Black History is British History



© Gaz de Vere – All Rights Reserved.

UNISON marked Black History Month this year through working with Southend Borough Council BAME staff Forum to create an event on the 30th October.

The focus of the event this year was Black History is British History, with a specific presentation and Q&A session on the more recent scandal of the ‘Windrush Generation’ deportationsdelivered by Sharon Caesar, a campaigner for justice and the sister of, Glenda, a Windrush victim.

Music was provided by  ‘Something in the Lounge’ and stalls from the community provided information and signposted available support networks. The stalls included: Southend  Library Service, South East & Essex Mind, Southend Pride, UNISON, Stand Up to Racism, Show Racism the Red Card, and CAST. Delicious food was also served to attendees.

The Windrush presentation was packed out and listeners were horrified at the impact and sheer cruelty of deportations. Sharon shared the events surrounding her sister, Glenda, who has lived in the UK from a baby, going on to work in the NHS as a nurse, and who was then told one day ‘you’re illegal’. Through the family’s campaigning and hard work,  Glenda won her case and was ‘allowed’ back into the UK. However, this was at the expense of her home, her job, and her health and security. Sharon’s presentation brought home the very personal hurt felt by those affected by the Windrush deportation scandal.

Director, Emma Cooney, who sponsors the  BAME forum, spoke on the importance of recognising Black History and those individuals within the black community who have contributed to the development of the UK. The achievements of individuals and British black history as a whole, is often marginalised and ignored. This is why events like this are so important.

Florence Nyarambi, UNISON’s Black Members Officer,  also spoke.  Here are some of her words:

Black members in UNISON work to improve equality in the workplace and challenge racism and discrimination. We have many of the same concerns as other members regarding access to employment, pay, promotion and training. However, racist discrimination can deepen the impact of problems faced in the workplace and we aim to raise awareness of this.

UNISON has long campaigned and is proud to support Black History Month. But our commitment to inclusion and equality lasts a lot longer than four weeks each year. It goes deep into the heart of our union and helps to explain why we are the UK’s leading public service union.

UNISON’s continued affiliation with Black Mental Health UK, Stand Up to Racism,  The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, Show Racism the Red Card, and UK Black Pride, as well as being one of the main sponsors at the Notting Hill Carnival, and by protecting Public Services through our Champions Campaign, Unison strives to deliver equality for all.

As a trade union, UNISON recognises all members’ and activists’ work and contributions to improve the working lives and defend the rights of our members. The  Windrush presentation today is part of that; but we must ensure that we also remember our legacy, not only through what we do in our trade union and the labour movement, but also in our different cultures and diverse communities across the globe. Today UNISON rightly remembers and celebrates those who have helped forge this legacy and hopefully will inspire us to continue to strive for achievements that benefit us and our members.

In recognising the fact that racist discrimination can deepen the impact of problems faced in the workplace by black workers, UNISON distributed a questionnaire to Black members to find out  where  racism exists and how it manifests itself. We can then together act on this information, root out racism and make the workplace and our society a more equal place.

Many thanks to all those who attended and supported this event