For me, Black History Month is representation, recognition and celebration, it means “I deserve to be here”. It gives a voice to people who are rarely represented whilst also allowing us all to explore our shared history.
It’s no more important this year than in any of the 30 years it has been celebrated on Britain. I’m glad it is getting more publicity.
People assumed black people didn't get MS
I’m proud to see that over the years the MS Society has improved representation.
When I was originally diagnosed my first interactions with MS services made me feel like I didn’t belong. The main reasons being my age, 16 and my race.
I found that groups didn’t cater for me and that I had to immediately justify my being there as people assumed that black people didn’t get MS.
I didn't see people like me on MS websites
Online I found that the MS Society’s website mainly showed older white people. On their website I found forums for Asians and LGBT with MS but nothing for black people.
At first feeling that there was no place for me within the MS Society made me distance myself.
But two things made me reconsider:
- Seeing the excellent work the MS Society was doing at newly diagnosed days, MS Life and local fundraising events
- Growing up in a place where quite often I was the only black person. My parents and the black people around me were quite often the only black people in their professions, unions and charities.
If I wasn't feeling represented maybe there were others out there in the same position? And maybe I could help to increase inclusivity, just by being involved.
From starting a local group to England Council member
Over the years this has taken many routes. My highlights are starting up a young MS group with my best MS friend, blogging my year of awareness, fundraising and participating in Challenge MS, telling my story in Our Treatment Stories and most recently becoming a representative on the MS Society England Council.
One of the first letters I opened when I came home from cycling from John O'Groats to Lands End for MS Charities was the MS matters magazine. I flicked through and saw the candidates for the MS Council, all white faces and I thought why not me!
I applied and am proud to sit on the England Council today, helping represent the perspectives of everyone with MS.
Could you join one of our National Councils?
We're always looking for people to help shape our work at national level. Could that be you?