Kofi Oppong – Black Education and Inclusion

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Hi everyone! Welcome to another episode of our Coworking Values podcast! This episode we are talking with Kofi Oppong of UrbanMBA.

Kofi shares about the reason behind the founding of UrbanMBA, what are their mission and vision for the marginalized youth. We are also be talking all about the current issue the world is facing – racism. And that is based mainly on the lack of education about the issue and that it is prevalent that even with efforts of the Black community and their allies to raise awareness. 


What do you think about the lack of education or the miseducation about slavery?

 

it’s really interesting. So maybe the best way to start this is with a quote from a film that I found quite hilarious in terms of matching what you are talking about. It’s not hilarious itself the quote. 

It’s from a film called the Usual suspects, but I watched years ago, and it there’s a quote when he’s talking to a police Officer he says the “biggest trick the devil pulled was making people believe he didn’t exist”.

Now I’m going to use that as a, as a quote to more to your point they are talking that there’s a bigger issue around just the march and that other people are doing at the moment. And that issue is based around what you are talking about, which is education.

So in the BME community or the black community, we feel very strongly that because of the lack of our history in education, it stops us from developing an identity.

We need to teach black education in schools, and it’s been asked for over 100 years. And I think I was having a conversation with you previously. 

And through this period now, just to for people to think about is that one, when they decided last year, the year before that they wanted the LGBT community to be representative to kids at two to four years old.

My first thoughts: Well, it’s not a and this is nothing against that community is that we’ve been trying to get black education into schools for over 100 years and have not got anywhere.

 

Links

Kofi on Linkedin
Urban MBA – London based program for young people
Stu Mclaren Live FB Post – Black Lives Matter – An Open and Real Discussion
#Billboardtoboardroom – How top companies statements about race are reflected at board level

 

 

 

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Bernie J Mitchell 0:03  

Good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are in the world, ladies and gentlemen. This is another round of epic, coworking assembly podcasts. And just when we were getting our heads around COVID the whole incident is really under playing it with George Floyd happened in Minneapolis and that in my opinion that has made the whole human race question how it conducts itself all over again. And I’ve been watching stuff on TV and keeping up with things and you know, my heart is in my mouth as I speak.

 

Zeljko Crnjaković 0:47  

This episode is brought to you by Cobot, our leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about cobalt is that it is produced by people manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your coworkers and community, check out cobot@cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 1:21  

One thing that popped to mind is I posted some stuff on Instagram. And I checked with Jeannine. I said, how does how does this sound? You know what I’ve written on Instagram? And she said it sounds like you think we in the coworking assembly have it all covered? So, we’re all right. And you know, that hurt but that was exactly the kind of feedback I needed it because a lot of people whatever race or class or everything, they think they’ve got it all covered. And what’s happened in the media. We’ve seen a lot of stuff isn’t covered. And people just have no idea what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes. And there’s a lot of links, I’m going to put in the show notes or we’re going to put in the show notes for you.

Bernie J Mitchell 2:12

And obviously, I don’t expect you to go to every single link, but there is some, a lot of educating, particularly as white Europeans we need to do to find out how the world occurs for people who are a non-white and someone who gave an epic talk in Belgrade at Coworking Co Living last year is Kofi, who’s a huge part of the London Coworking Assembly. And, he’s one of the people in the London Coworkers Assembly that I check in with about how the language I’m using fits cultural reference points, and a big thing for me, which we’ll go into in this podcast is how coworking is a very white sport. We’ve discussed this in conferences at around diversity and inclusion, and we’ve never met anyone who’s actively keeping people out of a coworking space, but people are not being made to feel welcome. In the imagery you we use if you go to all the major coworking conferences, run by very nice people around Europe, there is a 98% white audience there and something like Coworking Europe and, we’d love Jean-Pierre, there is 500 people in the room, sometimes more than that, And 98% of that room is non-white. And you can probably if you’re listening to this, and you go to that conference, you can probably name those people. So, Kofi is going to come in today, and we’re going to ask some idiotic questions and he’s going to set it straight and there’s a theme about lasting change, which I’ll allow Kofi to develop here. And at the moment that is the best message I’ve got to the coworking industry going forward, which are picked up from Covina in a cultural coaching session.

