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Kenneth Koyama challenges black stereotypes

Kenneth Koyama loves being a physiotherapist
Kenneth Koyama loves being a physiotherapist

With the media’s often negative portrayals of young black men involved in knife culture and a life of crime, it’s so refreshing to hear positive stories of young black men who are turning this narrative around.

Kenneth Koyama is a musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapist at Solent NHS Trust and this Black History Month he shares with us how he has overcome the stereotypical misconceptions people have directed his way over the years.

Challenging stereotypes

“No, we’re not all footballers, rappers and dancers! When I go on holiday people still automatically ask me what sport I play? It’s such a misconception because the truth is black people are doing amazing things everywhere. 

“When I first moved to a school in Essex, that had predominantly white pupils, I would get asked the stereotypical question, ‘Can you rap?’ Or the stereotypical comment, ‘You’re so nice for a black person’. I guess you just get used to people’s preconceived ideas about who they think you are or who they think you should be.”

Sports injury led Kenneth into physiotherapy

As Kenneth reflects on how he got involved in physiotherapy, he says he loves it and is so glad that he studied it. “You could say that I fell into it as my brother is a physiotherapist. To be honest I was always getting injured from playing sports. I did Sports Science at university and then followed up with a Sports Development course. However, even at this stage, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue a career in physiotherapy. I really wanted to explore different ideas. I decided to get some experience in being a physiotherapist, which I did, and then I completed a master’s degree in Physiotherapy. I love it, it really suits my personality and I feel like it offers me freedom.

“I have great ambitions for the future and I’m looking forward to a career which develops into leadership and management. What I’ve realised is that there’s not enough black people in positions of power.

“When I am working in hospital, I’m very aware regarding where some people’s mindsets could be. I feel that I am much better equipped about gently challenging people’s cognitive bias and I think it’s about how you communicate.

“There are some black people who are rightly angry because of their painful lived experiences and as a consequence they may find it difficult to articulate their stories in a non-defensive way.

“Solent NHS Trust is a really a good fit for me. I am fortunate to have a manager who supports the vision to improve diversity in our department, especially for people from ethnic minority backgrounds who may have poorer health literacy.

Turning stereotypes around

“I’m also fortunate to be able to attend the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) network group. It’s a different vibe and I am surrounded with people who understand me. We may all be of different ages and backgrounds but what connects us is our lived experiences and it’s nice to talk people who just get it!

“Your success isn’t about whether you’re famous or not. I feel that real success is about changing your circumstances. There are many negative reports relating to young black men, like me, that state that I’m more likely to be involved in knife crime and gangs, but I’ve turned this stereotype on its head because I’m a physiotherapist proudly working for the NHS.”

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