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Black History Month - Reflections in four parts

Bernadette Thompson talking at a BAME into Leadership event

Black history month, it is really a time for me to reflect in four parts.

My first reflection is a celebration of our amazing history and the contribution black people have made and continue to make in all areas of the U.K’s society - the past heroes/heroines and the present ones - From sports to science to politics , education, health and so many other sectors. At this point I must pause to remember all the Black medical practitioners who sacrificed themselves serving others during the peak of the CV19 pandemic - I salute you, thank you. You become part of our black history.

In the second part of my reflections, I take time to think about those who actually campaigned relentlessly for race equality and inclusion, so that someone like me could be free - free to vote, free to get on a bus and sit anywhere I want, free to work anywhere I want - Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Paul Stephenson and so many others. To this present day people like Lord Woolley, Baroness Lawrence, David Olusoga continue to campaign that the lives of black people in the U.K. matter and that racism is eradicated from our society.

Bernadette Thompson: Deputy Director Inclusion, Wellbeing and Employee Engagement & Co-Chair Race to the top G6/7 network

My third reflection is really with a heart of gratitude - To all the role models that have cheered me on, those women who look like me, sound like me, understand my struggle, inspire me and stand with me. I am talking those strong, beautiful, black women who have jumped over their own hurdles but made time to remember others and continue to pull them up. To name but a few......Melanie Johnson, Rose Odudu, Tola Ayoola, Cathy Francis, Cheryl Avery, Dianne Caddle, Carol Campayne, Sandra Kerr, Grace Ononiwu and my last but no way least mum who is always praying for me - I salute you all, thank you.

Now, my fourth and final reflection is our progress on race equality and inclusion in the Civil Service and more broadly the public sector. I reflect on the progress made 12 months on from Black History Month 2019 and realise that we still have quite a way to go in creating a culture where people who look like me feel that they belong. We all have a part to play in taking action to make the desired difference.

So for me in summary, it is a time to celebrate, remember, honour and act. I try to cling on to a glimmer of hope where it comes to race equality and inclusion in the words of one of my favourite all time artists; Sam Cooke. It’s a been a long, long time coming but I know a change is gonna come.

Happy Black History Month to all my Black Colleagues and the allies that surround us.


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  1. Comment by Oyin Adekunle posted on

    Inspiring blog Bernadette. Really enjoyed the session you delivered at DWP as part of black history month too. Really proud of your strong leadership - Keep it up!

  2. Comment by Ella Graham Goodman posted on

    Bernie you are such an inspiration to us all ! This post shows just how far things have come, tho as you say we still have a way to go. Thanks for all your continued passion and support!

  3. Comment by Aqsa Hussain posted on

    Bernie, thank you for everything you do -this blog being no exception. You are so generous with your time and a true role model for everyone working towards a more diverse community, in the Civil Service and beyond.

  4. Comment by Ethnic Minority Women's Forum posted on

    Excellent blog Bernie- loved the four reflections- particularly the "heart of gratitude" & your reflections on our ancestors who have led the way before us in making changes and defining our history.

    Thank you for your honesty and openness!


  5. Comment by Catherine H posted on

    Great blog, thanks you.

  6. Comment by Mujina posted on

    A great way to look at BHM - I'll be taking away the call to celebrate, remember, honour and act. Thanks Bernadette!

  7. Comment by Buki Oni posted on

    Good piece Bernie, keep up the good work. You are always on point.

  8. Comment by G.ADEDIPE posted on

    Bernadette, you are an inspiration to our generation. This piece is insightful . It is an amazing write up. You got me involved in Black History month many years ago!

    We always look forward to your impactful sessions with us. You never fail to deliver.

  9. Comment by Kendi M posted on

    Bernadette, you continue to inspire and engage meaningfully on this complex issue and it is inspiring.
    Thank you for going before us and showing us not just some Black Girl Magic, doing it with such power and grace but demonstrating that it can and should be done!
    You have my full support and admiration.

