We’re not racist!

The outraged voices of white Britain have spoken.  Even the hint of such an outdated critique on the morals of our  Great British soul has us hiring the other, to write reports that defend our covertly racist systems.  Though The Comission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, admitted to “some evidence of bias.” It placed the onus on black and ethnic minority stumbling blocks, squarely at the feet of the individual.

Now, this blog post is as diverse as the leaders in the education system or the board of directors in a finance company.  It’s diverse in reverse.  The people I spoke to are a group of 30+ year old professional women 4 black, 1 Asian and a white woman thrown in for good measure.  If you dig deep enough, you might even hear the echoes of a man I spoke to in passing. He’s not quite made it to leadership in my established friendship group, so his voice doesn’t really matter.

This may sound crazy to you, but this is our lived experience.  We are used to being the only ‘ethnic minority’ in the room, or for some, the only woman  at the table.  When the colour of your skin grants you privilege, you tend to forget that not everyone has access to life in the same way you do.

The report suggested that, “we have a reluctance to acknowledge the UK had become open and fairer.” This leads me to wonder who did they actually speak to?  Every one of the women I interviewed led with the fact they acknowledged things had become better from when they were younger, they were no longer subject to having abusive language freely thrown at them as in their 1980s and 90s childhoods, yet being told, “I hope you catch Sickle Cell or Thalassemia.”  Was a reality for one of them.  Sophisticated use of language that might be missed by the more liberal of society, has become the new way.

Us women are the first to admit that the breakdown in families plays a part. It seems stupid to ignore the fact that slavery ripped our men from the family home and created a damaging mindset for both men and women.  Our women are used to being ‘Strong, independent,’ doing things for ourselves.  We don’t need men.  But of course this is not true, we know that the more successful of our children are those that grow up in well rounded households, something that the report agrees.

A couple of the women I spoke to questioned the use of stop and search and suggested that it was more used to assert dominance than to actually impact on knife crime.  Why if police are stopping and searching more, are our young men still being killed 24 times more than their white counterparts?  It’s not that they are apposed to stop and search, they just want to see a correlation in the number of searches and a downward trend in knife crime.  The report recommends a ‘reconceptualised idea of stop and search.’ Of course we will have to wait and see what that actually entails when  the time comes.   What we want are to know our children will be safe walking the streets.

We agreed that access was a key stumbling block and although the report states that there is no evidence of systemic or institutional racism, it does highlight that the doors to opportunity, although open, are still only half open to some and the “snowy white peaks at the top of private and public sectors” don’t do much to indicate lasting change.

The most Impactful thing I did get from my friendship group is that all of us wanted to see change, all of us want to be a part of that change and all of us recognise that the change must come not just from the way systems operate but also from an individual level.  What are we doing to grow our communities and push through the media blackout when it comes to our successes?  What are we able to do to ensure our youth are not wrongly prejudged before even lifting a hand to knock the door? 

We call “bullshit” on the idea that systemic and institutional racism doesn’t exist in Britain and yes it does exist alongside geographical, family, socio-economic, cultural and religious issues but our experiences are not to be swept under the rug because they are not understood. 

What we need is meaningful discourse that doesn’t wipe out our truth like the history books entwined in our outdated education system. We need leaders that aren’t afraid to push for the black man or woman because they’ve worked to hard to get in position.  We need representation that lets everyone know that we are an integral part of this country’s success.  We need people to stop gaslighting us as though we don’t know what racism is and we need to “self govern, protect, teach and nurture,” in order to become the community we desire to be.

Our rebellion does not have to be armed with weapons meant to kill or harm, our rebellion will be one armed with knowledge and wealth to promote change.

Single and Sharing

This could simply be a me thing but I find when I’m single and by single I mean not claiming anyone as my man, the left side of my bed tends to be occupied by books, devices, confectionery, anything other than a man. I read somewhere once, that you should prepare for what you want; set an extra plate at the table; leave a space in the closet etc and for a little while I actually did this madness. It’s no wonder my favourite ex used to tell me I was book smart but not street smart. In fact he would go as far as to say, “You have no sense of the common kind.” God rest his soul.

