My Black History Month started out with a bang.
On Monday I attended an event hosted by 2 Hare Court on the Lammy Review. For those who have not seen it, on the 8th of September, the Government published an independent review by David Lammy, MP for Tottenham which it commissioned on the ‘treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System (CJS)’. The full report can be accessed here.
One of the key findings of the review is that in both the youth and adult CJS, there is a disproportionate representation of BAME individuals. This includes at arrest, charge and within the prison system.
The Panel discussion included a number of key individuals, including my colleague Sandra Paul who specialises in criminal matters involving youths. The audience agreed that institutionalised racism is still alive and unfortunately well within our CJS, but we all wonder ‘what can we do to change it?’
On Wednesday I attended an event organised by the InterLaw Diversity Forum to celebrate Black History Month which included presentations from some inspiring lawyers as to their careers, and defining moments along the way.
Celebrities such as Stacey Dash and Morgan Freeman have questioned whether Black History Month is still necessary. My answer is: absolutely.
There are two characteristics about me which I am undeniably proud of: I am black, I am a woman. I grew up in Hackney in the 1980’s before the redevelopment which has seen the borough flourish, although some question whether the developments have led to gentrification. My parents were both born in Jamaica, and as such my sister and I had an upbringing which instilled in us an unwavering #blackandproud mantra. My parents made sure we knew that they had high aspirations for us.
Despite this, my journey to where I am now: a Senior Associate at a highly ranked firm has not been easy. I have had moments where I questioned whether I could manage to succeed in an industry where people who look like me are unrepresented, especially in senior roles. It was at these moments that I had to dig deep and count on my resilience to push through.
Kingsley Napley has been a breath of fresh air for me. Even a cursory look at our website will show the outside world that women are highly represented across the firm: both our Senior and Managing Partners are women. We have a way to go in relation to the representation of individuals from a BAME background, but the key thing is that this has been recognised. The issue is not swept under the carpet never to rear its head because it is an uncomfortable subject for some.
Until there is no longer a disparity as to representation in the CJS, access to higher education, wages, promotion of BAME individuals, there is work to do. Black History Month is not just remembering where we came from, but also celebrating where we are headed.