Celebrating Black History Month: Reflections and inspiration with Joyce Teifouet

Celebrating Black History Month: Reflections and inspiration with Joyce Teifouet

Every year, the month of October in the UK is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating Black History. It’s a time to reflect on the remarkable achievements and contributions of Black individuals throughout history.

In honour of Black History Month, we had the privilege of sitting down with Joyce Teifouet, a trainee solicitor at Morson Group, to discuss her background, her inspirations, and her perspective on the importance of this commemorative month.

A multicultural journey

Joyce’s journey is a unique blend of Cameroonian and French influences. She spent her early years in Cameroon, a country known for its cultural diversity. In Cameroon, communities are deeply rooted in various tribes, and Joyce proudly belongs to the Bamileke tribe. The Bamileke people are celebrated for their entrepreneurial spirit, tenacity, and courage. These qualities have left an indelible mark on Joyce’s character, making her ambitious and determined in her pursuits.

Joyce’s multicultural background also includes her proficiency in the French language. Growing up in a household where French was spoken, she has been able to maintain her French-speaking abilities, a skill that enriches her life and professional opportunities.

Inspirational figures

When asked about figures who inspire her, Joyce instantly thinks of Virgil Abloh. Virgil was a groundbreaking figure in the fashion industry, serving as the first black creative director for Louis Vuitton and the CEO of Off-White. His achievements in the predominantly exclusive world of high fashion serve as a testament to what’s possible with determination and vision.

What stands out to Joyce is not only Virgil’s accomplishments but also his desire to uplift others. He chose to share his knowledge by writing a book that imparts wisdom on how to start a fashion brand, especially for those with limited capital or industry knowledge. Joyce believes in the importance of opening doors for the generations that follow, and Virgil Abloh’s legacy encapsulates this spirit.

Stephanie Boyce is another influential figure who has left a deep impression on Joyce. Stephanie made history as the first black female president of the Law Society. Her achievement in the legal field is a powerful example of breaking barriers and paving the way for underrepresented individuals. For someone like Joyce, who is pursuing a career in law, Stephanie’s journey is a beacon of hope and a reminder that there’s always a place for those who dare to pursue their dreams.

Black History Month: A time for celebration and action

For Joyce, Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honour the great leaders and figures of the past and present. It’s an opportunity to recognize the activists and inspirational individuals who continue to make a difference in the world. But for her, celebration goes hand in hand with taking action.

Joyce actively participates in diversity and inclusion initiatives, including being a part of an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) panel that focuses on progressing in the legal field as a diverse employee. She believes that no matter where you are in your career, you can have a positive impact on someone’s life by sharing your experiences and insights.

“In life you always must open the door for others because there’s always a generation that’s coming after you. And that’s what resonates with me and that’s what I try to do in everything that I do in my life.”

Joyce Teifouet, Trainee Solicitor at Morson Group

Educating and accountability

Joyce believes that education and accountability are key to creating a more inclusive and equitable society. She encourages people to take the time to learn about different cultures, histories, and why they matter. One practical way to achieve this is by engaging with colleagues and getting to know their backgrounds and experiences.

For organisations, Joyce emphasizes the importance of tracking and quantifying diversity and inclusion efforts. Data-driven insights can provide a clear picture of where gaps and issues exist. By publishing this data and outlining future plans, organisations can hold themselves accountable and work towards meaningful change.

“Capture that data, see where it aligns with policy, see where it doesn’t. And I think to be accountable, publish that data and publish what you’re proposing to do in the future, to change, to act. That is the only way to close gaps, to resolve issues and to play a part is to act. You can only do that if it’s quantifiable.”

Joyce Teifouet, Trainee Solicitor at Morson Group

Joyce’s words reflect the essence of Black History Month. It’s a time for celebration, education, and action. As we look back on the achievements of remarkable individuals like Virgil Abloh and Stephanie Boyce, we’re reminded that progress is possible when we open doors for others and work together to create a more inclusive world. Black History Month is not just a time to reflect; it’s a call to action, an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of those who follow in our footsteps.

At Morson we’re placing inclusion at the heart of the conversation. True ED&I has real impact, not just on the lives of people from all walks of life, but in creating stronger cultures and broader empathy in workplaces across the country.

We understand the complexities and opportunities of widening participation and take our commitment to this very seriously. Our ED&I consultancy services are designed to help clients attract diverse talent into their organisation, improve/create inclusive cultures and help identify barriers to inclusion in the recruitment process.

Black History Month 2022 | Local Black heroes from Manchester’s past present and future.

