Black History Month takes place every October in the UK. It's a time when we celebrate the massive contribution that Black people have made to every aspect of our lives throughout our history. There are influential figures of medicine, science, technology, and education. Prominent names from the arts, music, sports, and politics. There are Black entrepreneurs, inventors and leaders. We also remember the five million men and women from Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent who volunteered to serve with the Armed Forces during the two world wars. The 7% of Black Caribbean or Black African origin people who work in the NHS. And many other essential workers who have helped us through the pandemic.

There is, of course, another side to the story of Black history. The hardship, the prejudice. The inequality. Racism and racial discrimination remain a part of everyday life for Britain's ethnic minorities. We must remember and recognise this dreadful part of the Black history story too. Because only by doing that can we begin to repair the damage and eradicate racism in every form. 

"There is only one Race, the Human Race"  - Rosa Parks

Here at Virgin Atlantic, Black History Month is a time to celebrate all our Black people and their daily contribution to what we do. In this blog, you'll meet some truly inspiring people and hear their stories. You'll also get to hear about our VALUED network. Named by Otis, one of the founding members, VALUED stands for 'Virgin Atlantic Loves Unity & Ethnic Diversity'. It's a network that aims to help create an environment that champions and supports those previously underrepresented at Virgin Atlantic, where a culture of togetherness and inclusivity thrive.

The VALUED network welcomes everyone as allies and to explore and learn together. Embracing our differences through awareness and shared understanding.

In this blog, we meet some of the brilliant Black people of Virgin Atlantic. We discover their stories, their thoughts on Black History Month and talk about some of the barriers they've endured because of the colour of their skin. These people are, without exception, Virgin Atlantic legends, their stories a true inspiration. Yet, for all that, they all carry their own stories of prejudice and racism. Sulaimon getting stopped by the police on his way home from work. Salma applying for hundreds of jobs, Mandla struggling to find an education. As we reflect on Black History Month, on the black community's contribution to all our lives, and how they've been treated throughout history, we all have a chance to turn this around. It's up to be more aware of these critical issues. And make sure that the Black History Months of the future look back on our actions of today and say that we made a positive difference. 

Virgin Atlantic is fully engaged with the VALUED network and has a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion programme, which we call Be Yourself. Here are some of our recent achievements

  • We signed the Race at Work Charter and committed to driving sustainable change in our company.
  • We nominated Alice Goodwin, an engineering graduate, to participate in the Ethnic Minority Future Leaders six month programme run by our partner WiHTL. This also involved Alice reverse mentoring our VP Engineering Phil Wardlaw. Both said it was hugely insightful and a fantastic experience, driving real change.
  • We implemented conscious inclusion discussion sessions, so far reaching 83 leaders across the business. We will be implementing mandatory conscious inclusion e-learning from November.
  • We partnered with Fantasy Wings, an organisation aiming to give Black, Asian and other minority ethnic young people a platform to enter and excel in the aviation industry. Our Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people representing engineering, pilots, and commercial have shared their stories with 1600 young people from across the UK, to inspire them to know that they too belong in aviation. 
  • With their Executive Ally's championing, the VALUED network has consulted with the business on our recruitment process and company policies to ensure they are inclusive for all.
  • To mark the anniversary of George Floyd's murder, the VALUED network organised a powerful and inspiring talk between our CEO and Lord Woolley, a political and equalities activist.