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In this spotlight article we are shining a light on Common Call grantee, Equality 4 Black Nurses.
Many Black and Ethnic Minority nurses have long experienced racism and discrimination in their work, with conversations of their experiences typically shared in private. In 2019 it was reported that 17 per cent of nurses experienced workplace discrimination and racism, from their manager, team leader and sometimes colleagues. This percentage rose by 1.3 per cent from the previous year and has been on the rise every year (WRES 2019 & 2020 report).
As infection rates of COVID climbed throughout 2020, along with the rapid rate at which people were being hospitalised, many nurses stepped forward to help contain the virus. From student nurses being drafted in early to assist as well as retired nurses, numerous heroic healthcare professionals put their own lives at risk in order to save the hundreds of thousands of lives endangered by this little understood virus. Shockingly, many of these selfless professionals were on the receiving end of vile racist abuse from patients and internal discrimination, while risking their lives on the frontline.
Within the wider nursing community there has a been an overwhelming response to the racism and discrimination experienced by nurses prior to and during the pandemic, with many completely fed up with their treatment. In response to this maltreatment, as well as the George Floyd murder and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, Neomi Bennett set up Equality 4 Black Nurses. The registered Nurse Practitioner founded the organisation in 2020 to ‘bring about positive change by lobbying employers and government to reduce and eradicate racial discrimination in the healthcare sector.’
Neomi tells us: “Although there are equality, diversity and inclusion measures in place within the NHS to protect nurses and patients from racism, unfortunately it seems that those people who are in charge of NHS departments lack the knowledge, expertise and insight to recognise what racism is and its impact on the individual.
Equality 4 Black Nurses has discovered the uncomfortable truth that “racism within the NHS has become embedded within the organisation’s culture and normalized so much that racist behaviours such as microaggressions, gaslighting and bullying has become part of the British healthcare institution.”
The percentage of nurses who have experienced racism and discrimination while caring for the sick during the pandemic has yet to be officially documented, but individual experiences are being reported constantly via social media and through anecdotes told in group chats. One such example is that of the daughter of a nurse, who two months ago tweeted a screengrab of racialized language used by a hiring practice nurse towards her mother. The tweet has been liked over 51 thousand times and has generated thousands of comments of support for her mum, as well as people with their own stories on how racism in the NHS has impacted their own lives. One student nurse tells of her experiences of racism from not just patients but also her lecturers.
Commenting on the incident, Neomi says: “We need accountability, and we would like to see the nurse who was responsible for the written content to be struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register and for her employers to sack her without notice for gross misconduct. They pose a risk to Black patients and in a nursing environment this could prove fatal, as their actions could be the difference between life and death for a Black patient. The measures the NHS needs to employ to protect Black nurses is to allow Equality 4 Black Nurses to deliver our tailored training package, which considers unconscious bias, microaggressions, cultural awareness and Black nurses lived experiences.”
The support that nurses such as Neomi and institutions like Equality 4 Black Nurses provide for their fellow professionals is vital, offering a safe space for nurses to share their experiences. It is essential that as a community we continue to support Black-led organisations which look after and care for those who take care of us. It is why we continue to support Black people with lived experience of key issues like this so that they can continue to tackle issues that shouldn’t be part of their working lives.
We are proud funders of Equality 4 Black Nurses and we look forward to the deeply rooted impact they will accomplish in the years to come.
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My name is Bayo, I’m Nigerian and I’ve lived in the UK for the past 19 years. For ten of those years, I have been a business person. That means I’ve seen the world that surrounds me through the following lens, “will it make money?” If you were talking about your favourite film, I was asking how much it grossed in the box office. If you were talking about fantasy football, I was asking what the subscription fee is for the app and how often you make in-app purchases.
I grew up nervous and anxious. I’d seen my African immigrant parents build and lose a business, but on the flip side, I grew up in the come-up of Facebook when a group of guys in a dorm room at Harvard University showed the rest of us that anything is possible. My mistake was assuming that everyone was on the same playing field.