There is always so much pressure on a woman to fill that side of her bed. Either to have children, help raise existing children or generally just have a help mate. I get it, all of those things are important, if, you want them. What they do though, is impose a false narrative that without them you can’t be fulfilled. They make men feel empowered because they are needed, yet make some women feel a sense of desperation causing them to settle for way less than they deserve.

In 2019, I was in a long distance relationship with a guy I had met on holiday. I had insisted on the no sex before marriage rule so he was putting on the pressure to come and stay with me in the UK. When I told him he’d have to get a hotel or stay with friends he got very upset.

The offers of marriage had been flooding in from him and had I been back in my 20s, I probably would have agreed. He started getting possessive and wanting to know where I was and who I was with every minute of the day. I get that long distance it can be difficult but I didn’t share the desire to know his every move and at this point, I decided to call it off. His response, “You’re never going to find anyone like me who’s willing to marry you.” Strong words, which after hearing my response he soon retracted, but the fact he had the nerve to even think it, was everything that is wrong with the way society empowers men to think they are better than women.

Beyoncé put it best when she said, “I can have another you in a minute…”

What men fail to understand is that we don’t have difficulty getting a man, men are always ‘available’. Most of us could have been married 3 times over if we chose to settle. What we do have trouble with is finding a man who is committed and doesn’t view monogamy as a straight jacket made to stop them ‘living their best life.’

I refuse to idolise anyone’s relationships because we all know that behind closed doors anything could happen but I do love some of the wisdom that comes from the mouths of men like Steve Harvey, he recognised his woman as an asset, his best one. He teaches woman that as misogynistic as it may seem, a man should profess you are his, provide for you and protect you. There is a lot to be said for this.

So whilst my bed might be taken up by chocolate wrappers and the latest self help guide to a better life, I’m going to enjoy my freedom and fill my time with friendship and laughter and maybe the next guy that comes along will be at a stage where their community cat days are over and they recognise the value that a good woman has to bring, perhaps they’ll even buy me another bedside table for the left hand side of my bed.

There are no how to guides to parenting.

Top: Urban Outfitters, Jeans: Boohoo, leather shirt: Bershka

21.  I can just about believe it myself.  The little princess who used to hang on my every word and cry at the mere thought of leaving me, is now officially an adult by the world’s standards.  How on Earth will I console myself?

Her lockdown birthday celebration on Monday was absolutely lovely, being the daughter that she is, I had no doubts that whatever I did for her she would accept with love and gratitude and in all likehood an anxious smile.  I was right.  All except for the anxious smile. 

My baby girl, in true Tianna fashion, showed up as the authentic beautiful soul I know her to be, she laughed, joked and didn’t let a single thing bother her, at least thats what she showed on the outside.

For all I know, that beautiful smile could have been masking a multitude of emotions.  In that respect, she really is the child of her parents.  In many ways we raised her right; taught her to be conscientious and caring; to respect other’s rights to their own opinions and make choices that created beauty in this world for herself and others.  However, in other respects we taught her how to mask pain and push through every situation.  Despite it being ok to cry, it was not ok to stay in a state of unhappiness and allow others to see it.  We put on a brave face and shone, no matter what.

There are no perfect parents but part of being a good parent is learning from your mistakes and making adjustments to make sure your children have the best possible life chances.  These realisation don’t always come immediately, infact they hardly ever do but when they do, that’s the check in point.  Check in with experts, check in with other parents, check in with your children.  All of these people have an insight into how you can do better and be better.

I suppose the case of Aisha Kudi had me reflecting on how we parent and how we can put ourselves in a position to assist others to do so. Is it possible to avoid these tragedies by being a community accountable for our young people? I won’t delve too much into that story as I’m sure there is much yet to be revealed but what I will say is we as a society need to be better at looking out for vulnerable people, be that the parent, or the child.

