Being BAME — Ep2 : Rethinking Christmas

sonya barlow
4 min readDec 29, 2018

Being BAME “With 14% of the UK population now identifying as BAME, Sonya invites leaders and influencers to discuss their BAME identity, what it truly means to be BAME in the UK and debate the term’s relevance in today’s society. In this series, you can expect Sonya sitting down with exciting guests over a cup of tea, discussing all topics from identity, career, education to festivals, marriage and mental health.”

In my 25 years young I have often struggled to openly communicate my views as a BAME individual, especially to discuss those experiences in which I have felt discrimination, a lack of understanding or can’t be discussed due to the background and ‘cultural norms’. Having discussed this with the BAME community, a large number of us feel that many instances or experiences are considered as the ‘common norm’ as they have occurred, therefore muting our will to find a mutual resolution or searching for the ‘right’ answers.

In light of the shift towards diversity, inclusion and belonging — in 2018 I started a passion project — #BeingBAME — a platform to openly discuss issues and experiences faced in the BAME community and solutions, in the hope of open communication, a light on the common topics faced by the community and a step towards making the UK a more diverse and inclusive nation. My hope is that this show becomes a platform to speak openly, freely and truly; a disrupter and a leader; regardless of gender, age or industry.

In Episode 2 — Rethinking Christmas, we were joined by Sereena Abbassi — Group Head of Culture & Inclusion at M&C Saatchi Group.

The festive period is different for everyone -

In England, we provide 3 bank holidays over the “Christmas period” (Christmas, boxing day and New Years day), with many companies relaxing the working hours for Christmas eve and New Years eve; as well as majority of the country taking off the days in between to create long weekends or weeks of annual leave.

Sereena kindly agreed to join this episode to discuss the holiday season, what we can be doing to better connect with ourselves during our time off and ways in which organisations can adapt to become more inclusive, especially for those who may not celebrate Christmas as a main holiday.

Around the festive period everything slows down. Living in London — which is so busy — having the opportunity to slow down is so precious.

During the show we covered three main topic areas, which have been summarised below with actionable suggestions:

Tuning off & Mental Health

With 1/4 of us now having mental health problems and an ever increasing number of these issues caused of triggered by social media — we both agreed how important it is to tune off and refresh during the holidays.

The holidays are a good time to recharge, reflect and tune off … Recommend we cut ties with social media … As constant interaction can be exhausting.

  • Disconnecting from social media — turning off notifications, muting interactions and even deleting the apps from your phone for a period of time.
  • Connecting with yourself — using the time to better connect with yourself and giving yourself the time to relax, refresh and do nothing. By better connecting with yourself, you can connect better with others.
  • Moving away from the alcohol — though Alcohol feels like a typical notion of the British identity, limiting or reducing alcohol intake can aid in clarity, focus and tuning off these holidays.

Celebrating Festivals

With over 20 religious and 35 cultural events per year, there’s so much going on that isn’t acknowledged. Each person celebrates in their own way, and as a diverse nation we should be harnessing the diversity and making it into one of the UK’s strengths. Sereena has often celebrated this period by attending meditation retreats or volunteering in crisis centres. I often celebrate as many occasions as possible with my family, and having that excuse to make a large festive meal and sit round the dinner table.

We need to encourage education in schools and workplaces about different traditions, cultures and religions … Teaching mutual respect and understanding.

  • Learn about other festivals and traditions, including dates in the calendar so that one is aware and can be more understanding during this time.
  • Use the given time off to spend time with your loved ones and chosen family.
  • Create large celebratory events in each major town, for a way to both educate and bring the community together.

Organisations and Inclusivity

With so many events in the UK calendar, it was interesting to discuss ways in which businesses can shift towards a more inclusive culture; with the intention to be kind to employees, retain members and increase profits:

We could be offering each person 1 holiday-day a year for their own religious festival.

  • Educate the community on other festivals and traditions, by incorporating a religious or ethnic pillar internally and letting the company take ownership of how they communicate and celebrate
  • Providing each employee one day off per year for their own festival or holiday
  • Swapping the given Christmas bank holiday to one of their choice per year

In summary, this episode concluded that the holidays, a festival or a celebration is about connection — connecting with one self or others — the values are fundamentally the same, just branded differently. And in the UK, as we are proud of our diversity — we have an opportunity to lead in creating inclusive practises where we are educated, empathetic and understanding of other’s festivals, holidays and celebrations.

All festivities are about connection. Values fundamentally the same just branded differently. A great way to connect.

You can find more episodes :

#bame #beingbame #radio #presenting #diversity #inclusion #holidays #festive #presentation #business #uk #england #connection #community #network #bme #christmas

Sonya Barlow (left) with Sereena Abbassi (right)

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Sonya Barlow is a woc in Tech, cofounder of Like Minded Females and a public speaker.

Instagram @lmf_network




sonya barlow

Award Winning Entrepreneur, Author & Traveller, BBC Radio Presenter. sonyabarlowuk