TOSIN AIYEYOMI, LILIAN MAINGI, AISHA ALI
Black Voices Matter in PR
BLACK VOICES MATTER IN PR
The first conversations about this journal began after George Floyd’s very public killing on 25th May 2020.
The extraordinary global outcry that followed his death has led millions to reflect on the impact of race and racism in different environments and to campaign for change.
With so many parallels in race relations between the US and many other Western societies, this became a worldwide moment for industries and institutions to reflect on their role in creating a fairer, more equal society.
Beginning in Black History Month, this series, Black Voices Matter In PR, seeks to examine the stories of those working in public relations in the UK from a Black perspective.
The series is a combination of both stories of lived experience and an outline of the changes within the industry that the contributors would like to see. It is the responsibility of the entire UK PR industry as a whole to remove these obstacles and open itself up to diversity and inclusivity.
There are many other voices that could have been included and influential organisations in this conversation, so this series also represents a story that is by no means complete.
Resolving systemic issues will require a system-wide approach. It will need to improve opportunities for entry into the industry, for internship, for mentoring, development, promotion and leadership, and finally a recognition of the need for a cultural shift in workplaces.
This is part of a process that will mean engaging decision-makers deliberately and systematically. It will never be a matter of waving a wand, but purpose and intention can go a long way.
I grew up in the Eastlands of Nairobi and moved to the UK at the age of 15. After working in international development for a short time, I sought a change and stumbled into public relations, a career I was immediately enthralled by. In many ways, I share experiences that many others will describe in this series.
I’m so grateful to be here, for such a time as this. We are on the cusp of change, and I’m joining in to raise up my voice and tell of our stories and experiences. These are the shared experiences of many, and yet so much remains unsaid. Until that is, we are able to give time and chance to hear from each other.
My hope: I hope that we can pause to really hear from each other and look inwardly before all else. It is only from this point of honest self-reflection, that we can create sustainable change, moving past a tokenistic, surface level response to Black experience, and/or denial of the reality of them.
I’ve always been thankful for my upbringing in Birmingham, which I believe to be one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in the UK. It was a childhood that allowed me to develop friendships across all races and religions, a deep appreciation of a multi-cultural community, and a strong self-identity. After studying Colonialism and Post-Colonialism at the University of Birmingham I was drawn towards public relations after seeing a campaign by Dove in the US, which appeared to turn a Black woman white. I felt strongly there should have been someone in the room to warn them the way they did things might not be perceived well by a minority group. It was a response that has helped set the trajectory for my career. I’ve always felt it is a privilege to be able to consider life from three perspectives, that of being Black, a Muslim, and a woman. It’s a privilege that also enables me to empathise and help consider the struggles of others.
My hope: My hope is for us to not lose sight of the importance of inclusivity, without it there is no diversity, regardless of how many different people are in the room.
I came to the UK from Nigeria as a young girl alongside with my mother, who worked in the NHS as a nurse. An only child, I had an amazing upbringing in Goodmayes, East London, where I was a voracious reader and often found myself becoming the most outspoken person in the class. After school, I regularly had extra tuition with my grandmother, a former head teacher, who encouraged me to be studious.
For years, I had the sense of being in the majority. It was after heading to Manchester University to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Law that I realised the balance in many other places was very different. Subsequently, I began to learn how to navigate ‘majority white spaces’ while always being conscious of trying to overcome Imposter’s syndrome.
My hope: The industry becomes a true representation of the society we live in today – one that is truly inclusive and accommodating to everyone, despite their background.