Bernie J Mitchell 4:10

So, Kofi, we’re going to link to your older podcast as well. But just for people that haven’t heard that, what are you known for? And what do you what would you like to be known for?

Kofi Oppong 4:18  

And thank you Bernie and Zeljko for inviting me to have a chat. So, what I’m known for is a charity called Urban MBA. And what we do is we teach enterprise skills to marginalized people who are 16 to 25 years old. The idea is that I’ve always felt that entrepreneurship is where the world is going because of how much technology is coming about. So artificial intelligence, 3D printing all of these new sectors, and funnily enough, we’re talking about what’s going on with the racism scenario – all these new sectors very rarely hit the BME community and they tend to spend a lot of time focusing on sport, music, etc., as the areas where they feel that they’re most comfortable to create a business idea when there’s all these new technologies. And one of the reasons that generally tends to happen is because we have no faces of colour in those new expanding areas. And it’s still very difficult to get into architecture, or any of those things if you’re from a BME background.

Kofi Oppong 5:28

So the course is 6-12 weeks and we’re looking to create an academy because I feel there’s an opportunity for a one year Uni-style Academy that will allow anybody whose 16/18 upwards to be able to get that sort of university style education, but a very different way in terms of how it’s taught. So, we use popular culture, storytelling, and reference points all from sports and different areas to explain complex subject matter and to help them to develop business ideas. One of the last people who, well, maybe the person who’s during the best days you will see on social media right now a lady called Victoria, who runs something called Sumno Plantain Chips. And she just launched in Sainsbury, and it’s the first female to launch and sell a black African female tool to Selfridges. She wants you to save Sainsbury’s yesterday. And she’s in Amazon, and quite a few stores and we’ve helped her in five years she was on the course in 2015 supported her and she’s gone on our way now and managed to get to this level. So there’s evidence that a lot of stuff that we do work, and I’m keen on redressing the balance between what the BA mi community or people marginalized areas can go to in terms of from an education standpoint, which we’ll talk a bit more in detail about later. 

 

Bernie J Mitchell 6:54

I’m going to keep an eye on Sainsbury’s for those chips now. And so, there’s me, I’m going to start back at this point on was, I was writing about this in my email newsletter is what I went to university and I ended up doing English literature and education. And I did all these modules basically, I studied a lot of work from the 18th, 19th and 20th century. I was beside myself how much I didn’t know about the British Empire and slavery and even going a bit further forward, like how Europe was reconstructed after the Second World War. And what happened to countries like Poland as they fell behind the Iron Curtain. And there’s a book which we’ll link to in the show notes by Hirsch. And it’s called British which goes into this point as well. And so, when going with this, Kofi is terrific how much of free History is missed out in the English education system.

Bernie J Mitchell 8:04

And how like the most I knew about slavery was Egyptian slaves, and that’s because I went to a Catholic school. And they’re constantly referencing the Bible. But I think I just feel that we are so on educated or wrongly educated about how the UK got to and Europe got to this point, that is why we’re in this situation. And, what do you think about that?

 

Kofi Oppong 8:35

So, it’s really interesting, and maybe the best way to start this is with a quote from a film that that I found quite hilarious in terms of matching what you are talking about. It’s not hilarious itself the quote, it’s from a film called ‘The Usual Suspects’ that I watched years ago. And in it, there’s a quote when he’s talking to a police officer and he says, “The biggest trick the devil played was making people believe he didn’t exist.” Now I’m going to use that as a quote to your point that you’re talking that there’s a bigger issue around just the market and a lot of people are doing at the moment. And that issue is based around what you are talking about, which is education. So, in the BME community or the black community, we feel very strongly that because of the lack of our history in education, it stops us from developing an identity. And if you look in the UK, in particular, up until the age of 12, or 13, black young men get top grades, it’s when we go past 13 onwards that all of a sudden, they start to lose interest, etc. In terms of the education system and they fall away. 

