Marking Black History Month with Ronique Samuel

Hello my name is Ronique Samuel, and I am a Senior People Advisor in the Trust. I am a Vincentian as I was born in the beautiful Caribbean Island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Other Vincentians or Caribbean colleagues in the Trust would be familiar with the term ‘Vincy’ which is often used when referring to a person born or naturalised as Vincentian.

The Caribbean is known as a paradise for its beautiful scenery, sun, sea, sand; the people are welcoming and friendly. Each island in the Caribbean has a unique culture/way of life such as food, music, the way we speak (our accents or colloquial terms used). This is influenced by the numerous people who settled on the islands. This has been shaped by it’s African, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English colonial heritage. The famous film Pirates of the Caribbean was partially filmed in my home country. Our Christmas celebration is unique as we have a festival called nine mornings. Nine mornings before Christmas, locals awake at 4am to partake in concerts mainly in our capital city, this also include cultural performances such as folk songs, fun games, and other activities as part of the celebration.

Growing up I had the leisure of living where many people aspire or have travelled for a vacation; our grenadines islands such as Mustique and Bequia have been frequently visited by the Royal Family. In 2015, I decided to migrate to the UK. As we are a tropical country, with sunshine almost throughout the entire year (except during the hurricane season), a lot of individuals have asked why did you move here? This was primarily to join my husband who is in the Royal Navy, hopefully this is a good enough reason to be missing the sunshine and being away from most of my family, but I do visit to soak up the sunshine and to stay connected to my culture. 

Since coming to the UK my fixed abode has always been Plymouth. Similarly, to other black individuals living in Plymouth, it was challenging to find the variety of food which I would normally cook, even a hair dresser visit to be pampered was no longer a leisure when I came to Plymouth as it was onerous to find a hair stylist with the knowledge or skillset for my hair type which isn’t the case in more diverse cities such as London, Bristol or Manchester. I was fortunate enough to network with others from the Caribbean through the Royal Navy Commonwealth Network Group. It was a chance to bond, enjoy Caribbean food and speak our Caribbean dialect, a chance to miss the place we call home together.

Since living in Plymouth, I have had some wonderful experiences here as the people are generally friendly in Plymouth. I have formed new friendships and I enjoy some of the traditional British foods such as the full English breakfast, roast dinner, afternoon tea (although I avoid the debate about whether scones should have the jam or cream first) and the famous fish and chips, just to name a few. Although, I have experience racism both directly and indirectly; however, our individual and collective voices are being heard to change the society we live in or work environment. Like, Martin Luther King, I also have a dream that someday our society would be free of prejudice and discrimination across all races; this is something I aspire especially for the sake of the future generation.

Personally, Black History Month is a time to reflect on the progress we have made both in the workplace, our schools, and the wider society both in Plymouth and nationally. There are many lived experiences which are a reminder of the resilience of the black community in terms of overcoming obstacles. As I am of Caribbean heritage, I am specifically interested in spreading awareness about the challenges faced by the Windrush Generation, natives from the Caribbean who were invited to the UK to help with rebuilding Britain after the Second World War due to labour shortage, this was during an era where systemic racism was prevalent.

Fortunately, for individuals like me, there is an Equality Act 2010 and race is one of the protected characteristics; this along with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity agenda combined with our policies and the expected behaviour which should align with the Trust values have empowered people to speak up about discrimination, bias, or any racism in the workplace. However, it must be recognised that our society as whole and the Trust have a long way ahead, but I feel reassured as we are taking steps in the right direction. Happy Black History Month 2023.

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