DEAR YOUNG PEOPLE EVERYWHERE
14th July 2021.
Words by Isabel Appio. Photography by Clay Banks.
Diversity & Inclusion has been in the forefront of discussions since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. But what does it actually mean? How can we nowadays truly embody and push forward Diversity & Inclusion in everything we do?
Brands, business rally around D&I tables. Is it real? Is it long-lasting? And most of all, will it bring the change we desperately need? British Journalist Isabel Appio is answering these questions in her essay for DEAR NOAH.
Dear young people everywhere,
Forty years ago, as young, rookie journalists on the pioneering Black British press, we campaigned collectively for equality and opportunity across every sector – no corner was left untouched.
We clamoured for equality and opportunity in our own field, the Media, (especially the BBC), Fleet Street, Arts, Theatre, Film, in the City, FTSE CEO’s, Business & Finance, Self Enterprise, in Local and Central government, in the uniformed and frontline services - Army, RAF, Police, Fire, at Universities, Galleries and Museums, the National Health Service (NHS). Even the Unions were under scrutiny with their scarcity of BIPOC leaders. We initiated campaigns to see a Black ballerina in Swan Lake at the Royal Ballet, black students at RADA, more Black (especially male) teachers, engineers, land-based careers – careers in built environment and construction and we even recruited black pilots into national airlines.
As we shared rickety typewriters with worn out ink ribbons and wrote into the night fuelled by passion, outrage and free roti and soul juice provided by our local takeaway, we welcomed slow but incremental progress.
That was then. Now the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) industry is very big, highly lucrative business. Ten decades on, we have seen countless eye-wateringly costly audits (often by global Accountancy and capital-linked firms), Funding Opportunities, Surveys, Diversity Reports, Diversity Initiatives, Benchmarking, Training Consultancies, Workshops, Awards, Conferences and even Summits. Not forgetting Diversity Targets (sometimes unaccountable and never met) Diversity Directives (seldom implemented), Best Practice and Business Tracking and Tool kits. All common place.
Yet, we ask the D&I Industry - How’s That Working for You? How is it that of the we often have the same conversations that we had in the offices during the emerging Black press back in 70s? How is it that BIPOC millennials and the younger generation coming up after them - are still having the same conversations about lack of opportunity and representation?
No doubt we have seen positive shifts – but fundamental structures remains stubbornly and firmly in place. Often those professing commitment to Diversity – check the “Who We Are” section of their corporate site and you will often see a list of clones in charge. Many of those old filters which block progress are still going strong. The gatekeepers still hold the key and the purse strings to power and accessibility.
The murder of, George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the subsequent collective outpouring and global resurgence of the BLM movement marks a point in history where talk is so tired and so cheap that real change is the only currency that counts.
So to those of you children and young people who were not born in the 70s don’t forget to look way back and beyond to advance your personal and collective Self-leadership, Self-empowerment, Self-determination. No more Diversity Groundhog Day.
Things will can and will be different from now on.
Isabel Appio is an established publisher based in London, UK championing self-empowerment and self-led creative enterprise primarily for under-represented young people and marginalised women. Isabel worked at the forefront of the pioneering 70s/80s Black British press and founded Britain’s first black broadsheet newspaper – The Weekly Journal. Isabel founded 100% Thrive to advance young, global talent in Arts & Culture, Start-ups, Coworking & the New Economy 4.0. Isabel has collaborated for over 4 decades with an extensive range of leading private and public sector organisations, local and central government, charities and educational institutions to promote Equality and real access to opportunity.