Since January 1980, Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK in October of each year. Stewarts has marked the occasion in the past few years with a series of events that shine a spotlight on celebrated Black British people from the law, business and UK culture. It has also shared resources, information and food that can help people gain an insight into Black culture.
To close this year’s Black History Month celebration, our Inclusion Committee organised a Q&A session over Zoom with guest speakers Dr Tunde Okewale MBE and Alexandra Wilson. Our staff were invited to ask Dr Tunde and Alexandra questions about their experiences of racial discrimination and racial attitudes during their careers, how they are helping to readdress the legal sector’s lack of diversity through their community projects, and how we can all look to address racism within society in a way that creates positive changes.
Alexandra Wilson is a criminal and family law barrister at 5 St Andrew’s Hill Chambers. She was called to the bar in 2018, and has recently written a book titled ‘In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System’. Alexandra opened the discussion by outlining her career history to date, highlighting some of her experiences of being a Black student at Oxford, and talking of her recent, well-publicised experience of being incorrectly identified as a defendant at court three times in one day.
Dr Tunde Okewale MBE is a criminal barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. He is also the founder of Urban Lawyers, a social justice charity set up to make the law more accessible to marginalised groups in society. This was Dr Tunde’s second consecutive appearance as a speaker during our Black History Month event so he needed little introduction. Dr Tunde spoke about how important it is for everyone to encourage, mentor and give back to marginalised groups, and highlighted that this isn’t something just reserved for the most senior lawyers or Black lawyers.
Other topics covered during the Q&A included blind recruitment processes, how to call out racism in a way that leads to change, mentoring and allyship.