In light of recent killings of black people there has been a groundswell of awareness and momentum focused on the experience of the black community globally and how we bring about positive change.
A poignant moment that caused for the whole world to look inwardly and reflect on all of our feelings towards the black community, the reality of black communities perceived position in society, the frustration informed by overt racist acts and the lack of economic advancement through the years due to systemic racism and prejudice that exists both within the workplace and the wider landscape.
There is hope that for one moment, people will no longer be afraid to listen to the black community, accept the realities of the inequalities experienced and work with us to usher in long lasting change. On top of this, there needs to be a united effort to focus time and resources on ensuring we strengthen, support and uplift the black community who have had to suffer in silence for so long; to make sure that 5 - 10 years from now, or even 30, we are not having this same conversation again.
We have positioned ourselves as a custodian of our trajectory, to work hand in hand with the black community and our non-black allies to ensure that change does not just happen as a short term knee-jerk response to sorrow or guilt, but that we are able to systemically root out racism and prejudice in our society and throughout the working world.
At the same time the aim is for our allies to strategically work with us in creating a fairer landscape for the black community.
With the understanding that there has been a lack of focus on the black community for many years, also understanding our position within the wider economic landscape and how this has had a negative effect on black people in working environments and the wider society from generation to generation, we do not believe that black people should be systematically held back based on the colour of their skin.
This is not a BAME conversation, neither does it want to be a 'people from disadvantaged backgrounds' conversation. This is a systemic issue, and a moment where the world is finally waking up to the stark reality of people of African descent. We are now in a position to be laser- focused about this issue and bring it to an end, making life better and fairer for the black community.
Not only when people feel guilty because they saw someone get horrifically killed, but throughout our lifetime to eradicate racism, both overt and systematic, in our organisations and throughout the country. Our ambition is to create a better and more just playing field for the black community and subsequently the wider world. We need to commit to having those direct and frank conversations at board level and with those the seats of power.
Together We Are Stronger
4 Key Deliverables
Over the course of the next year, we will be looking at delivering on the following 4 things. This is just the start, we aim to do much more as we grow our network, our footprint and our impact.
Round Table Conversations
For each meeting, we aim to walk away with tangible actions to change our collective thinking, processes, approach and understanding of the black community. To build a better system we must deconstruct the existing framework and understand where it has failed the black community, only then can we have a reflective response as opposed to a reactive response; and use the learning we extract from each meeting to build a better framework/eco system within our organisations and society.
Informed by the Round Table Conversation, we will work with each company signed up, their black staff and thought leaders in the black community to create a document that can be used as a resource for companies to focus and develop efforts on how to better serve the black community at all levels. We will look at many things including the employee life cycle, the areas that currently fail the black community and practical steps we need to take to make it better.
Portrait Of Black Britain
Cephas Williams has an aim to take a portrait series of black people from across the various ally companies we have on board, as well as black people in the community, in a bid to make more black people visible across the country. The interest is to crystallize and amplify the contributions of black british people in today's society and for this to serve as a creative method to not only make more black people visible but give the next generation and the wider society a holistic picture of black achievements in the UK in the 21st century.
Black British Stories
Video series of black people in the community + black employees in ally companies sharing their stories and thoughts on the black experience, past, present and hopes for the future. This will also be informed by the discussions had at the Round Table Conversations and will serve as a way for us to create a library of stories that can educate people and reinforce information that can support change.
Allies & Leaders
The following list of executives, leaders and allies have committed their time, resources and organisation to stand with us as we drive targeted change focused on the black community in the UK. We are looking for allies who are not afraid to have difficult conversations that lead to real systemic change to join us on this journey.
The leaders listed have read Cephas' letter, committed money, time and resources to the BBN's first year goals and introduced at least 1 other leader to the network.
Who Has Signed Up
This is a list of the companies that have signed up to be part of
The Black Paper, working with the BBN to collectively dismantle systemic racism, and contribute to improving the economic prospects of the black British community through their business', resources and networks.
Imagine if all our major companies and their executives stood together, for the purpose of the black community in the UK to priorities the economic advancement of the black community and the eradication of systemic racism. Imagine if we stoped paying lip service and put our money and our resources where our mouths and hearts seem to be. If we kept the momentum in isolation of the media being at the tail end of amplifying the George Floyd conversation, so that it does not take for the death of another black man before we see the true state of the landscape toward black people again. We need to act now and come together to create seismic change. What if we had an alliance, a network of leaders and leading companies standing shoulder to shoulder with the Black British community, not saying we are perfect but saying we will honestly and wholeheartedly work together with the black community, to ensure that 20 years from now, the next generation of black people had a level playing field in the UK.
What we have seen in 2020 has been like nothing I've ever seen before, we've seen enlightened soft power stood next to black renascence, and our non black allies in their thousands standing with us and marching. However, no matter how impactful a moment or protest feels, the success of any march or movement is defined by the ask.
The power of the protests has meant that many perspectives have been challenged and changed and many leaders felt the need to say and do something. My concern is that we have had more reactive responses than we have had ones with true reflection.
It's 1 thing to get a bunch of leaders who feel guilty, make a statement, sign a manifesto in a bid to not look like they don't care, or put together a race action plan and even include black staff in conversations, its another things to get those same individuals to sign their company up for real systemic change and commitment for the long run, focused on the black community in the UK without the distraction of 'BAME' titles or any other lived experience taking over. I challenge leaders of the UKs leading organisations to join us on this mission to help collectivly usher in systemic change, so that 5 years from now, we are not in the same place asking for the same things.
If as one community, we can come together with one united voice toward ending social inequality and systemic racism against the black community, nothing we set our minds to achieve will be impossible for us to do.
Founder, Black British Network
"For the longest time in the UK (on a main streme level) our stories have been controlled and curated by people who do not look like us, people who are disconnected from our reality and people who can't relate to being black. As such we are only celebrated as a community in October 'black history month'. On top of this, because of the lack of control we have around who tells our stories, there are very specific notions and ideas that are amplified about the black community that are not true in some cases and do not represent a wholistic and honest picture of what it means to be black in the UK."
In this letter Cephas lays out his vision for a better Britain for the black community and for us all. He touches on what has been happening in the UK and the global awakening now taking place from a personal perspective, in form of a letter to his son.