Tabria Lenard MBA2021 and Cole Agbede MBA2021, founders of LBS’ Black in Business Club, explain why it’s so needed and so important.
Tabria Lenard: On Monday 12 August, the MBA Class of 2021 came together for a one-day Orientation event. Our agenda was packed, but a few of us still made the time to do what we typically do in a new environment – take account of all the Black people in the room.
With almost 500 people on the MBA 2021 programme, this wasn’t easy – but by the end of the day, most of us had met and we soon learned that there were 11 of us in total. This meeting turned into a WhatsApp group, conversations, dinners, and ultimately, a safe space. And that’s exactly what LBS needs right now.
Of the nine schools I considered applying to, all but LBS had a Black Student Association. In fact, I hadn’t come across a top business school in the US that didn’t have one. The existence of a Black Student Association was extremely important to me when it came to choosing which school to apply to, and although I applied to and accepted the offer to join LBS, I did so with the knowledge that this was the one box that LBS couldn’t check. I questioned whether I’d feel supported without a community that I could truly call my own.
Cole Agbede: While Tabria can talk about the presence of a Black Student Association being a factor in her choice of business school, as someone that has grown up in Britain this was never a factor, because it couldn’t have been. In the UK and Europe, ‘Black’ is seen as a taboo word and so our social groups are limited to regional clubs – in itself a smokescreen for the community we’re trying to build.
While it can be said that certain conversations regarding race and identifying as Black are particular to the US, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the systemic oppression of Black people is indeed a global issue. It’s an issue that feeds into housing, school systems, healthcare, and certainly the workplace. What kind of leading business school would we be if we didn’t find ways to organise solutions around global issues that affect the world of business?
“We hope that by taking the important step to create a Black in Business Club here at LBS, the School can be a beacon for other educational institutions around Europe”
Tabria: At LBS, student clubs are the drivers of change, redefining the experience for students, and leaving an impact on future generations to come. In the same respect, a Black in Business Club can serve as a conduit for student-driven LBS inclusion and diversity Initiatives under the following pillars:
Cole: Clubs like Black in Business communicate internal and external messages of support and progress to a school’s community and to the wider business world. They’re a formal and professional channel for external parties with vested interests in diversity and inclusion efforts to connect with like-minded students. These associations acknowledge that the playing field is not the same for Black students and professionals, and actively work towards redressing the balance.
“The Black in Business Club will be a platform for external parties to connect with Black students at LBS. Our message is that we are ready to engage”
We hope that by taking the important step to create a Black in Business Club here at LBS, the School can be a beacon for other educational institutions around Europe. We can then take much-needed steps forward in removing the stigma around ‘Black’, and Black students everywhere can feel empowered to build the communities they need to thrive at the world’s best business schools and universities.
Tabria: Within LBS, the Black in Business Club will seek to cultivate an environment that promotes the representation, well-being, and advancement of Black professionals in business. It will serve as a cultural foundation and network for Black students (past, present, and future) and their allies.
The Black in Business Club will be a platform for external parties to connect with Black students at LBS. This includes prospective students who want to learn more about our experiences, as well as corporate organisations seeking to hire Black talent. Our message is that we are ready to engage.
Cole: As the ultimate facilitator of ongoing discussion between LBS, students, and external partners for a way forward on racial equality, we will contribute to the enrichment of the LBS experience, equipping members to become better leaders and better people.
Diversity and inclusion efforts within LBS’ Black community have effectively taken over our summer, but it’s our hope that this work far outlives our time at the School. The Black in Business Club will move this conversation forward and hold the School accountable for doing the same.
To learn more or get involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.