I’m a big fan of Van Jones, not because I’ve watched everything he’s produced, but because I watched one specific thing and it summed up something I had been struggling to put into clear terms for a very long time. Van once told a story of his time at Harvard University saying,
“I didn’t know until I got out of Law School that people were being invited into Professors’ homes. I didn’t know that. I thought I was doing my work, raising my hand, turning things in on time. There’s a whole world that was going on where Professors were picking students and developing them to become Supreme Court clerks, and I was some black kid from a [state] school and I didn’t even know that was possible.”
That is exactly the point. While I was at Durham University, dreaming of being the next big tech startup founder to build something that took over the world, I did it based on what I thought was possible. I entered a Dragon's Den competition at my university and I came second, that got me a little bit of money, but to run a tech company, you need a lot more than £300 and a gift certificate to the school cafeteria. So, my next options were, find an angel investor like the ones on Dragon’s Den. I tried that; who knew high-net-worth individuals were so difficult to come by? My next option was to get a loan and that wasn’t an option. I was 20 with no collateral and no one that would be my amigo; no one could be my loan guarantor because no one I knew owned anything worth guaranteeing with. People say you start with family and friends, but what happens when your family and friends are just as broke as you are?
I had my own Van Jones moment when one day my white middle-class university housemate told me that her parents were giving her a large chunk of money to run her fledgeling business; just like that. In the days that followed her announcement, I felt like I was in the Matrix and I had seen the source code. After a couple of years of fighting it, I finally came to the realisation that the world I wanted to live in, one built entirely on meritocracy, didn't exist. So, one day with my company strong and present in 12 universities, with over 75 volunteer staff and over 1200 weekly users, I decided to quit. I didn’t make the decision lightly, but I did make it eventually.
I recently found out that another white middle-class undergraduate colleague that I met during that fateful Dragon’s Den competition went on to join Techstars soon after graduation - I didn’t even know things like accelerators existed then. He is now retired and enjoying the life his access to networks of knowledge and resource have been able to afford him. He had networks in tech, in the UK’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and the VC pool, and I had the Google search engines. Most people think that search engines have democratised access information, but if you don’t know which questions to ask, Google is just a reflection of your immediate circle. It's like Instagram’s algorithm; you think you’re seeing everything, but really you’re seeing about a fifth of the posts from the people you decided to follow.
Helpless to change the infrastructure in which I had to exist, I found a new dream; I would get a job, get paid and would do my best to not fly too close to the sun. A few years later, 2 Masters done, a few accolades to my name and a few new scars, I realised that the problems I had experienced in the business world were the same ones I experienced in the working world. Again, I found myself in need of help but unsure of whom to turn to; unsure whom to ask or what to ask. I felt entirely caged in. Sure that I couldn’t be the only person dealing with these issues in business or work, I began having conversations and found allies; people that wanted to access networks and opportunities that they would ordinarily not be able to reach into. I decided to turn my attention to solving that problem.
I built a community of like-minded individuals and began running events in the offices of companies like Facebook and, wouldn't you know it, Google. I was building a network of my own so that I could open that network up to other people. Despite the wealth of good intentions, the question quickly arose, “will it make money?” I got my answer when I began getting requests from three groups, startup founders in need of opportunities, corporations seeking to give more opportunities to a wider range of people and, almost out of the blue, I found that charities were also interested in addressing the diversity issue they had been seeing through their external and internal operations. There you have it.
Hence, here at Do it Now Now, we work to champion ethnic diversity in entrepreneurship, creativity and philanthropy. We develop and deliver programs and campaigns that empower and edify communities we fight for (people of Afro-Caribbean descent living in under-served communities around the world) Thankfully, it’s working out.
Do it Now Now has helped thousands of people expand their networks, form collaborations, build better businesses, form friendships and more. We’re all about opening doors, creating more seats at the table for the people that need them, and giving those people the tools to open doors and pull up chairs for others as well.