Celebrating Black History Month – Karla Lowe
Name: Karla Lowe
Occupation: Lawyer, Magistrate, Author, Workshop facilitator, Business owner
Ethnic Background: Black Caribbean (born in the UK)
Family Origin: Antigua & Jamaica
In what generation did your family come to the UK? My grandparents came to the UK in the Windrush in 1948. My parents were born in the UK, but have both lived in the West Indies.
Karla Lowe was born and raised in East Dulwich South London. “East Dulwich then was not what it is today!”, says Karla of her home town. Karla now lives in Kent, but spends most of her working and leisure time in London. She has 10 God Children, which she loves telling people this as its something she’s incredibly proud of.
Karla, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I spent the majority of my legal working career at the Immigration Advisory service, starting there as an admin assistant after leaving law school despondent and discouraged. I very quickly worked my way up to advisor, counselor and then supervisor. I worked there for 10 years before the company folded and then drifted in and out of various senior positions such as Head of Department, Head of UK Global Immigration, before I decided to become self employed. I am also a Chair Magistrate on the South Eastern Circuit. I became a Magistrate in 2006 aged 29 and was the youngest on my bench. I am now a chair and am one of only 3 black Chairs on a bench of some 400 Magistrates. I am also the youngest.
My passion has always been helping others to do and feel better as well as writing and, having self published two books (Biographical Poetry) in 2013 and 2014 respectively, I started my business providing workshops and sessions on Self Love and Writing as Therapy. This, as well as my books, is by far the most beneficial and valuable thing that I have done to date I think, as I am doing this and revealing all of myself in order to encourage, empower and instil a sense of “I am ok” into people who, like me, have had a journey full of obstacles and pain. In particular black women!
What inspired you to pursue your chosen career?
I had wanted to be a Lawyer since aged 9. I think I watched too much LA Law and Alley McBeal! I also grew up in and surrounded by a lot of chaos and I always wanted to be different from what I felt was accepted as the norm in my environment.
It is for these reasons that I applied to be a Magistrate. It was important to me that there was more of a reflection of Black people and ones like me who came from the same areas, struggles and issues.
The writing and workshops was not planned at all. But it is internally who I am, so I understand that it was meant to be and could not have escaped me in this life time.
Do you feel there is a proportionate representation of minorities within your chosen field? If not, what do you think the government or society could/should be doing to encourage more people of minority backgrounds to pursue similar careers?
I think that there is a vast amount of Black lawyers; however we all seem to be in the areas of crime, family or Immigration. I would love to see more of a representation within the corporate areas. And also as the owners of major firms.
There are definitely not enough Black Judges or a great enough representation within the judiciary.
I think that the opportunities need to be made more available and accessible to minority groups.
Are there any aspects of your family’s culture that you feel were particularly prominent or evident in your upbringing, or that you are particularly fond of?
All of it! From the way that I speak (when not in a professional setting), to my hair, to the music that I like, to the food that I cook and eat, or the remedies used to cure colds or illness. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love being me. I am extremely proud of where and whom I come from.
How are you currently/or do you plan to preserve an awareness of their background and heritage in your children& future generations? Is this something that you consider important?
Extremely important. I don’t have any children that I birthed, however I have 10 God children, nieces, nephews etc. I am passionate about them all having a sense of identity and a love of themselves for who they are as opposed to who the media suggest that they should be. I am the auntie who rocks her headscarf and encourages them to keep hair natural and walk make up free!
The other most important thing is to teach our children of their history and not just Martin and Malcolm as that isn’t even a smidgen of it. To teach them about all of the beautiful things about them that aren’t taught in schools. In times before now grandparents would do a lot of this, their stories and knowledge so vast and invaluable. Now we have to be involved more and take more responsibility for ensuring that this knowledge continues to filter down.
Who would you consider to be the most iconic, pivotal or inspirational figure in black history & why?
I honestly couldn’t choose just one.
From that 1st slave who spoke back, to John Holt and Bob Marley, to the Windrush crew, to Jamaican born Marcus Garvey who encouraged and empowered his people to think free, right back to Rosa Parks or Clara Belle Williams who was the 1st black graduate to graduate New Mexico state University, back to Maya Angelou! I could go on and on.
Were you educated in black history growing up? Do you think, in light of and celebration of the UK’s diverse population, that black history should be taught in schools?
No. History was Tudors and Henry the 8th and even the IRA!
Imagine, I acquired an A in my History GSCE, yet none of what I learnt was about or relevant to me! It should most definitely be taught in schools as, on a human level, we all need to know where we come from in order to know where we are, can, and should be going.
Do you have any plans to celebrate Black History Month? If so, how so?
Not in particular because I am Black every month! I celebrate me and my me and our we, every day, month and week. That being said I enjoy the information passed around and shared on social media during this time and I engage with a lot of that. I am also doing a book talk at a Library as part of their Black History month programme, (as a black author) and I have been asked to take part in this, which is very kind!