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Webinar: Bridging The Gap: What Is Needed To Improve Black Lives?


The reality is, and research tells us, that the lived experiences of Black people and White People in Britain are very different. Discrimination, stereotyping and systemic racism mean Black people experience worse health outcomes, live in insecure, inadequate housing and work in more insecure and lower paid employment than their White counterparts’. All these negatively impacts Black people’s health and wellbeing and perpetuates disadvantage from one generation to the next.

  • At the height of the pandemic, Black people were four times more likely to die from COVID-19 [1]
  • At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black youth unemployment (41.6%) was more than three times higher than White youth unemployment (12.4%). [2]
  • Black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness than all other ethnicities combined. [3]
  • 75% of Black people aged between 18-34 said they felt discriminated against by healthcare professionals. [4]
  • 53% of Black children live in poverty – double the rate of poverty for White children. [5]

Many organisations have made public commitments to listen to, learn from, and act on factors sustaining historical and current ethno-racial injustices and inequalities.

However, recent research commissioned by BEO highlighted that 60% of Black people don’t see systemic change coming from the very institutions that discriminate against them.

So, what actually needs to be done to ensure that we, as Black people, not just survive but thrive and even more fundamentally, how do we build trust? In essence, how do we bridge the gap? There is no single answer or solution that can explain the disparity or reduce the gaps, but what are the solutions?

This session with Siobhan Aarons and Athian Alec, trustees of the Black Equity Organisation, will explore some of these issues and provide you with the space to talk about your experiences in developing ways to reduce the gap to improve life experiences for Black communities across the UK.

Who is it for?

This webinar is open to all. Come along if you are interested to hear what others are doing to break down barriers.



This is a discussion with Marcus Ryder MBE, Siobhan Aarons, Athian Alec BEO Trustees, Lee Jasper, Lester Holloway, Ife Thomas, Chantelle Lunt, Bella, Janet Fyle and Iyiola Olafimihan

Marcus Ryder MBE, is the co-founder of the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity which was set up to explore and increase diversity across the media industry, including journalism, acting, film, TV and radio. He has over 25 years working in the media across the world, including eight years as a senior executive at the BBC, winning numerous industry awards – from BAFTAs to Royal Television Society Awards and Foreign Press Association Awards. He is also the Chair of Council for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Siobhan Aarons co-founded Conservatives Against Racism, for Equality, Britain’s first centre-right organisation dedicated to race relations, during the pandemic. A Tory Reform Group Board Member and Deputy Chair Political of Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association, she is an active campaigner for the Party and has stood twice in London Council elections. Outside of politics she is a governor at St. Jude’s Church of England Primary School in Elephant and Castle, London.

Siobhan works in the automotive industry advising on trade related regulatory and compliance matters, developing strategy and policy, across EMEA, North America and APAC. She is the chair of the UK automotive trade body’s International Trade Working Group and sits on various UK, EU and US associations’ trade committees, consulting governments and policy-makers.

Athian Akec is a young historian, writer and speaker. His main areas of focus are climate change, youth violence and racial inequality. He’s written for the Guardian, Independent, Huffpost, Huck magazine and other national newspapers. He’s been profiled by The Times and was a cover star for i-D magazine’s 40th anniversary up and rising profile of Black activists, writers, photographers and actors. Athian has spoken in the House of Commons as a member of the UK Youth Parliament. Athian previously served on the board of a youth charity and commission in Camden focusing on economic renewal following the pandemic, and was a special advisor to a Parliamentary inquiry into the teaching of Black history in British schools.

Athian was published by Penguin in September 2021 as a part of the “Black Joy ” collection with an essay on the Black British cultural renaissance.

Lester Holloway, Editor of The Voice newspaper, which celebrates its’ 40th anniversary next month. He was previously Editor of their rival, New Nation. Lester has also worked in policy and communications (TUC, IPPR, the Runnymede Trust, Centre for Labour and Social Studies), and campaigns (Operation Black Vote, Voice for Change England).

Lee Jasper, politician and race relations activist. Lee is a Policy and Organisational Development Training Consultant, Chair Alliance for Police Accountability Project Steering Group, Co-Founder Operation Black Vote / BARAC UK / Blaksox, Strategic Adviser Black Men 4 Change and Black Impact, Board Member Youth Futures, Vice-Chair BAME Lawyers 4 Justice and Chair Lambeth Youth Safety Forum.

