Celebrating Black academic excellence


Celebrating Black academic excellence
Principal Judge of Uganda Hon. Justice Yorokamu Bamwine, University of London law graduate Pascal Kakuru, and Commissioner General of Prisons in Uganda Dr Johnson Byabashaija.

This month, we congratulate our 28 University of London students who have recently received their exam results. We’ve seen an 87% pass rate across the 63 papers taken. 11 of our students have now progressed to their final year, while four have now completed their degree and will graduate. This brings the number of students who have successfully completed their degree to 39.

But as we celebrate with our students in this jubilant time, it gives us pause to reflect.

Systemic racism and inequality thwart the expression of Black excellence around the world.

A term stemmed from the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Inspiring a spirit of determination in the face of institutional drawbacks, Black excellence remains a call to distinguish ourselves.

From the Latin word ‘excellentem’ (nominative excellens) meaning towering; the need to embody courage to overcome obstacles and tower above expectations.

Together we are re-writing new narratives; and redefining Black academic excellence. It is not an unreachable peak, that Black people must endlessly climb to prove themselves. It is not prescribed only to the highest achievers and people pursuing degrees from prestigious universities.

We see the Black excellence of our paralegals. Who acknowledge their pasts and diligently serve clients from behind the prison gates. We see it in our clients who courageously seek legal services despite years of adversity. Who build their own knowledge and confidence so they can argue their own case in court. We see it in our wider community of unlikely allies working to make justice more accessible for the defenceless in spite of the odds.

We hope for a future that recognises the inherent potential within each of us. As William Okumu, a law graduate who now works for Justice Defenders, attests:

“Inside prisons we have brains, brains that can move mountains.” 

As we continue to discover and contextualise what Black excellence means for our community; there is still much left to learn.

Our partnerships are crucial for us to enhance our learning and reach our goal to serve one million clients by 2030. Particularly organisations that are equally committed to elevating communities to their full potential. We are proud of our partnership with the University of London; an institution that has been breaking ground for more than 160 years. 

It was the first university to… 

  • provide long distance learning
  • explicitly exclude religious qualification as an entry requirement
  • admit students regardless of their race
  • admit women to study university courses

It also enabled many people who served during the First and Second World Wars in the armed forces or had been prisoners of war to study and pass exams.

Like the University of London, Justice Defenders innovates. We take the law to the margins of society – to uproot the unjust.

In a fractured world, we are countercultural. We unite justice defenders globally and are poised for action. But we won’t do this alone. Now is the time for our rallying cry to be heard.

Will you stand with us? 

Find out more about the impact of the law degree on students’ lives within prisons.