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6 October 2022
Diversity, disparity and inclusion

With Black History Month under way, the Chair of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic network, Jacqui MacDonald-Davis JP, explains why awareness months, intersectionality and allyship matter in her latest blog.

Marcus Garvey, a leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, once said: “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. Each year, Black History Month (BHM) takes us on a journey of discovery. It’s about inclusivity, and it invites the whole nation to remember and celebrate the Black Britons who have made this country great.

While I’d of course prefer if Black history was not only celebrated in October—and instead formed part of the school curriculum, with the accomplishments of the Black community reflected in national statues, science and technology, education, drama, arts, music and sports—I fully recognise the importance of awareness months like BHM. It helps build bridges that could otherwise divides us, and strengthens hope, self-worth, potential, optimism, a sense of belonging and courage.

For me, BHM is about making my blackness visible. Rather than the “I don’t see colour” view I often encounter, I want my difference to be acknowledged and my achievements to be celebrated. This is why I’m especially excited to be able to mark BHM in the same month that I become the Magistrates’ Association’s (MA) first Black deputy chair.

BHM is also about contributing to and being part of a changing world. When, as a child, I bemoaned the injustices I witnessed, my parents would often respond by asking me what I was going to do about it. Along with our allies, BHM is about making a difference—speaking up and speaking out against injustices. It’s about Black people recognising their power, ensuring they have a seat at the top table, and utilising the hand that we are dealt to become change agents.

While I’m glad that progress has been made towards greater diversity and inclusion in the magistracy (and in society more widely), I’m also aware of how much more there is to do to ensure that the judiciary better reflects the communities it serves and that everyone seeking justice feels that courts are accessible to them. As Chair of the MA’s and Black, Asian and minority ethnic network, I have championed this cause. So, I was very pleased that the MA endorsed the Ministry of Justice’s latest recruitment drive, which specifically seeks to encourage applications from traditionally underrepresented groups.

When I take up my new role as one of the MA’s two deputy chairs later this month, among other priorities I am keen to drive forward the organisation’s understanding of and work on intersectionality. Being Black does not, after all, exclude one from being a woman, young, having a disability, and/or identifying as LGBT+. However, the paucity of government data on intersectionality in the magistracy needs remedying first if we are to effectively tackle the different layers of discrimination our members—and magistrates more broadly—are likely facing. I will strive to work even more closely with our other three diversity and inclusion networks to address this pressing issue.

Finally, on this the 35th anniversary of BHM, I have been reflecting on the importance of allyship. I often ask myself what I want the future to look like—not just for myself, but also for the next generation—and my answer always includes those who don’t look like me or share my lived experience recognising the inequalities that exist and joining the Black community in fighting for equity, not just equality. BHM highlights what can be achieved as a collective, and allyship is central to that.