Friday Chat | Searcys Celebrates Black History Month21 October 2022
This October, we’ve joined our Searcys colleagues and industry in honouring Black History Month, a time to look back, acknowledge and celebrate our Afro-Caribbean communities.
Black History Month started over a hundred years ago in the US, as a way to bring Black voices and stories to discussions of history. It was first recognised in the UK in the 1980s, organised in October by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, to acknowledge 150 years of Caribbean freedom and the 100th birthday of Marcus Garvey, a journalist and political leader.
The theme for Black History Month 2022 is “Time for Change: Action Not Words.’ and it is more important than ever. It’s not just a month to celebrate the continued achievements and contributions of Black people to the UK and around the world. It’s also a time for continued action to tackle racism, reclaim Black history, and ensure Black history is represented and celebrated all year round.
As 2021 showed, and 2022 continues to show, Black history is being made every day, in all kinds of ways.
Stroll through the City and follow the trail of 10 colourful globes until the end of October, from Bank through St Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall and towards Aldgate. The trail will take you on a journey of discovery, bringing to life the reality and impact of the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans. Each globe structure was designed by an artist responding to themes, ranging from Mother Africa to Still We Rise and Expanding Soul.
FRIDAY CHAT WITH…
To shine a spotlight on Black history in the making, we have invited our people at Searcys to share their stories and experiences. We asked them to tell the stories they want to share and be heard, to tell us what’s important to them – whether it’s a story from their own life or community, a person or event that deserves celebrating, or anything connected to Black history, heritage and culture – past, present or future.
At Searcys we continuously working hard on building a workplace where all team members feel valued and included. We are taking our unconscious bias into conscious action for a positive impact for all our learning courses. We create and review our policies to ensure appropriate escalation for bias reporting. We are attracting our candidates from the widest pool available and ensure a fair and transparent recruitment process.
We speak to Sheila Dixon, a member of our front-of-house team, Pauline Toney-Bennett, a Location Manager, both from Searcys at the Gherkin, and Cyril Gidigbi, Searcys’ Deputy General Manager at One Moorgate Place.
My parents came over from Jamaica in the 60s. My older brother and sisters are from Jamaica; I am the first born here in the UK. I never knew my siblings until years later as my parents couldn’t afford to bring them here straight away, so they came one by one over many years. It’s very odd that I didn’t know them growing up, but we are very close. Both my parents have passed, and they had a house in Jamaica. When I was younger, I would go to stay with my grandparents for months – it always had a good time.
I am originally from Lagos, Nigeria, and I moved to the UK in 1988 studying to be an accountant. Whilst at college I worked for a catering agency as a waiter to help with my studies. I really enjoyed it and somehow my career path steered towards hospitality – I found out hospitality and making people happy was something I wanted to pursue and that’s how my career evolved. I started out by working in some of London’s premier hotels, original members’ clubs, sporting venues and conference centres, before deciding to move in to contract catering. I have been privileged to work for the top contract catering companies, where I learned and developed my hospitality experience. I am married with 2 daughters, and I have always made them aware of their Nigerian roots by visiting Nigeria with them to see our extended family.
Black History Month is worth celebrating, and personally it means a lot as I have worked my way up and faced loads of challenges along the way. I’ve often noticed over the years that in my position people look at me, see I’m black and know I must have worked hard to overcome obstacles to get to where I am today. It’s good to represent the black and ethnic minority groups, and I want to inspire people of colour that if you work hard and are determined, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I feel privileged to work here and proud of how far I have been able to come in my career. Our clients at One Moorgate Place are very supportive and heavily invested in the importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace.
I’m not sure where my roots are from originally, but my parents are from St Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Eastern Caribbean – which is where my dad was born. It’s the exact same place we get our Searcys chocolates from, and I’m very pleased we are using someone from my heritage. I also have family in Antigua and Jamaica. I grew up in the shires and lived in London for a long time; London is great, she’s a tough mistress but I love her to bits, given the right opportunity.
Are there any black public figures who inspire you and why?
Sheila: There are lots I admire from different parts in my life, but above all I’d say Bob Marley. I regret not meeting Bob Marley in person. Even now I have a poster with his phase “love the life you live, live the life you love”. I love a lot of his songs; they are so inspiring. He is worldwide known, his words and his music touched so many people.
Cyril: I would say of course Nelson Mandela for his stance against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Also, Barak Obama as the first black US president who inspired a whole generation of people across the world – his family was from Kenya and he rose to become the first ever black president of the USA! A lot of people looked at that as a turning point, it was amazing to see. He is definitely an inspiration not just to me but also to a lot of people regardless of their race.
Pauline: Mia Angelo, Nina Simon, Billy Holiday, Meghan Markle. All are phenomenal women, who speak their truth, unapologetically. Always with grace. Mohammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Dwayne Brooks, all saw their fair share of controversy but overcame it. Filled their lives and doing their own thing. Why is all that history compressed into one month? It should be celebrated every day of the year. The action of it came for a meaningful place, learning, knowledge is always good thing.