Enitan Kane is the Chair of the Over 50’s Black Men Forum (O5BM) community group.

In this Q&A, we delve into Enitan’s journey through programmes offered by British Science Association, from a British Science Week community grant, to taking part in a panel discussion at the British Science Festival – and everything in between.

As part of O5BM’s partnership with the British Science Association, they produced a report titled ‘Black voices of the Pandemic’ which reveals the impacts of COVID-19 on their community members.

Read the full report

Can you tell me about the Over 50’s Black Men Forum community group, and your role as chair of the group?

The Over 50’s Black Men Forum (O5BM) was founded in 2018. It is a constituted community non-profit organisation with the aim to provide a support network for Black men aged over 50 years old, living in the UK.

O5BM works to identify and address concerns and issues mainly around ethnic inequalities and agism. It’s also a place for Black men to come together as a community to make our lives better through internal intervention.

There’s a series of services that we offer our community members, including peer-to-peer support, preventative health education, social prescribing, mentoring, and reducing social isolation.

As chair of the group, I coordinate some of the activities I just mentioned. I come up with all the crazy ideas – and get people on board with them! I’m also in charge of the fundraising, grant applications and interfaces between other organisations, such as the British Science Association (BSA). 

How did you first get involved with the British Science Association (BSA)?

When we were first introduced to the BSA, we were hesitant. We said, “we have nothing to do with science, there’s nothing for us in working with the British Science Association.” But the BSA encouraged us to apply for a British Science Week Community Grant.

Can you tell us about your British Science Week event?

After successfully applying for the British Science Week Community Grant, we developed a project named ‘Black voices of the Pandemic’.

For this project, we created a report which looked at the impact of COVID-19 on our community members. This report included the impacts of COVID-19 on isolation, shielding, jobs, physical and mental health, and the disproportionate effects faced by our community.

Can you tell us about the ‘Black voices of the Pandemic’ report and the findings?

In summary, the report covers three main topics; social impacts, economic impacts and health & wellbeing impacts.

Some of the findings were that, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large percentage of our community group members were concerned about contracting COVID-19 despite only a small percentage of them having underlying health concerns such as diabetes, high blood pressure and already being on controlled medication.

Most of our community group members’ fears were centred around dying from the virus. This was followed by concerns around not knowing whether they had an unknown, underlying health condition.

Why has this project been important for the community group members and what impacts do you think the report has had on them?

Alongside the ‘Black voices of the Pandemic’ report, we ran monthly health webinars and regular interactions with medical professionals focusing on the COVID-19 virus and later, COVID-19 vaccinations. These were in the form of seminars, webinars and Q&A sessions where community group members could ask questions that they may not ordinarily ask their GP, for example.

The ‘Black voices of the Pandemic’ report reinforced that we should be checking in on both our physical and mental health. It is not only important, but it is necessary for our community. For example, doing a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) check for prostate cancer, which disproportionally affects Black men. The report has also helped us capture the impacts of these activities and outputs.

In addition, the report has given our community a therapeutic avenue to manage their mental health. By sharing our stories, we have added our voices to the many others communicating their COVID-19 journeys and experiences. This gave us further insight into ourselves, how we coped as a disproportionately affected community, and ways we can cope in the future.

For O5BM, having our community actively come together and support each other informed us that we need to actively reach out to more over 50’s Black men across the UK, and not just in Chelmsford. Working with organisations such as the BSA, has its advantages when it comes to encouraging a larger audience to be members of our community.

What would you say to inspire other community groups to apply for a British Science Week grant?

If O5BM can see value in it, I don’t see why anybody else can’t as our community audience group is quite niche.

Working with the BSA, we had the realisation that science is about what makes us human. And that’s all there is to it.

I hope other groups are inspired by our involvement with the BSA’s community engagement programmes.

How have you built on the project you ran with your British Science Week grant?

I was part of the ‘COVID-19, health inequality and the future’ panel discussion event at the British Science Festival, the second BSA programme I’ve been involved in.

This was myself alongside a biophysicist and a medical doctor reflecting on the pandemic, including how the virus has affected different communities, by discussing our lived experiences. I also shared the ways in which community action can help equip us in the fight against health inequality.

Looking ahead, O5BM have our next meeting in December 2021 where we hope to discuss what’s next for us. Now that we have established a platform through the ‘Black voices of the pandemic’ report, we’re keen to take part in more projects like this.

What do you think your community group members got out of your involvement in the British Science Festival? Any long-term impacts?

For the British Science Festival panel event, our community members were invited to experience the science-behind topics within the ‘Black voices of the pandemic’ report.

Catching up with one of our community group members after the British Science Festival panel event, they said they were inspired that a science-orientated organisation such as the BSA were interested in working with a small community group like O5MB.

Organisations usually work this us to show that they are Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) focussed as a ‘tick box’. But this wasn’t the case working with the BSA. This was a case of “come and learn about science”, and pushing our members to think out of the box.

Do you think these projects have changed your and/or the community group’s relationship with science?

Definitely. We’ve all learned about using data science to drive messages about healthy living within our community group.

It’s helped us realise that science isn’t just test tubes, we can use science to drive and influence our everyday behaviour.