Celebrating Black History Month: Sticks and stones may break my bones…

In the third blog for Black History Month, George Anthony (HR Business Partner) talks about the advice he was given growing up and his brother’s motto for life.

“I’ve had a very progressive career prior to joining Telent. I have 30 years HR experience with various large global companies including GE, TUI, Technicolor, Serco, Skanska, and Engie. But my first main job after Sixth Form was as a Stainless-Steel Fabricator making swimming pool ladders, handrails and water features. I also worked for ten years at British Aerospace (the great grandchild of Blackburn Aviation!) Leading on the design and development of complex engineering products for military and civil aircraft.

“I’ve been with Telent for just over a year and a half as an HR Business Partner aligned to our Transport business, with a focus on Asset Management and Rail Engineering. I work with the Heads of Department and their teams so I can understand their part of the business. I help them create and get vacancies approved for the job roles required to meet business resourcing needs. I also offer advice to ensure that the management of employee relations is aligned with our HR policies and procedures.”

Closed doors

"I was born of West African parents at the beginning of the 60’s, but my brother and I were fostered for the first 11 years by two lovely people: Jim and Emily Gray (Uncle and Aunty to us!) I feel fortunate to have experienced my formative years growing up in a typical English dairy farming village, called Dungworth – just seven miles from the big city of Sheffield. To echo Anne-Marie, we were the only children of colour (‘black boys’) in the village!

“Did I experience discrimination? Yes. Did I know I was subjected to racism? No, not really until I was older. My Father told us that we needed to learn more and do better, as it was the only way to get a chance of being noticed for high achievement, and not have as many doors closed because of our colour.

“His experience is one of being in Freetown in Sierra Leone, getting high grades and offered a job with Blackburn Aviation in Bristol. He paid passage to England and two weeks before travel was asked to send a photograph of himself. With a week to go, he received a telegram saying there had been a mistake and his application was declined. Although gutted and angry, my Father did eventually come to the UK and became a Mechanical and Production Engineer, contributing to the design and testing of some of the first weather satellites.

Sticks and stones may break my bones

“I was aware of the different labels that were evidence of racism rearing its ugly head. Initially it came from children in the school yard who repeated words or names that they’d heard other adults and children saying, such as ‘Black Sambo, n****r, w*g’.

“I remember being bullied by one boy who said I was weak not to have a ‘scrap' (fight) with him because ‘I was a w*g’! While holding my jaw and torn shirt, I asked my teacher what that word meant.

“She said to me that sticks and stones may break my bones but calling names can't hurt us unless we choose to let them. She said if I was called that name again, I was to say: “thank you, I didn't know you thought I was a Worthy Oriental Gentleman” and to walk away.

“In my lifetime there were two further incidents that stemmed from initial verbal racial abuse that ended in a physical fight. In both situations I was attacked from behind while walking away.”

Focus on ability, not disability

“I’m a strong supporter of ED&I and I detest discrimination of any kind – having experienced it based on race, but also on the basis of disability. My brother has cerebral palsy and was called ‘spastic' during the 60's.

“This hasn't stopped him being elected President of Hallam University Students Union and becoming a national award-winning Salesperson at Interbrew. He’s also a UK, European and World Champion at Table Tennis, topped only by being a Paralympian for Team GB’s Table Tennis team at the Sydney 2000 games. His motto has always been: “focus on ability not disability.” And as my teacher would always say: “treat others as well as you hope they will treat you – with kindness and understanding”.

“I myself have also been successful in sport as well as business. I’ve played at National League level and achieved three national caps in Basketball. I’ve also sung on national TV and for royalty. I’m very proud to be a successful Black British African or a British National with a proud Sierra Leonean heritage, I’ll take both!”

Want to share a story or contribute to a blog?

Black History Month is an annual celebration and celebration and recognition of Black history, experiences, and achievements. Over the course of the month, Telent is amplifying the voices and stories of Black colleagues around the business.

If George’s story has inspired you to get involved, please drop an email over to the Internal Communications team.

Get involved and be an ally

If you’d like to know more about Black History Month there are plenty of places to start to get involved and be a better ally.

The Black History Month website is a great place to start as they have a number of blogs, videos, documentaries, and reading suggestions to help you learn more or explore different experiences.

Remember – it doesn’t stop in October. Keep the conversations and learning going throughout the year. By getting involved, you can help to make a difference.

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