Celebrating US Black History Month with Kirsty and Kenya
When we think of Black History Month, what comes to mind?
For most, it’s figures such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and the civil rights movements and acts of bravery that led to desegregation of society and the opportunity for equal rights. Whilst these are important events and people, what does it mean to the individual today?
For us, when we think of the phrase “black history” we naturally begin to think of our own, personal history and those who came before us. Often times we hear phrases such as “ancestry” and it gives a sense of something far removed and distanced, when in reality it was not that long ago that these famous figures were fighting for their rights, alongside our own family members.
Kirsty Thomas-Brown, Consultant at Spinks UK and Kenya Haskins-Johnson, Payroll Specialist at Harvey Nash USA discussed the different perceptions of “Blackness” and what it means in the UK and the US, the similarities, and differences.
Kirsty: In the US, I see race relations as a prominent and frightening thing, we hear almost daily of a person murdered by police for the colour of their skin and those police offices not being held accountable. It’s scary to me that a life can be taken so easily in 2023 and the system intended to provide justice would simply allow that.
Of course, when George Floyd was murdered, the pain was felt around the world and even myself and my peers, in the height of the Covid panic left our homes to protest and make our voices heard from across the pond.
Kenya: In the US the perception of the UK is that it’s overall more progressive than the US, however, the countries’ reaction to Meghan Markle showed that the racism was there, somehow more insidious, and secretive, that bloomed to the surface readily when prompted. Giving a feel of “WE” have overcome in many ways, but “WE” have so much more to overcome.
Kirsty & Kenya: What we found in common is that even though we see things from different lenses, the view is really the same.
Despite the perceptions, it’s somehow comforting to know that we will all speak on behalf of our brothers and sisters from across an ocean, and that our histories are bound together.
With cultivating empathy is the key to rehumanizing the dehumanized. “Empathy is an umbrella term that describes multiple ways people respond to one another, including sharing, thinking about, and caring about other’s feelings” Jamil Zaki author of The War for Kindness.
We must all keep hope that it creates connection and breaks down the “us and them” divide so that we see us all as human beings.