Celebrating Black History with Eden Haynes-Cathline
In recognition of Black History Month 2023, we are celebrating and sharing the stories of Black leaders and colleagues from across The SR Group and our networks. We are delighted to have been able to interview Eden Haynes-Cathline, Marketing Executive at The SR Group.
Tell us about your heritage?
I am from Barbados, Ghana, Guyana and Trinidad. My grandparents met each other in the UK, funnily enough and I was raised by British-born parents – then grew up in France.
How does having a multicultural background impact you?
It enables me to understand different lived experiences across cultures outside of my own as we can share similar experiences. Growing up in a multicultural city like London and meeting people of different heritages was comforting. Yet, I could never put myself in a box. Having mixed background means, it can be hard to identify solely with one. I was raised with an Afro-Caribbean background and taught about my culture through stories my grandparents told, food and music. Moving to the south of France at 12 was an eye-opener for me – having to learn a new language, studying up until university and incorporating a new culture into the mix at such a young age shaped me into the person I am today.
What would you like to see from allies to support Black History Month?
Less talking and more awareness. I can’t speak for every Black person but for myself, I would love for individuals to educate themselves more on the diversity that we all share as living beings. We aren’t all the same and no – we don’t all know each other. Someone from Ghana can have a completely different mentality than someone from Nigeria – look at the debate on jollof rice! To be an ally is to ask questions – yet to educate oneself on the language and observe whether certain questions can make someone feel uncomfortable. Ask yourself would you like it if someone quizzed you about your skin tone or the seasonings you use?
What do you think of the progress society has made so far?
There is still a long way to go. Sadly, unconscious bias is engrained in us all. Some embrace culture to simply jump on what is trending. However, there are those who are genuinely looking to embrace all diversity. Working in a progressive company like The SR Group with a support system like mental health first aiders, DEI committee and inclusive policies does help society progress. If we reshape the workplace, evolve hiring practices and share knowledge we can reshape society.
How do you celebrate Black History Month? Are there any figures that you most admire or resonate with, whether they are famous or not?
Black History Month is a moment to take a step back and observe who I am as an individual but also see how the outside world reacts. At the same time, it doesn’t really agree with me that Black people should be celebrated over one month. It shouldn’t just be a month – it should be normal to be Black. The same thing can be said for celebrations like International Women’s Day. They are observed as celebrations but there is a deep-rooted history of suffering. Black History does show progress, but we can’t neglect the normalised microaggressions that many of us have to deal with to this day. If we want society to progress, we shouldn’t be seen as separate from other people. I would like to see a world where there isn’t such segregation of thought but for us to live without questioning someone’s essence. Same thing goes for other key moments – why must a day be dedicated to a certain demographic? Isn’t it best to treat people the way you would like to be treated and no longer see the world through filters? Remove them and make the effort to unlearn preconceived damaging thoughts. There are so many online resources that can help avoid making someone feel uncomfortable.
I celebrate it every day by being who I am, discovering new novels to read by Black authors and also educating myself on different cultures, religious practices and new recipes (I am a huge foodie). I also love watching documentaries – YouTube is a great hub of content made by independent journalists/creators that you can discover.
For someone to be a hero in my eyes, I would have to know them on a deeper level. I would say my grandparents are – they were able to relocate to a completely different side of the world, buy properties and provide wonderful childhoods to their children. But on a surface level, I’d have to say Rihanna. She is unapologetically Black. She created 40 different skin shades with Fenty Beauty. Her fashion style also embraces Black culture and she simply is an advocate of inclusivity for all. When she visits Barbados, she doesn’t act pompous or like a celebrity. She mixes with the locals, who also treat her like one. She also contributed to putting Barbados on the map through her music and was honoured as national hero of Barbados by Prime Minister Mia Mottley when we only just recently became a Republic.