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Black History Month: 6 New Lookers Tell Us What It Means to Them

by Emma Menteath, Content Lead

One of the many great things about Black History Month is that it makes us stop and acknowledge the challenges overcome in the last couple of decades. Yes we still have far to go, but we are slowly starting to see a change and 2020 has been an incredible year for that change.

Black History Month is all about setting the spotlight on black history and communicating openly so that we can continue to learn and grow together. We need to be brave about asking questions and encouraging each other to speak out so that we can learn from our past.

We reached out to a few of our very own New Lookers to find out what Black History Month means to them personally and why it’s important we acknowledge a month dedicated to black history and culture. We received stories that were both moving and beautiful; here are 6 of those stories…

Sharna Jones - VM Assistant

"My Grandad came over here from Guyana in the 40s; he met my Nan & they settled in Basingstoke, Hampshire, my Nan's hometown. My Grandad was one of few black people in Basingstoke and they were one of two interracial couples in the whole town. People would stare, make nasty comments, and sometimes worse but my Nan & Grandad always walked with their heads held high, facing it head-on. Grandad used to remind me of this nearly every time I saw him, he would say to me: "When I’m on the bus I see so many interracial couples, it's normal now, no one bats an eyelid. It makes me smile, we’ve come a long way since the early days of your Nan and I." This is why BHM is important to me as it’s a time to reflect, to look forward, and to celebrate Black History and although, as my Grandad said, "we have come a long way" there’s still such a long way to go."

Naeemah Waller - Creative Artworker

"My Mum and Grandma are total badasses. My G-Ma immigrated from Ghana in the 1960s with no money and no English. She subsequently raised three children and never stopped working hard. She’s my hero because her drive has inspired the generations after her, and without her my family wouldn't be here.

A lot of black people I've spoke to across the diaspora have similar stories, it's important to learn about where we come from and the work we have put in to get to where we are. That's why it's important to learn about and celebrate black history."

Hannah Robinson - 915 Assistant Buyer

"Black History Month should be a time to acknowledge, reflect and celebrate all the amazing things we have achieved despite the many challenges set against us. I’m thankful to my grandparents, parents, older siblings and even some people in this organisation that have paved the way for me.

I think now, more than ever, everyone should take some time to learn about things they’re not familiar with. We have come a long way and I’m so excited to be a part of a generation that is so open to change and going against prejudice."

Georgina Bernard - Creative Designer

“You can never know where you are going unless you know where you have been.”
​​​​​​​ ― Amelia Boynton Robinson

"Black History Month is so important for everyone to be a part of, regardless of where you are from and your heritage. It’s a time to have conversations with family and friends, and open the mic to a history that stretches further and wider than many have been lead to believe. This month isn’t just important in highlighting how far we have come and the amazing things achieved, but it’s here to shine light on the fact that we still have a long way to go.

I have grown up in a mixed heritage family and I am so proud that half of who I am is down to two amazing individuals, who travelled here from a small island in the Caribbean to secure a life of opportunity in London. My Grandad travelled by ship as part of the Windrush generation at the young age of 24 from Jamaica and made it all possible for his family and future generations. My Grandma later left Jamaica to meet my Grandad in England and together fought the battles of being black in London in the 1960s.

Being proud of who you are and to be educated has always been very important to my family, and my Grandma always taught us not to shy away from any awkward conversation and to be unapologetically yourself. Becoming Croydon’s first black Councillor, opening an educational facility and meeting the Queen, my Grandma proved that nothing was out of reach. You may have to jump hurdles on your way, but the importance of BHM to me is to be and inspire the change we want to see in the world."

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
​​​​​​​- Maya Angelou

Jada Baron - Menswear Buying Admin Assistant

"I think now, more than ever, especially after the many tragedies and dishonours we have seen and mourned over worldwide this year particularly within the black community, it is extremely important to acknowledge that yes there is still so much work to be done however there is also so much to celebrate within black culture and all that has been contributed through some incredible figures. Being a young, black woman myself, growing up I haven’t always seen people who look like myself or my family being in high positions or given MBEs; for example, like Marcus Rashford in recent weeks for doing such amazing work to help ensure that children from under-privileged backgrounds are given the chance to simply have a free school meal. Our voices haven’t always been heard on the same level as others however I do believe we are slowly beginning to see change and can only hope and encourage that everyone takes the time to educate themselves on the good and bad within black culture as there is so much we all can take away and celebrate, wherever you come from."

May Manickavasagar - Resourcing Business Partner

"BHM has always been a month of long nights and deep conversations in my friendship circle – it commences on the 1st of October which also coincided with Nigeria’s Independence Day. Myself and my Nigerian and Ghanaian friends need no excuse to get together to eat, drink and laugh, however 1st of October and the month is always slightly different - we debate it every year – "why do we still have BHM"…"It should not be just a month"…"I think next year they should…"

This is why BHM is great - it starts conversation/debate/sharing of experiences/asking questions/achievements/opportunities, which now, more than ever, is vital. To me, BHM is an opportunity to re-evaluate how far we have come but also how far we have yet to go. It’s a chance not just to celebrate and remember the famous names, but also for me to take stock of the amazing black people in my life – how I have been there first hand to witness their hardships, their achievements, their journey, their growth, their experiences and to remember how lucky I am to call them my friends and family.

This year, I think it’s important for me to have similar conversations with my other non - POC friends. Just as with BLM we must have a constant dialogue!!! It’s vital to speak and to listen to one another. So, let’s make the most of this Black History Month to try and make a difference, even if that means just listening!"