You will by now hopefully be aware that October is Black History Month (BHM). At AoC we are keen to give colleagues every opportunity to engage with black history and culture and, perhaps just as importantly, with each other, at a time when engagement is more important than ever.
The purpose of BHM is, of course, to shed a light on the history and culture of black people in the UK and to reinforce the fact that black history is British history. We cannot begin to understand the current inequalities in society and education, let alone start to identify meaningful solutions, without first understanding the history of black people. At the same time, it is also a great opportunity to have fun, learn new things and chat with colleagues and friends.
The BHM working group at AoC have scheduled a BHM themed activity for every week in October, starting next week, There will also be a weekly email every Monday reminding staff of that week’s event and to give some ideas about how they might prepare or get involved. We want as many staff to get involved and even if colleagues don’t feel confident speaking or sharing – just listening is also ok.
We’re inviting colleagues to join a Teams group for BHM too, as not only will it be the way of engaging with the events, but also the principal method for sharing ideas, links, recommendations and having discussions outside of the sessions themselves.
Finally, I would also say that while it is fantastic that we can celebrate black history in this way, it is more than just a month. This feels particularly critical and pertinent this year after the murder of George Floyd and the global protests that followed highlighting the racism, inequality and discrimination across the world, including in Britain.
AoC itself has spent the last couple of years refocusing on equality and diversity work, and while unfortunately progress may have been slow, I know I and many other colleagues are striving to do more as organisation and put plans in place to create change. We will be publishing our Equality and Diversity Action Plan very soon.
As a sector leader it is our job and duty to not just improve our own organisation but support colleges to as well. We and the rest of the further education sector are aware of the drop in black leaders in recent years, and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group have committed to doing more to support the black leaders we have as well as ensuring that the black leaders of the future see the sector as a place for them.
So, welcome to Black History Month 2020. I hope that AoC, colleges and the wider sector think about and engage with these topics year-round and reflect on how they impact on work and life. Please share your BHM stories and activities with us and tag us @AoC_info in your posts on Twitter so we can share and retweet.
Dean Hardman is AoC’s Director of Sport and Student Experience and leading on this year’s Black History Month activities for the organisation