Meet Mark for Black History Month
1 week ago
We’re delighted to support initiatives such as Black History Month (BHM) 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 – this week it's the turn of Mark, Trade Union BAME representative, Employee Director and member of the Engineering team.
I was born in Wembley, London (maybe that’s why I love football) and then moved to Reading. My mother was from Guyana and my father was born in St Vincent and grew up in Trinidad. They both moved to the UK for the promised opportunities from the British Government - my mother trained as a nurse and my father was a site foreman in construction. My parents had a chance meeting in Reading and not long after set up home together.
I work in the Engineering department and joined the company fresh from school in 1986 as an apprentice in the body shop. Back then I was based at Bennet Road where the body work and MoTs were done. Being at a tender age of 16-17 years I was surprised about the openly racist remarks that were banded around in those days. At the time, there were three black people working in the department - the remarks were never aimed at the older generation but were definitely aimed at myself.
At times it did get to me, but I was not really sure how to handle it then as you had comedians like Jim Davidson openly saying the same things on TV. It seemed to be acceptable then to make reference to my heritage without consequence to how this made me feel. My father told me many times I would have to fight harder to get myself taken seriously and to make sure that I was never judged on my colour.
As time progressed and we reached the end of the 90’s views about gender and race and equality started to be pushed forwards in the company and society. Back then I always felt that this was a tick box exercise for the company and it is now taken more seriously.
At that time, I was not actively involved in the Trade Union, but I could see changes were needed in the workplace. In 2006 I became elected as a representative and became a BAME Rep in 2009. In 2014 I was elected as the nominated employee director for the board. With the information gained from these positions I began to communicate with the company, the board and the union to move the equality agenda forward.
In 2015, I approached the company with an idea to celebrate Black History Month for the first time and I’m proud that it’s still being celebrated 5 years later. There is still much that needs to be done in society before BAME people really feel equality. There have been a lot of changes for the good within the company on all equality strands and I shall continue to work with the company and staff members to ensure this great work continues.