This Black History Month Marjorie Perkins, Reedham Children’s Trust Board Trustee, reflects on her experiences as a first generation Black Briton...


My parents migrated from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation invited to the UK following World War II.  I remember being told stories of the hardships they faced in settling and establishing themselves here. They told of difficulties with accommodation and challenging work environments which were made all the worse by systemic racial discrimination they encountered.  This was when I first realised what racism was.  However, thankfully they could always count on the strong support of family, friends and the wider Black community.

When I was deciding my career options I spoke to a Career Advisor, and as I told her of my aspirations I remember her response completely ignored what I had said and she made stereotypical assumptions about the type of career I should pursue based on my race,  someone whose job it was to provide me with guidance was not interested in understanding me as a person.   I felt totally unheard.  Looking back I now understand this was probably as a result of her unconscious biases and today we know a lot about how this can lead to social labelling, prejudice and injustice. When you consistently experience negative interactions, small slights and irritations can build up to undermine your confidence and inevitably take a toll.  So much so that it can become a struggle to counter it on an individual basis and affect your ability to do your best.

 

Understanding the impact this can have on young people has led to me working with a number of  charities to mentor young people over the last 18 years.  I believe it is my duty to pass on the lessons I have learnt and to play my part in advocating for young people to get access to early educational and career support to develop the resilience and skills they need to be successful.

 

Times have changed in many ways for the better since my parents first arrived in the UK, but the fact of the matter is that we are still facing big issues with under-representation of black people at all levels in British society.  That is why Black History Month is such an important time to celebrate progress  but also to educate ourselves on the issues and continue to push for change for the next generation.

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