 

Kofi Oppong 9:50

You then get to this period where they get to about 15, and I cannot tell you through my course how many young people have said; “I was told by my career’s teacher, that wasn’t going to make anything of myself…” and hence why they end up going the wrong way. We need to teach black education in schools, and it’s been asked for over 100 years. And I think I was having a conversation with you previously, and through this period now, just to for people to think about is that one, when they decided last year before that they wanted the LGBT community to be represented to kids at two to four years old. My first thoughts were it is nothing against that community – we’ve been trying to get black education into schools for over 100 years and have not gone anywhere. And in this period now, for COVID-19 a lot of laws have been made up very quickly in past so for every single time we do a march or any of these things happen. Are we really looking at the top level and will anything change there? I have not heard Boris or any of those world leaders say; “Actually, we need to have a review of all the system. And what is it that the black community need?” – In order to feel to the point that you made more welcome and everything. And the first thing I must start from is education. 

Kofi Oppong 11:17

They cannot go anywhere else apart from their education and giving people the opportunities to be educated in the right areas. So I’ll just finish this question with just letting you know that Oxbridge, which is Cambridge, and Oxford University, pick 80% of their students from only eight schools in the UK, and those eight schools are schools like Eton. And they played a little game last year, in my opinion, when they were saying how many days off, but it was really in response to a lot people questioning their selection process. And that just gives you an example of how much education we don’t get access to. And the fact that we don’t understand or our history – is not taught to other cultures like yourself that you mentioned, because if they did, there’s a better chance that you would understand more about slavery and less of the racism might come out.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 12:26

Exactly, that’s I’m going to, I’ll put a link in the show notes to this book I read a couple of years ago, which knocked me sideways all over again was why I’m no longer talking to white people about race and in there’s a whole chapter about the difference between exactly the point you just made about education and young black men. And my son at nursery met his best friend Nathan, so nine years ago they met and we became really good friends with his parents. And as a result as we’ve grown older, so they know they’re their equal children and Nathan’s black and you know my son Olli, is white – half Argentine, he’s, he’s a white blond haired person. And as we’ve grown older we talk a lot about what we’re talking about on this podcast with his parents and their worry about how their son would fare in education even though he’s actually a little bit more ahead of Ollie, you know maths in English, and they’re worried about how he will fare in living in zone four in London in the education system and beyond to where our son is, and then also, a conversation that never occurred to me until I spoke to his dad about it is at some point – he’s going to have to explain to his son – look if you were out having a beer one night, something happens, you got to stay still. Because if you run and a policeman comes after you, there’s more likely of something happening to you than Ollie.

Bernie J Mitchell 14:08

So, this is another level of awareness, you have to have as a young black man in London or anywhere probably, like probably anywhere, compared with your area and looking past me. And I know that happens or watch Rodney King in 1994. But it never occurred to me that that is of concern that my son’s friend would have.

Kofi Oppong 14:34  

And so just to add to your point, there’s been a lot of a lot of people who have been watching what’s going on with the marches, etc., would have seen two very strong points coming from John Boyega. Who was in the Star Wars movie? And that point you mentioned about your son really has influenced what he said over the last week, the first point was made on Instagram. And it was quite black and white, I suppose is the best way to do it about his thoughts on the system because he was friends with Damilola Taylor and was the last person to see them. And for those that are not aware – was a young black boy who was killed by a group of as gang of white boys. And he was very young. He hadn’t been in the country for that long. And John Boyega, and his sister were looking after him, and were the last people to see him. So, he’s got very strong views. And that’s why you saw him marching and talking about that, because, as well as the police, we have this other problem as well, that gangs are also or the racism that we face is at that level too. So, we’ve got the police problem, we’ve got the other problem there. Which just may make it a lot more difficult for black people generally to get on in life. Because we always have to, as you mentioned, watch behind our backs.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 16:04 

So I want to skip over these huge points and we’re going to put links to all these things in the show notes and if you’ve never read show notes in your life, go to these because they will just inform and if you’ve got anything we want us to add to them, just email us in get in contact with us because this is vital. And there’s just so much work we need to do. I’m stumbling over my word to Kofi is because I think  they came out the other link or put in the show notes to Stu McLaren did this very open and honest, Facebook Live discussion about how he won’t go into the details here, but he misused language.

Bernie J Mitchell 16:49

 He had culturally inappropriate language and didn’t realize he was doing it. And then he addressed this whole thing in a Facebook Live and not in a kind of Jerry Springer reality TV show. He was like – This is so fucking cool. And this is how we’re going to do it… And the three black ladies came on and coached him through how he’d be misusing his language and pointed forward. And one of the themes is a lady called Kim McCormack, who is African-American. And she, this was after we spoke about this podcast, Kofi, she said that, lasting changes, and this is like a never-ending marathon. It’s not like one day, we’re going to suddenly go – oh everyone loves each other. There is 400 years of hurt here, and everything else on top of that. So, there’s enough. I mean, there’s a sort of narrative about the points we’ve raised in the beginning, but what would you like to see in the context of lasting change? And that theme that you’ve helped us develop here?

