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‘Proud to Be’: Celebrating Black History Month

21st October 2021 by Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive, OnSide

This October we’re proud to be celebrating black heritage and history, recognising the contributions and achievements of black people in the UK and beyond this Black History Month. With 17% of our members coming from black heritage it was important that Black History Month activities across the Network provide a platform for young people to share stories and create space for meaningful discussions on culture and race.  

There have already been lots of great activities happening across the Network. In London, Legacy, Youth Zone are holding weekly health and wellbeing talks, Afro Caribbean Cuisine sessions, and Monday Film Clubs where they watch and discuss films from black culture. In Oldham, Mahdlo Youth Zone members have been learning about Henry Brown and are taking part in a 300 mile challenge in honour of his 300 mile journey from slavery to freedom. There’s also been a wealth of activities at  Manchester Youth Zone as outlined by their Chief Executive, Amanda’s great new blog. 

At OnSide, our employee diversity steering group, FREDIE, has been leading on a programme of events to celebrate Black History Month, including internal conversations celebrating black excellence and sharing stories of black people that inspire us. In doing this, we’re inspired to think about what we can do differently to build more inclusive and diverse environments, workplaces and communities.  

During the month we’re also taking the opportunity to educate ourselves and each other on black history, and challenge ourselves to do more to tackle racism and discrimination in the workplace. Huge thanks to Justin Onuekwusi, Head of Retail Multi-Asset Funds at Legal and General Investment Management, and Chris Murray, CEO of Young Brent Foundation, for bringing their insight and challenge to our internal discussion this week. Needless to say, this conversation must go beyond Black History Month, and OnSide and Youth Zones across the Network are committed to doing the work to build a diverse culture all year round. 

Over the last 18 months, we’ve been listening and taking actions to ensure we work towards being a more inclusive workplace. We are looking at three areas; our employer processes and practices, providing learning and training for colleagues, and building a culture of knowledge sharing by creating opportunities for internal conversations. Progress has been made, and I’m grateful to the OnSide team, in particular the FREDIE group for their commitment to moving us forward.  

Here’s a snapshot of some of what we’ve done so far. We’ve created an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion strategy. We undertook an employee diversity survey to create an accurate picture of OnSide’s workforce. We’ve reviewed our recruitment processes, and have provided unconscious bias training for everyone at OnSide to build an inclusive culture where we can better challenge ourselves and each other. We’ve developed a calendar of events to celebrate and highlight diversity throughout the year, to name a few. 

We’re also proud to have recently signed Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter, pledging as an organisation to improve equality of opportunity through specific, measurable actions.  

There’s still much more for us to do to reach our aim of being an organisation that fully reflect the incredible diversity of this country and the communities we serve. While we look back in celebration during Black History Month, thankful to those, past and present, who achieved incredible things and raised their voice – we’re also inspired by them to do better.  

We also look forward to continuing to support young people from a broad range of backgrounds, and taking continued actions that foster a culture of diversity and inclusion, at OnSide and across the Network.