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Grace Moronfolu MBE - My Personal Perspective on Black History Month 2020

Grace Moronfolu, Deputy Chair, Civil Service Race Forum

I joined the Crown Prosecution Service in 1988 and have had a variety of roles in the service. I became chair of the National Black Crown Prosecution Association in April 2019, and Deputy Chair of the Civil Service Race Forum (CSRF) in April 2020.

Black History Month provides all of us with an opportunity to pause, focus on and celebrate the contributions of peoples of Black African and Caribbean descent to society. 

For my blog I have been thinking about the past as well as the present (and future too). 

This year Black History Month has a special significance for me. We are living through a monumental time in human history brought about by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the death of George Floyd, global warming, and of course BREXIT for us in the U.K.

In thinking about the past I have reflected on numerous significant anniversaries in Black history:

  • It was the 75th anniversary of the end of World War 2 and the National Black Crown Prosecution Service network of which I am the Chair celebrated the contributions and sacrifices of an amazing veteran called Sidney McFarlane MBE who served in the RAF in 1955;
  • It was the 72nd anniversary of the Windrush anniversary of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks on 21 June 1948.  The CSRF celebrated the invaluable and lasting Contribution of the Windrush Generation to the NHS;
  • This year was the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. The part of his speech that is always repeats in my mind is ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but the content of their character’

I also did some digging into British legal history and found some extraordinary Black African and Caribbean pioneers who faced some extreme challenges such as:

Stella Jane Thomas - The first African woman to be called to the British Bar in 1933.

Eric Irons OBE – Eric Irons OBE became the UK’s first black justice of the peace (magistrate) in 1962. Irons was renowned for his devotion to social justice and equality.

Olatunji Sowande - Born in Nigeria in 1912 and, after starting a career in Pharmacy, came to the UK around 1948 to pursue a career in Law. He studied Law at King’s College and passed the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn. Despite facing incredible racism Olatunji Sowande practiced Criminal Law successfully and in 1968 became the head of 3 Kings Bench Walk, becoming the first black head of a major Barrister’s Chambers set in the process. He went to become a Recorder of the Crown Court, becoming the first black judge in British history.

(L-R) Stella Jane Thomas, Eric Irons OBE, Olatunji Sowande

Coming back to the present day 2020 is the Civil Service Year of Inclusion. This is an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements to date, and think about how we want to continue to make the Civil Service a great place to work. 

Success in its many forms often relies upon so many unsung hidden pioneers courageously and fearlessly pursued their dreams and purpose. These are the characteristics I bring into my professional practice, as a civil servant and as Deputy Chair of the Civil Service Race Forum (CSRF)

I would like to encourage you to participate in the CSRF’s Black History Month activities, and to join the Civil Service Race Forum, connect with us on LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter @csraceforum

With a theme of ‘Black Visionaries and Pioneers’, we aim to recognise, reflect on and celebrate the achievements of the Black community to British society. 

CSRF’s Black History Month activities:

Inclusion is key to achieving a Brilliant Civil Service. Together we must work to ensure everyone feels welcome and their contributions are celebrated – regardless of their backgrounds.

We are all leaders in this cause. 

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  1. Comment by Zoe posted on

    Loved this article and the history lesson on these pioneers - what incredible successes they all became during times where the odds were so stacked against them!)

  2. Comment by Sandra Popoola OBE posted on

    Thanks Grace for reminding us all of the incredible contributions black people have made and continue to make in building our nation, despite the barriers we face.

    We are all proud to celebrate our heritage and BHM!

  3. Comment by Tan posted on

    Great article, enjoyed reading it.

  4. Comment by Yinka Oyenuga posted on

    Highly informative article, Grace, thank you. So much hidden empowering history. A reminder that we all count even if in small ways... footprints in sand.

  5. Comment by Amauche Anurukem posted on

    Great article Grace! Very proud of you and your achievements. Thank you for reminding us how important our contributions to Black History is and ensuring that we celebrate BHM with impact

  6. Comment by Amani Saeed posted on

    Really interesting reading, thank you for the bitesized education piece!

  7. Comment by Lola Logan posted on

    Very interesting as I had not known of two of those names before, thank you.

  8. Comment by Brian Stanislas posted on

    Great BHM Blog Grace!

    Inspirational and educational in equal measure ??

  9. Comment by Elisabeth Ukanah posted on

    Great blog post Grace. Many thanks for the call to action. We should all try to take part in BHM activities this month. There's a wide selection on offer - open to everyone.

  10. Comment by Bernadette Thompson posted on

    Great Blog Grace

    Thanks for sharing great overview of the past , present and futuristic hope.

  11. Comment by Rob Neil posted on

    BeautyFULL!!! Grace by name, grace by blog ???

  12. Comment by Tola Ayoola posted on

    Thank you Grace for sharing your story of the past,present and future through your lens. I am always struck by new nuggets of history we can all pick up and particularly when it references parts of my culture and heritage being acknowledged. By the way, I loved your outfit when you closed day one of CSRF BHM activities. What a great day remembering the contributions of so many black talented individuals who contributed to building Britain.