Luster Alfred - Race Diversity Champion

Together we aspire, together we will achieve.” Luster Alfred – Race Diversity Champion

Luster Alfred

Luster has recently been appointed our new staff Race Diversity Champion. He is from Trinidad and Tobago but moved to England many years ago when his mum came here to train as a nurse. He has worked in a variety of roles within the NHS, ranging from being a life skills recovery worker, to working as a therapeutic support worker at Gloucester House. Most recently he has joined our Autism and Learning Disabilities Team as a Clinical Administrator.

Outside of work he loves learning, meeting people from different places and walks of life, and also confessed to being a Gunner (Arsenal supporter) with a deep passion for football.

As the new Race Diversity Champion, Luster’s door is always open. He wants colleagues to approach him, bring their issues, and talk about new ideas and ways of doing things. He’s passionate about inclusion, being a visible advocate, and providing a platform for those whose voices may not always be heard.

“I was born and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, especially the small island, Tobago. Coming from a small island you don’t really meet too many people with different cultures outside from what you’re used to and your own norm. I do like living in London, being so multicultural, and open, I like learning about different cultures. I do like going out, I like socialising, I like meeting people, especially new people. Outside of work I have my family, I find myself doing a lot of reading. Football is one of my deepest passions, I do love a bit of football, as normal as it sounds.

“In Trinidad and Tobago we live as one people. Everyone considers themselves Trinbagonian as opposed to East Indian or of African descent. Living in England I’ve experienced racism in different walks of life, that I’ve never experienced in my life before and it has made an impact on me. I’ve experienced microaggressions.”

When asked if he could share a bit more about microaggressions Luster described experiences that others may not see but that he has to deal with internally. As a “big dude” Luster recounts how people look at him differently, “I find myself having to smile when I don’t want to smile, but that smile is to seem approachable and to seem safe. Not to intimidate people.” He’s been followed in shops or witnessed people hold their bag closer or moving it when he’s near and wears his staff badge to alleviate the assumptions people make, “You’re seen as someone with a bit of a Caribbean accent, dreadlocks, and it bowls into this sort of thing where people stereotype you, put you in a box. Sometimes I wear my NHS badge on the train going home from work and it’s not because I want to wear this badge, it’s just because this badge gives me that extra level of respect among people because sometimes people watch you and make their own sort of assumptions”.

Initially Luster found himself “dumbing down” his accent in order to resonate more with British people and fit in, over time he’s found the inner confidence to just be himself. “I’ve learned along the years living in England that I don’t have to do that to get through to people, and to be accepting of myself and be proud of who I am and what I am and confident in what I have to offer.”

“Initially I used to be really angry about it, but I do think taking a step back I start thinking about education, I start thinking about different things that I could do to help myself.

“It’s lit that fire in me that I really want to stand up to certain things, get rid of certain things. It makes me work harder, it makes me push that much more and it makes me want to educate people, because I think a lot of things come down to educating. People knowing about different cultures, knowing about different people, knowing what’s right, what’s wrong.

“I deal with it by being very open to people about my culture, where I’m from, my beliefs, what I hold firm to me. And I do the same thing where I try to learn about them, what’s important to them, their lives, their customs, their background. I learnt to deal with it by sharing, being open.

“The difficult experiences I have had made me a stronger person and put me in this place where I’m at now, in this role where I can support, educate and help people. I’m very proud of my customs, where I’m from and my background that is something that I hold very dear and use as a positive.”

When asked why he put himself forward for the role of Racial Equality Champion, Luster says “I put myself forward because having worked in the Trust and seen what the Trust has gone through with bringing different strategies and the push to be an anti-racist Trust, I really wanted to be part of this change that’s happening. When we had the Colour Brave Avengers coming in and the strategy that’s going to take things forward I really was excited by that, and the prospect of being a part of that change and to work towards that.

“There are so many lovely people here, so many talented people from all different sorts of places, and I just want to make a workplace where everybody feels appreciated, everybody feels included. This is something that I feel really passionate about within the workplace because I think people do have experiences, good, great, experiences, but unfortunately we do have some people having bad experiences at work and it’s just finding different ways we can make different changes. I’m not saying that everyone will have a great experience but once we can work towards everybody feeling fulfilled, included, feeling valued within their job, that is something that I really feel passionate about and within this role I want to really get to push that and be part of it.

“My whole thing is working hard on inclusion, supporting the Race Equality Network. REN has been so supportive for so many people who have worked here, including myself. Without that network I don’t think I would have been in the position where I’m at now. I don’t think I would’ve had that support and I do think it’s such an important part of the organisation and it’s something that I want to keep going and take from strength to strength. I think sometimes we don’t highlight the good things that happen.”

Luster also spoke about collaboration with other networks, “It’s about us sharing ideas across different networks so we can learn from each other and bring a more integrated approach. It’s where education comes in, because there are things that the other Champions might know that I don’t know and vice versa. I had a meeting with the other Champions and I thought that was one of the most fruitful meetings I’ve been to, we’re able to use our brains together and come together more collaboratively.

“I’m currently working with Rupert Armitstead (Diversity Champion for Disability and Long-term Health Conditions) on a project where we’re looking at the equality of the roles here in terms of the number of days that people come into work and who chooses. As admin we can’t choose if we come into work physically, but some clinicians can, it’s about dealing with these sorts of inequities and seeing how we can bring these things together for the betterment of the Trust. It needs to be equal across the board from admin who are Band 4s to your Band 9s or your band 8cs, we just need some equality because we’re all working towards the same goal, we’re all working in the same Trust, and we’re trying to do the same thing.

“I think visibility is a big thing within the Trust. We want to have more people of black and ethnic minorities within the management structures. We want more representation within these sorts of roles. When you see someone else getting to that position, it does motivate people, black and ethnic minority people: we can get there.”

Luster also plans to launch a newsletter, “This will be a place where we can highlight the great things people within the Network do. For example, Umesh did a piece on mental health and South Asian men, I thought it’s incredible that he did that interview with a publication and wanted to highlight that. These are the sort of things that can get lost. We want to be inclusive and I do think there’s some people who work for the Trust who don’t get to be included. I want to reach those people.

“I want it to be inclusive for different people and to let people know that we’re here and getting people involved, with everything else going on it’s hard to get people engaged. I think it will give us an identity as a group, I want input from everyone, from every different level. It doesn’t matter whether you’re part of the REN, it’s open to anybody with anything positive to input. I’m trying to put this team together so we can upload the newsletter, information and videos to the intranet so we will have a space where people can actually learn about different things.

When reflecting on morale across the Trust, and what he’d like to achieve as champion, Luster shared, “A lot of people are feeling the strain as there is a lot going on at the moment within the Trust. There are people who don’t really have a voice to express these things. I want to be there to support these sorts of people, those in the corners, in the dark, who experience feelings of inequity, feelings of not being included. I want to bridge that gap.”

When asked if he had one key message to share, Luster said “Together we aspire, and what we’re aspiring for is to have a workplace of equality. And not just our workplace: the world as a whole, equality, inclusivity and tolerance for people from different backgrounds, races. Together we aspire, together we will achieve.”