Formerly known as BAME Recruitment

28 Oct 2022

Diversity Lens - Issue 148

This week we'd like to conclude Black History Month by focusing on some recent successes for the black community. Positive news attracts very little coverage at the moment, you might even be forgiven for thinking there isn't any. And we very rarely see positive press around communities of colour.

Moreover, with many of us glued to our screens, the flood of negative content can affect our mental wellbeing. So this week, we encourage you to put existential woes aside for a couple minutes. Black culture in the UK, we believe, is slowly becoming less associated with its relation to systematic oppression and more inspired by optimism, progress, and success stories. We hope you get a small dose of joy from our stories this week.
 
Podcast: Working Hard Hardly Working

How Finding Your Niche Will Help You Defeat The Odds With Sharmadean Reid MBE

Grace Beverley sits down with Sharmadean Reid MBE to discuss her impressive and dedicated career journey. Sharmadean is not only a driven and innovative entrepreneur, but a champion in creating safe spaces for women to speak out about their own experiences.

Sharmadean shares her experience of growing three impressive start-ups, including the digital platform ‘Beauty Stack’ and We Aren’t Hoes (WAH) Nails. She went on to become just one of ten female founders to secure venture capital funding in the last decade for her latest venture, The Stack. You'll finish this episode feeling truly inspired.

 
STORY OF THE WEEK
Ep. 1 - How Black Models Broke Through The Glass Ceiling
 

Vogue trace the cultural history of the black model in fashion, moving from the token black girl to being fully embraced by the scene. Journalist Marcellas Reynolds, whose book this series is based on, goes as far to say “the history of the black model is actually the history of the black person in the United States”.

The first in this six-part series looks at the trailblazers who led the way. Donyale Luna got scouted as a teen and became the first black model on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar - readers cancelled subscriptions, companies pulled their ads. Undeterred, she took the front cover of British Vogue next. 

Ebony magazine and Ebony Fashion Fair were hugely instrumental in inspiring new generations.

Their runway shows brought high fashion, and black models, into everyday, accessible life. The door was now ajar for black models, but predominantly light-skinned black women - a colourism we still see today. “We are a beautiful diaspora, black women have more DNA on this planet than anyone else, we look a million different ways”.

Naomi Sims was groundbreaking to the world of fashion and the wider world. As a dark-skinned, natural haired black model, she was the first on a cover of a magazine that 14 million homes received.

Vogue traces these steppingstones of how one pioneering black model inspired another in a powerful chain that truly demonstrates the impact of representation.

 
IN OTHER NEWS
Mercury Prize: Little Simz Wins For Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Little Simz's fourth album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, received the Mercury Prize. The award, which carries a cash payout of £25,000, is given to the year's best British or Irish album. Earlier in 2019, she received a nomination for her third album, Grey Area. The BBC 6 Music poll and the Guardian's list of the best albums of 2021 both ranked Sometimes I Might Be Introvert at the top. Simz won best new artist at the Brit Awards in February, which was her first significant award of the year before winning the Mercury.

The Incredible Story Behind One Of The First Black Hair Salons In London

The first Caribbean immigrants were told to bring their afro-hair tools and products with them, because there wouldn't be any salons that could take care of their hair in Britain. In 1955, Carmen Maingot established the country's first salon for black women. A few years later, the well-known Trinidadian pianist Winifred Atwell, the first black musician on UK charts, opened The Winifred Atwell Salon in Brixton after fans wrote to her desperately asking where she got her hair done. Atwell made a lasting impact, teaching white hairdressers how to treat black hair, and even developing new products and make-up to match black skin tones. 

Despite there being just 314 salons in the UK today specialising in afro hair styling, the powerful tradition is carried on by African braiders and a growing black entrepreneurship. 





British Language Is Shifting, Is Code-Switching Becoming A Thing Of The Past?
Code switching refers to switching linguistic codes according to the social setting or context. However, we're seeing growing acceptance of specific cultural vernaculars merging into the mainstream. Black British sayings and references are more prevalent than ever, however often respect of the cultural heritage is lost along the way. Take the Jamaican word "wagwan" for instance, which gained popularity but has also been ridiculed by the media and wider society.

Still, the cultural impact has been clear, and linguistics researcher Dr Calbert Graham says: “More Black people are beginning to assert their identity, by refusing to conform to these cultural norms." Codeswitching may also be used as a tool to protect your own culture, that is "gluttonously absorbed" by white Brits.
Black Panther 2 ‘Delivers the Goods’ And is Set For Huge Opening Weekend
On 11 November, the Black Panther sequel will be released in UK theatres. It is projected to bring in about £156 million in 2022. Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, set box office records in 2018 with global sales of almost £896 million. It was the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time and the highest-grossing movie by a black director. Its captivating story line and largely black cast helped the first movie become a cultural landmark. Will the sequel retain this position? 
 
WORK SPHERE
Mastercard Teams Up With Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to Spotlight Small Business Superheroes
The collaboration aims to spotlight black excellence on and off the screen. The "Wakanda-inspired" ad campaign features 'Comma Bookstore & Social hub' and its founder Egypt Otis, pictured as a superhero inspiring her young customers. 
The Mastercard campaign is part of a larger $500 million commitment to closing the racial wealth and economic gap in the U.S. “To serve as the face of possibility for aspiring Black women and young girls makes me feel like a superhero of sorts", Otis says.
John Lewis Chair Sharon White Tops List of Influential Black Britons
The annual Powerlist provides professional role models for young people of African and African Caribbean heritage. This year, Dame Sharon White is named most influential. She was the first ever female chair of John Lewis Partnership; the first woman – and the first black person – as chief exec of Ofcom; and was also one of the most powerful people in Whitehall when overseeing spending cuts. Other Brits honoured on the list include Michaela Coel, Sir Lenny Henry, and Stormzy.

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