To celebrate black history we asked some of our community about their personal perspective and what BHM means to them. The first in this series is Chloe Doger de Speville.
1. Tell me a bit about you and your background
I was born in the Seychelles and moved to London when I was six. Being dual heritage can mean you are never really part of one side, and sometimes when I say, “I’m black,” I get a couple of raised eyebrows. I am proud to be British and black; the Seychelles hold my roots and is my home away from home. All my experiences growing up led me to write my dissertation on the experience of modern mixed heritage individuals in the UK. I am immensely proud of this piece of work and worked solidly for a year interviewing people and filling the void in primary data on this subject. I graduated with a first class degree and I remain committed to the subject matter: whether it be social justice, intersectional feminism or people in general. This is possibly what drew me to recruitment, due to the people-facing aspect of the job.
2. Why is it important we celebrate black history month, this October and always?
I think what makes black history special is that we are celebrating the positive parts of history, the impactful parts and acknowledging current achievements. I think sometimes it is very easy to go down one narrative of what black history is but it doesn’t take too much to realise that it’s so rich with so many artists, scholars, engineers, doctors and the list goes on. I think particularly for black youth, representation is so important; they need to see influential black people, how far they have come and what they’ve achieved, as this will inspire future generations to continue on, with this positive message and legacy. As shared in our D&I forum the quote from Shirley Chisholm “if they don’t give you a seat at the table bring a folded chair” still resonates. There are so many metaphorical tables in various industries and various parts of society where black people still have to bring their own fold up chair to the table, to carve out a name for themselves and make history. Everyone needs to know their names.
3. Who has been an inspiration to you?
I am a huge believer that your inspiration comes from your environment, so firstly I need to talk about my mum. She speak five languages, is so proud of her heritage, has traveled around the world and eventually decided that the Seychelles was too small and that we would just have to come over here and make a new life. Her bravery is amazing, she has owned the show. I don’t give her enough credit for being more than just my mum, for being this strong black woman.
For other role models I have consciously made more of an effort to find my inspiration in people who look like me or have had similar experiences to me. Recently I have looked to influential women, whether that’s social activists or social influencers. I am a massive fan of Viola Davies; an award-winning actor and has achieved countless accolades in her field. I also follow Patricia Bright closely who started as a very regular girl, but has since carved out a way for black women in the mainstream beauty industry. She’s remained authentic with her massive following, which I think is important because we need to look up to and feel inspired by role models that are just 100% real. I try to fill my life with that type of positivity and inspiration, most recently it’s been pivotal to balance out some of the atrocities black people have been facing all around the world.
4. Is there an unknown/underrated story or person that you think everyone should know about?
I want to recommend something I have been listening to on Audible called ‘In Search of Black History with Bonnie Greer’*1, which starts with the first humans up until now and it just gives you a different understanding of black history in Britain, in an easy to listen to way.
I also think everyone should know Kimberle Crenshaw*2. She is an American scholar who coined the term ‘intersectionality’, which is a theory that describes the way people are discriminated against, for example, a black man won’t be discriminated against in the same way as a black woman because of the different layers to that discrimination. I used this theory predominantly in my degree and I think that it’s hugely important to acknowledge that everyone’s struggle takes very different forms. For example, my best friend is white and we have grown up together. She says, ‘I don’t see you as any different to how I am’ but recently having become an actively engaged ally, she recognises how our experiences differ. I know if I was ever cat-called by a man she could relate how that might feel but when I have had instances of racism it’s not something she could understand so it’s just about having conversations and opening up that dialogue and listening without judging.
5. For you, what part of history needs a different perspective?
I think that the thing about history is you can’t rewrite it, I do however feel that massive amounts of progression have been made over the last few months with BLM and D&I. Society can take hold of the history that is happening right now and let more than one perspective and narrative be heard.
There is something powerful about hearing a marginalised voice speak up. If you think about the dark periods of history, education has been the key to unlocking it. The atrocities of concentration camps are something that we rightly still talk about and which is taught in schools but I don’t think that would deter a Jewish person from going to Germany on holiday, would it? There is a distinction between the past and the present. Whereas for me and likely for many other black/ ethnic minority people, we will still Google for example ‘is Croatia safe for black people?’, ‘top racist countries that women might want to avoid’. Many parts of the world still haven’t evolved from their history and racism is still very real and present. I saw a LinkedIn post from a black female in the US explaining how her and her wife had to drive all night because they couldn’t stop down south and refill their car. I just thought how is this acceptable and still happening?
6. Rule of 6, who would be the 5 to join you at a celebration for BHM
Jane has been a solid ally and social activist for over 50 years. As a teacher in 1968 she did a class experiment, where she separated blue eyes and brown eyes to demonstrate that if she treated children with brown eyes better than the children with blue eyes, they would emulate her behaviour. The experiment has been replicated many times since and will always achieve the same outcome. She also did lectures where she asked students if they would feel comfortable being treated the same way as black students and when no white person put their hand up, it again just acknowledges the racial inequalities out there. I find it so admirable that she used her privilege to ask difficult questions about why everyone isn’t talking about racism in this modern age and why we aren’t doing more.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Meghan from way back. Not only would she bring top-notch wine and food for our BHM celebration but I’m also interested in what she has to say. Her experience as an American bi racial individual in the British media is quite interesting and really shines a light on how far we still have to go to achieve equality.
I have only recently become a Star Wars fan because I love how they have rebranded such a timeless classic with a modern voice and, like I said, representation matters so much. It was really something special being able to take my little brother to the cinema, and for him to see someone who looks like our family on that massive screen.
My Dad gave me his book to read 4 years ago and I still haven’t read it, so would love to hear it from him.
I would pick someone that doesn’t have a name but who has done me wrong, whether it be a racist comment or has done something that made me feel uncomfortable. I would want them to be at the table to celebrate and enjoy all the amazing conversations that we would have, open their eyes, and to educate them.
We thank Chloe for her personal perspective and supporting our commitment to listen and learn by sharing her narrative.
*To learn more about the people and theories in this article please follow the links below:
1. Audible book
2. Kimberle Crenshaw: Intersectionality
3. Jane Elliott: Blue Eyes/ Brown Eyes
4. John Boyega