Raised around New Orleans and once an aspiring television news anchor, Shaun Stallworth has made Kansas City his home, and diversity and inclusion in law one of his causes. It started when he was president of the Black Law Students Association at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he helped to ultimately raise $150,000 and launch a scholarship for students of color interested in attending law school.
In 2013, he left corporate practice with Dentons US to focus on representing people in discrimination and consumer protection matters; he’s now of-counsel with Holman Schiavone, an employment law and personal injury firm in Kansas City. Stallworth long has been active in, and since 2018 the president of, the Jackson County Bar Association, composed primarily of African American attorneys from the KC area. He has overseen youth outreach programs, including national competitions, and other programming and events, such as scholarship fundraising.
“I think one of the things we have to be cognizant of is to not simply talk about goals for diversity and inclusion; we have to have action. The NAACP has a saying: ‘Don’t talk about it, be about it.’ And so what do we mean? Well, words matter, but actions are what actually change the world,” he said.
“And we need to make sure that there are people of color in these leadership positions. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I’d like to continue to see, and that’s going to take more than merely words.”
What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
Throughout my educational and professional career, I often have been one of few people of color at my school or workplace. Though allowing me to stand out among my peers, the experience was frustrating and often created added anxiety in an environment that was already at times stressful. My goal is to ensure that other individuals of color do not have to face those same pressures, or at least not to the extent that I did.
Who has most inspired you in your work for Diversity & Inclusion, and why?
My mom, a retired elementary school teacher who spent 35 years in the education system, has always been a strong influence on my life. She always had a passion for education and ensuring that all children received a proper education. Consequently, as a college student at Louisiana State University, I was active with the Children’s Defense Fund’s reading and writing campaigns. Through internships, I spent significant time in New York City and Washington, D.C. working on outreach educational programs for disadvantaged school children.
What goal remains unfulfilled for you as an attorney and advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
We need to ensure that there are individuals of color at leadership positions at all levels of the legal community, whether it is government or corporate, or small and large firms. Too often, individuals of color do not have a seat at the table. We have something to offer. We can share a diversity of opinions, based upon our experiences, that can contribute to the decision-making process.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
Actions speak louder than words. All too often, the right things are said, but there is no follow-through. There must be accountability in our deeds. We must bring resources to communities of color, thereby ensuring that students from those communities attend law school — a pipeline from college to law school, if necessary.