Maya Angelou’s life and work have been an inspiration to many and I am no exception. As a pupil barrister I voraciously read practically everything she wrote; in between prepping Magistrates’ Court trials. I pinned a copy of Maya’s poem, Phenomenal Woman to Chambers’ notice board above the photocopier as a calling card of sorts. I also never tire of reading anything written by James Baldwin. His writing is so wonderfully descriptive and searingly honest. His book Giovanni’s Room is one of the most poignantly beautiful love stories I have ever read.

One of my all-time favourite albums is Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. At the time I was introduced to this album, I was deep into my hip hop phase. Blue in Green, featuring Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax and Bill Evans on piano, never fails to bring a lump to my throat. At the other end of the musical spectrum, perhaps, is my current immersion into the world of drill and grime music. I have written for Index on Censorship about the right of artistic expression and the current criminalisation of drill music and drill artists. I currently have on repeat Dirt in the Diamond by Jords. It is an astonishing piece of work in its lyricism and musicality. I am also in the short film that accompanies the album, so I am a little biased!

I have recently been exposed to the portraiture work of Lina Iris Viktor, a British-Liberian artist based in New York. I’m particularly struck by her bold use of colour and multidisciplinary approach.

As for film, when I first saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, my mind was blown. Here was an artist refusing to play by the rules and telling stories of importance to African Americans in the way he saw fit. I recently watched the film again and was reminded just how prescient it was. The killing of a Black man at the hands of the police – it was all in there – decades before the killing of George Floyd. As an aside, after watching Spike Lee’s Malcolm X in the last year of my law degree, I promptly found a barber shop and cut off all my hair. So I’d say it was a life-changing film for me!

There are so many special places and experiences that stand out in my memory but, if forced to choose just one place, it would have to be St Kitts where I moved to from Leeds, aged 12. I honestly do not think I would have become a barrister but for this experience. Overnight I went from being a minority to being a member of the majority. Living in a country where most people looked like me; the doctors, the lawyers, the political leaders, was transformative. That’s not to say that I didn’t experience discrimination while living there. I was poor and dark-skinned and so expected to languish at the bottom of the social ladder. However, the emphasis placed on academic excellence as a vehicle to lift people out of poverty ultimately stood me in good stead.

The one item of luxury I would need, if stranded anywhere, would be some sort of device that would allow me to listen to music. I simply can’t be without music; or, Jamaican jerk seasoning. 

Shereener specialised in criminal defence practising from Garden Court Chambers for 13 years before taking time off to have her third child. She returned to private practice, this time specialising in employment and discrimination law and won the Bar Pro Bono Award in 2011. Shereener left full-time practice in 2012 to focus on raising her children.
In 2016 Shereener started acting. In 2018 she formed Orísun Productions, a theatre company aimed at providing opportunities for underrepresented actors, writers and other creatives. In 2022 she was cast in the lead role of the Leeds & Nottingham Playhouse revival of Nine Night by Natasha Gordon, directed by Amanda Huxtable.
Shereener will understudy the role of Dr James in the National Theatre’s revival of The Effect by Lucy Prebble, directed by Jamie Lloyd, starring Paapa Essiedu, Taylor Russell, Cobra Holbrook-Smith MBE & Michele Austin. The Effect opens on 1 August 2023.
As a producer, Shereener’s most recent production – PlayFight – has just transferred to the Seven Dials Playhouse in the West End and runs from 10 July to 5 August.

Maya Angelou © Shutterstock

Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing © Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

St Kitts © Getty images/iStockphoto