Why Black Lives Matter to me.
Obviously being black, black lives and the quality of black lives will always matter to me.
But on a deeper level I have to say that I have always been appalled by the level of racism I see directed at us on an almost daily basis through the news and other media.
Racism stretches across the Atlantic to the UK and vice versa, American racial heritage runs deep into the history of British colonial power. The history of racism is sewn into both nations. Where do you think much of the cotton and sugar which was picked by the slaves of the America and the Caribbean was destined for? So whatever the UK’s role was in abolishment they were hugely complicit in the invention of and sustaining the slave trade in the first place. But right now, the America we witness is on a whole other level of inhumanity.
Still, this story is not about the negativity because others more qualified than I, have written great pieces that go into chapter and verse about the horrors and injustices that have been perpetrated on black bodies over the decades.
Let me start by stating that I am very grateful to live where I do in London, a city that I view as one of the best cities in the world. I will always give thanks to my parents who travelled from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation. They were stong enough to bare the brunt of hostilely and blunt everyday racism. They did this so that my generation could have a chance of a better life in the motherland.
The sacrifices they made for us should always hold a special place in our lives. But importantly, remind us how important it is for us to thrive and celebrate our successes.
Despit the obscene mendacity of the British government in the recent Windrush affair, we still grow and we still florish. So the story I want to tell is about the positive professionals that I relate to on a daily basis. Those men and women that have made a conscious decision to build their careers and businesses in spite of the backdrop of implicit and covert racism. I want to champion them in the wake of what is happening right now.
I run a small digital agency and have employees and partners from all over the world. I connect with black professionals each day on business platforms with humour, wit, intelligence and charm in abundance. It makes me feel good to communicate with my brothers and sisters on a professional level, one where we all know the rules of engagement and follow them to the letter. Online in professional forums we are treated as we should be – equals along with everyone else.
This is the blessing that the Internet has brought to us, connections which allow us to work to the highest standard and form lasting relationships with the people who will contribute to our collective success. I have trusted business partners in parts of the world I have never been to, and people I work with on a daily basis, who I have never met. Their race is not important, it is the quality of their work and their character, that I am concerned with.
I work with a number of black owned business, all of which employ people of all races, and are successful in doing so. Surely this is the most sustainable business template for the future.
In spite of the tragic circumstances that has thrust the Black Lives Matter Movement to the fore, we need to learn from the positives to grow and move forward. A recognition of history and its impact that lasts to this day, both politically and personally. Yes, but knowing that solidarity, recognition and knowledge can, and always has been able bind us together and enable us to create great work.
It is a cliché but diversity really is strength. Knowing the talent that is out there and the perspectives we can bring, means that we can forge connections all over the world in all nations. I am sorry for companies that fail to see that or only pay lip service to it as the day will surely come when they pay a price as VW did with this episode some weeks ago.
I am proud of the different races and cultures that I work with and among and would not have it any other way, can you even imagine working in a mono-culture? That to me, would be the saddest thing.
It is clear to me at this point that institutional racism has leaked out of its structures and manifested in terrible ways. The world can either lean forward from what is happening now, or it can fail to learn and go back down that dark twisted road. I was moved by the quote I read yesterday “you cannot enjoy the rhythm, while ignoring the blues”.
I have always wondered what heights could black people rise to without the shackles of personal and institutionalised racism they have to contend with on a daily basis. When I think how we as a people have excelled in areas such as sport, music and entertainment, imagine what we could do in business, philanthropy, law, medicine and technology. Imagine.
This is why black lives matter, and have always mattered. For the contributions our black families have made for us and the wider society, and in turn the contributions we make now. Now is a time to celebrate that strength, recognise it, see it spread out in diversity, model our work on that talent and connection.
This is the story we must tell and remember.