Celebrating Black History Month – Wesley Williams
Name: Wesley Williams
Occupation: Fire Officer/ Station Commander
Ethnic Background: Black British
Family Origin: Jamaican
In what generation did your family come to the UK? Early 1960
Wesley Williams grew up in Dudley where he still lives. He initially trained in carpentry and joinery until he was old enough to join his chosen career in the fire service. He initially started as a firefighter but soon realised he had the ability to lead and take on more responsibility.
He has done a number of different roles including operational and training, in addition to specialist roles in fire safety enforcement, policies and procedures and incident room manager. He currently holds the position of Station Commander managing and leading his own station where he’s responsible for 40 staff, 3 wards in Birmingham and sits on a number of multi agency groups to make safer communities.
Wesley has two sons, Timothy and Thomas, and three daughters, Laura, Hannah and Aimee, as well as five beautiful grandchildren.
What inspired you to pursue your chosen career?
The summer of 1976 where there was a spate of fires due to a hot and dry summer. The physical nature of the job and serving my community. Having the absolute support of my mother who was my inspiration. There were not many officers from a BME (Black Minority and Ethnic) background so I have found it a challenge however, this made me more determined to give it a go.
Do you feel there is a proportionate representation of minorities within your chosen field? If not, what do you think the government or society could/should be doing to encourage more people of minority backgrounds to pursue similar careers?
That’s a definite no, I am currently working on this with our Diversity, Inclusion, Cohesion and Equality team (DICE). We have carried out a management briefing to promote the equality duties. The potential problem we may face is that our communities, can often distance themselves from our activities, if they feel that the service doesn’t reflect the people within these communities. This in my business is a cause for concern.
I believe that the Equality Act is a strong piece of legislation but it’s now time for it to be enforced, to encourage compliance.
Are there any aspects of your family’s culture that you feel were particularly prominent or evident in your upbringing, or that you are particularly fond of?
Strong Caribbean values and having religion in my younger life.
How are you currently/or do you plan to preserve an awareness of their background and heritage in your children & future generations? Is this something that you consider important?
It depends, as my children are of dual heritage, I speak as much about my Caribbean roots as I do about their Britishness.
Who would you consider to be the most iconic, pivotal or inspirational figure in black history & why?
Martin Luther King in my eyes for the stand he made in the most hostile environment and doing so as a man of peace.
Were you educated in black history growing up? Do you think, in light of and celebration of the UK’s diverse population, that black history should be taught in schools?
No, like a lot of us our history only came to light when schools touched on immigration in the 50/60s but this was a joke. The film Roots was my eye opening moment as I never knew about slavery nor the scale of it before that. Yes, I do think there should be more about black history taught as part of the national curriculum.
Do you have any plans to celebrate Black History Month? If so, how so?
Look to support DICE by making an educational video.