By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Network Coordinator and Co-Chair of the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Assembly Workplace Equality Network
Wow! October has been a busy month for the Assembly and its Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) equality workplace network. It is with a sense of achievement that we look back at the events that have taken place over the past month.
Internally, a range of activities took place at the Assembly, including:
• Kicking off Black History Month (BHM) with a desk drop for Commission staff and Assembly Members, which provided people with an aide memoir exploring the concept of unconscious bias and offering practical tips on how to address unconscious bias.
• A panel talk to acknowledge World Mental Health Day (WMHD), which fell on the 10 October, where people discussed the mental health issues faced by them or within their communities, including the Black Minority Ethnic (BME) community. (Throughout this article the terminology BME is used to describe all people of non-white descent.)
• A BME Youth Engagement Question and Answer Session with the Llywydd, Elin Jones AM.
As the democratically elected body that represents the interests of Wales and its people, we were pleased to be able to participate in a variety of external events during BHM. It gave us the opportunity to engage with the people we are here to represent and to showcase the Assembly as an inclusive employer and service provider. We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to speak to people about the issues that matter to them and get people’s views to help inform our approach to diversity, inclusion and equality in the Assembly, which will help develop our new Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan for 2016-2021. If you want to learn more about or contribute to our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan then contact the Diversity and Inclusion team at email@example.com by the 30 November 2016 or find our more on our website.
We had stalls at four events taking place during BHM:
• BHM Wales ‘Young, Gifted, and Black’ youth awards ceremony, on Friday 30 September at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay.
Opened by Mark Drakeford AM, compered by Beverly Humpreys, singer and BBC presenter, the awards were a prestigious affair set against the wonderful backdrop of the Senedd building.
The Young, Gifted and Black youth awards categories include performance art, music, good citizen, entrepreneur, volunteering, care and sport. It was heartening to see the hard work, commitment and dedication these children had shown being recognised. The look of joy on the faces of the amazing young people as they received their awards was truly wonderful to see.
• Opening BHM Wales ceremony, on Saturday 01 October, at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
The array of talent on display throughout the day was glorifying to see. As was the number of people who dropped in to observe and enjoy the festivities.
• Welsh Public Sector Network BHM event on Monday 17 October 2016, at Cardiff County Hall.
BHM was an opportunity for Welsh Public Service staff networks to respond and try and address the growing evidence showing that people from BME backgrounds are less likely to progress in the workplace than white counterparts. June Milligan’s welcoming address set the tone for the event when she said “evidence is only useful as a call to action. A prompt to aspiration and action”.
This event was an opportunity for public services to share good practice, exchange ideas about what organisations are doing to improve the recruitment, retention, and experiences of BME people in the workplace.
There were a range of speakers who shared what their organisations are doing. Key note speakers that stood out for me were Tessy Oji, Chief Executive of ‘The Diana Awards’, who said ‘you have to get comfortable with discomfort’ and Humie Webb, from the National Training Federation for Wales, who urged organisations to recognise they may have to work differently and commit to working differently.
The event was attended by a wide range of public sector organisations, including senior leaders who recognised the need to improve the opportunities and outcomes for ethnic minority communities and understand how BME talent can be fully utilised by employers. The event highlighted the fact that there is best practice out there, from across the public and private sectors. This event was the first step in working to join up best practice and incorporating those practices across public services in general.
• Closing BHM Wales ceremony on Sunday 30 October, at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.
BHM 2016 came to a close with a truly magnificent explosion of talent, the atmosphere was truly celebratory. Sadly the recognition and celebration of the achievements and contributions that BME people have made to the development of British society, technology, economy and arts and culture was over until next year.
However, while BHM has now ended and is over until October 2017, we are committed to the fact that BHM is not the only time when inspirational individuals and events from within the BME communities should be celebrated, recognised and valued. We are going to continue to work closely with our REACH network to keep raising awareness of our work, enhance our engagement with the BME community and strive to provide an inclusive working environment and be an accessible parliamentary body.