October – A Commemoration of Black History
As Black History Month comes to a gracious end, I can’t help but reflect on what the theme of this year means to me – Celebrating Our Sisters.
In recognition of their excellence, we have spent October saluting to women of Afro-Caribbean descent. We celebrate their impact in pioneering society into an inclusive and prosperous age. We recognise the beauty in diversity and the integral role Black women have played in laying the foundations of the modern social world.
Black women have shown throughout history that there are no restraints to what we can achieve through the sheer power of will and resilience. From music to medicine, and finance to tech, it is apparent that Black women’s past persistence has resulted in Black women today reconstructing the industries and institutions that power our societies, creating a better world for future talent.
I would love to spend a moment to celebrate three Black women, both in history and the present, for their involvement in reconstructing the scope of the legal world. It is blossoming into a space where Black women are not only welcomed but are desired and essential.
Charlotte E. Ray
Ray is credited with being the first female African American lawyer in the United States. In 1872, she was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar, and admitted to practise in the Supreme Court later in the year, securing her spot as one of the Women of the Century. Very active in court, she was known for her groundbreaking appearances, a notable case being Gadley v. Gadley in which she argued in defence of an uneducated woman petitioning for divorce from her abusive husband. Although an eloquent and remarkable woman, many were hesitant to put their trust in aBlack woman. Ray eventually found herself returning to work within the education system, but the leverage her impact had on shaping the involvement of African American women in the American legal system that we see today is undeniable.
Inaba made history in 2022 by becoming the first Black and blind barrister in Britain. Achieving such a feat by studying her entire course in braille at The University of Law, Inaba, at only 23 years old, pursued a career path that was already considerably competitive and challenging, and persevered in ways many thought not possible. Bilateral microphthalmia, a condition where one is born with eyes smaller than the average, is the condition that she has had to manoeuvre around growing up, but what is beyond inspirational is that she has made sure this will never be a problem. From creating her own notes in braille, to seeking the support of her peers to read out materials for her, she left no stone unturned to achieve her dream.
Nkom is revered within the legal world for her notorious advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights in Cameroon. From defending young victims of police brutality to advocating for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, she can be regarded as nothing less than a trailblazer in my eyes. With several cases to her name, in which she defends the human rights of queer individuals on an international scale, fighting for them in court and in the EU and the UN, her unprecedented work within the continent is amplified by her remarkable title of being the first female French-speaking lawyer in Cameroon.
The legal industry has taken great strides over the last few years to become a career path that promotes the mobility and development of bubbling potential, regardless of your ethnicity, sexuality, disability, gender identity, or economic background. Initiatives taken by organisations to encourage the participation and success of a diversified range of aspiring professionals has made entering the field more accessible than ever.
Opportunities offered by programmes (such as 10,000 Black Interns and 10,000 Able Interns) and e-learning platforms (such as the Commercial Law Academy) means that many resources have become available to help you succeed. The playing field has become significantly more levelled for those who have been systematically ostracised from positions of corporate and institutional power.
I hope this article has helped you appreciate the ways Black women from around the world have helped to create our present more fortunate circumstances, and take a moment to celebrate and appreciate their substance and power.