Black History Month 2020
As part of our support of the Black community and championing diversity and inclusion, we explore Black History Month through some of our colleagues’ eyes.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month celebrates the contributions, culture and history of Black people over the years. Starting in 1926 as just a week of celebration, now, here in the UK, we celebrate Black History Month every October.
It started as a way to remember important people and moments that were instrumental to the lives of Black people globally, but it’s continued as an opportunity to understand more about Black history in general.
Our commitment to equality
We want every one of our colleagues to feel comfortable being themselves at work. It’s central to our culture here at Barclays. We nurture it through activities and initiatives, and building networks for colleagues to connect.
The Black Professionals Forum (BPF) is one of seven forums within our internal multicultural network. The BPF started up in 2017, dedicated to supporting us in creating an inclusive community and to strengthen the understanding between colleagues from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
We believe everyone has unique talents and perspectives worth sharing. That’s why our culture is focused on ensuring people feel comfortable, included and nurtured. We aim to empower every colleague to feel confident being their true self at work.
Our vision is supported by five global pillars of focus: Disability, Gender, LGBTQ+, Multicultural and Multigenerational.
Here are some of our colleagues sharing what their cultures means to them, and the importance of celebrating Black History Month wherever they are.
Ryan Makuku, Assistant Vice President, ALM Analytics & Development, Treasury – London
I joined Barclays in 2018 through the graduate scheme, and within the first few weeks of starting, I joined the Black Professionals Forum (BPF, our internal network) as a way to connect and get to know other Black colleagues in Barclays. From the offset, there were plenty of opportunities to attend events and be a part of the BPF community.
Having grown up in a low socioeconomic area, I personally witnessed a disproportionate amount of negativity against Black people, and being very honest, I found it discouraging. Discouraging because I would begin to question whether this was meant to be my fate too. However, Black History Month exposed to me how we as Black people can excel at the highest levels but also, how we can help to break down negative stereotypes, to show that we are worthy, that we are amazing and that we are excellent.
It’s really important for me to celebrate Black culture because it’s part of my identity and it’s ultimately what my parents have passed down to me. So to downplay this or censor myself would not only be a discredit to my parents, but also to my identity – both in and outside the workplace.
To celebrate Black History Month is to give the future generations of Black people hope; hope that things will continue to move in a positive direction and that the efforts of their predecessors will not go to waste or be forgotten.
Patrick Batuka, Business Analyst, Barclays Smart Investor – Glasgow
I joined Barclays in July 2018, and I joined the Black Professionals Forum (our internal network) as soon as I started working here. When you live in an area that isn’t as diverse as others, building that network of people from your race can add a sense of comfort and confidence.
I grew up in Kenya, where we didn’t have the notion of Black History Month so it wasn’t until I moved to the UK for university and started work that I realised its importance.
For me, Black History Month creates an opportunity to educate, discuss and learn from both the past and from the present. I believe encouraging these open conversations and being open to learning is a big stepping stone to not only create change in various existing systems, but more importantly, changing the mindset of individuals to make positive steps however they can.
I also think it’s important to highlight the achievements of Black people in all industries. I think in the public eye, achievements are usually limited to sports and music, but really there are success stories in business, the sciences, healthcare, government, engineering etc. which we need to normalise celebrating too – all year round.
It’s very important to me to continue celebrating being Black as a reminder to not let the misguided thoughts or actions of others make me feel any less about myself, and what I can achieve. I would hope that in doing so, anyone in a similar situation will share the same sentiment and be comfortable in their own skin.
Rebekah Taitt, Relationship Director, Corporate – Birmingham
I joined Barclays in 2012, and have been a part of the Black Professionals Forum (our internal network) since October 2019. I realised how my own experience in the organisation and local network, in the Midlands, could support other Black colleagues in the workplace, but also raise awareness to Black culture.
It's important for me to celebrate Black culture because as a youngster I wasn’t aware of many Black role models, so for the younger generation, it is key we champion as much of Black history as possible to drive positive change.
Black History Month is a time to look back in history to see what others have done to get us to where we are today but also to reflect and celebrate those that have struggled for us. It also allows me to understand Black culture further so that I can ensure I pass on the achievements, accomplishments, and monumental moments to others, including the younger generations to come.
Dane Reid, Go-To Banker – Birmingham
I joined Barclays in 2017 as a banker, and joined the Black Professionals Forum (BPF, our internal network) in December 2019. I joined BPF because I feel it’s important to learn from other people about their experiences and cultures, and to explore other people’s views on topics such as race and discrimination, especially in the workplace.
From a young age, when I would meet other family members from the Caribbean, I was always intrigued to learn more about their way of life, past struggles and history. Growing up in school, the only thing we were taught around Black history was the slave trade, so this month is very important to me in understanding the part my ancestors played in the past and their value to society. Black history is about more than the slave trade, and if I’m not educated, how can I educate others?
It’s important that people see Black culture as something to embrace and celebrate rather than to shy away from. I’m very proud to be Black. It’s important to me to celebrate that because it’s part of showing exactly what my culture is about – something not everyone has access to.
Kesi Okechi, Copywriter – London
I started at Barclays in August 2018 as a marketing copywriter. Not long after I joined, I wanted to find an internal community similar to my time at university, where I was a part of the African and Caribbean Society. In an environment where I’d probably always be the minority, the Black Professionals Forum (BPF, our internal network) was something that helped me be my truest, most confident self at work. I wanted to feel connected and confident with colleagues that understood me from a cultural context, as it’s a big part of my identity – BPF helped me do that.
For me, Black History Month is an essential yearly reminder to pay reverence to the Black people that, if not for the month itself, would be unsung heroes. I grew up in a predominately white area, and most of my family live in Nigeria, so I wasn’t exposed to many Black experiences outside familial ones. If not for Black History Month, I wouldn’t understand all that came before me, and the magnitude of everything Black people faced for me to be in the position I’m in today.
Black culture surpasses the colour of my skin – it’s a culture of its own. Everything I do is laced with the context of where I’ve come from, and it’s important to celebrate that whenever and wherever I can. Where being Black is sometimes met with many negative stereotypes, it’s important for me to continue to be proud of my identity, and encourage other Black people to feel as confident as I do.
Black History Month provides an opportunity to educate, inspire and motivate others. I wouldn’t be where I am without acknowledging the accomplishments of the people that came before me, so I know how important is to continue celebrating it now, and for years to come.
Regina Tetteh, Branch Manager – London
I joined Barclays in November 2003 as a cashier in Baker Street, and now I’m a branch manager based in Mayfair. I joined a number of forums a few years ago, but when I joined the Black Professionals Forum, I immediately felt excited and proud to be a part of it! I’ve always been very passionate about supporting and embracing culture and I’m always willing to do whatever I can to help build a more multicultural environment. It’s inspiring and motivating to connect with people who look like me; to hear their stories and share successes.
For me, I celebrate Black History Month 365 days a year! It’s so important to create awareness and to inspire the next generation. It’s a time to celebrate achievements and to recognise the parts Black people played in history all over the world. I’m a proud Black British-African and feel my culture makes me who I am. It’s because of this I know I can never feel afraid or worried that I can’t be myself – in or outside of work.
I encourage everyone to take part and get involved in learning and celebrating Black culture and history – not just this month but always.