Black History Month celebrates the progress and achievements made by BAME communities. I was honoured to participate in two Black History Month events: the Army BAME conference and the GG2 Diversity Awards Ceremony.
Army BAME Conference
The Army BAME Conference explored the challenges BAME communities have faced in serving in the Army and the progress which has been made since in positively encouraging diversity. Author Stephen Bourne discussed his book Black Poppies which explores stories of black soldiers who served during WW1 and the challenges they faced.
We then explored the efforts made since to welcome diversity and create a more inclusive environment in the Armed Forces. The outstanding Dr Johnson Beharry VC COG, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, for saving members of his unit from two ambushes, shared his inspirational story as to how the Army saved him from a gang-culture and how he now proudly continues to serve after his VC to make a difference to others and inspire them to also make positive life choices. Further inspiration came from former Army Captain Ibrar Ali who unfortunately lost his lower right arm in Iraq yet re-trained and continued to serve, and went on to other great achievements including running a marathon on every continent to fundraise for an Armed Forces rehabilitation centre.
I shared my own journey and the challenges I sometimes faced as a female of Indian descent from a working class background. But most importantly, I shared how my limiting factors mainly came from within, but what continued to drive my ambition was those few people who inspired me, believed in me and were my role-models. The influence of positive role models is something which has stayed with me throughout my career. What a great impact we could make if we made a concerted effort to be a role-model to someone. We also heard from Retired General Colin Powell KCB, the first African-American to be appointed as US Secretary of State and how he never let his ethnicity prevent him from achieving his successes; the very epitome of a role-model.
Just from hearing the amazing speakers at this conference, members of the BAME community have made some outstanding achievements in the Armed Forces and if we were to share the benefit of our knowledge and experiences with other members of the community, we can help each other to progress together. I was pleased to hear about the progress made in accepting and encouraging diversity in the British Army, and felt proud to be serving in the Army Reserves. With greater focus on inclusion in the Armed Forces and the recent announcement that women will be able to apply for all roles in the Army, this invokes optimism that the British Army can be reflective of our truly diverse society.
In addition to the Army BAME conference, I was also honoured to present the Inspire Award, sponsored by the British Army, to Naheed Afzal, Co-Founder and Director, Contracts IT at the GG2 Leadership Awards. This was a wonderful celebration of some truly inspirational high-achieving BAME individuals. Read more about the GG2 Awards in my blog next week.