Balwinder Kaur, Head of Equality and Inclusion, writes on behalf of the MPFT BAME staff network.

October is Black History Month. This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate Black community contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of Black history in general. Its origins go back to the civil rights movement of the 1920s.

Black History Month was launched in the UK on 1 October 1987, following a campaign by Akyaaba Addai Sebo who worked for Greater London Council (GLC) at the time.

Taking place every year, Black History Month (BHM) recognises important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. Within the UK many use the month to raise awareness of the health inequalities and injustices faced by Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and the impact this has on their wellbeing.

Mary Seacole, affectionately referred to as ‘Mother Seacole’, travelled from her home in Jamaica to England in 1854 to volunteer for the Crimean War.

She was denied on the basis of her sex and race so made her own way there, nursing wounded and dying soldiers on the battlefield. She died in Paddington in 1881 and in 2004 she was voted the greatest black Briton.

This year we have met with unprecedented times. A year that was about celebrating nursing and midwifery showed the country the resilience and importance of key workers within both private and public sector organisations.

The Covid-19 pandemic also magnified the inequalities experienced by communities due to their Race, Disability, Gender etc. (their protected equality characteristic). With this came the disproportionate loss of so many from BAME communities.

The outcome of risk assessments, introduced to support the health and well-being of colleagues working within the public sector, magnified the inequity of experiences of BAME staff in comparison to White colleagues.

People within the communities we serve became further isolated and excluded from wider society throughout the pandemic due to shielding, their own concerns and national and then local lockdowns.

Communities celebrated and observed religious and cultural events in a very different way from Easter, Ramadan, Eid, Baisakhi and more recently Yom Kippur. Communities adjusted their practices to maintain the safety of loved ones.

During this time we saw the injustices faced by BAME people acknowledged with the call to stamp out Racism and systemic discrimination. The Trust’s leadership and many colleagues from across our services actively supported, with some participating in the Black Lives Matter movement across the Country. Some supported colleagues and service users, while others developed resources and implemented change that supported colleagues to deliver a fair and just experience at work and in wider society.

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