By Eula Mengullo, January 5 2020—
The virtual 2020 Women of Inspiration Awards (WOI2020) celebrated a diverse collection of women across different professions and industries.
Keshia Holloman, a second year Juris Doctor and Master of Public Policy student at the University of Calgary was the recipient of the Diversity and Inclusiveness Award.
Being the President of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) Calgary chapter, Holloman cited this as major contributor to her win. However, she also recognized the collective effort behind the accomplishments of the BLSA.
“The award was given to me individually, but it was me and my team that accomplished these things together,” said Holloman, referring to the work that the BLSA has accomplished since its founding.
Holloman further emphasized the significance of the award by explaining the shared emotional connection that she and her team has with the work that they are doing in the BLSA.
“It is a lot of emotional labour because all of this happened with the Black Lives Matter movement,” she remarked. She further elaborated on the reason behind their continued action, which is to make a “positive change from such a painful situation.”
“This award is significant to me because it recognizes the work that is being put into these things — the emotional labour that goes into it,” Holloman added.
In response to how she can use the award to empower other women, Holloman recalled challenges that are more unique to women of colour.
“For me, and again it’s pretty specific for Black women,” Holloman said. “You don’t see a ton of Black women in powerful and leadership roles because there are those intersectional aspects that are creating a glass ceiling for them. It is not just that you are a woman facing gender adversity, you are also a Black person facing racial adversity and systemic racism and discrimination.”
She further noted that although the current gaps between men and women in the legal profession are narrowing, “there are still significant discrepancies with women in leadership roles, say as partners in firms, where there is even less representation of Black women lawyers.”
“When we speak of feminism, we must also understand the other barriers people are facing,” said Holloman. “And if we’re being feminists, we have to talk about equality and all of its aspects.”
According to Holloman, part of the reason why the award is really empowering is because it celebrates and acknowledges the different barriers that Black women have overcome and she herself has overcome as a Black woman.
When asked about her experience at UCalgary Law, Holloman described that the faculty and its students have been open to discussing race and gender to create a dialogue and support their racialized students.
“We have such a great law school at U of C. It is so collegial and everybody has been so supportive,” she remarked.
Since the launch of the BLSA, the faculty has implemented a few of the calls-to-action policies that Holloman and her team have worked on. This includes the recent implementation of a new admission process for Black students, as well as the redesignation of one of the law school’s largest entrance scholarships to go specifically towards a BIPOC applicant.
In her closing message, Holloman wanted to emphasize the potential that women have within themselves.
“Women are very powerful and capable of anything they set their minds to,” said Holloman. “Black Women included.”