It took photographer Donald MacLellan 18 months to complete 24 close-up portraits of leading black achievers in British society. Avoiding the cliched black-success categories of sport and music, he focused instead on politics, law, science, business and academia - and accompanied each image with words from his subject. All 24 go on show next month at the National Portrait Gallery in London

Ozwald Boateng, bespoke tailor 'Dad was always driven by politics in Ghana and taught me to believe everything is possible so I'm not afraid to try new things. My mother was more business-orientated so I got my acumen from her. I was 17 when I sold my first suit with my name on it to a shop in Covent Garden. I was so proud ... In Savile Row I deliberately set out to attract a very different clientele, bringing in people like musicians and actors who would not have come here before. I suppose the other tailors may have thought that I was too eccentric, but we have a mutual respect for each other now and I have proved useful to them'

Lola Young, professor of media and culture at Middlesex University 'I was born in Britain and my parents are Nigerian, but I don't like to be pigeon-holed or categorised as Nigerian or British. For me the fact that it's so difficult to pin down blackness in Britain is a positive thing, it leaves me freer'

Kofi Bucknor, financial executive 'Being a black in Britain, I see each day the sense of under-achievement and desperation many gifted young people feel. Many of them are bright, well educated and ambitious but usually have nowhere to turn for guidance or professional opportunity. I see doors, especially in my profession, closed to them even before they have a choice to knock. Much talent is wasted in this process and I spend as much time as I can addressing this issue'

Joan Riley, writer 'Not so many years ago I worked under an anti-black manager in a local council. He insisted on correcting any document drafted by the black staff, in red ink, even though his spelling was atrocious and he had no grasp of basic English grammar. As a writer I could see the comic absurdity of it all, but I also saw how much damage that work environment did to many black people'

Trevor Robinson, advertising executive 'I love being black, I know that it sounds a strange thing to say but I do think I was born lucky. It's always easier to have a life which is extraordinary when you are born contrary to the norm. My blackness is what defines me. Also it is easier dealing with people treating you like a freak when there's around 3 million other "freaks" in this country just like me'

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet

Who's who

I used to think nurses

were women

I used to think police

were men

I used to think poets

were boring,

Until I became one of


Baroness Patricia Scotland, QC 'I have been particularly blessed. I was fortunate to have the encouragement of my parents and, later on, of my fellow lawyers in my career at the Bar... My father used to say: every man or woman is the arbiter of his or her own good fortune, every single one of us is given a talent and the challenge is to find and hone that talent and to use it for the benefit of others. I believe him to be right'

Ian Hall, MA (Oxon), ARCO, musician, composer and founder of the Bloomsbury Society for Racial Harmony 'On one occasion while I was a freshman at Oxford, another student asked me what I was reading, and when I told him "Music" I recall he looked a little startled.

"Oh really!" he said. "Did you bring your drums with you?"

There was no malice in the statement, only astonishment.'

Denise Everett, senior embryologist 'Recently I got out of my car and some white teenagers shouted "Why don't you go back to where you came from?" Maybe I should get a tattoo that says Made in England. I am from a one-parent family and lived on a council estate for a while - yet I have never mugged, been arrested, done drugs nor been a prostitute. Today I work in one of the largest and most successful IVF units in the UK. There is no secret to achievement'

Dalton M McConney, chief inspector, Metropolitan Police 'I have enjoyed the good and positive things about the service and endured the frustrating and disappointing aspects ... Despite the contributions and achievements of black officers, only a few have managed to crack the "glass ceiling" in promotion. Having cracked it, however, there was no surprise that the ceiling was reinforced with concrete. With steely determination we must continue to chip away'

Sonia Boyce, sculptor 'How does it feel to be black, female, British and an artist? My instinct is to turn the question around: how does it feel to be white, male,

British and an artist? I am accustomed to wider British society seeing every black person who steps outside the "normal" space and occupation ascribed to them as peculiar and therefore a social phenomenon. I myself just feel that I'm doing a job that I have some skill for and am part of a culture I have contributed to'

Lord Taylor of Warwick, solicitor and first black peer 'My father was born in poverty in Kingston, Jamaica. He played county cricket for Warwickshire and, when I was a boy, he hoped I would make it to Lord's one day. Although he meant Lord's cricket ground, I know he would have settled for me going to the other Lords! One of the reasons Britain is Great is because of the rich multi-racial, multi-cultural diversity of its people. I am proud to be Afro-Caribbean and British'