I wrote this article back in 2017 for TimeOut’s My London Story segment however it never got published – for whatever reason. I also realised looking back at the correspondence with the journalist – I only chased it up once. Once! Now I’m in the role of editor at My Soho Times I know how much I appreciate it when people show initiative by chasing up responses – most of the time it isn’t being ignore intentionally. I’m genuinely juggling so many things an email could slip by…
Anyway, here’s my London Story on Diversity Matters (back in a time when I was more hopeful about race equality then I am today).
Kai on Diversity Matters: I was born in Croydon to Ghanaian parents, and I now live in central London. I grew up speaking Ga as a second language at home. My passion for experiencing different cultures has taken me around the world through self-funded projects, including a trip to Japan documenting Africans living in Tokyo, and most recently supporting a project in Uganda which protects people with Albinism. Despite my many travels, London is always home.
The façade of London’s diversity often makes it challenging to question if diversity exists beyond a shallow exterior. Whilst approximately 40% of London is Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME), this isn’t reflected in various sectors such as education, media, corporate work environments.
Who are the people in management? Who are the decision makers, policy influencers? Who is represented in the media, advertising?
It wasn’t until my second year at university that I started to ask these questions when I saw a Student’s Union poster of my sabbatical officers which wrote; “Who represents you?” and thought – none of you do because none of you look like me.
Through my activism at university, I started using the hashtag #DiversityMatters to raise awareness and understanding that diversity is also about giving those who are most marginalised and who happen to fit into the BAME category, an equal starting point. With the support of staff members and senior management I was able to organise events and workshops which interactively addressed race.
One of biggest obstacle I face is getting people to understand why we have to talk about race. We can’t hide from the fact that race plays a dominate role in the political and social fabric of our society. Diversity Matters is a platform where race matters can be discussed in safe spaces through honest and open dialogue, which I’ve been able to do by curating workshops and Diversity Matters Awareness Week/Day, as well as an art exhibition and a film. On one hands it’s disheartening to know that in 2017 there is still racism and discrimination in our societies, however what keeps me going is knowing that there are people who want to address this and support to create equal opportunities for everyone.
One of my achievements range from being recognised by HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) in their final report for innovative engagement, to acquiring funding for Diversity Arts Project; a scheme which gave 16 emerging artists from diverse backgrounds the chance to gain enterprise skills. Through a series of workshops, the artists got to create their own works, and gain experience selling their products at Camden Market last summer.
For the future, I’m looking to extend Diversity Matters into various sectors which need the services of Diversity Matters. I can’t do it alone however, so the plan is to collaborate with people who are passionate about promoting diversity to facilitate workshops here in the UK, and across Europe, where there’s a growing multi-cultural presence. In our current political situation, Brexit and the Trump Presidency, this is the time to promote unity and empathy in the UK and beyond.
The next Diversity Matters workshop ‘BAME allyship’ at ThoughtWorks Soho, 3rd April 2017.
Diversity Matters needs a new CEO and management team to run the platform as a fully fledged business! If you’re passionate about promoting diversity and you aren’t afraid of addressing the elephant in the room – race(!) we’d love to hear from you. Please include an introduction letter/email and why you’re suitable for the role plus a CV to firstname.lastname@example.org with new management in the subject.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below! Hope you’re all keeping safe and well during these turbulent times.