This year for Black History Month, to help Post Office celebrate the culture, history and achievements of African Caribbean communities, we’ve asked some Postmasters to share their personal reflections on their experiences in their respective community, and what the significance of the recent events in the USA means to them.
Our first interview is with Postmaster Olatunde Okeowo from Highwood branch, Greater London Region.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Olatunde Okeowo, which translates as “wealth has come in bags of money”! I was born in the UK and my family has Nigerian roots. As well as being a Postmaster I am also a preacher at the New Birth Ascension Centre in Camden.
Have the recent events in the USA (the actions that led to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter campaign) and the reactions around the world, impacted you?
It’s hard to believe how, particularly in America, black people are still not seen as a part of their communities or rightful citizens and there is still a “go back home” ethos amongst so many.
Can you relate to these events and are you still impacted by them?
I don’t see it as such a big issue in this country or, particularly, amongst my community. Personally, I’ve always found that when you treat people with respect and kindness, that respect is returned in equal measure.
Do you feel your wider community has been impacted by these events?
I think the younger generation are asking questions as perhaps they feel more impacted by these events.
And has there been any impact on your branch as a result? No, but I have seen it more in other areas and on the news.
Please can you tell us if you have ever experienced racism?
A customer once told me “I thought monkeys lived in trees”.
How did this make you feel?
I try not to let things like that get to me. It subsequently turned out that this customer’s family member was a very good customer of mine and when he heard what was said, he was mortified and went out of his way to apologise to me. I have seen that customer on a number of occasions since and nothing more was said.
If there’s one thing you’d like others to understand about your experience as a black Postmaster, what would it be?
I enjoy what I do – that’s why I’m here. I love my community and I want to serve them. We are all the same. Show love, care and respect, it comes back to you.