  10. Comment by Stefania posted on

    Thank you for sharing yours thoughts Bernadette. I want to be positive and think it is more than a glimmer of hope. In DWP the number of allies is certainly growing! I love that song too!

  11. Comment by Zoe posted on

    Fantastic blog - thank you for sharing your thoughts, and ongoing leadership on this!

  12. Comment by Raj Das posted on

    Great blog Bernadette. Thank you so much for taking the time recently to talk to our DWP Policy Group staff and providing us with inspiration and ideas for our new race network.

  13. Comment by Flora Orukpe posted on

    Truly inspiring Bernadette! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for all you continually do to support diversity and inclusion in MHCLG and across the Civil Service. I love your passion and commitment to serve. You are an inspiration. Great role model for me and many others!

  14. Comment by Elder William Odudu, JP. posted on

    This piece is an inspiration to the future bright black ladies in the service of the government. It is an inspiration for young brilliant girls who want a career in the civil service . I can see this lady making history by rising to the position of Director or even Permanent Secretary. . Aim high and you will be there soon and we will celebrate with you. Congratulations in advance

  15. Comment by Tokunbo Ifaturoti posted on

    Fantastic work Bernadette! Keep the flag flying especially at a time such as this. Your voice and actions are clearly paving a way for the current and next generation. Well done.

  16. Comment by Leroy Wilson posted on

    Tremendous blog Bernadette. Well done to you and all those who have encouraged and inspired you. It's time for action. The race is not for the swift but for those who can endure. Thanks for representing and enduring.

  17. Comment by BAME into Leadership Team posted on

    Excellent post Bernadette! Thank you so much for sharing your reflections and for all you do.

  18. Comment by Sandra Popoola OBE posted on

    Amazing and inspiring reflections Bernadette, thank you for sharing your thoughts and for what you continually do to support diversity and inclusion. I appreciate your leadership and your passion and desire to improve the life chances of Black people, especially in the workplace.

  19. Comment by Yinka Oyenuga posted on

    Thank you Bernadette, rich and true content. We press forward for true, lasting permanent and fair change, enabling one another and making the crooked paths straight for the coming generations.

  20. Comment by Cheryl Avery posted on

    Bernadette this a wonderful, heartfelt piece. You are such a great role model, thank you for all that you do to champion Race Equality across the Civil Service.

  21. Comment by Austine Entonu posted on

    Thanks Bernie for all your reflective points that echo with me. The most poignant is the Lord Simon Woolley and contemporary senior colleagues who continue to shine the way and show that we can indeed do more. I am forever grateful for those who have come before me and those who continue to shine a light on my path.

  22. Comment by Sabrina Bailey posted on

    I can never tire of listening to what you have to say. Keep being the inspiration that you are to those of us who are coming up behind you as you pave the way.

  23. Comment by Sirenna posted on

    Thank you Bernie.
    Not only for this great blog (celebrate, remember, honour and act), but for being the inspiring black female leader that you are!??????

  24. Comment by Noor posted on

    thanks for sharing your reflections and reminding us to celebrate what 'we' have achieved.

  25. Comment by Iman Toema posted on

    An inspirational blog; your passion, commitment and hope comes through in bucket loads. I love how you have considered all your reflections, in particular those women that have inspired you and, as you put it "made time to remember others and continue to pull them up". I'm privileged to work with Mel and can tell you she continues to lead, inspire and pull people up with her. The world needs more Mel's and Bernadette's. Thank you for such positive reflections.

  26. Comment by Sue Barr posted on

    Excellent blog BT - you're a great Leader.

  27. Comment by Pamela Swaby posted on

    Thank you Bernie for a great blog, noting celebration, acknowledgement, gratitude and recognition. May you continue along your path as a role model to us all.

  28. Comment by Oludade Alade posted on

    Great blog Bernie. Thanks for all that you do, for inspiring others, and for being a great peer mentor.

