Black History Month - Portrait of Ada Okoli

Celebrating Black History Month: Our Diversity and Inclusion Journey

The month of October is upon us. That means it’s time for Black History Month: a reminder for us all to recognise and celebrate Black history and the future. In our latest blog, Ada Okoli, Programme Manager and Co-Chair of our BAME network, launches our Black History Month activity and highlights some of the recent work that has been achieved over the past year.

Black History Month is an annual acknowledgement, observance, and celebration of the achievements and contributions of people of Black heritage to the world. Marked in the USA every February, Black History Month was first observed in London to tackle racism and to educate communities about British history that was not taught in mainstream education. Since then, it has continued to be observed across the UK every October.

Following our successful celebration of last year’s Black History Month theme – ‘Beauty in Black’ showcasing Black heritage, history, and beauty – the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Colleague network are supporting the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) in its celebration and observance of this year’s event.

I am always honoured and delighted to be part of Black History Month, more so in the NHSBSA.

My wish, hope, and goal remain the same: that each year’s Black History Month celebration is a step closer to no longer needing to highlight Black history for just 31 days of the year. Instead, I'd like us to champion and embrace Black people, culture, and achievements 365 days a year. Cheers to that as we, in the meantime, keep up the drumbeats and cymbal crashes to harness and uphold equality, diversity, and inclusion!

In my role as co-chair, I am proud of the efforts and contributions our BAME Colleague network has made towards our goal of building and maintaining an anti-racist and inclusive NHSBSA. I’m also delighted to say it’s not just the BAME network that is committed to this cause. We wouldn’t have got to where we are without working in collaboration with our Wellbeing and Inclusion team, our CEO, Michael Brodie, the Leadership Team, and the NHSBSA’s other lived experience and Diversity and Inclusion networks.

Our BAME network is just over a year old. In that time we’ve made some fantastic contributions to reshaping some of the NHSBSA’s practices and processes, towards further embedding diversity and inclusion in the organisation:

  • Having a ring-fenced seat for a BAME Colleague Network co-chair on the NHSBSA Shadow Board, currently Mr Hassan Kajee
  • Working with the Wellbeing and Inclusion team on establishing the Race Inclusion plan
  • Review and scrutiny of the NHSBSA’s recruitment outcome data, working with Wellbeing and Inclusion and the CEO to identify potential remedial actions
  • Successful pilot and potential wider rollout of Diversification of Recruitment Panels which has allowed for a fair approach to the shortlisting and interview processes and outcomes
  • Successful pilot and planned rollout of our ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ sessions, which provides managers and their teams with the essential awareness, education, and confidence to promote and ensure an anti-racist environment and culture

There has been a gradual shift in our recruitment and progression of BAME colleagues: successful candidates have increased from 8% to 14% of all appointments in the last year. This is a positive change in the right direction, though there is still much for us to do. Our colleagues from BAME groups account for 9.09% of our workforce, which continues to be short of the English and Welsh population of 14% from BAME groups.

I can’t wait to share our stories and activity with you all over the coming weeks. It is with positivity, progress, growth, strength, and success in mind, that we recognise Black History Month and celebrate the theme of ‘Success through History’.

This is about celebrating the successes of BAME people over the years. Keep an eye on our social media channels and website where we’ll be shining a spotlight on successful BAME colleagues at the NHSBSA.

Thanks to the organising committee led by my colleagues June Omadoye and Samuel Ubanatu, this year is looking to be yet another exciting Black History Month for the BAME network and NHSBSA. We look forward to sharing and embracing the month filled with history, success, and more!

Please do join us to support our charity of choice ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ and help us promote an anti-racist society.

Ada Okoli, Programme Manager, NHSBSA

Ada Okoli-2

 “The success that burrows and erupts through the rough paths of history fills us with the reason to celebrate and hope for a future bright and promising. With positivity, progress, growth, strength, and success in mind, we recognise Black History Month and celebrate the theme of ‘Success through History.”