 

Kofi Oppong 17:54

So, I think I’ll go back to my original quote from why I said my quote, because actually Bernie, the world does not work on humanity in any shape or form, in my opinion, the world operates on five levels. Okay. And because of that reason, we are kept out of most areas for that particular. So lasting change. We’ve already brought up the education system. The other thing is financial models, and I think there’s a lady recently, I was speaking to some young guys last week who have been on my course. And what’s happening with stuff like WhatsApp is you get to see a lot of things that you didn’t expect to see. So, when we’re talking about lasting change in these last six or seven weeks in terms of these young men, and what they’ve experienced in terms of information flying around has been twofold.

 

Kofi Oppong 18:42  

One, they have worked out that with COVID-19 black people are more likely more likely to die than white people. That’s what’s been clearly coming out to them. There’s been a video going around over former African Ambassador who talked about France with a deal for previous African colonies, where they have to deposit all their money into a French bank account, who then make 40 times that amount of money from it. And then if they those African countries want their money back; they have to request it as a loan with interest which cripples their country.

 

Kofi Oppong 19:25

Africa also provides 30% of the world’s resources, Bernie. And in terms of natural stuff, like Cobalt, which is what’s used in mobile phones, and autonomous cars, which are coming are going to also be using these as part of the lithium ion batteries. The countries where they get that the most from is places like Congo. There’s four in the world, Australia, New Zealand and other place but Congo is the number one place. Yeah, all of these countries are poor. If France and doing that, then you can understand why two doctors then come on to French TV and talk about that they’re going to use a vaccine that’s been created for COVID-19 on African people and tested there. Now, if the top of the country is behaving like that, in terms of taking African money, you can understand why these people will come and say that because they don’t think we’re worth much. In addition, Africa has received the least deaths in COVID-19. So how can it be viable, apart from the fact that you don’t value them as living people? No other way to look at it. And then we’ve had this situation with George, as you’ve mentioned, so the reason why these riots have become – or not riot, sorry – these marches have become so global is because lots of people genuinely now saw a man fighting for his life for 14 minutes graphically that was passed through every single piece of social media. 

Kofi Oppong 20:56

So, to come back to the point until we also have financial parity, it is virtually impossible for us to do anything, and is that area that we need to work out as well. How do we get access to finance to build businesses to do different things? And how do we get Africa out of all these problems when a lot of it is the system that you talked about from 400 years ago, still exists in some form of slavery – if France are asking Africa and forcing them at 14 colonies, I believe, to deposit all their money. And the last area is politics. So, politics is another area where we have no say, and when we look at Colin Kaepernick when he did a peaceful demonstration by kneeling, he’s been ostracized by the whole of America and the NBA for doing something peacefully. So what do you do if you do it peacefully you get ostracize the money situation is always a factor that really controls a lot of the things that happen that we have no impact into, at the ground level. And if we’re looking at what we can do better for blacks in the UK or in coworking, it’s making people feel welcome. 

Kofi Oppong 22:21

So, I always talked about celebrate Black History Week properly in your coworking spaces as an example. They are very different; do you know that target consumer and what makes them tick? Just having two or three images or talking to them in the right sector? This will get them to understand what coworking is because the whole reason I joined coworking with you was because I said I felt it was a bigger area. But actually, none of the young people that we work with, who are from diverse backgrounds knew what a coworking space will be. So, we still have to look at what we talked about in Serbia, almost a year ago and say are you doing anything better to encourage young BME’s into your coworking space? And are you talking to them? Or are you just talking to the typical person that we think is cool, who has his Mac laptop, and we’ll come into a coworking space and we’ll pay you money.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 23:21

