YMCA is the oldest and largest youth charity in the world, and whilst we celebrate Black History in the month of October we make inclusion, equity and diversity part and parcel of the way we work and deliver our services throughout the year.
This Black History Month, we invited both black and white colleagues and also residents to share their perspectives and stories of what they are ‘proud to be’ following the theme for this year. Also following a series of equity, diversity and inclusion training that we are rolling out across our whole organisation, what impact this had on them. These are a few of the stories that were shared:
Lisa, YMCA housing scheme officer
Why I am PROUD to be Black is our determination, dedication, will power and longevity. We do not give up regardless of what we have to endure, come against and any setbacks just pushes us closer to our goals regardless of what others may think.
We are doctors, we are lawyers, we are bankers, we are CEOs, we are owners of arts museums, we are architects, we are biochemists, we are engineers and scientists. We are intelligence officers, we are judges, we are mobile app developers, we are optometrists, we are quantum physicists. We are formula one 7 times world champion drivers. We are all these things, but people only see the negative.
Being at YMCA allows me to interact and engage with others hearing their stories, seeing how their determination pushes them to reach their goals and with my support and guidance they can see I have their best interest at heart. My faith, embodies who I AM; my values and qualities enable me to maximise their potential. That gives me purpose, working at YMCA and being Black and PROUD.
Outside of YMCA I do street police watch. I am proud to do this and proud to be black as this allows me to be approachable to helping others in the community. Encouraging them to not be afraid but to see me, a black woman, as a person they can reach out to and speak about what is going on in the community, to get the help they deserve. I AM confident, I AM vibrant, I AM unique, I AM fearless.
Locksley, Head of Quality & Improvement
During my early years, it was my parents who instilled a granite like belief within me that whatever obstacles presented themselves in front of me, I would be able to overcome them and find a path to achieve my goals.
My father presented an image that as a child I saw as unsurmountable strength and a reliable source of information and someone not to be taken lightly. My mother taught me about love and more importantly the love of God. She, helped me to understand that even when I have failed as I did on numerous occasions, there is a safety net called God, The Creator of all things, who would always put me back on my feet.
As both my parents were pastors at different times, all 11 siblings and I were steeped in Christian worship. This meant regular attendance at church and developing an understand of the Bible, much of which I have held onto throughout my lifetime to date.
As a black child who was born in Jamaica and arrived in England at the age of 5, I would often wonder what all the noise was about. It took me a while to understand that there was a huge proportion of white people who thought that black people were in some way inferior. This was a strange concept for me because my parents always taught us as children that we were at least a match for any other person regardless of race, if we applied ourselves to any challenge.
Entering into studies and work life, I took all the positives with me that I grew up with, and applied myself to the best of my capabilities. However, that didn’t prevent me from coming face to face with racism and suffering multiple failures, particularly in business where I saw a number of failed ventures.
I learned that every failure brings you closer to success and so wherever I have seen failure, I have never stopped believing that I still have it within me to improve or to overcome or to do better. I used this concept to drive me forward toward many goals that I wanted to achieve. It wasn’t until 2002, that my belief about how to achieve success began to change, when suddenly I found myself as CEO of a small housing organisation that I had set up. I always dreamt of having my own business, but I never imagined that it would be in supported housing. This is an opportunity that came to me miraculously and left me 10 years later as funding dried up and we were forced to close.
As a result of my sudden success and then failure, I began to see that although I do have choices, I am not in control of everything that affects my destiny. I now have a strong belief that whatever my destiny in life is, the best way to arrive there is to allow God to do His thing and to lead me while I follow and to trust that He wants the best for me perhaps even more than I might want for myself. I believe that whatever I want for myself it is better to want it more for someone else. Finally, I believe that I am in this life not as a slave to any earthly master, but as a servant ready to serve the needy, the vulnerable and the weak.
James, resident YMCA Heart of England
Florence, Housing support
I’m proud to make a difference in the lives of young people and families in Coventry.
Melanie Gallivan, Head of HR
I’m proud to work for an organisation that is fully committed to equity, diversity and inclusion across both the services that we provide to young people and throughout our workforce. The training we are offering to all of our employees and volunteers shows that this will never be a “tick box” exercise for us – we are providing a safe space to share and learn from each other’s perspective and lived experiences.
Laurence Chilver, Director of Learning and Communities
Our recent equity, diversity and inclusion training helped us understand the different life experiences people have had simply because of the colour of their skin, in such a powerful and moving way. Our sessions were deeply insightful and often challenging, and I believe the training will form a foundation from which our staff can make a personal choice to consciously seek to remove unconscious bias’ and unfair privilege from our society.
Harry, resident YMCA Heart of England