Europe Black History Month: Why celebrating Black culture still matters

  • Posted on October 6, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

Whilst Black History Month (BHM) is widely celebrated in North America in February, its significance is gradually increasing in Europe. Every year there are more people and European institutions that celebrate Black lives and communities in October, joining the call for more representation of under-represented groups. We asked colleagues across Europe to share their perspectives and why the celebration of Black history and achievements matters to them.

Clifford Opare: What matters to me is celebration of our achievements

Growing up Black in the 90s in the UK, whenever October came around you knew it was Black History Month. The schools, the local libraries and community centers would all talk up what they would be doing for BHM, and year after year it was always the same content. The same stories of slavery and Black people's struggles. There was little in the way of celebration or positive stories within the community. I was fortunate to have an English teacher in secondary school who believed in doing what matters and what mattered to her was to celebrate the Black heroes from the past and present. She taught us about Madame CJ Walker and her beauty empire, she taught us about Katherine Johnson and the work she did with Nasa, and she introduced us to the work of literates like Benjamin Zephaniah.

Fast forward 20 years and Black History Month is truly a celebration, a celebration of Black culture past and present. From our influence on fashion to music to the way people speak on a day-to-day basis, Black culture has broken free from the slave stories and is now rewriting history with new heroes like Barack Obama, Mae Jemison, and Dr Mark Dean to name a few. I will continue to do what matters and that is to teach the next generation to not dwell on the pain of the past but to continue to look forward, celebrate our achievements and invent our future.

Noeria Torrekens: What matters to me is having a positive impact in life

I have always seen the Black History Month as something American. In Belgium, and more generally in Europe, we don’t really have any Black history celebrations. However, there is a huge Black diaspora in Europe and as an Afropean woman, I can see how important it is to celebrate Black history and accomplishments. Black history is not only about slavery and colonization, but Black history is made of different cultures, artistic impacts, and accomplishments, that are a huge part of the European history. As an Afropean, I am proud to celebrate my European and African culture.

The celebration of BHM at Avanade could be for me the opportunity to do what matters by opening myself up to colleagues and giving them more insights on my Black culture. It offers a chance to spotlight the scope of Black culture and remember and acknowledge our Black heroes. This can have a positive impact on current and future colleagues.

Justino Diogo: What matters to me is being able to be your full self

There are many inequalities in the world in which we live whether it is on the physical, the origins, whatever our sex, our way of thinking and our skin color. All these inequalities are induced, subtle or not, or more or less direct. All this has an impact on our lives, our mood, our self-confidence, our access to school, professional or sports opportunities or even in everyday activities (public transport, hotels, restaurants). Finding your place in today's society without being stigmatized by a pseudo-community is not an easy task.

Working at Avanade allowed me to be integrated without differentiation of color or origin. This environment allows you to be in full capacity. The fact that Black History Month is acknowledged and celebrated as a company is a proof of that.

Marie Sandrine Razalfe: What matters to me is taking action as one Avanade

I am proud of my Black History and to see the accomplishments and barriers being broken within Avanade. I was lucky to see our current CEO, Pam Maynard step into her role very soon after I joined and that has shaped my journey at Avanade since. A poignant spoken word piece by Wretch 32 summarizes my feelings quite well.

Today, we speak about foundations! Many great Black influential giants have touched people from soul to soul throughout many generations. It's often the word greatness comes to mind but footballs and legends like Ian Wright, make greatness come to sight Dreams can come true and that sentence emancipated the minds of our pioneers’ brick by brick, safe house and garage was opened in each community, self-sustainable and vulture resistance. Self-belief meant that the culture was left in the hands of the culture and the revolution was reenergized the moment, it was televised. I need to remind you this is not a phase; this is phase one! Almost lights camera action after take one, this isn't divide and conquer, this is provide and prosper! This isn't destroyed and rebuild; this is I love my future more than I hate parts of my history. You've seen what we put together when we come together, we’re living in. So, let us rain in honor of the wind rushing through our veins leaving suffering and pain. Will we ever be the same? Nor any storms could have weathered the storm but when you are who you are, you can't run from the journey, the expectations, or the destination. We’re here now…

I recognize the effort put in by Avanade leaders and our Employee Networks and welcome the training and newly drafted policies. To me this is only the beginning. It is time for action. We need to continue to educate and practice inclusion and diversity. It is time to celebrate Black history, culture and heritage with pride. A time to come together as one Avanade and prosper!

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