Franstine Jones BEM is an Equality and Diversity Consultant – and one of the directors of Aspire Black Suffolk, a community interest company led by four Black female professionals. Here, she explains how she has always been on the side of people who have been treated badly
There have been challenges throughout my life, but I have always tried to be positive and ask myself, what is the lesson I need to learn from this experience and move forward? Looking back over the last two years, and losing people l know to Covid, made me realise how blessed I am to have my family and good friends around me.
I have always loved living in Suffolk. A lot of my school friends couldn’t wait to leave and go to big urban cities. I never felt the need to leave. We have everything here: beautiful countryside, lovely places to walk, places of interest; lots of beaches and, if I want to go to London or further, I can just jump on a train and be there in just over an hour. Most of my school friends who left, have now moved back to Suffolk to have children and settle here.
At school, if I saw anyone being bullied, I would go up to the bully and challenge them and get them to leave who they were picking on alone. I have always been on the side of people who have been treated badly. When I started work, l joined the Union where l became interested in staff welfare. I trained as a union steward and supported staff at Tesco’s.
When I became a single parent, I went to an employment agency to look for work. I did some tests to see what type of job I best suited to. Turns out I was a people person, so suited to working in customer services, nursing, or personnel. When they told me what personnel was, it really appealed to me, so I enrolled on my first year of my Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development diploma, (CIPD).
When I became the first woman to become President of the National Black Police Association, I realised how important equality and diversity was. I supported officers and staff who had been subjected racism and race discrimination. I saw how it had impacted on their mental health and wellbeing. It was like being back at school watching people being treated badly all over again.
A lot of people who are subjected to discrimination don’t have the courage to report it. I know what it’s like to be discriminated against and I know what a toll it takes on your health. That’s why the work I do in developing training and raising awareness about equality and diversity is so important. I saw my parents deal with racism. I had to deal with it and the same for my children. I don’t want my grandchildren to have the same experience.
BInspyred was initially about developing and delivering equality and diversity training. Then I started working with young people and really enjoyed helping young people realise their potential. That lead me to mentor and coach young people, women who had been in abusive relationships and offering advice and support to people who faced discrimination and injustice. I wanted people to be inspired by the training, mentoring, and coaching I deliver.
At the start of the pandemic, I was employed but now I now run a Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultancy and I do public speaking about surviving domestic abuse, dealing with racism and intersectionality.
Being awarded the BEM in the New Year’s Honours was the proudest moment in my life. I just wish that my mum and dad were still alive to share the moment.
In light of the murder of George Floyd, the #METOO campaign, what is being uncovered in the police service, there is definitely a lot of work to be done, when it comes to ending discrimination and injustice. My hopes and dreams are to follow my passion of ending discrimination and supporting young people in my community to become future leaders.