Reflecting on Black History Month and Beyond


Reflecting on Black History Month

“Some people look outside when it’s raining and think, ‘Oh no! I’m going to get wet’. I look at the rain and think about how good the rain is for nature.”


This was one of the most brilliant things I’ve heard in a long time. And it was said by one of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure to know. Award-winning vlogger, all-round adrenalin junkie and President of Wheels and Wheelchairs, Isaac Harvey, was born with limb-pelvic hypoplasia, which prevented his limbs from growing. And despite the fact he’s faced more challenges than many of us, at 25 he’s also had more adventures than anyone I’ve ever met. Hands-down.

My previous adventures with Isaac have all been adrenaline-fuelled. But this week he came to our team meeting to be part of our wrap-up of #BlackHistoryMonth. A moment to reflect, as a team, on the conversations about racial equality we’ve been sharing over recent weeks. We’ve explored the nuances of microaggressions, learned about active allyship, talked about language constraints, and spotlighted inspiring personalities. Vivienne Aiyela has done an incredible job of making this all happen, and it’s been so valuable on so many levels.


We’ve also talked a lot this month about power and privilege. From his personal perspective, Isaac told us that whenever he has found himself discriminated against, it hasn’t been for the colour of his skin. It’s been for his disability. It’s been those moments where he’s ‘locked out’ of a situation or a place because he has needs that many others don’t share. Differences that make him unique, but that others don’t always account for. 


But Isaac’s take on the rain, and his take on life, is such a brilliant example of why we need a whole prism of perspectives on the world. Not just one world view. And why as a team it’s so important that we recognise the privileges that exist – whether that’s a privilege of skin colour, physical make-up or personal circumstance – so that we can deconstruct any barriers and welcome in valuable, diverse perspectives. 


As a very new charity, we’re exploring ways we can make sure this is part of our DNA. Right now, we’re busy working with the brilliant Street League, 2020Change and The Prince’s Trust to recruit interns into our team. We’re deliberately avoiding CVs. There’s no requirement for formal experiences. What we really need is young people with bags of potential. With creativity, curiosity and new perspectives to bring to the table. In the coming weeks, we’ll be opening up wider opportunities too, including on our Board.


Tomorrow we’ll celebrate our first birthday as a charity. If this first year is anything to go by, it’s hard to predict where on earth we will be in another year’s time. But whatever we – and the world – look like, I’m confident we’ll be considering it through a whole prism of perspectives. We need prisms (and rain!) to make rainbows, after all.


Ps. For a dose of Fri-yay inspiration from Isaac and others, head over to @Wheelsandwheelchairs on Facebook and Instagram. It might just make your day!


Mhairi Sharp
Executive Director
National Emergencies Trust