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Black History Month: Nzinga's Story

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Black History month is a special opportunity to understand the history of our Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and to listen to the lived experiences of those around us.

We sat down with Business Transformation Manager, Nzinga Orgill who shared more about her journey and how she’s making Heathrow a more inclusive airport for everyone.

At Heathrow, our passengers, colleagues and local community come from a diverse range of backgrounds and as an airport, our goal is to ensure that everyone can feel safe and comfortable to be themselves.

The events of this year have reignited conversations around systemic racism and what we, as a society, can do to combat it. That’s why our dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Team have also been busy updating our strategy and longer term plan to see how we can do better.

Tell us about your journey 

I was born and raised in Birmingham to Jamaican parents. My mother was a single mother and I left home at the age of 16 to take on the world. 

After my A-Levels, I attended the University of Westminster where I studied Law. After completing my degree, I decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career in law, and I began my career at Heathrow as Security Officer in the old Terminal 1.  In the 16 years since then I’ve various positions at the airport from Operations to Commercial. 

I currently work as a Business Change Manager in our Security Transformation team. When I am not working at Heathrow, I enjoy writing poetry, short stories, exercising and attending dance classes. I enjoy travelling and learning more about different people and different cultures. 

Nzinga - Black History Month
Nzinga - Black History Month
What does Black History Month mean to you? 

Black History Month is not just one month for me it is a celebration of black role models and people all year round.  It is a great opportunity to share history and culture with people who may not have as much knowledge on black history.

It is also a sad reality that we need a month to recognise what should be celebrated every day. 

Whilst growing up in Birmingham I was educated on my black history so knew of the contributions of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Mary Seacole to name a few and feel privileged to have had inspirational leaders woven into my upbringing making me the person that I am today. 

A proud black woman.

I continue to face racism and prejudice because of the colour of my skin or the style of my hair as well as sexism and gender inequality. To this day people apply narratives and stereotypes before getting know who I am. 

Black history month offers a month for me to celebrate, embrace, educate and stand unapologetically in my unique gifts as a human being so that I can embrace my best and true self.

It is also a powerful reminder of what my ancestors have been through for me to be here and highlights the importance of my showing up and paying forward to allow generations after to me to achieve even more greatness. 

Black history month offers a month for me to celebrate, embrace, educate and stand unapologetically in my unique gifts as a human being so that I can embrace my best and true self.

Nzinga Orgill , Business Change Manager , Heathrow

What impact do you think that the events of 2020 has had on the way in which we view black history? 

The impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and the events of 2020 has bought to light the pain and struggle so many black people still experience. 

Racism still exists it has just evolved.

It drives home the importance of talking about the black experience and whilst the black lives matter movement is often met with all lives matter response, for all lives to truly matter, black lives must. The thought of me, my family, friends and people that look like me being murdered because of the skin we are born in pains me greatly.  

Now is the time for change and I would encourage everyone to actively stand against racism in all forms.

Nzinga - Black History Month
How does Heathrow support colleagues from Black Asian Minority Ethnic backgrounds? 

Heathrow is having a lot more conversations about race following the death of George Floyd. Previously there have been focus groups and an acknowledgement of culturally significant dates, including celebrations for Diwali and Holi.  There is more work that needs to be done in this space around representation and progression. 

The diversity and inclusion team has worked with all the D&I networks to create a plan which will provide the actions required to drive this forward. I lead the en-haNCE network, working with an amazing team of Black Asian Minority Ethnic and White colleagues to drive positive change around representation, progression and inclusion. 

What can businesses across the country do to ensure that they build a more inclusive future?

Businesses can employ the right people and bring in the appropriate resource to drive change around inclusivity, it is not enough for it to fall on just the networks or the shoulders of Black Asian Minority Ethnic colleagues. 

Businesses should have a plan as to how they will deal with the individuals that don’t care or continue to create a hostile environment because of the fear of change and the relinquishing of white privilege.

As a society, we need to continue to talk about it and create a safe space for difficult conversations. We need to do more to celebrate people from all races, cultures and ethnicities. There are amazing people from all backgrounds that are making a difference, let’s use them as beacons of light and role models as we continue to stand against racism.

To end with one of my favourite quotes and poems:

Privilege is not knowing when you are hurting others and not listening when they tell you.

Dashanne Stokes

Nzinga was recently nominated for the 2020 Amazon Everywoman Awards in Transport and Logistics.  She also features on the Empower Ethnic Minority Role Model Top 100 list for 2020. Nzinga is a well-recognised role model at Heathrow and acts as an inspiration to many colleagues.

Heathrow has a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Team as well four diversity networks which focus on gender, sexuality, disability and ethnicity – giving all colleagues a platform to support each other. Our networks implement their own inclusion initiatives; we’re proud of their achievements so far and excited about their future plans. 

As a company we are now reviewing all that we do on diversity and inclusion to ensure we are promoting a better understanding of diversity and addressing issues holistically as a business to drive real change.

This includes looking at how we provide development opportunities for all groups, listening circles, and company wide Q & A’s with our Executive Committee members on issues of diversity and inclusion.