17th Oct 2022
Black History Month is an annual celebration of black people in history which is celebrated across the world. It aims to highlight and celebrate the stories of prominent black people across the globe, especially those who may have been excluded from the mainstream historical narrative.
In the US, Black History Month was created by historian Carter G. Woodson. Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in October 1987 and was the initiative of Ghanaian analyst Mr Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council.
Middle Temple supported the vision of a Black History Month Qualifying session in 2018, which has since become an annual event.
On the 17th October 2022 at 18:30pm MTYBA and MTSA held a panel event featuring:-
1)Laurie-Anne Power KC 25 Bedford Row Chambers
2)Bibi Badejo 4 Brick Court Chambers
3)Stephen Lue, Garden Court Chambers
4)Natasha Shotunde from Garden Court Chambers
5)Patrice Blackstock- Middle Temple Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator ( MT BHM timeline project )
This was truly a celebration of black excellence, achievement and talent in all industries, not just the legal arena, with uplifting soulful music provided by singer Ruth-Ellen and pianist Elliott Adgomar. The event was organised and hosted by MTYBA Vice President Emma Hughes and MTSA Diversity and Inclusion Officer Leah Arthur.
Talented photographer, Akinwumi, who founded Simple Sam Photography, took stunning photographs and captured the essence of the event. The Hall was filled with the scent of authentic traditional food, from MoinMoin, jollof rice, stewed beef and more provided by the phenomenal Angel Catering and Events company.
It was wonderful to have chambers colleagues Jayne Harrill (Head of Four Brick Court Chambers), James Norman and Ummar Farooq Ahmad attend in support of the event and panellist Bibi Badejo. (Featured in the above photograph). Bibi spoke about creating an excellent advocacy course for practitioners, which enhances the advocates’ delivery, style and content. This course is kindly provided to 4BC pupils but is also generously being delivered to Bridging the bar candidates who come from statistically underrepresented backgrounds. More photos by the exceptional photographer Samuel Akinwumi featuring the Black History Event can be found here.
During the evening, Stephen Lue recited a profound emotive self-written poem which echoed and lingered through the hall. He bravely shared the pain of loss and the battle against homophobia. The speakers also addressed the development of AI tech and the way in which this may disproportionately affect those who are black or from ethnic minorities in the UK, although global majorities. Natasha Shotunde also spoke about the competitive nature of the bar as well as the deflation and impact pupillage rejections can have. But the need to have resilience and a support network encourages you to keep going and embrace the journey.
Speakers shared their battles against imposter syndrome, self-doubt, discrimination due to race or sexuality, personal experiences of nerves, negativity and the deep-rooted problems of systematic racism. From the exceptionally high 0.11 rate of school exclusion amongst black youth, which is higher than the national average. This highlights the importance of speaking to young people, visiting schools and opening their minds to the prospect of a legal career. Furthermore, Black and Asian barristers are under-represented in taking Silk. There are just five black British female barristers in the King’s Counsel and 17 male black British KCs in England and Wales. This compares to 1,303 white men and 286 white women.
It was truly a remarkable night with Jessica Inaba; the first ever black blind barrister to be called to the Bar in attendance! Jess shared about her challenges in obtaining appropriate resources and textbooks in braille and highlighted the need for perseverance in the face of adversity.
A number of the panel sit on the Bar Council Race Working Group. Attendees were referred to the Bar Council Race Report 2021by the Bar Council Race Group (BCRWG). The BCRWG was commissioned to produce a set of recommendations for BarBar-based stakeholders to consider in order to tackle race inequality at the Bar and provides insight into the issues of retention and career progression.
The panel are also involved in pioneering organisations and work that enhances diversity and equality at the Bar and builds up practitioner’s and aspiring student’s advocacy skills and legal knowledge. Laurie-Anne Power KC is part of Women in Criminal Law, Bibi BadejoThe Advocacy Podcast, with over 90,000 views; the podcast has featured a wealth of barristers from Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher, who reflected on the techniques they used to successfully prosecute in the State of Minnesota v Derek. As well as Professor Leslie Thomas KC speaking about case preparation and strategy and Professor Jo Delahunty KC who shared about winning the unwinnable case. Both Jo and Leslie are champions of Bridging the Bar and have done considerable work regarding diversity, and produced the Gresham Lectures which give immense insight into family and criminal law.
Stephen Lue is involved in BLAGG – Bar Lesbian and Gay Group the MT LGBTQ forum, Natasha Shotunde founded the Black Barristers Network and Patrice Blackstock created the (BHM Campaign) for Middle Temple featured on Middle Temple website and socials.
Patrice Blackstock, with the assistance of Middle Temple Archivist Barnaby Bryan and Elaine Banton, a talented barrister from 7 Bedford Row Chambers, produced a BHM timeline celebrating black middle templars, both past and present. From Edward Cragg Haynes, the earliest known Black Middle Templar, admitted as a student in 1842, Thomas Moore Chester
admitted to the inn in 1867, Stella Thomas in 1929, to present day, Baroness Scotland, Sir Trevor Carmichael, K.C, Leslie Thomas KC, Martin Forde KC, Nneka Akudolu KC, Lady Gifty Dede Tetteh, Elaine Banton, Mass-Ndow-Njie , founder of Bridging the Bar, Alexandra Wilson, Patience Abladey, as well as our panel Laurie-Anne Power KC and Stephen Lue. Please click on the above BHM timeline link to view their profiles.
A hugely powerful moment was when Laurie-Anne Power KC who does outreach work in schools invited Michelle Brown, Middle Temple Queen Mother Scholar her lovely daughter, Adarna Brown in year 9 onto stage and got her to proclaim ‘When I leave school I want to be a lawyer, study law, work hard and make mummy proud!’
There was such power in giving her ownership of the moment, a platform ton stage and the significance in publicly speaking out her desire to become a barrister in the future! Especially in an environment where she could see the reality of that hope manifested in a room filled with exceptionally talented black barristers in a range of practice areas and seniority. Michelle also asked how to handle situations where you are asked to represent clients who do not want you because of your race. The speakers also spoke about the need for visibility and made reference to the Middle Temple exhibition of portraits featuring members from diverse backgrounds in 2020-21.
Please note the event is recorded and will be available on the Middle Temple and MTYBA websites, so please tune in. It was truly an empowering, inspiring and illuminating evening.