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7 October 2021

Black History Month – Proud to Be

Each October, Black History Month celebrates the history, the present and the future of Black people. This month, we want to celebrate black people, who have not only provided inspiration to the UK and beyond, but particularly to our own students.

That’s why below, you’ll find some incredible stories of those who have achieved greatness in our four subject areas: Business, Sport, Digital and Media.

Business – William Adoasi 

Born in South London and living on a council estate with his six siblings, William Adoasi was brought up by his influential father, who was driven to ensure that all seven of his children were successful.

After winning a scholarship to attend a prestigious boarding school as a child, William moved far away from the hustle and bustle of South London but felt like a minority, as he was one of the only black people in the school.

Driven by his father’s motivation, William went on to study at university and it was here when his passion for business and making change really developed. So much so, William ended up dropping out of university to focus solely on building his business. At this time, the UK government had assigned funding to schools to tackle the obesity crisis, and William used his skills and network to run workshops in schools to support the campaign, turning over £160k in three years, all before turning 20.

When the government pulled the funding for the workshops, William’s business model broke down, so he turned to working as an insurance broker, and then a recruitment consultant.

He used his newly found skills from these new occupations, and his passion for fashion and jewellery (in particular watches) to set up a watch brand, where he knew digital and selling online direct to consumers was on the rise. After enrolling on an evening course at university, he quickly realised that it was education that had been lifechanging for him and his family, and William decided to give back through his new watch brand Vitae. The business soon turned over £150k in sales and now, with each timepiece purchased on the website, Vitae supports education in Sub-Saharan Africa through providing school uniform, solar light for studying and much more.

“It takes a village to watch the next generation… time on this planet is something we all share, but the life chances that occupy it are far from evenly distributed – even in this day and age.”

Sport – Marcus Rashford MBE

Marcus Rashford MBE is an English footballer and activist who currently plays for Manchester United and the England football team.

Born just a few miles away from our campus, Marcus Rashford was raised in Withington, Fallowfield and Wythenshawe. Coming from a working-class family, Marcus’ mum Melanie was a single parent who worked multiple jobs to feed the family, often skipping meals to ensure Marcus and his siblings ate.

Having personally visited homeless shelters with his mum as a child, Marcus always desired to help, so in 2019, he set up the In the Box campaign with Selfridges, to give homeless people all the essential items they would need over Christmas.

Following on from his own personal experience as a child and triggered by schools closing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Marcus then spearheaded a campaign against child hunger in 2020. Working with charity FareShare, Marcus helped deliver over 4 million meals across the country through the campaign, attending community centres and school breakfast clubs before writing an open letter to the UK government calling on them to end UK child poverty.

Marcus has rightfully been praised for using his platform to be an incredible activist to drive societal change, receiving an MBE as a result. Marcus has been recognised worldwide but especially by his local community, recently having an iconic mural of himself painted in Withington. In very recent news and in light of his incredible actions, Marcus has also been awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Manchester, making him Dr Marcus Rashford MBE. 

“Just look at what we can do when we work together” 

“These children matter. These children are the future of the country. They are not just another statistic. And for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.” 

Digital – Jacky Wright

Listed as number six in the Power list 2018 rankings of the most influential black people in the UK and number four in 2019 and 2020, Jacky Wright is a British Technology Executive, Chief Digital Officer and Corporate Vice President at Microsoft US who has this month also been named as the Most Influential Black Person in the UK, pushing for more diversity in the Tech Industry.

Prior to her role at Microsoft, Jacky worked as the Chief Digital and Information Officer at HMRC where during this time, she said:

“As the daughter of a Windrush immigrant and a native of north London, I might not fit into the small box of what some people think of as a typical civil servant – but I am helping to change that.”

Not only is London-born Jacky Wright a powerful force within the digital industry, but she is also a transformational global leader and a passionate advocate for women and BAME groups working in technology and sciences. Jacky dedicates significant time and energy to partnering with groups and other businesses to promote this agenda further.

More recently, Jacky has formed part of a Microsoft campaign titled #AccelerateChicago, focused on digital skilling to help under-resourced communities to compete in the workforce.

“It should be a no-brainer that diversity is important. Having diverse teams is the only way to truly understand the needs of people from all walks of life, so we can better serve the society we represent…. But diversity without inclusion is not enough. I use the analogy of diversity as being invited to the party, and inclusion as being invited to dance.”

Media – Alex Scott MBE 

Former Lioness Alex Scott made history twice as she became the first female football pundit at a World Cup for the BBC back in 2018, and the first woman pundit on Sky Sports later that same year. She is also the first woman to be the permanent host of the BBC’s hugely popular show, Football Focus.

“When I was a kid, I would never have watched television and thought someone like me could be presenting a programme like Football Focus,” she wrote. “For the BBC to trust me with this role and allow me to be my true, authentic self means a lot.”

Following speculation that Alex was set to be the new A Question of Sport presenter, Alex was viciously trolled on social media with regards to her race. In response, Alex shared the below poem:

"I was that girl that played football, I really didn’t care.

I was that girl that played football, long brown hair.

I was that girl that played football, with no regards to the colour of my skin.

I was that girl that played football, because I always wanted to win.

I retired from football with medals and honours galore.

I retired from football to open a new door.

I now talk about football live on your TV.

Some want to say I’m ticking a box, but that’s not me.
Football is football and that is what I see.

Hi, Hello, I’m Alex Scott and you know what, football is me."

-Alex Scott MBE

“Besides the statements surrounding my gender or my race, after being part of the BBC family for six years, I want people to see me on TV and think ‘she’s great at what she does’.” 

This year’s Black History Month theme is ‘Proud to Be’, and as an inclusive higher education provider, we proud to be committed to making higher education accessible for all, striving for equality for current and future generations. You can find out more about what we’re doing to drive change through our Make it for Real campaign here.

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