Black History Month and the Art of Black Hair

​“I joined Cedar in 2012, having previously worked for a much smaller company. At the time I joined, I was the only Afro-Caribbean person in the business, although in the decade I’ve been here there are others who have come and gone. I work in finance and admin, alongside Cameron, who was featured in our blog during Pride week. More specifically, much of my current work is with Cedar’s contractors, checking their timesheets and organising the payroll, as well as working on credit control for our client bases. It can be demanding at times, but – and I know people might find this strange – I enjoy credit control. It’s really rewarding, forming relationships with other finance people and making sure the money comes in on time (mostly!).

“Even though I knew I would be the only black person at Cedar when I joined, this did not put me off as, having got a good feeling about the company during the recruitment process, I felt I’d fit right in. I think the fact that I’m still here ten years on suggests that I was right!

“I have never felt like my background or my culture has prevented me from being myself or progressing within the business. If anything, it has helped me grow as a person in so many ways and has brought me out of my comfort zone – which has helped me in the various positions I have worked in as my career has developed with Cedar.

“During my time here, I like to think I’ve brought a little of my culture to the company. One of the many things I would say intrigues people, especially at work, has got to be the many different hairstyles I’ve had over the years. Coiffuring African Caribbean hair is an art and I take a lot of pride in my appearance. I’ve had many, many different hairstyles, from short and curly to long and straight.I really enjoy the fact that other people in the business had not seen such styles before and they are interested in learning what goes into creating such a look. I have been happy to share my experience with them and explain my decisions to have each new style and, of course, how long the process took. It’s great to walk into the office and get a ‘wow’ of appreciation, especially when it comes from Howard (the Chief Exec). He always tells me if he thinks I’ve topped my previous best effort and has been known to take a picture and send it to his wife (I’m not sure whether this is to encourage her to try something similar…but I suspect not!).

“Black history for me means more than just BLM, the fashion, the music, etc. Black History Month is a time to reflect on how our journey as people started and the struggles and sacrifices our ancestors and our families had to make to provide a better life for themselves and us and to give us an equal chance to succeed. I’m ever so grateful for the choices that my grandparents made as without them my life could be so very different today. They came to the UK many years ago and through their dreams and hard work helped create the conditions where I and my daughter can thrive and enjoy life and all the options we have as British citizens. Black history makes me appreciate what I have and what I can achieve in this modern world: nothing’s out of reach and the sky is the limit.

“As Black History Month rolls on across October, I’ve been amazed at all the great things that are happening, not just in London but across the country. The theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness and you can access more details at the official website about this and about the wide range of events nationwide.

“Everyone’s black history experience will be different. We know what has happened in the past and still happens today. You hear and see negative stuff about black people reported in the media and, naturally, you have compassion for those on the receiving end. However, I have to say I haven’t experienced any negativity myself and racism has not, I’m pleased to say, affected our family, either at home or at work. If I did have problems I wouldn’t have stayed – as I said, I’ve just had my ten-year anniversary, so Cedar is a place I can see myself in the long term. Being here has helped me come out of my little box and integrate with all sorts of different people I wouldn’t have mixed with in my previous, day-to-day life. This drives my confidence to always be myself and to be accepted for who am, not what I am. Being confident in my skin and loving myself is very important and I believe this shines through in my character and personality. I work on the basis that my different looks are a conversation starter. Moreover, this applies to some of my colleagues’ looks as well! – and our diversity actually makes it easier for us all to get on together.

“Oh yea, you have your good days and bad days: that applies to every workplace, but in my 10 years here I’ve hardly ever had a bad day. Instead, there is a good vibe in our office and I very rarely feel down. I think that’s a positive and I really believe we need to look to the future with positivity. Without positivity, what chance do we have? We need to start with ourselves and treat others the way you’d like them to treat you if we want everyone to get to a better place.”