Streetbees Black History Month: three reasons why your actions speak louder than words

Manasa Shetty, Senior Research Manager & Myra Khan (People Co-ordinator)
November 01, 2021

We’re strong believers that your silence makes you complicit. If you’re not vocal or active about what you’re supporting, how can anybody know what you stand for?

Manasa and Myra here: we co-run the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team at Streetbees alongside Zehra Odunayo. On top of our day jobs in Research, HR and Client Strategy, our goal is to visibly build a culture that is welcoming to everyone - so it’s crystal clear what our company believes in.

Our way of showing that is by throwing quarterly event series to celebrate landmark occasions like Black History Month, Pride, Mental Health Awareness and International Women’s day. They’re curated to cover a variety of perspectives, and are jam-packed with guest talks, facilitated discussions, and charity fundraisers. Plus, a bit of light entertainment too!

This year’s Black History Month was no different. Here’s a rundown of what went down over the week - split into three reasons why when it comes to Black History, your actions will always speak louder than words:

1. Change starts with Black history and education - but comes from real action

Three of our events were about reclaiming and celebrating the many positive narratives in Black history, which are typically erased from the whitewashed UK curriculum.

For three of the sessions, we explored the Black community’s major contributions to medicine, science, maths and technology, hosted by the following speakers who we highly recommend (in pictures from left to right):

It was inspiring to learn how our speakers’ personal lives triggered them to take action. Kayleigh for example, couldn’t find Black History in her childrens’ curricula. So she made an app for schools to showcase Black British figures and their achievements. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s really encouraging for future generations to see more and more positive Black narratives being recognised, taught and celebrated.

2. Your silence will not protect you - so create a culture of open dialogue

One of the most powerful sessions of the week was a seminar analysing a selection of poems from Audre Laude’s Your Silence will not Protect You, hosted by our very own Zehra Odunayo. The session exemplified exactly what we want culture at Streetbees to be. Zehra created a psychologically safe space to facilitate an open discussion- and not just an echo chamber. People who were really brave came out with things they might not normally feel comfortable saying in a work environment. We’ll leave Zehra’s reading of Laude’s poem Power here (trigger warning):

3. Put your money where your mouth is - back into the Black community

Everybody agrees that Black history matters, but we think it’s important to acknowledge that there are social and economic inequalities at play too. So we took the opportunity to raise up Black businesses and put money back into the Black community.

As well as curating our own “Black pound list” packed full of businesses in food and fashion and education to choose from, and Friday lunch from our local Caribbean restaurant Rudie’s Jerk: we collaborated with Streetbees alumni Daanish Alam at Vinny to order 100 boxes of Black-owned treats for our team.

The founders have all developed delicious healthy snacks, including plantain chips, smoked almonds and Seltzer drinks which you have to try! Check out their websites and founders’ profiles here (in pictures from left to right):

Finally, we fundraised for Black Minds Matter: a charity whose mission is to connect Black individuals with free mental health services from Black therapists. Mental health in minority cultures is something we feel really strongly about. I (Manasa) am from an Indian background, where mental health issues are seldom acknowledged and when they are, it is only when something has really gone wrong! This charity helps to normalise that anxiety exists on a day-to-day basis.\ If history has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be active allies. Being vocal and supporting black businesses is a tangible way to do this and we’d love to see more of it. If you’d like to help out with Streetbees’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion events series, please do get in touch with me or Myra. We’re an open minded team and would love to help assist your activism.

As Zehra put it so well: it starts with Black history; it changes with real action.