Black History Month at KFH

13th October, 2022

October is Black History Month which celebrates the influence black people have had on our society and culture within the UK. At KFH, we are proud to have brought people together within our business from a multitude of backgrounds and cultures. This has created a diversity of experience, knowledge, skills and ideas which have been integral to our success. 

Paul Bent, Kennington Sales Branch Director, writes a personal account on representation and why it is so important, both currently and for future generations:

The closest and most consistent male role model that looked like me I saw growing up, appeared every Tuesday at 6pm on BBC2. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a successful black man who looked after and cherished his family, providing a platform for them to thrive, that I could one day aspire to be like. Fictional TV story of course, but powerful in showcasing real life Black family dynamics in a positive light that is sadly too infrequently shown. Sir Trevor Macdonald on ITV news at 10pm was another, he was articulate, professional and the main anchor on prime time British television - inspirational. Though he was also a constant reminder of the overwhelming underrepresentation of black British figures in UK mainstream media for us to aspire to be - those who were in positions of influence and status who could empower others to follow a similar road. So much so, that we had to look across the pond to see more positive black representation across the arts in particular - music, TV, Film etc. This meant that from my experience, British Black people of my generation were very Americanised due to a severe lack of representation and opportunity on our British shores that embodied our culture and more transparently, our appearance!

Thankfully for me, Uncle Phil and Sir Trevor weren't the only ones. At age 22 I got on the property ladder and purchased my first home, I needed some artwork for the blank walls and decided to create a collage of my most inspirational black men that I admired, and I got it professionally made into a canvas that took center stage in my home. At the time I thought I was just paying homage to people who I liked and respected, but it was more than that, I was filling a missing void and was harvesting more power from them than simply the joy of listening to the Thriller album or watching the other MJ majestically Hangtime in the air.

Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Kanye West, Denzel Washington, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Muhammed Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Will Smith, Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela - On the face of it these men are very contrasting and somewhat polarising. However, they are more kindred spirits than what their respective impacts on the world would typically convey. They all had something to say, all of them masters of their craft and exceptional in their own rights, some civil, using their platform to say something meaningful, and doing so with conviction and without fear. I was drawn to that quality of strength, unwavering self-confidence and character to voice their truth regardless of whether the opinion was popular or controversial, whilst in many instances knowing there would be life threatening consequences or negative backlash. These men who looked like me, in their own way helped give me confidence and whilst the tone, pitch, messaging or way they communicated may have sometimes missed the mark or appeared abrasive or muddled to the general public. I never missed the core and meaning of what they were trying to express and that it came from a pure hearted place with the intent to make a positive difference. They all had a little something that I saw value in and that inspired me, 15 years later and in different homes since then, I still have that canvass protected in bubble wrap, I can't bear to part with it, I never will, means too much and symbolises even more.

When he was 22, Paul had a canvas made of the most inspirational black men he admired. Now his son (above) looks up at it.

I looked up at them every day, and to them, through my twenties and each in their own little way were fathers to me, teaching me life lessons and empowering me. They started movements, broke down barriers, evoked change, shaped culture, inspired, created art that is timeless, and some died for their cause and what they believed in. All so that the rest of us who followed could prosper on a less oppressive road. 

They taught me that, "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter", and that "a wise man can play the part of a clown but a clown can't play the part of a wise man", whilst "some people are so poor, all they have is money", and while "showing is better than telling", that "without commitment, you'll never start, without consistency you'll never finish", but "if my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it, impossible is nothing", however "if you quit once it becomes a habit, never quit", and that "greatness exists in us all" but that "there is no passion to be found playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living" and "don't be afraid to be different" because "everything I'm not, made me everything I am".

I thank them all for unwittingly stepping in as positive black role models and sharing in some respects, the role of dad to me. As a father now myself, I take great pride and responsibility in instilling self-worth, confidence, and knowledge of black history and excellence to my son, making him believe that everything is possible and hopefully as he grows up, he won't have to work twice as hard, and the world will mature to taking greater leaps of progressive change so his generation "will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character." Martin Luther King, Jr.

I pray it's not just a dream...