Geetha Rabindrakumar, our Director of Social Change, writes about how we are addressing race equality in our organisation and across the sector. 

Over this week (1-7 February), lots of organisations are coming together to tackle racism in the workplace, through a campaign organised by Race Equality Matters.

Race Equality Matters

Last year at Cardboard Citizens we had conversations with both staff and Members around Black Lives Matter, and started to unpick what it means for us to be anti-racist. We’ve since set up a staff network for people of colour, and even though we are able to have open and brave conversations with all our colleagues, I’ve started to see the difference that having an informal safe space just for people of colour can make. Part of our aim is to provide mutual support around shared experiences, but also using the energy that we feel in coming together to help make change within our organisation and the wider sector.

The launch of Race Equality Matters last year was really welcome – a collaboration that aims to cut through the noise, and to get organisations to go beyond declarations to actions that will make a difference, and to support ethnic minority staff networks to drive change.

This week, all our colleagues will be discussing the “Big Promise” – a set of proposed commitments developed by Race Equality Matters, which feel tangible and meaningful based on insights gathered from research with ethnic minority staff across many organisations on what actions they believe will create real change. There are promises here that we can all make – as ethnic minority staff, allies, management, and of course Board members – because of course real change can’t happen unless everyone is involved.

Using playful art to illustrate the nuances around race at work

We are also encouraging people to watch our Storytellers’ interactive film “Light and Shade” this week– a piece of work made during COVID to challenge the use of the term “BAME” by organisations, but with humour and energy, the scenes our Members have created touches on wider issues around race: expectations to conform, unseen pressure to hide your full self, microaggressions particularly directed at those who challenge the status quo, and not seeing the full person beyond a box they may be placed in.

These are all issues that we hear talked about in diversity and equality discussions, but art can bring these issues to life, and deepen our understanding of them and how they are experienced – and whether familiar or unfamiliar to your own life experience, there’s something here to reflect and act on. Whilst we’re a theatre company making stories connected to homelessness, I’ve loved seeing how the creative work of our Members, based on their experiences and the change they want to make, can connect to wider inequalities in society. In our own organisation, this work has challenged us all to stop using the term #BAME in our policies, fundraising, communications and elsewhere.

We’re looking forward to being part of a wider conversation around race equality at work this week – and more importantly seeing how we can all make promises a reality.