Hi everyone, I’m Mervin Louis. I’ve been working for Respect for nine years as a Helplines Advisor on the Men's Advice Line for male victims, and on the Respect Phoneline for people who want to stop using abuse in their relationships. I’ve got a lot of experience as an advisor but I’ve always been interested in comms and campaigning. I’ve been working with the team to develop my skills in this area, so when the opportunity came up to lead Respect’s Black History Month activity, I was really excited to work on this project.
It’s been a challenging few years since George Floyd’s death in 2020 and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Although racism, systemic or otherwise, is something that Black and minoritised people have always faced, this hit society hard. At Respect, it has made us think about how we can be an actively anti-racist organisation, and not only that, but also how that can be reflected in our work.
A key part of this work has been our Black Lives Matter group, which became our Anti-Racism Working Group and has now grown into our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) group. I have been part of this group since it began, and I've helped shape our work in this area. I've learned a lot about myself as a Black man both in terms of my position in and out of work, and it's made me reframe a lot of my own experiences. I have a name for those comments that always made me feel uncomfortable (microaggressions) and I feel more comfortable and equipped to raise issues at work or home.
For me, Black History Month has always been about learning about our history and celebrating those who have contributed to making change and influencing society. But my perception of this is changing.
Not too long ago, I watched an interview on the Zeze Millz Show, and there was a discussion that Black History Month should really cover the past, present and future. That concept really resonated with me which is why I’ve chosen it as the theme for our Black History Month activity.
Looking to the past, I will be sharing what my own experiences have been working on the helplines, especially how our society’s changing understanding of race has influenced that.
Read Mervin's blog
Thinking about the present, I’ll be looking to our work as part of the Drive Partnership. We’ve recently worked with H.O.P.E. Training and Consultancy to develop and deliver two programmes focusing on building a more diverse workforce. One focused on equipping sector leaders to challenge racism, and the other focused on supporting staff from racialised communities to grow their leadership skills. I took part in the second programme, and for me, it was a significant and enjoyable experience. In terms of what I’ve learned, I have that knowledge and understanding now of power and how it’s used. I feel comfortable having those discussions, even with friends, and I’m continuing to develop myself. This campaign is the result of me pursuing that, and it’s helped me develop in an area I’ve always been interested in.
Read the Q&A with HOPE Graduates
Finally, looking to the future, I will be talking to Caroline Bernard, our Director of Influence at Respect about our goals for the future, and what success looks like in terms of EDI at Respect.
Read the interview
So, I’d like to invite you along on this journey with me, to get a bit of an insight into what we are doing at Respect. I hope you will enjoy this experience.