Friday, 14 October

By Cheryl Bannerman, Senior Consultant at Inner Circle Consulting


“Black is beautiful, Black is excellence. Black is pain, Black is joy. Black is evident.”

A complex mix of gratitude, sadness and hope sits deep within many Black people as we navigate our way through life. These lyrics by Streatham-born rapper Dave ring true, and particularly so when I reflect on what Black History Month means to me.

Black History Month is a celebration of how far we have come and a reminder of the work yet to be done. It is a time to honour and acknowledge contributions of the Black community across society and the sectors many of us care so much about. But the history of racial inequity remains evident in many ways and in many spaces, from the disproportionate rate of maternal mortality among Black women, to the lack of opportunities in neighbourhoods with a strong minority presence.

In my particular areas of work, representation is still a problem. I live and work in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, but the skills, talent and perspective of Black and ethnic communities are still lacking across building and planning sectors. In 2022, 82 percent of UK architects were white and 71 per cent were male. Only one per cent identify as being disabled. Cities that are designed by such an un-representative group will always struggle to meet the needs of everyone who lives in them.

As housing delivery leads, my colleagues and I have a unique opportunity to work with the communities we serve to fully understand the complexity and core of people’s needs. As an example: The UK social housing sector has a growing and diverse mix of companies providing homes to approximately nine million people. In the social rented sector alone are some 43 percent of all Black households. We’re all working to provide the most basic of requirements – warmth, security and safety. And that should mean that we represent in our work an understanding of what that looks like for everyone, in every community, so that everyone feels properly connected to the place they call home.

There are templates to follow, if the challenge feels too big to know where to start. The Mayor of London’s Good Growth by Design Plan sets out a clear call to action to ‘accelerate efforts to make the built environment professions and our work more representative of our city’s diversity’. The paper sets out guidance on how to set standards and inform delivery, ensure and commission quality, build capacity and support diversity.

Black History Month is an invitation for all, regardless of colour or creed, to join in the ongoing celebration of Blackness and the efforts of so many proactively making a difference for the benefit of others.

Black History Month is also a reminder that the level of admiration, effort and solidarity shown during this month should remain consistent the entire year.

Consider the space in which you operate and ask if it is a true reflection of the society we live in. Consider what you can do this month and every month to advocate for and uplift those who often remain marginalised.

As for me – I continue to stress the importance of representation across all industries and at all levels of work. I want to ensure that there is always someone speaking up for the many who are often forgotten.