Firstly, i’d like to apologise for missing Sunday's post, I really had to ponder on what was going on around me and something that had also been on my mind for a long time. Enjoy.
I didn’t know much about racism until i started my first year at university at Kings College London. I faced microagression and blatant racism and bullying by my coursemates being 1 of maybe 10 black people on my course at the time. When reported my head of department, who was white, said i was being silly. The counsillor said I had no leg to stand on and the story goes on. In the end I was kicked out of the university for defending myself when the institution refused to, on the basis of "code of conduct".
I tell this brief story not to disgrace the institution because i know they are trying to do better after the #Blackouthewhitewall campaign. Moreover, i say this as an example to show the depth of discrimination in institutions particularly universities and how they continually fail black young people.
Moving to the events industry. Do i think the industry is whitewashed? Yes.
Yes because the norm is to have white c-suite professionals, white seniors. At venues, a large majority of people working there are white (often foreign). At our events, ENDLESS white panels and keynote speakers.
I believe there is no actual conciousness of the white washing because It is so embedded into the culture of the industry. An agent representing a seemingly white company is more likely to get through at venues than one representing a black company, which may not “fit their look” or “affect their reputation” (as I was told by a known venue last december) regardless of if the company has the money.
It’s no longer a talk of diversity because that bell has been rang. As a young black professional, i often thought that diversity meant that everyone has an equal opportunity but that is false. Let us not forget actions speak louder than words.
Being in the industry as a young professional (not business owner) means you are faced with the battle of proving your value because of your age and to top it off because of your race. It can often feel as though you are walking on eggshells. On the other hand, I love the fact I have a difference that allows me to educate others. Luckily, my current team is actually 80% BAME and my manager always has an open ear to learn from us.
"I can’t breathe" - George Floyd, is often a sentence many of us use even i our places of work. Constant microagressions, constantly being looked down upon or even treated differently (an example when a black colleague of mine had a medical emergency but wasn’t allowed to leave the office to get medication till it was lunch time, but our white counterpart was able to go out to zara to shop for an upcoming trip???). The events industry has been disgustingly silent about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which is understandable when many professionals have detached themselves from society, the industry wears a cloak of CSR and sustainability is the new buzzword. I’ve been asked by many of my white counterparts, following my rant on instagram - “How can we help?” Educating yourself is the first step but coming to a consciousness of how you treat your colleagues. The industry is seemingly “inclusive” but if a professional can’t call out an event such as International Confex and say “hey your speaker line up is too white” (which was the first thing i noticed before attending, even though i enjoyed the show and love the work MashMedia are doing for the next generation), then there is no reason for this whole movement. Speak to you colleagues, gain an insight into how their needs differ to your own without belittling them or being ignorant. Also to the black professionals, be open to helping our white colleagues learn and bring change together. Black Lives Matter in every sphere of human endeavour. Bar police brutality, it is relevant in our corporate institutions, education systems, of which in event management black students account for all of 5-10% (conversation for another day). Anyway, not to end on a negative note, we must realise that, as young black event professionals there is no need to prove ourself just keep putting yourself in a position to be seen and heard. Keep coming forward, trust your gut. Finally, feel the fear and do it anyway. The time is NOW.
“...as someone working in events you are making decisions that directly impact the experiences hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people will have...This is powerful. Use this power to promote equality.” - Callum Di Lieto, Editor of C&IT Magazine
Comment, like and subscribe 💡