Iyiola Olafimihan , a disability consultant, has been involved in disability justice work for over 20 years in the disability field on community engagement, capacity building, policy, and human rights law such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has worked in Nigeria and the UK where his work has focused on the intersection of disability and race, education, independent living, employment, immigration issues.

Iyiola holds senior roles on several boards. Between 2014 and 2018 he successfully set up the Inclusion Champions Network (ICN) for the Alliance for Inclusive Education. The ICN is a capacity building programme to strengthen the skills and knowledge of London based Disabled People’s Organisations as well as influence policy and decision-makers to improve on their practice around UN CRPD, article 24 (on inclusive education) as a human right issue.

Chantelle Lunt is a writer, public speaker, entrepreneur, and activist. An advocate for racial equality, having experienced racism throughout her life, particularly during her service as a police officer. She is the founder of Merseyside BLM Alliance (MBLMA), a group which she established at a time when BLM was moving out of the news cycle. Merseyside BLM Alliance has become one of the most proactive anti-racist groups in Merseyside. Chantelle chairs MBLMA’s sister group ‘Merseyside Alliance for Racial Equality’, a non-profit organisation committed to ensuring that Black people are not discriminated against and have their needs responded to at a community level.

Janet Fyle OBE MA, Registered Nurse, Registered Practising Midwife, Fellow of the Royal society for Public Health and Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in the UK. Janet has held senior positions providing service to women and children in the UK health services.

She is also a mentor and campaigner. known for her active and ongoing contribution to the wider social, political, and economic contexts of women and children’s lives and the impact, especially on the health and well-being of women and marginalised communities through lobbying, collaboration, and campaigning with others to bring about change. She is also known for her extensive campaigning to change and implement laws and policies to end Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) – Domestic Abuse, Child Marriage, Forced Marriage, Virginity Testing and Hymenoplasty, Modern slavery, Safeguarding Children and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She also champions and campaigns for health and psychological care and services for survivors of VAWG and for equity in pregnancy care for Black, and Minority Ethnic women and highlight the need for equal access to maternity care and improved pregnancy outcomes for Black women; advocating through publications, dialogue and collaboration for services for women with pregnancy related mental illness.

Janet currently provides midwifery and policy advice to the RCM on how local and national policies impact women, children, families and midwives, developing guidance and representing the RCM on a number of stakeholders advisory groups and committees (statutory, voluntary and international).

Ife Thomas, author, and public speaker. She writes and talks about how to build confidence and self-esteem in the areas of business, sales and marketing, personal development, Autism and Conscious Parenting. She is fascinated with human potential and quantum physics theory relating to a positive mindset. Ife started her career as a dancer on the hit show ‘X Factor’, BBC TV shows , creating girl groups, appearing in commercials and music videos. She has also sung on stage with artists like Leona Lewis, Elton John and Paul McCartney. After sustaining a serious knee injury which effectively ended her dancing career , Ife talked her way into the Big Brother House in 2010.

Ife’s company is called ‘MindWorkOut’ and her first book and audiobook is titled ‘Powerlift Your Career’ “Everything you need to succeed”. Ife dedicates her time to empower and encourage parents to help their children figure out what their unique talent might be. Ife is the founder of the ‘Confidence Star’, a confidence building tool for children and adults.

Bella Rareworld brings over 14 years experience as the UK’s first Black professional networking speaker, from London to New York. In her new role as a Black mental health advocate and speaker, she has worked with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Royal Borough of Greenwich, and The Samaritans to name a few.

Despite living with three mental illnesses and being a suicide survivor, Bella founded a mental health not-for-profit organisation Think Tenacity Academy CIC, which provides mental health support to Black entrepreneurs and offers free access to Black therapists. Bella continuously shares her lived-in experience and solutions on how to overcome mental health challenges whilst running a business. Her mission is to break Black generational traumas and stigma by empowering, teaching and motivating Black people to also use their voice and become brave to seek support for mental health struggles. Bella is the podcast host on Think Tenacity Podcast, sharing interviews, self-care and wellness tips weekly –


  1. Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by ethnic group, England and Wales: 2 March 2020 to 10 April 2020, Office for National Statistics, May 2020
  2. Black people four times more likely to die from Covid-19, ONS finds, The Guardian, Robert Booth and Caelainn Barr, May 2020
  3. Black youth unemployment rate of 40% similar to time of Brixton riots, data shows, The Guardian, Tobi Thomas, April 2021
  4. Black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness, Shelter, October 2020
  5. BEO/Survation research, 2022
  6. Labour analysis of DWP Statistics on Households below Average Income, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)