BEYOUROWN: #IWILLUSEMYVOICE X Paula Rhone-Adrien
In light of the recent events, we at BEYOUROWN want to develop our involvement with the #Blacklivesmatter movement and collectively stand in solidarity to help protect others who fall victim to racial hatred. We have put together a project with some of the UK’s leading Black female entrepreneurs from a selection of diverse industry fields, these women have written a heartfelt letter, to shed a little more light on their own personal journey throughout career and business building.
Multi-dimensional, these women highlight many aspects of the racial discrimination experienced, whether it be the invisible limitations and challenges faced due to skin colour, or the micro-aggressions, racial inequality and disgusting abuse that occurs in and out of the workplace, much of which is typically down-played, humoured and is not a true depiction of what we often see in UK mainstream media.
At BEYOUROWN we stand in solidarity, love and humanity. Furthermore, we will maintain our commitment to working consciously as a community to address and improve the conditions regards to racial inequality. We will also stand behind and support those who push for justice and fairness. We must not stay silent, for silence will simply not dismantle this alone. We must educate ourselves and others. We absolutely must protect those who are prey to racial inequality, mistreatment, pain and suffering on a daily basis. We at BEYOUROWN will continue to acknowledge our position of privilege and will use it for the greater good. We aim to highlight and amplify the voices of our Black female entrepreneurs and will continue to do so.
Award-winning and renowned Family law Barrister with over 20 years of experience at the forefront of the legal arena Paula Rhone-Adrien is an award-winning and renowned Family law Barrister with over two decades of experience practising from Lamb Building Chambers in central London. Paula has been at the Bar for over 20 years and is widely known and respected as a leader in her field of work by the likes of the BBC and The Times. She recently achieved the highly prestigious industry award of Lawyer of the Week by The Times.
Paula regularly attends Court representing clients across the social spectrum, from the Magistrates’ Court to the Court of Appeal, in a range of areas including divorce and finances; disputes between parents regarding where their child should live or how much time they should spend with the other; the region/country a child should live in; child welfare, be that the concerns of social services regarding negligent parenting (sexual, physical or emotional abuse) or one parent accusing the other; and domestic abuse (representing the alleged victim or the alleged perpetrator).
Paula is able to skilfully communicate complicated legal issues to her audience and the public, having represented a wide cross-section of society, facing the most terrible of outcomes and being a successful mediator.
Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on making it this far. Where is ‘this far’? Frankly, it’s anywhere your mind is prepared to take you along that road to success.
I always, and I mean always, knew that I could never be happy sitting behind a desk clocking in and clocking out. I say this not because I want to denigrate those who have chosen what can be a rewarding career path, on the contrary, it’s because I knew I could never do it. I would have felt chained, in every true sense of the word, and would have felt unable carve out a successful career path if I had worked for someone else.
As an immigrant black woman growing up in the east end of London, poverty was always the overwhelming factor in attempting to dissuade me, even bully me, into giving up my goals. No one in my immediate circle thought or even wanted to go to university, let alone understood what it meant to become a successful Barrister, and I certainly had little idea of how I was going to achieve it. I just knew I was.
At 17 and going to college I told one of my lecturers that I wanted to be a Barrister. He was so angry with me. He told me that the education system had failed me because I was never going to be a Barrister and someone should have explained that to me a long time ago. I always look back on this ‘telling off’ and wonder why the gentleman thought it better to shatter my dreams as opposed to helping me.
However, that’s the thing about being an entrepreneur, your dream isn’t anyone else’s, they don’t have the ability to visualise the end goal in the same way you do. I could have let that conversation, and many more like it, affect me but I didn’t and neither must you.
I spent from 17 to 28, going hungry, being homeless or when I was lucky, living in one room to achieve my goal. It’s times like that when you truly understand how much your family love you and who your real friends are. Although, there were also times when I thought, “ok, this time, I seriously don’t know what to do”, and yet I always managed to find a way.
When I finally got to experience my dream I was ill-prepared for the microaggressive to flagrant racist bullying that I suffered, and at one point it got so distressing that I actually lost the ability to speak, which is not the best thing to happen to a Barrister as you can imagine. Yes, I lost my way slightly and after all those years of progression wanted to leave. On top of that, the money wasn’t flowing in as quickly as I predicted it would. I later found out that the person who was responsible for billing my work was just throwing it in the bin. No one was prepared to say why, but it was only happening to me.
However, 21 years on and I am still flourishing at the Bar. A prestigious industry award was bestowed on me this year and I metaphorically hold it aloft to all those who have tried to stand in my way. So I would like you to understand that it’s true, no matter how much someone tries to get in the way of you achieving your entrepreneurial goal, stay focused and you will find a way.
As a black female, coming into contact with those who believe they are superior to you is going to happen. However, that doesn’t make you powerless, on the contrary, understanding that you can’t control the things that happen to you doesn’t mean you have to be reduced by them.
So I want you to read this letter and remember that there are others out there fighting the same fight and who continue to succeed. You should not feel alone, that was my mistake. I didn’t share my struggles fearing it was a weakness, but I promise you it isn’t. There will be a fantastic mentoring or network group in your chosen field with women who are facing similar struggles to you and who want to support and help, but if there isn’t – start one!
See you at the top