Black with a capital B | What our history means to us

Culture

Black History Month is well underway, a month to observe, highlight and celebrate Black people’s contributions and achievements; past and present. Senior Research & Insight Analyst Sabrina John-Baptiste took this time to have open and honest conversations with Black members of the London office, on the importance of Black History Month and what it means for brands.

Is Black History Month important to you?
How Black History Month is perceived and celebrated within the Black community varies, with some seeing it as a time to get together and celebrate our rich culture.

Vanessa Tafi, Research & Insights Executive:
“I was raised to understand why this month is important. It is nice to get with other Black people and celebrate our Blackness, especially given the racism we face. It is a form of resistance against racism.”

For others, it’s a time of reflection, reflecting on our hardships to appreciate our triumphs.

Michael Ubani, Junior Designer:
“It allows us to see the importance of knowing where we’ve come from, the struggles, the triumphs, the highs and lows, the wins and the losses, of the people that have left a legacy for us, whilst we (in the present) leave behind a legacy for the next generation.”

Ife Olonade, Associate Project Manager:
“It reminds me that we should be celebrated. A lot of the history we remember is one of two things; slavery or the American Civil Rights Movement… it’s not a full representation of Black History or Black British History.”

And acknowledging our influences across mainstream society.

Salwa Ajaratu Isha Rogers, Senior Writer:
“It is important in the sense that it’s nice to see Black History, culture and influence receive the recognition it deserves, as Black culture influences everything from pop culture to music, food and more.”

What is it that you love about your background and culture?
There are many nuances within the Black culture, from traditions, cuisines and fashion, but one thing we all share is that sense of community.

Sabrina John-Baptiste:
“I love the overall laid-back attitude that Caribbean people have, our more relaxed outlook on life, especially living in London where there are so many stresses. I love our music, food and that family/community feel. We just know how to have a good time!”

Vanessa Tafi:
“Everything!  The food, the clothes, the traditions around family (weddings, being pregnant, having children).”

Salwa Ajaratu Isha Rogers:
“The food, the music, the people, the inside jokes, the hall parties, the community spirit.”

Savannah Yvonne Allen, Talent Resourcer:
“I personally love the food, the dancing and the music that has birthed from Jamaican culture. I am blessed to be enriched and knowledgeable about my background – my culture is a major part of my identity and I love that it provides me with a sense of home.”

Which brands and content creators do you resonate with?
Seeing people who look like us being unapologetically themselves, navigating life, and showing their path to success, is why representation matters.

Ife Olonade:
Just Geen, Nella Rose, Tolly T, Simply Sayo, Annie Drea, Lydia Dinga. All these women are unapologetically themselves.”

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Michael Ubani:
“Lydia Dinga. Love her content!! Her content is 100% excellent. She really thinks about the content she creates and delivers. I also feel it comes across as genuine, honest and real, especially when she is giving you reviews on brands. Gives you a nice engaging walk through life.”

Sabrina John-Baptiste:
Simply Sayo touches on many cultural moments within the Black community and shares our frustrations in a funny and unique way.”

For brands the sentiment is similar, being unapologetic and authentic in their marketing, showing a true understanding of our culture, which is what we resonate with. We want to feel seen!

Salwa Ajaratu Isha Rogers:
“Footasylum – because they give as much as they take from the culture. They’re unapologetic in their use of Black creators and they use Black creators ALL year round, not just for Black History Month.”

Ife Olonade:
Boots, GymShark, ASOS – these are just a few brands that are actively trying to be inclusive in their marketing all year round. Highlighting influencers, content creators and the like as well as paying them accordingly! The representation, not just in the Black community but across all, seems authentic.

Savannah Yvonne Allen:
“Covermark – This is a camouflage make-up brand, their products provide coverage for birthmarks, scars or discolourations. I have vitiligo and so I resonate with this brand because it has helped boost my confidence and be less conscious of the discolouration patches on my face and body. I’ve used this brand for coverage and UV protection ever since I was prescribed it at about 10.”

What do you think brands should avoid when marketing to Black consumers?
There is plenty of evidence of brands missing the mark with lazy attempts of hoping to be seen as inclusive, falling into the same traps when tapping into Black culture.

Andy Dawes, Senior Creative:
“We’re not a monolith, we don’t just hang out in barbershops, live in Peckham, eat jollof and watch Top Boy. Please avoid stereotypes.”

Vanessa Tafi:
“Forgetting about us throughout the year. Picking Black people to feature in ads and content because they’re Black… not because they are talented.”

Salwa Ajaratu Isha Rogers:
“Avoid assuming that one Black person can speak for all. There are Black people from so many different parts of the world and there are so many sub-cultures within Black culture itself. Avoid trying to appropriate certain words or vernacular because you think that’s what will appeal to a Black audience.”

Our advice to brands
Listen, learn and collaborate! Our history and talents should be acknowledged outside of the month of October.

Sabrina John-Baptiste:
“Use Black creators, editors, and designers when marketing to us or at least make sure they are in the room! Make sure not to whitewash research on content ideas and strategies.”

 Ife Olonade:
“Put your ear to the streets, listen to what the people want, ask questions and bring it to fruition.”

Kyle Green, Midweight Designer:
“Whatever they learn from the month should be included and taken forward all year round, with more inclusivity for everyone of all shapes, sizes and palettes please.”

Andy Dawes:
“Focus on showing the surprise spaces Black people inhabit; like everyone else the unexpected places are far more interesting.”