Black History Month (and beyond)... Please join us!
My name is Runyararo Garande, though most people call me ‘Rue’. ‘Rue’ is a Zimbabwean name and means peace in my language.
I’ve been an Eastlight resident for the past ten years, and recently became a member of Eastlight’s Customer Influence Committee (CIC). I also took up the fantastic opportunity of becoming a Community Empowerment Officer with Eastlight’s All In programme.
To all our black residents: happy Black History Month! I hope you're celebrating and recognising the achievements of those who came before us, and those who are here right now.
Black History month is a time to honour these achievements and celebrate the culture, food and clothes and food. It’s time to celebrate the beauty that is black people.
On roots, ancestry and belonging – why honouring our culture matters
We have a responsibility as people to ensure that when both good and bad things happen, they are recorded. Doing so helps to build a picture and an image for generations to come, helping them to understand who they are, where they came from and why they are the way they are. It enables them to show up authentically and confidently as themselves.
I have a daughter, and it's important for me. When I was little, we used to sit around a fire whilst my grandmother would tell us stories about my great grandparents and about how life was for her when she was young. I think that gave me a sense of belonging; I can trace my ancestry because of some of the stories she used to tell me.
It's important – especially for those of us who are growing up or have children in the diaspora – to retain some of that information and culture that is vital to our children… Information that helps them to recognise who they are, who they aren’t, and what is and isn’t for them.
Black History Month is not just about a month-long celebration. When we celebrate ourselves, year-round – and when we push ourselves into the open – we gain a sense of a pride in ourselves, and pride in belonging to a community.
Celebrating diversity and building bridges
When I first moved to Colchester, I found it very difficult to adjust because there weren’t many other black people around at the time. I went to church to find people who looked like me. Within my estate, there was one other black family, but we didn't really talk or get to know each other.
I struggled with that, because where I grew up, everybody knows and talks to each other. But I understand how people can be fearful of interacting with other people, especially when they might not necessarily understand their cultures or languages.
This is another reason why Black History Month matters: it's about educating people who live in communities or neighbourhoods with people from diverse backgrounds and other races, to help them understand what black culture is about, and for them to understand who we are.
Sharing your voice and experiences: Eastlight needs you!
For that education and community building to happen, we, as black people, have to put ourselves out there.
Representation matters. We need to see more faces like mine within Eastlight. We’re a community- and resident-led organisation, so we are open to residents influencing the services we provide.
For me, if I hadn't spoken up as loud as I did, or if I didn't complain to Eastlight as much as I did, I don't think they would have really noticed me.
I had the passion of making a difference in my community – and that has given me the most incredible journey with them.
Are you a black Eastlight resident seeking change? Please get in touch
Here at Eastlight, we are open to receiving your feedback for improvement. Here’s how to get involved:
- Let Eastlight know – or contact me personally for a chat
Do you have something to say or something you want to see happen in your neighbourhood? Is there something you’d like to contribute as an Eastlight resident?
If the answers to these questions are ‘yes’ – but you find yourself holding back because you feel that, as a black resident, you’re afraid or you won’t be listened to – I encourage you to speak out, and to get in touch with us.
I also invite you to get in touch with me personally. I would be happy to come and visit, so that we can talk about your needs within your home, your estate or community.
You can reach me by email on: Runyararo.Garande@eastlighthomes.co.uk
- Attend an ‘All In’ Alliance meeting
If you feel really strongly about something happening in your home or in the area you live in, then we have our All In Alliances in Braintree, Halstead, Colchester and Witham. These local groups hold quarterly meetings where you can go and talk about issues affecting your estate or neighbourhood – be it social issues, gardens, lights or a problem in your house that you’ve been trying to get sorted for a long time.
- Apply to join the Eastlight Resident Academy
Created by the All In programme, the Resident Academy invites Eastlight residents to come and learn about the history of social housing, your rights as a resident, and who to contact beyond your landlord when something is going wrong in your property.
If you have pride in your home and community, enrolling in the Eastlight Resident Academy is a great way to equip yourself with the right information to address problems when they arise.
To find out more about the Eastlight Resident Academy, click here.
Striving towards stronger, more connected communities – together
I hope this blog has left you feeling inspired to do something and take action.
I hope I will be flooded with emails about ideas we can we take forward to make a difference, together and I hope the next time I attend an alliance meeting, I see a room full of people from mixed, diverse backgrounds.
Future Black History Month celebrations – share your experiences and ideas!
Have you attended a great Black History Month celebration this month? Or do you have ideas about how we can come together to mark this important celebration across Essex and beyond next year? If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch!
Enjoy the rest of the month and I will speak to you soon. I really look forward to receiving emails from people who are excited to get involved.
Rue (email me here)