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Celebrating Black History Month at Deliveroo

IT Apprentice at Deliveroo

As Black History Month is coming to an end, I felt the need to write this blog to remind anyone who reads this, the importance of the month, and to raise awareness of how to celebrate it for next year! 

It’s upsetting, but not surprising, that not many people I spoke to knew it was Black History Month until the second and third week into October. It’s probably the case that some are still unaware now! After learning this, I took it upon myself to change that and to raise awareness as much as I can. I immediately thought that where I work (Deliveroo) would be the perfect place to start! Before I tell you about the activity I led at Deliveroo, let me take you on a quick journey through some of the factors that inspired me to do this...

Growing up and going through the education system, for me, there wasn’t much effort or even none at all, regarding Black History Month. It was mostly always Black, and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff that would mention it or try to celebrate it. Seeing other events and history being remembered or celebrated but not one directly involving my history, it felt like we, as black people, weren’t important enough, which shouldn’t be the case. It’s a shame but a known truth that everyone black has come across racism in one form or another. I’ve come across direct racism since the age of 8 and I remember that day so well. I was physically attacked in Milan and got told to “Go back to where you came from”. After experiencing that, I felt down and didn’t really understand why that happened. Fast forward to now, I clearly know why that happened and I wished Black History Month was celebrated the way it deserves back then to lift up my mood of being black and proud, not black and scared. 

When I started my apprenticeship and joined Deliveroo, one of the first things I wondered was “what is the black community like in this company?”. It was a thought that got pushed to the side until Shola West started the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) network for all WhiteHat apprentices (read a recent interview with Shola here). This network was created so us apprentices can come together and discuss a range of topics like the experience of being an ethnic minority in our workplaces.

After attending the first session, I was moved by what Shola managed to achieve and how everyone in the room opened up about their experiences. This made me feel a part of a community that I haven’t been part of before. After seeing what Shola has done, and is continuing to do with the BAME network, I thought “how can I bring that into Deliveroo and our community?”. I saw Black History Month as the perfect opportunity to do something! A small group of us took it upon ourselves to create an event and to show the company that Black History Month means a lot to our community and to make others like me, feel a part of it. After just 3 days of full planning and preparing, we managed to pull off the event. Below is a rundown of what happened!

We also had this background (below) on our ‘Roo Pitch’. The ‘Roo Pitch’ is at the centre of the office and the goal was to make everyone aware that it’s Black History Month when passing by.

Here are some pictures of the event, showcasing the flags we set up, different Afro-Caribbean drinks and snacks we had for everyone. And lastly the amazing steel band that provided such great music and vibes!

The event itself was a massive success and while running up and down during the event to keep it going smoothly, word got out that I was a key member of making this happen. So people were approaching me saying it’s the best event Deliveroo has done and more like this needs to happen. I was so proud of myself and everyone else who was involved in creating this event! Below is a message someone had written in Slack during the event that made my day. 

On Slack, there’s a channel with all the BME employees in it and there were some comments after the event too!

From everyone’s comments offline and online, it went to show how big and important this was to a lot of people and I hope this has inspired others to do the same wherever they can! It won’t be easy and there will be challenges along the way. But use all your drive and passion to get to your end goal. 

Now that’s been enough about me and this story, I want to take some time to educate everyone on Black History Month as a whole. There’s so much you can find online, from events to individuals that contributed to our history. So I encourage everyone to take a look and hopefully, you’ll find something inspiring to you!

What is Black History Month?

From the 1st-31st of October, we celebrate inspirational individuals, events and history of people within the black and ethnic minority community. Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK every October since 1987. It was Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council, who founded the UK's version of Black History Month in 1987. Akyaaba visited America and was inspired by how they celebrate Black History. He took that inspiration and started it in the UK!

Why is it celebrated?

Black History Month is a way of reflecting on the diverse histories of those from African and Caribbean descent, taking note of the contributions, impact and achievements to the social, political, economic and cultural development of the World and celebrating it! Black History Month means different things to everyone and pride for this month is expressed in a variety of different ways.

How is it celebrated?

There are several ways that Black History Month is celebrated! Across the capital, you'll find everything from food festivals to music workshops to educational seminars and lectures. Here is a website I found that run throughs 28 ways of celebrating this beautiful month:

What can employers do to support Black History Month?

Be Visible: Communicate to all staff and highlight activities, local events, articles, and blogs. Display them in lifts, corridors, intranet pages, email signatures and desk drops.

Be Inquisitive: Attend sessions on Black History Month, take the time to research, and share your findings with others. Start a mentoring programme, and task yourself to learn something new every day.

Share experiences: Write a blog on what Black History Months means to you, profile BME staff, share who your role models are and why.

Remember, it shouldn’t just be down to BME staff to educate non-BME staff about Black History Month. To be a true ally, get to know the issues, the history and show your support throughout October and for the rest of the year!

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