Five questions for Black History Month: Glenn Carrington

Glenn sits in an ambulance

Ambulance worker Glenn Carrington holds the Eastern general seat on UNISON’s national executive council.

He’s the next person to take the 5 Questions challenge for Black History Month.

Who are you?

Glenn Carrington, AKA The Bear. I was the first Black paramedic in Cambridgeshire Ambulance Service, now part of the East of England Ambulance Service, and the first Black chair of UNISON’s EEAS branch.

I’m on the regional Black members committee, regional council, UNISON’s national ambulance sector group and the national executive council.

Why is Black History Month important to you?

It’s important to me because it makes us talk about the impact of Black people in this country. We’ve always been here but we’ve not been talked about.

I remember our Black members committee doing a quiz for Black History Month at the AGM. I was looking to see if there were any Black people in the royal family other than Meghan Markle, it tuned out some historians say we had a Black queen, Queen Charlotte — then another Queen Philippa. It’s not talked about, it’s not in schools.

Even in Roman times we had Black people coming over to guard Hadrian’s Wall, we’ve always been here but it’s like a dirty little secret.

Tom Abell and Glenn Carrington sit down to sign the charter

What’s your proudest achievement in UNISON?

Becoming branch chair, followed very closely by getting on the NEC, I was chuffed to death at both of them.

I wanted to make a difference and be an inspiration to other Black members, I wanted them to say If he can do it, I can do it — not do a Suella Braverman and pull the ladder up behind me.

Who’s your inspiration/role model?

My mum and grandad.

My granddad, he was a big strong Black man. Nothing phased him.

I came over here when I was seven, when I went to junior school during poppy month they were talking about people in the war. I said my granddad and dad fought. The teacher said that was a lie – there were no Black people in that.

I went home and cried my eyes out. My granddad put one medal on one side of me and my dad put his on the other side and we took a picture and I showed the teacher to prove them wrong.

Years later I realised my grandad’s medal was a George’s Cross.

My mum is the strongest person I know — a strong, independent defiant Black woman. When you’re down she’ll pick you up. She said “It’s not getting knocked down it’s how you get up.”

They were the first words, the others were “integrate” but they didn’t want to integrate with us.

Why did you get involved with UNISON?

I joined when it was NUPE. I remember John Toomey — I used to get myself in so much trouble and John Toomey saved my arse every single time.

I got active to pay it back, I just like helping people. Joining a union – you probably won’t need them but if you do they’re there.