Features | 29 Oct 2021

Proud to Be: Vodafone celebrates Black History Month with special guests

Celebrities and role models joined the company to recognise the contribution of Black British history and to help inspire further change in the future.

From Adesayo ‘Simply.Sayo’ Talabi, the journalist and tech founder who’s spoken-word poetry went viral during lockdown, to British & Irish Lions rugby star Maro Itoje, speakers from across the UK enthusiastically shared their stories with Vodafone employees throughout October to celebrate Black History Month.

“I’m so proud of my Nigerian-British identity; it’s the lens through which I see the world, the way I navigate my life – I really can’t emphasise it enough,” smiled Maro, opening the UK-wide webinar.

“I’m proud of our history, values and traditions, and the contribution we’ve made to this country and across the world…and I’m even more excited by what the future holds!”

In a separate discussion, influencer Adesayo echoed Maro’s thoughts: “By being true to myself online, my followers are not only interested in my content, but also me and what I care about.”

Tragically, Adesayo lost her sister to Sickle cell disease, which is particularly common in people of African or Caribbean descent. @Simply.Sayo decided to use her platform to raise awareness and to help others battling the disease.

As well these important messages, her poems and impressions continue to strike a chord with many across the UK. Beware the scorn of the aunty!

Throughout the month, speakers and employees alike remarked on how far society has progressed but also how much further there is to go.

“When I was young, we didn’t learn much at school other than a little on the slave trade and African-American civil rights. Now my kids come home and tell me about Black history,” laughed Horace Francis, Vodafone Senior Commercial Account Manager, while sharing his experiences growing up in England with strong Caribbean roots.

“Today, Britain is a fusion of cultures inspired by colonisation.”

Speaking on Vodafone’s own journey, which was accelerated by the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, Horace reflected: “It’s not all a bed of roses, we’ve still got a way to go, but I’m proud of how Vodafone has adapted and continues to adapt…we are a network and a company for everyone.”

Echoing the sentiments of so many throughout the month, Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam, said: “I look forward to a point in time where we go beyond the need for such a month.

“Instead, we’ll come together and continue to listen and learn simply in British history month.”

Vodafone has a number of programmes in place to improve diversity, including reverse mentoring for every member of senior management as part of it’s REACH programme – Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage.

It’s Black Professionals Network and Multicultural Inclusion Network also provide supportive communities for people to come together and share experiences.

The company promises more action in future to help create a workplace where brilliant people can be at their best.

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