What is Black History Month?

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October marks Black History Month, which was first celebrated in the UK in October 1987, on the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation. Ghanaian analyst and council employee, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, organised the event and it quickly spread beyond London to the whole of the UK.

Why celebrate Black History Month?

Our Solicitor, Nicholas Okonoboh, says:

“For me, Black History Month is a time to celebrate, reflect on history and appreciate Black culture. There is so much to learn from the various cultures that contribute to the richness of Black History.

Studies consistently show that Black legal professionals are still largely under-represented in the legal sectors. They continue to experience racism in the workplace and are consistently held at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers.

Imposter syndrome is an all too common feeling for many Black lawyers, especially when we are often under-represented in the room. According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) report, Black lawyers represent only 2% of all qualified lawyers in England and Wales. Additionally, the fact that only 1% of partners at major law firms in the UK are Black highlights the importance and urgency with which barriers to progression, including those specific to race and ethnicity, need to be addressed by the legal profession. It is not surprising that this lack of representation, non-inclusive workplaces and unconscious bias, can aggravate feelings of doubt and can even limit or prevent professional progression opportunities.

As a young Black Nigerian-British lawyer, my journey to qualification has not been easy. However, I was able to achieve my goal of being a qualified lawyer through sheer grit and determination. It is encouraging to know that people like me have had successful careers in the legal industry and are being true to themselves, breaking glass ceilings and are celebrated for their influence, talent and identity. 

Barcan+Kirby’s sense of community and the safe space it offers to share knowledge on Black culture has been a great confidence builder for me. It is encouraging that the firm are willing to understand the complexities and nuances behind Black history and culture. The great advantage of living in a multicultural city like Bristol is the ability to live and learn together. This has been proven in recent times with people of all backgrounds coming to fight oppression and inequality. Can I confidently say we are there yet? The answer is no. However, Black voices like mine must be given more platforms like this. Being able to write this piece proves as a society we are heading in the right direction, even if there is still a long way to go.”

How can you get involved?

Black history month is a time to make a collaborative effort to discuss Black history and culture, reflecting on how we can improve and educate ourselves as individuals, to work towards shaping a better future for all.

As a firm, Barcan+Kirby are determined to continue in its efforts to meet its equality and diversity commitments. We do this through diversity training, learning and development, mentorship programmes and reflection on the recruitment process.

You can get involved by campaigning for better rights for everyone, irrespective of race or ethnicity. The theme for Black History Month 2022 is Time for Change: Action, Not Words and is a time to act upon the idea of ‘see something, say something.’



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