There was a big thing in our diversity and inclusion conversations being noticing who’s not there. And we’ll link to a podcast with Alex Hillman, earlier on, and I asked him as some of the stuff around this topic, and he said that, when… and this is the level of awareness we have to get to, people come to him in Philadelphia and say, oh we doing this really interesting event. Do you know anyone that knows about Reddit, Bitcoin, God knows what it is? And the first few people that always pops into his head are white men because he’s a white man. And as I think of guests for the podcast, I have a list of people that I’m not going to go to because the first people I always think of are mainly bald white men with glasses, and you think I’m joking there, I just attract people like me. And, he spoke about that in the podcast and then he’s not the only person to say this. We’ve all said this – you have to notice who’s not there. So, when you go to a room, and there’s only you know, there’s like, if I go to a room or an event, I’ve organized and it’s all slightly chubby, bald, middle aged men with glasses. I know, I haven’t done enough work. And can you comment on that thread of, actually going out your way to make sure people are they’re not just posting and saying everyone welcome?

 

Kofi Oppong 24:53  

Well, what we do is we spend a lot of time on ground level, making sure that we where we are going to be from an events perspective, we give a lot of our time free, so as an example, young, black male or female can book an hour’s conversation with me just to talk about business. That doesn’t happen with many organizations. So, they find that they’re talking with word of mouth, and they come to us. What is very interesting about your point is other people who are doing stuff in the sector, very similar to me. So, I have two or three organizations on a regular basis, send me emails and say, can you send it out to your target consumer? And I’m like, why are you guys not working to encourage them? One of them is a coworking space, which I won’t mention, that do regular events there. But I said to them, you’re not targeting this sector. And so their understanding of this meant, let’s send Kofi an email and get him to send it to his target audience because he already has them that will bring us the audience that we require. Which I have flatly refused to do because they have not understood anything that I’ve said to them in terms of how are they going to attract more of that consumer into their workspace. 

Kofi Oppong 26:13

So, all of those things need to be considered, you have to think about what you are doing, write it in your policies to your point. And then do something about it by actually being involved in some of the stuff that they like, so that you can target them, and so that you can even speak to them. But if you don’t understand what they like, or what they do, which is the fundamental part of business, then you cannot expect those guys to want to come to your space. It has to be inclusive. And I just want to add that I’m in the charity sector, Bernie. And I will tell you now, every single time I go to anywhere to do it, the charity and social enterprise sector, I’m one of the few, if not at all, well one, that is the black face amongst the crowd. So it happens at every single level. And one of the people who used to give us funding, I’ll tell you this, was doing a report and working out why up to about 5000 pounds, lots of local grassroots BME charities would get funding. Once that went past 5K, you found that it dropped down. And it was something like 5% get any further investment from their organization. And they had to put in a whole way of trying to work out why this was happening.

Kofi Oppong 27:34

So, when we talk about finance, and how it supports, even the people who are doing all the great stuff on the ground are not getting fantastic funding for what they should do, for one reason or another. And this problem exists throughout industries. And that’s why I say politically, like what they did in American football, maybe when they said the Rooney Rule, which was at least one black man gets an interview. We need to look at politically how do we put these things in place to allow more people to come through and develop more stuff for BME communities, but also make it more inclusive.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 28:10  

This reminds me of a thread my friend is posting on Instagram at the moment, which we’ll also link to in the show notes. And it’s called from ‘Billboard to Boardroom’. So, she takes a picture of what, a lot of companies that we will have on our phone, probably wearing our feet, say like – Black Lives Matter, and this is really important… and then it takes a picture of their boardroom. It’s only about 10 people on the board. And most of them – and you can go look for yourself, most of them, there’s like 10 people, there’ll be eight men, two women, and one of those 10 people will be non-white. And these are, these are brands, a lot of their targets market are, non-white people. And but they kind of say one thing and I don’t suppose they deliberately do another but, please come in Kofi, I think they do enough to make sure that the balance is redressed at that C-suite level.

 

Kofi Oppong 29:22

Yeah, and that’s why I keep talking about policy change. What is the policy? What are you going to do if it’s not written within it? Then how do you do that? And you brought me actually to a great point and the reason why I bought Victoria up – is because Victoria who just launched Sumno in Sainsbury’s, business partners, Carla, a lady who’s from KPMG. Now, she was going to a meeting to get investment for her plantain chips. And one of the things we were discussing and she’s going to be on a video call with us, Carla business partner said, do not change a single thing about you. You go in there as you are. So, Victoria had to walk into a boardroom to ask for investment, where every single one of them was a white middle class male. Now, it’s not the fact that she nailed it. But how intimidating is that? And how many people would often get that opportunity. And what happens a lot of people is that they then go, Okay, I need to change my whole persona, because otherwise they’re not going to give me what I need. And she went in as herself with her character and all the others. And that came across abundantly. And that’s how she actually got the money. But too often, it is that way. And too often, that scares too many of the BME community, if they have to do that, and why they don’t get investment for what they do. 

