Black History Month 2020 - Like no other

Protest

Black History Month 2020 has been like no other, in a year like no other. The number and range of events and initiatives has been like no other past BHM. It’s been both exhausting and energising.

BHM 2020 has seeped into all aspects of our work and lives, across all our tv, radio and film channels, commercials, retail, academia and of course many of our places of work. It is hard to imagine that anyone has not consciously or sub-consciously had some exposure to BHM.

A standout for me this BHM has been the focus on..... history. The history that so many of us were not taught at school. The history that provides the context and understanding of our world today. The history that in many cases challenges previous wisdom. I had the opportunity to hear the historian and author David Olusoga on four separate occasions in this past month and managed to take away something different each time. I have to congratulate the multi-cultural network at my own organisation Aviva for the outstanding programme of activities they put on - the history lessons provided to staff and children of both primary and secondary age were a particular highlight. These were pitched perfectly and provided a unique learning opportunity for our extended Aviva family.

The second standout for me has been the conversations I have had with my fellow actuaries, notably Tan Suee Chieh, President of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, and Tenesia McGruder, President of the International Association of Black Actuaries. Knowing that the white female with her dog recorded in the Central Park incident in May 2020 - Amy Cooper - was an actuary has added an extra dynamic to our conversations around representation, racism and BHM. Actuaries on both sides of the Atlantic, along with many other professions of course, are having the necessary discussions and starting to take appropriate actions. Myself, the IFoA Diversity Action Group and others will be part of the push for progress. I look forward to collaborating with my US counterparts. We have much to learn from each other.

My hopes are laced with fears however - fear of a backlash: ‘too much’ diversity, too much ‘talk about black’; fear that the conversations and initiatives will fizzle out. We need to remove the fear to bring people on the journey. We need to keep the conversation alive beyond BHM and beyond 2020. We cannot fail to capitalise on this moment.

On that note, my final thoughts go to all those I have interacted with during BHM 2020. To the various bodies - CMI, CBI, ABI, iCAN, BiTC, IFoA, IABA, DAG, #TalkAboutBlack, INvolve, Forward Institute, The Health Foundation, the Amos Bursary, Moving Ahead; to the broadcasting titans - Sky, Netflix, Channel 4; to the firms - Aviva, McKinsey, Linklater’s, Lloyds of London, LCP; and to the many individuals (you know who you are) hustling, reaching out, stepping up, questioning, learning, simply talking and engaging. Thank you. What a month it’s been. What a year. And it’s not over yet.

 


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