Black History Month 2022 | Local Black heroes from Manchester’s past present and future.

October is Black History Month in the UK. At Morson, we’re proud to come from the diverse and vibrant city of Manchester, so we’ve decided to take this opportunity to celebrate some brilliant Black leaders who hail from our great city.

Len Johnson

Looking to the past we have Len Johnson, an extraordinary boxer who was denied the opportunity to fight for the title of British champion. Born in Clayton in 1902 he was the son of Margaret and William Benker Johnson. Johnson’s mother was of Irish descent and his father was Sierra Leone Creole.

Len began boxing as a teenager and after a few years building his reputation and winning fight after fight, he should have been a shoo-in for the British championship. However, boxing regulations at the time stated that to compete for a title both fighters had to have two white parents. As a result of this ‘colour bar’ Johnson was excluded.

Despite this Johnson continued to fight and to win, gaining huge support and many fans in Manchester. He even travelled to Australia and won the middleweight category of the ‘British Empire championship’ in 1926. But upon his return to the UK, the boxing authorities refused to recognise his title.

By 1933, Johnson had had enough. He retired from boxing with 96 wins in 135 fights and took up the fight for racial equality instead. Johnson became a prominent local left-wing and anti-racist activist. He attended the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester in 1945, stood as a candidate for Manchester City Council and set up the New International Club, which aimed to be both a social club and an organising space for black people to unite and solve their problems in Manchester. He may not have become a champion in the boxing ring, but Len Johnson was certainly a champion in the Manchester community.

Professor Erinma Bell MBE

Our present-day hero is Professor Erinma Bell MBE, a peace activist recognised for her work tackling gun crime in Moss Side and Longsight.

At its peak in the early 00s, gun crime was a huge problem for Greater Manchester, earning the city the nickname ‘Gunchester’. The area of Moss Side where Professor Bell grew up was one of the worst affected and she was driven to action after she and her husband witnessed a shooting. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News she said “A friend of mine was shot and shot right in front of me. From that night I thought enough is enough because I didn’t want to have to go through that ever again. We needed to get local people to own the problem and concrete action.”

This personal experience led Erinma to found a local community organisation called CARISMA (Community Alliance for Renewal, Inner South Manchester Area) in 2003. The charity’s mission was to give young people positive alternatives to crime. CARISMA’s work, alongside the police and other community groups, led to a reduction of gun and gang crime by 92% in Manchester

Professor Bell has received numerous accolades for her incredible work including, an MBE in 2010. She became Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester in 2011 and named Honorary Professor at the University of Salford in 2019. Most significantly, in 2017 Erinma became the ‘first and only woman to have a statue of herself in Manchester Town Hall – in 150 Years!’. The sculpture, a one-and-a-half life-sized bust, is made out of 50 lethal firearms seized by police or surrendered during gun amnesties. Manchester-based artists’ collective ‘Guns to Goods’ melted them down and turned them into the sculpture. It now takes pride of place inside Manchester town hall’s sculpture hall.

Nile Henry

Finally we have Nile Henry – a dynamic young tech leader, founder and CEO of The Blair Project.

The Blair Project’s mission is ‘diversify the STEM workforce and accelerate the world’s transition to net zero through sustainable motorsport!’. It aims to inspire the next generation of green tech workforce through digital manufacturing and design project activities.

Nile was 18 years old when he set up the organisation. He created, developed, and secured funding for a STEM education programme called the ProtoEV Challenge. It’s the ultimate motorsport STEM competition for schools, colleges, and youth clubs in the UK. Teams learn how to retrofit petrol go-karts and convert them into fully electric e-karts which they get to race to see which is the fastest and most energy efficient.

“Diversity, fairness and social justice has always been important to me… When you surround yourself with people who are not like you, who talk differently, who think differently, who experience life differently, the IQ of the group becomes bigger and stronger. No one person can create success on their own- It takes a winning team and helping hands.” – Nile Henry

Nile is also the director of a new £4m Net Zero industrialisation and electrification training centre called the Manchester Innovation Activities Hub (MIAH). MIAH will provide SMEs with industrial-grade equipment to prototype Net Zero innovations, in addition to rapidly upskilling Manchester residents for specialist technical jobs within Manchester Science Park.

Black History month provides the opportunity to reflect on the incredible achievements of Black British people. At Morson, we are committed to improving the diversity of our company and building inclusive cultures every day. We believe that diversity promotes innovation by bringing multiple perspectives to discussions and decisions. We are proud to offer ED&I consultancy services to companies who share this point of view.