27 Apr 2015

NOTICED Celebrates Second Anniversary with Henry Olonga

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Second Anniversary with Henry Olonga

Over 100 people, including partners, paralegals, lawyers, trainees and students, gathered at Hogan Lovells on 27 April to celebrate NOTICED’s second anniversary. Co-chair of the network, Rashida Abdulai (Hogan Lovells’ associate), opened the event by sharing the importance of diversity for better business and the role of NOTICED as a forum for increasing access to, and progression within, for lawyers from a multicultural background.

Keynote speaker Henry Olonga, made his international debut in 1995 as the first black cricketer and youngest player to represent Zimbabwe. His presentation was of three almost distinct parts that were powerfully interconnected by a thread of strength and courage. He began by giving a vivid account of his journey to the national Zimbabwe cricket team that included entertaining and humorous renditions of his colourful competition clashes.  Henry spoke of the symbolism of his inaugural appearance, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd appreciating the significance of him being the country’s first black cricketer.

Henry seamlessly moved from entertainment to inspiration in a heartfelt account of the personal transition that led him to challenge the injustice of the Mugabe regime :

“I questioned whether it was right to be silent in a country where things were abnormal”.

He shared the lyrics of a song that had driven him in this period of self-reflection:

“And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me, to be brave and strong and true and to fill the world with love my whole life through.”

Amid criticism of whether he had the moral authority to make a stand – on a global platform Henry protested against human right abuses in Zimbabwe by wearing a black armband, to ‘mourn the death of democracy’ at the 2002 World Cup. By taking this single, bold and courageous action Henry had sacrificed his home and international career; he was soon subsequently forced into exile. Following candid responses to an array of questions from the audience the presentation entered its final and most mesmerising phase as the room was wowed and held silent by Henry’s spellbinding performance of Nessun Dorma.

Henry’s ability to be authentic, stand by his conviction, and develop his multi-talented ambitions were an inspiration for all. Enthusiasm from Henry’s story and superb singing talent was shared in post-talk networking drinks.