Meet Laurence for Black History Month

2 weeks ago Thu 8th Oct 2020

We’re delighted to support initiatives such as Black History Month to help encourage a sharing of experiences and culture. BHM gives us chance to focus on and celebrate the contribution of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in our society and develop our understanding of Black history in general. Every week during October we will be focusing on a different Reading Buses employee and their experiences – starting with Laurence, our Finance Director.

Laurence's story 

"I grew up in inner city Birmingham to a White-British mother and Black-Zambian father.  As a mixed- race child, I never really felt any different to other people until I started school. Being described by other kids using terms like ‘half-cast’ made me feel uncomfortable. I grew up thinking that people of colour like myself couldn’t possibly make it to the most senior positions in companies….. because you really just didn’t see or hear of it where I was from. When I started my career at National Express aged 15 I was really fortunate to have some great managers, who supported and encouraged me to go further and made me believe that I could do it. I moved from there to Transport for London, where I saw a huge commitment to diversity and finally could see some better representation at the senior levels. That gave me the confidence and aspiration to get to where I am now, as Finance Director, at Reading Buses.  

I sometimes think of myself of being lucky that I’ve experienced very little direct racism, which is crazy really as nobody should ever have to experience any racism at all….ever!! I still often get surprised by odd and offensive comments. For example, when people ask where I’m from and I tell them I’m from Birmingham, I get back, ”but where are you really from?” As if a person of colour couldn’t be from this country!

I’m sure most people will have heard of and seen the Black Lives Matter movement.  As long as inequality exists, I believe that those who have more privilege have a responsibility to be allies for any underrepresented people or groups. It’s not simply enough anymore to say ,“I’m not racist”.  We all have a responsibility to challenge and educate whenever we hear or see any form or racism or prejudice. I certainly will make sure I do this from now on. There’s been times in the past where I’ve found it easier to ignore inappropriate comments or allow them to be brushed under the carpet.  That’s just not good enough anymore!"

Due to the pandemic, there isn’t the usual array of cultural events taking place to celebrate Black History Month, but there’s lots to see online (check out blackhistorymonth.org.uk for ideas).