton in 2014. Despite this however, when COVID phase 1 rolled around and hundreds of new beds were created in an heroic effort; the hospitals weren’t called Seacole Hospitals but rather Nightingale Hospitals. An opportunity lost to be proud of one of our most important black historical figures.  

I read an article about Hollywood a few weekends ago that spoke about Hollywood’s love for the “black struggle”.  A film industry that is more comfortable portraying the black struggle than celebrating “the black success”. Black History Month is still so very important in these challenging times to debunk myth, tell the truth and increase awareness.

I hope it gives you assurance that as an I am listening and want to learn about the missing part of my history that has moulded our current landscape. A history that needs to be acknowledged and spoken about whether to celebrate historical figures that have not been given sufficient recognition or acknowledging issues that we may now be ashamed of.

If I have made any live on the job learning mistakes in writing this blog please point them out.

While I alone was asked to write this blog and send in my picture; I would want my blog to personally reflect what the ethos and spirit of our HICD LT is.  I am part of a team and that team is always listening. I have added a picture of Mary Seacole to our leadership team photo to give recognition to the impact she had in the development of healthcare in the UK. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Seacole

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What support will be giving/or have given to staff during black history month?

As a senior leader and with great support from Joe Lindo, Deputy Director for HICD with the HICD LT we agreed that we wanted to have an open dialogue about inequalities. To facilitate a safe and open discussion in teams Joe and I developed a powerpoint pack with information and web links to support and increase awareness. In creating the powerpoint we got feedback from a number of key EMN staff and some of our own HICD BAME staff to try and make sure the tone was right. We had a lot of helpful feedback and we thank all the colleagues that helped. Once final agreement was reached we cascaded the power point pack via our team of managers.

We also agreed as HICD ICD and the HICD LT that we would adopt the pledge that:

“I / we HICD LT pledge to not assume everyone is okay and that they have been treated fairly and equally.  But rather ask how they are and have they been treated fairly and equally."

We agreed that we would then begin to convene team focussed discussion about the content with support from the EMN network team. These are being set up across October and November.

We have been advertising all the Black History Month event by cascading the information via all our managers. Each member of LT will be picking a person they would like to highlight and why and I will be cascading this via managers during October.

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