 

Kofi Oppong 30:43

So, I hope that answers the question, but it’s like across the board, and as I’ve said to you, the three areas that we need huge amounts of change -policy and finance and education. Those three areas, something needs to come out of all these marches that tick those boxes. Otherwise what we’re going to do is have the same as Rodney King in 91. We’ve since had riots and Brixton Broadwater, 2008 riots that we had from another killing, and still nothing has changed at the top level. And again, that’s why I quoted what I quoted at the beginning. Because we’re not looking at the right ways of doing it, and what we need to change in order to create proper lasting change. And from everybody else’s perspective, consider – do you have those right policies to allow those people from ethnic minorities to be able to flourish, and that includes at board level, that you’ve mentioned, because even the organization I came from, which you all know, has just been pulled up for saying and supporting the BME community actually at board level, they don’t have one black person at board level.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 31:57  

When you were talking about Is it Victoria going into a pitch for funding? Yes, yeah. So that situation where there’s like one young black lady with a room full of white middle class men and my wife works for a lot of East End local authorities. She’s a clinical psychologist she works with at risk youth, and she was doing a master’s in knife crime in the media. And there’s a thing we can link to from that idiot, Piers Morgan, sorry to be so bias talking. They had a very eloquent argument where he said there’s a lot of black men knifing each other in London. It’s like there’s not a lot of black men and he goes into the details and that was basically what my wife researched. So it wasn’t, people running around having a laugh knifing each other. It’s way deeper than that. But it’s like all those black people in London, all those black kids in London knifing each other, what a mess! And it’s nothing like that. And then as a result of a master, she had to lead a training session at work. And as a lot of people who listen to this a lot know that, you know, Lorraina is from Latin America. And she’s white, she’s from Argentina.

Bernie J Mitchell 33:20

So, she tends to be speaking, she’s a foreigner, but she’s still white, and then she was running this class at her work for the senior leadership team, who were all black. So they discussed because they really into it like me, they’re really interested in this thing, like how it felt being the… she felt very intimidated, because they all were senior to her in their life experience and, academic qualifications and stuff like that. And she was, teaching this class to people who already knew… and part of the exercise was to talk how it felt, and there was this kind of, well, you know, we’re black people, we just used to be spoken at, from a period of authority by white people, we just get on with it… I don’t want to misrepresent anyone here. But it never occurred to me that that’s how those people feel. And then from a separate work situation over the last decade, she’s been in a meeting, and I can’t say who, but like in a meeting in a work situation, and someone kind of harmlessly in air quotes said, Oh, all those people coming over here. And she’d said, what people? And they’d say – Well, you know, people, referring to refugees or immigrants or someone that – and then she’ll say, I’m effectively an immigrant. Do you mean people like me? And people have gone – No, No, I don’t mean that… So, what do you mean? And then it’s highlighted that it’s just this language here that, Edward he talks about, this is ingrained way of thinking that is getting spoken more and more about online and in the media at this moment in time.

Bernie J Mitchell 35:19

And, I’ve got loads of situations where people just say things that they don’t really mean them. But it’s very all thought out the way they represent their language, and how the intention would land with other people. And that’s what happened in that thing I linked to with Stu McLaren, the language he was using was harmless, and he was horrified when he realized how it landed for people who were non-white. But, it was very tough to receive that. Do you want to comment on that a little Kofi?

 

Kofi Oppong 35:51  

Yeah, because I think that when we’re talking about education, there are two styles of education. And first style is what I’m talking about, which is at school and the history for black people. Then the second style is education that if you’ve got 95% of your people are white middle-class males, your language is going to be based around that. You know, that’s factual, so the question is, how do you get somebody to come in and train your culture to change? And secondly, to get your culture to change, you then need to encourage more people who are going to be there that from a diverse background can actually pull you up. Because the reason a lot of this language is consistently wrong, is because they’re all talking to the same people and each other, and so when they then come to talking about it outside, they don’t consider it correctly. So, I mentioned earlier on before we started about the GAP advert. And them having that two years ago, which was putting a black guy in, ‘I’m a cheeky monkey.’

