Celebrating Black History Month UK – Foot prints in the snow

Jo Larbie, 25th October 2018

Do you enjoy learning from hearing people talking about their personal experience?   October is Black History Month in the UK.  Whilst Black History Month began in America, the celebration of black culture is something to be enjoyed worldwide. The experience of being black is different in every country. This post features the experiences of four very different but, inspiring black Britons: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Karen Blackett, Paul Boateng, and Funke Abimbola.

As an avid reader, the written word is usually my first choice.  But, sometimes the spoken word or visual medium is more powerful and in viewing these talks, I can’t deny the power of the spoken word.  Watch and see what you think.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE: Inspiring Space Scientist – Maggie Aderin-Pocock’s story

 “When I was at school I was in the remedial class – I sat the back with the safety scissors and coloured pens just to keep me out of the way.  But when I started doing science, I realised I have an aptitude for science – I have a logical brain, I have got really good 3D geometry and so science saved me from the doldrums and actually gave me an opportunity.”

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, is a space scientist. Since February 2014, she has presented the long-running astronomy television programme The Sky At Night. Born in Britain to Nigerian parents, Aderin-Pocock attended 13 different schools before studying physics at Imperial College London and taking a PhD in mechanical engineering. She has worked in private industry, on government contracts and in academic research.

While she was lead scientist at Astrium, the optical instrumentation group, researching for the European Space Agency and NASA, she started giving talks to children and young people, which led to her becoming a television presenter. Since having her daughter in 2010, she has concentrated on consultancy and on her career as a presenter and a promoter of science.


Karen Blackett OBE on Championing Diversity – The Impact of Race

“I will be really satisfied that my job championing diversity is done when I can walk into an event and not knowing every single non-white face in the room because that is absolutely representation rather than just a handful and I can go into any reception area for an organisation in the creative industries and see a beautiful fruit salad rather than again be an exception.  One thing every marketer could do is look at your numbers and know your numbers, know where you are and set targets for where you want to be and then find some champions in your organisation to help drivers.”

Karen Blackett OBE has been in media for 20 years, currently running the largest media agency in the UK, MediaCom.  In her role as CEO, Karen controls £1.2bn of media billings, manages over 1,083 people and in 2014 led the agency to win over £119m of new business.


The Right Honourable The Lord Paul Boateng: The English-Speaking Union

“I know from experience what it’s like to be young and vulnerable and I think it’s very important that we should reach out to young people and enable them to maximise their potential in the way that I was able to.  And there is nothing more precious than giving the power of self-expression.”  The Rt. Hon The Lord Paul Boateng, chairman of the English-Speaking Union, shares with us his story of discovering his voice and then using it to defend others.”

The Rt. HonThe Lord Paul Boateng MP is a British Labour Party politician.  He was born in Hackney, London of mixed Ghanaian and Scottish heritage.  His father, Kwaku Boateng was a lawyer and cabinet minister under Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Paul Boateng read law at the University of Bristol, beginning his career in civil rights, originally a solicitor, and later retraining as a barrister.  He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Brent South from 1987 to 2005, becoming a Cabinet Minister in May 2002, when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.  Following his departure from the House of Commons, he served as the British High Commissioner to South Africa from March 2005 to May 2009.  He was introduced as a member of the House of Lords on 1 July 2010.


Funke Abimbola MBE: Women in law – diversity in the legal profession

I became a diversity campaigner because I was so incensed by what I saw happening.  I realized from some of my own personal experience but there wasn’t a level playing field just having the talent was not enough if you didn’t have the opportunity or support by someone in a position to help, you probably wouldn’t actually get your foot in the door.” 


Funke Abimbola, General Counsel and Head of Financial Compliance at Roche UK, is a multi-award winning lawyer, leader and diversity campaigner. As the most senior black lawyer working within the UK’s pharmaceutical industry, her path to becoming a top lawyer has not been a smooth one.




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