In December 2020, an unknown number called my mobile. I ignored it, thinking that it was a telesales call. Luckily for me, Jack Middleton is tenacious and had also emailed me with an opportunity of a lifetime. The chance that Jack explained to me was an opportunity to work with TYF; I knew about TYF from their work in education and adventure, but as most people who are curious about a prospective employer would be, I researched both TYF and B Corp.
When I finally got to the interview, the conversation with Jack & Stacy was more than I expected. Hearing their goals and the extent to which our passion and values overlapped meant I would have done the most disgusting job imaginable, for free, just to be able to be a participant in the journey.
The whole team at TYF have the most phenomenal ethos, environmental warriors but also involved in the fight for the injustices in the world – to make REAL change. This is the first company I have worked for willing to put their hands in their pockets until it hurts – if it will make a difference. At TYF, profits are not the bottom line – The Earth & its inhabitants are. The energy with which they approach a challenge with is infectious and energises the entire team. Everyone is heard, small ideas raised are added to by creative, huge-hearted people and become action in a millisecond.
I know TYF will give me and everyone lucky enough to be in its orbit the opportunity to work with amazing people on projects contributing towards creating a more inclusive, diverse and equitable world. Some days, when I read another headline of what’s happening elsewhere or speaking to black friends, that hope for diversity and inclusion is what keeps me going.
Unlike most of the team at TYF, I am old enough to remember the fight to release Nelson Mandela from prison. His eventual release was such a source of joy for me, not only because it signalled an end to apartheid and the idea that in their own land a person should be treated differently due to the colour of their skin but also because Mandela been the cause of many raised voices in my childhood. My father and I had very different opinions; his view was that Mandela was a terrorist and I only had to hear say once “You have no idea child, you weren’t born when he was sent to Prison, you didn’t live through it” before I was off and running to educate myself and formulate my arguments about why he was a champion of justice, not a criminal – which in time, persuaded my Dad to change his mind. On the day of Mandela’s release, February 11th 1990, my father and I sat, tears running down our faces, hand in hand, my heart bursting with hope for a more equal future where skin colour didn’t even enter the equation.
Little did I know that 30 years later the tears would again be falling for the fate of a black person and my heart bursting – but this time with sadness, frustration at the lack of progress in those intervening years and shame at people who looked like me.
The months that followed George Floyd’s murder brought a plethora of incredible documentaries about black history and interviews to the many entertainment platforms, I read many of the recommended reading books for white people who were trying to live an anti-racist life and make a change, my new catchphrase became ‘did you know?’... as I walked into a room where my daughter was – she would roll her eyes at me, but she always listened. Each programme, story, interview, social media post just left me with the same intense frustration over my apparent inability to make any contribution or change in my little corner of West Wales apart from to myself and although it’s a start, I desperately wanted to change minds.
There isn’t a day that goes by when black people don’t experience blatant racism, microaggressions, violence or become victims of the institutional racism that is sewn into the fabric of our society. My white privilege means I could walk away, forget about the struggle, rest away from the intense exhaustion experiencing life being black causes, I could forget the injustice that is burned into my brain.
Black men have a reduced life expectancy of 9 years compared to the poorest white male in the UK.
Health Equity Report
1.9 Million BME workers are paid £3.2 billion pounds less for doing the same jobs as their white counterparts
Resolution Foundation Study 2018
Black Mothers are five times more likely to die in pregnancy that white mothers.
UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths
Through my work at TYF, I want to see if there are better ways that we can counter the life expectancy of black people and create equity within the outdoor industry, it is well known that exercise and activities that take place in and around the Sea have many therapeutic health benefits that assist in reducing blood pressure, stress and the more serious illnesses that develop over time with living with those conditions – these are the major factors in the differences in life expectancy in the UK. If we can encourage, welcome and most importantly enable black people to participate in these recreational activities maybe we can level the playing field in a small yet not insignificant way. To do that we need to be more inclusive in the images we project, we need to ensure our own house is in order and to radically shift the perceptions and behaviours of our current and future leaders to create a society where amazing people never have to describe a traumatic work, school or life experience that happened because of their skin colour.
A 2016 surfing documentary was very insightful and I'd encourage you to watch it and report back on how this impacts and challenges you.
Questions that are running through my mind are:
What are the most powerful acts our leaders can start to exercise towards ending the racial injustices and become role models for other businesses in all sectors?
Can social enterprises catalyse driving the change by promoting black leaders in the public and private sectors and empowering them with the confidence and technical skills to bring others into nature to learn, grow and connect?
What are the most powerful exercises that we can weave into our education programmes for schools that make it impossible for pupils to escape the responsibility they carry for making the world a place where being different is never dangerous?
How much longer do black people have to wait for respect and dignity?
If you’re using the power of learning outdoors, nature or adventure to shift the world of diversity and justice and are up for sharing ideas over a real or Zoom cuppa, do get in touch (email@example.com) It’s only together that we’re going to fix this.
I genuinely am as confused by the thought process of a racist person and ideology as I am by trigonometry – I just don’t get it. The term “Zero Tolerance” is bandied around by organisations but it’s a worthless phrase as it is usually a sign of inaction, a buzz term with no genuine sentiment. Brene Brown, American Professor & Author asks the question “If you witness blatant dehumanisation, what story do you have to tell yourself to be ok with what you see?”
We need to start challenging Racism, in any form, whenever we see or hear it. Our workforce, but especially our business leaders, desperately need Inclusivity and sensitivity training to understand the damage these phrases can cause and to know how to act on reports of racism in the workplace, companies can no longer pat themselves on the back for having an equal opportunities policy, they need to invest in anti-racism training for their white employees at all levels. Responses such as “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “What happened to you, you used to be so happy?” are just a few of the responses I have heard first-hand when instances of racism are brought to the attention of managers or colleagues within local government here in Pembrokeshire. Most days it makes my blood boil others it just makes me weep, but both leave me impatient for action.