 

Kofi Oppong 36:53

I then have that same young guy that I was talking to you about earlier on last week when he mentioned all the things that he felt was going on. He then got a picture of Rice Krispies where there are three white kids on that. And then he got a picture of Coco Pops, where they’ve dictated that as a monkey. So, his question now is, are all these things a perpetual way that these people are trying to make me feel down? Or is this just a natural occurrence? But what’s happening now is people are scrutinizing that level. Now to say… well, why should it be a chocolate monkey on there? And Kellogg’s should take responsibility for that, and change it, because in the Rice Krispy ones there’s three nice young white boys. So now where we have to challenge all these languages, and you’ve got to be very careful no matter who you are, in terms of what you’re portraying out, because all of these have subliminal context to young people who are finding it quite a struggle or to anybody who’s finding a struggle to move forward in sort of those areas. And so that’s why we need change. 

Kofi Oppong 38:11

That’s why you need more BME communities at board level or at any level. And I was one of the few it took me a little while to really understand that they needed me more than I needed them. And I suppose in my corporate world, because I was the one that was giving them all the information about what was cool on the streets, they wouldn’t go to anybody else. So that’s because of my background from where I’m from – East London, and I’m like, well, you’re using the fantastically for the right things that you want. But we still don’t have the right people at the top level, who also will be able to influence and help people like me come through that organization.

 

Bernie J Mitchell 38:48  

Huge. I’m going to stop there, Kofi because I’m running out of time, but we can come back for another round. I’m going to put another link in the show notes, too. to Dr. Bernie Brown, a lady got killed at Charlottesville in the in the race riot, Bernie Brown did a 35-minute talk on why we need to keep talking about Charlottesville, and the whole thing about owning our past. And she explained in there about that because listening to that, you might be thinking, why are you getting so upset about two cornflake packets. And in this particular thing, she explains why that is really, really important. And if you don’t think it’s important, that’s even more reason to go and listen to 35 minutes with Bernie Brown, because it helps you know, I was already doing my best of this and it helped me to the next step of understanding how the world occurs for people. But where can people find you online Kofi?

 

Kofi Oppong 39:57  

You can find me online at UrbanMBA.co.uk. And you can find us on Instagram, UrbanMBA_, and on Twitter, Urban_MBA. We have lots of courses that we run every six to 12 weeks. And it’s for people from marginalized backgrounds. So, we don’t discriminate neither, from that perspective. It’s for anybody who’s struggling with marginalized background that wants to get their life on track. It’s not just about business, it’s about life skills, your resilience, how do you even deal with some of these things that we’ve sort of talked about. And before I go, I just want to make one point very clear for me that a lot of this stuff to do a race always occurs when we are facing some form of recession. And if you recall, in 2008, the BNP managed to win quite a few seats, because everybody blames the minorities for why the country is in trouble.

Kofi Oppong 40:56

 So, I’m not very surprised that all of this stuff is happening. Because it always seems to occur more around these periods where minorities are the ones to blame. And I recall it was massively against Polish people even at that time in 2008, because a lot of them were coming here and doing a lot of jobs around a lot of people that I was talking about. And they were as much to blame as we were for what that economic situation was. And that just ties in my whole thing about the economy. And obviously, we’ve mentioned politics and education. And I hope that as we go forward with London Coworking and European Coworking, a lot more time is taken to consider that how we become inclusive for all, not just for the BME, even though that is the current subject matter, but how do we do it to make everybody feel inclusive in this coworking spaces?

Bernie J Mitchell 41:48

Thank you so much for your time Kofi, thanks so much Zeljko for producing and editing and making sure we stay live and online with this and every episode. If you Google, European Coworking Assembly or go to Coworking assembly.eu, you can listen to this podcast, you can sign up for our weekly email, we’re here every week with an episode drop in on a Tuesday, and we would love to hear from you if you got a story about COVID and black lives matter. Everyone’s life matters – how we can regenerate the European economy and our local economy with coworking as we move forward in 2020. Thank you very much stay safe and take care of each other.

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