Blog: Power and unity – the theme for this year’s Black History Month

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black workers and communities and it is vital to focus on challenging racism in the workplace

Black History Month 2022 graphic. Black background. UNISON logo in white at top left. October in grey capitals over 2/3 of the background, with UNISON Black members webpage url over that, in white. In the right third, the words UNISON celebrating in grey, with Black History Month below in rainbow colours

When the contribution of Black Britons to society is undervalued, overlooked, ignored or distorted so much, it’s important to keep a sharp focus on promoting a positive culture. A culture that allows learning, openness and inclusivity to flourish.

Because Black people have been a fundamental part of British history and have had a global impact since time began.

That’s also why Black History Month is so important to the trade union movement and to UNISON. The struggle for positive change in the workplace is intrinsically linked to fighting racism and discrimination and wouldn’t be possible without Black workers and Black trade unionists’ constant contribution. 

This year’s theme encourages a deeper discussion about how Black people have come together to create that change in society. And as always, it is a time to reflect on the achievements of members from the Black community. 

Britain’s Black History Month was started by Akyaaba Addi-Sebo in October 1987. When it first started there was a big focus on Black American history, but this has become less so overtime, and attention is now drawn to the contribution of Black Britons and their Black history, with key figures from across the UK becoming more prominent.

We all now know that COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on Black workers and communities – working on the front line, exposed to COVID-19 and in insecure jobs.

This only compounded widespread institutional racism, so it is vital to focus our minds on challenging racism in the workplace, by having those broader conversations about deep-rooted racism. 

I am so proud of UNISON’s work on fighting discrimination. We produced guidelines on Challenging Racism in the Workplace and continue to campaign to close the ethnicity pay gap.

We’ve supported many of our members caught up in the Windrush scandal, and those affected by the devastating impact of the hostile environment policy that’s seen migrant workers, asylum seekers, refugees and their families torn apart.

Most recently, we’ve been campaigning against the government’s Rwanda policy, adopted the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia and signed up to the Anti-Racism Charter.

UNISON will continue to be at the forefront of championing Black members’ issues and making a difference. Because powerful change can only come if we work together in unity to eradicate it.