Black Voices in Conversation: Sandra Gordon on the importance of being the change you want to see

Black Voices In Conversation is a new series of interviews by ITV News to mark Black History Month 2020.

We have spoken to groundbreaking individuals from the black community to learn about their life experiences and to hear their vision for the future.

ITV West Country journalist, Alpha Ceesay, sat down with Sandra Gordon - one of Bristol's few black magistrates - to talk about the importance of being a role model and working to be the change you want to see.

"I've never been fazed by being the only black person in the room. For me, it's about showing we have a right to be in those places."

She is an activist, magistrate, radio presenter and more all rolled into one. All with the same goal in mind - to create a fairer and more equal society.

Sandra Gordon grew up in St Paul's in the Easton area of Bristol.

At age nine her father decided to leave England to go back to Jamaica but her mum decided to stay as she thought her children would have access to better opportunities if she did.

Her mother's decision, and the challenges she faced as a result of them, would leave their mark on Sandra for years to come.

Sandra (right) with her mother and sister. Credit: Sandra Gordon

It's made incredibly resilient and determined. I can see that I get some really strong values from my mother in terms of not giving up and keep on going.

Sandra Gordon.

That mindset proved pivotal for Sandra moving forward.

She went onto secure various managerial roles beginning with Royal Mail in 2003 where the true importance of her success became clear.

Sandra (second row, fifth from the right) during her Royal Mail days at a leadership event Credit: Sandra Gordon

I just took the opportunities that were given to me. It wasn't until perhaps other employees in lower positions than myself saw me in those higher positions they were like wow Sandra. We're proud that we've got someone like you in this position you know this really gives us hope and aspirations that we can achieve something like this.

Sandra Gordon

She would continue to inspire those around her within the business world until 2010 when she survived having breast cancer- within a year of her losing her mother to the disease.

This pushed her to fully follow her passion and work to uplift her community.

I guess for me it was I've survived. Death gets you to think about what your life means to you and what you want to do moving forward. I guess it was at that point I started to really think about my community and was what I was doing enough?

Sandra Gordon

Fast Forward to 2013 Sandra would co-found the RISE social enterprise to help other black people achieve the success she had.

This work gave her the platform to secure a spot on Bristol's Commission on Race Equality where her discovery of the lack of representation within the justice system led her to become a magistrate.

Sandra at a meeting with the other new magistrates that were sworn in last year. Credit: Sandra Gordon

It's important that structures within the city reflect Bristol. Bristol is incredibly diverse so that means every element for me of the system and the structure in it also need to reflect that and they don't. This is where being a role model is key because it is about encouraging others to make a change and be part of the those solutions of the city.

Sandra Gordon
  • Catch up with all of the latest Black Voices in Conversation interviews here.