  29. Comment by Yetunde Banjoko posted on

    It's a really interesting read, and a great reminder of Black Excellence.

  30. Comment by Osama Rahman posted on

    Brilliant blog Bernie

  31. Comment by Bola Olagbegi posted on

    Brilliant piece Bernie! Well done for all your hard work in flying the flag and bringing awareness to the subject of Race equality and inclusion. I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished. You truly are a great source of inspiration - not only to women, but also to men in the work force.

  32. Comment by Tanya Robinson posted on

    Well done Bernadette! Keep on keeping on!

  33. Comment by Marcia Morgan posted on

    Great blog Bernadette, thanks for sharing your reflections and reminding us to celebrate what 'we' have achieved.

  34. Comment by Shuhab Hamid posted on

    Nice Blog and well thought through and structured...Well Done Bernadette!

  35. Comment by Vivienne Connell-Hall posted on

    A superb blog, Bernadette. I particularly love the naming a few good women (including your mom), who have been role models, given that this agenda has been driven to a large extent by women. Keep on it my sister.

  36. Comment by Amrit posted on

    Happy Black History Month Bernie - keep shining!

  37. Comment by Lola Olojo posted on

    Well done Bernadette for all your hard work and contributions to the BAME community, bringing to light the pertinent issues and ensuring that our voices are heard in the workplace and beyond. Looking forward to how we can continue to ensure that black people who have made a footprint in history are recognised and celebrated not just this month, but always.

  38. Comment by Rose Odudi posted on

    Great piece Bernadette. Thank you for writing this. You are also a role model and an inspiration to so many. Keep up the good work.

  39. Comment by Sanchia Brown posted on

    A wonderful blog Bernie, you are my inspiration and I am learning loads as part of your D&I team at MHCLG, we are very, very fortunate to have you with us!?

  40. Comment by Amani Saeed posted on

    This is a really beautiful reflection Bernadette, thank you for sharing this!

  41. Comment by Caroline Olaiya posted on

    Thank you Bernadette for this engaging and insightful piece!

  42. Comment by Elisabeth Ukanah posted on

    Thank you Bernadette for acknowledging the contribution of Black Britons for #BlackHistoryMonth. Notable Paul Stephenson, the civil rights campaigners whose actions helped pave the way for changes in legislation.

  43. Comment by Brian Stanislas posted on

    Bernie, Thank you for your Absolutely Fabulous BHM 2020 Blog! ??

  44. Comment by Johnnet Hamilton posted on

    Such a poignant and reflective blog. It's refreshing to consider black history grouped into four reflections. A great Blog that's left me to 'celebrate', 'remember', 'honour' and 'act'.

  45. Comment by Tola Ayoola posted on

    A fantastic tribute from a truly great leader, my sister and friend Bernie. Keep up the good work. ?

  46. Comment by Frank Munro posted on

    Great blog Bernie insightful and very well considered.

  47. Comment by Sean Davin posted on

    Well said Bernie. As always you put yourself forward and you pay it forward too. My boss. My sister. An inspiration .

  48. Comment by Bunmi Shodeyi posted on

    On point, Bernie!

  49. Comment by Grace Moronfolu posted on

    A great blog Bernadette. Gratitude, challenge and courage all the way!

  50. Comment by Teniola Tijani posted on

    A great read!

    You are such an inspiration to me and I too cling on to hope that we are on the brink of long lasting change.

    Keep going, you are doing great things and setting an amazing example to us coming behind you.

  51. Comment by Rob Neil posted on

    Yessss Bernie, good piece - encouraging is to ; celebrate, remember, honour and act. Stay Well Sis ✊? Check out for more info folks ????

  52. Comment by Godfrey posted on

    Excellent blog thank you Bernadette, you are a true Leader! Thank you for all the hard work you do and how you have coached and mentored me personally!