2020 has been an unusual and challenging year.
I, like so many, have had to adjust to the changes that living through a pandemic brings. I have more expertise in ‘Zoom’ than I ever expected to need! I have been surprised at how well the work I do has translated to this medium. I have also been fortunate in living in a beautiful rural area with friends and family staying safe. I know others have been much more impacted by loss and trauma. My heart goes out to them.
This unusual year had an extra twist for me when I received an email back in June that the Prime Minister was: ‘recommending that Her Majesty The Queen may be graciously pleased to give informal approval that you be appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Birthday 2020 Honours List.’ It was quite a moment when I read this.
After a quick bit of research I was even more surprised to find out what a CBE represented. The CBE is the highest ranking ‘Order of British Empire’ awards in the UK, awarded to members of the public for ‘outstanding achievement or service to the community’. I also quickly became aware that that colleagues had put a lot of time and effort into writing and submitting a nomination. I didn’t know who they were, but I was very grateful to them. I now had the weekend to decide whether I was going to accept the award.
Why did I hesitate? Well, 2020 is also the year that George Floyd was killed, and the Black Lives Matter campaign began. It was the year that DDPI woke up to the fact that a largely white and heterosexual group of board members and trainers had not been mindful of our colleagues from black and ethnic minority cultures or of those of different sexual orientations. Our trainings and practicums were not representative of the differences amongst those coming to us keen to be supported on their own DDP journeys.
Against this backdrop I was doing my own work understanding my white fragility and unconscious biases in the context of my own family which, on the paternal side, came to this country as Jewish immigrants. I had to decide how I felt about an award linked to British Empire and its associations with historical exploitation, colonialism, racism and slavery. I am in support of an honours system which acknowledges the achievements of members of the public and recognises British excellence. I accepted the award with a promise to myself that I would use it as a platform to raise issues of racial inequality and social injustice.
I am honoured to be counted amongst many amazing people who have achieved so much. Alongside my individual contribution this award also recognises the hard work of many people in ensuring that children, young people and their families get the best support possible especially when their lives have been touched by emotional distress, trauma and loss.
I want to thank those who nominated me and who supported this nomination. I also want to thank the many people who have been in touch to congratulate me on this achievement. I have been overwhelmed by the many lovely comments I have received. A CBE was not something I had ever imagined receiving. It is a great privilege to have these letters after my name. Maybe one day it will be recognised as an ‘Order of British Excellence’ reaching out to all those from many diverse backgrounds who live and work in this complex and beautiful country of ours.