Last week marked the start of Black History Month, which is celebrated throughout October to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people to the UK and around the world. It’s also a time for continued action to tackle racism, reclaim Black history and ensure Black history is represented and celebrated all year round.

As 2020 showed and 2021 continues to show, Black history is being made every day, in all kinds of ways. At ELHT we are proud of our diverse workforce and the care we provide to everyone, no matter their background. We will play our part in creating a society free from discrimination and a workplace that is safe, happy and where everybody can thrive.

To shine a spotlight on Black history in the making, we spoke to Lola Winter, a Mental Health Practitioner and Freedom to Speak Up Champion at the Trust, about her story working in the NHS and why she thinks it’s such an important month to recognise.

Lola Winter.JPG“It’s always interesting when I’m asked to write my story as I tend to ponder on what is important to share. People are aware of the experiences of black people in this country as it’s talked about in the media but it’s often a similar narrative that is told, so I hope my story is intriguing enough for you to read on.


For as long as I remember, Black History Month (BHM) was always something that was celebrated at home, at school and within my community. It was when I moved up north that I realised BHM wasn’t as recognised as I would’ve liked in my new environment. This surprised me as BHM is history – the good, the bad and the ugly! BHM is a time to celebrate the “forgotten” heroes of society that enriched the culture we all live in now. 


Working in the NHS has been a mixed experience in terms of trying to celebrate a month important to me. Thankfully ELHT thrives to harbour a culture of inclusivity but not all organisations are the same.


I’ve worked in environments where BHM is frowned upon because it’s been seen as discriminative - “we don’t celebrate other races for a month”. When that’s said to me, which it has been many times, I ask people to name me five black people from history that they know of. They often cannot respond with five people from history. That’s the thing. That’s why we need BHM. We all learn a very prescriptive history in school. The great heroes that made us the nation we are today. But what of the black people that are unspoken of in history classes? What of Olaudah Equiano or Mary Seacole? This is why BHM is important. 


I find it so frustrating when someone asks me “where are you from?” with those underlying tones as if to say why are you black? As a black woman with dreadlocks I’m often assumed to be a Rasta from Jamaica. My family come from Nigeria and I’m proud of that. I’m second generation British and I’m proud of that. BHM offers a platform for learning and sharing of experiences that then can be shared with others.


I encourage people to ask questions in this month and continue asking them. What is Black Lives Matter about? Why is the bending of the knee so important? What do the colours red, gold and green represent in the Afro-Caribbean culture? BHM is a way of opening a door into another culture that may be unknown to yourself but also a form of celebration.”