BRITAIN’S MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN CARIBBEAN HERITAGE.
It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome you to the ninth edition of the Powerlist, our celebration of the most influential people of African and African Caribbean heritage in Britain. They are truly an inspirational group of people – role models who have proved they can succeed in all industries from finance, business and tech, to art, media, medicine and so much more.
“Success”, Booker T Washington famously said, “is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
The famed civil rights leader’s classic sentiment is thread that weaves its way through our fantastic publication and comes up repeatedly in our Powerlistee interviews as we celebrate some genuinely exceptional men and women.
High-flying lawyer Joshua Siaw tells how, after going to one of the worst schools in London and scraping by with grades that weren’t initially good to get on to the A-Level course he wanted, he managed to turn his life around and by 30 became the youngest ever partner at his City of London Law firm.
Jacky Wright, Microsoft Vice President, grew up in the era of Enoch Powell and recalls her sister being sent to the bakery at the top of her road to get a loaf. She would be told “we have no bread for you”, even though there was clearly bread in the shop. When she sent to university in America, her roommate freaked out because she didn’t want to share her room with a black person. She shares her story of how, by staying true to herself and trying to break down barriers, she climbed to the top in an industry dominated by white males.
And then there is our number one, Powerlistee Ken Olisa OBE. From growing up in poverty in Nottingham where he had to go outside to use the bathroom, he rose to become the first black director of a FTSE 100 company, founded his own technology merchant bank and in May of 2015 was appointed the first black Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, a role that makes him the Queen’s personal representative in Greater London.
Elsewhere Powerlist alumni Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, aka The Black Farmer, talks movingly about his year-long battle against the cancer which has caused his skin to lose its colour.
We also look at what goes into the most successful working partnerships in our feature on Powerful duos featuring Baroness Scotland and Tinie Tempah.
As we celebrate the success of Marlon James, the first Jamaican to win the Man Booker Prize, we feature our list of the 20 black books that you just have to read. While I’m sure many of you will have buried yourselves in great deal of them, I was surprised by how few I had actually read and was shamed into going to my nearest bookshop and finally purchasing a copy of Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
It remains vitally important that we continue to tell stories of black success as an inspiration to young people so they have tangible proof that no matter where you’re from and whatever obstacles are in your way, you can achieve your dreams. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading the magazine as I and the team got in putting it together.