After finishing the judging day for the Black British Business Awards back in early July, I found myself thinking ‘what’s happening here’?
We received hundreds of nominations, highlighting the excellent work being done and diversity of talent across all of the UK industries including media, professional services, healthcare, retail. The judges were amazed at the calibre of people who had been nominated by themselves or their workplaces and peers; men and women at the top of their profession, and rising stars who are clearly going places.
But how many of you know that they exist? Why do we not know about these people, why aren’t we hearing their stories, and why don’t we see these people reflected on our television and movie screens?
Recently there has been a slew of press telling us that the UK is “hemorrhaging black and Asian actors to the US”. In her recent interview with the Guardian, the remarkable actress Sophie Okonedo said that she has “to go across the Atlantic to get work”. Our stories are not being told here, we are not being represented in the fullness of our reality.
And this is why it is time to stop being humble and to start telling your story. We can each do our part by making sure people know who we are and what we do. Help them understand that we come in all forms and guises.
I know it’s hard. I can barely tell people what I do in one sentence, much less go on about it for any given period. I cringe at thought of brandishing any accolade or accomplishment. However, I’ve come to realise that this is not about me or my feelings.
This may sound counter-intuitive but this is not about you.
It’s not about any delusions of grandeur that you may have. This is about your responsibility to represent yourself to your fullest, and to make sure that everyone knows what you are about and what you are doing. This is about changing the landscape on a micro-level, bit by bit, everyday, and changing stereotypes and mind sets as we go along. Its time to stop hiding behind our humility, because in doing that, we are doing ourselves and our communities a disservice, no matter what community we are from.
Our story has evolved, no longer is it excusable to be one dimensional in some of the most popular UK shows.
The argument is that media can be both a reflection and a projection of society at large, but in no way do I see the excellent people that I have the privilege of meeting each day.
So if the reality has changed, and if there are so many actors coming to the fore saying they cannot find work, where is the disconnect?
This is where I look to the storytellers, the scriptwriters, the producers of content, the journalists. A simple search on Google turns up experts of every cast and creed so the media outlets have no excuse. Our definition of beauty has expanded exponentially in the last few years, so there is no excuse. The wealth of our planet has also expanded in the last few years, so there is no excuse.
As well as looking at the powers of big business and media companies, I’m looking at myself and saying, what can I do, for my place in the world…
Shout your accomplishments from the rooftops, tell people your story, your journey. Put yourself out there. Because for now, we are ambassadors of our communities and our countries, and it is not about you. When you hide your light under a bushel, you are doing all of us a disservice.
Melanie Eusebe is the chair/co-founder of the Black British Business Awards