I just pray that changes will be made at a systemic level to avoid something like this occurring again. After Victoria Climbie, we would have hoped never again to see cases like this. Unfortunately, here we are.

How well do you know your vagina?

If the word vagina gives you shivers down your spine, talk of a cervix has you sweating and the mere mention of discharge has you running to grab a sick bucket, this is just the post for you.

This week I will be talking all things fannies and pleading with men and women to normalise talking about changes in your intimate areas. 

Once you’ve had a team of doctors staring up your canal to check if you’ve stretched enough to push an entire human out of you, all sentiments of dignity go out the window.  From that moment forward you know doctors have seen it all.  That being said when I made a call to my surgery this week to discuss intimate matters, they did ask if I was ok speaking to a man about it, very considerate, though at this stage of my life the sex of my doctor is irrelevant.

I’ve always been very aware of what my vagina looks like, I was never afraid to sit in front of a mirror legs akimbo and check what I was working with.  To some extent the “pretty” vaginas in porno and songs that talk of “designa vagina” had a lot to do with that but I also wanted to know me so I could spot any changes.

Having been obsessed with human mortality since the age of about 5 I’ve always needed to know what my normal was so I could keep it that way. 

This goes for your discharge too.  Throughout a woman’s cycle our discharge changes slightly in texture and colour but at no point should you have green or smelly discharge and think things are still “A ok” down there.  Don’t get me wrong, it could just be a mild infection that triggers drastic change but any change is definitely worth getting checked.

The same goes for you fella’s too, grab your balls cop a feel and know what your normal is or better still let your significant other have a feel for you!

This Monday marks the 12th Anniversary of Jade Goody’s passing and that in itself is a reminder to get yourself checked out and don’t miss a single smear test.  My recent smear came back all clear but the nurse did notice a cervical entropic, which explained a number of issues I had been experiencing.  Thankfully it’s nothing serious and I’ll live, I may even be lucky enough that the issue fixes itself but once again it is a reminder to keep checking, know your body and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Now on another note, the first (living) human to exit my vagina turns 21 tomorrow!  Yes, that means I’m no longer a spring chicken and will have to stop insisting that I’m still 21 myself so happy 25th birthday to me!

Mother’s Day 2021

Mothering Sunday has arrived.

There is always so much to be thankful for when it comes to mother’s, whatever your story, there is at least a little gratitude for the woman who brought you into this world. Today, and every day, my cup overflows with it.

Although Barbados has a different Mother’s Day to the UK, I still take this day to salute the matriarchal figures of my family. I am blessed to still have my grandmother and mother available for chats and laughter at the end of a phone line, when many of my friends have lost theirs. The wealth of advice they have to offer, wanted or not, is something that I will always cherish.

I’m also very blessed to have my daughter’s other Grandma, who blesses me with hugs, laughter and prayer in the absence of my mum. When you lose your only child, as she has, mother’s day can be heart wrenching. We are so grateful to be able to love on her like she loves on us.

My own journey into motherhood was not an easy one so I don’t take for granted what a blessing it is to have someone call you mum and despite this being “my day”, I am so thankful that I have my babies to love on.

So I end this post by saying to all the mothers out there, enjoy your day. Find gratitude for your blessings and hug a mother tightly, be that your own mother or someone else’s, acknowledge that most of us are out here trying to be the best we can. Have a blessed day.

What is a family?

Strange title today I know, surely everyone knows the answer to that one, or do they? I literally had to wonder if I was missing something when a friend of mine told me she had lost out on a property because they had given it to a “family”.

It angers me that on a clubhouse stage another friend of mine was told that she shouldn’t talk about mental health from the perspective of race, and it certainly angers me that despite living in a so called libral society free from the bonds of slavery my people are still shackled.

I can only speak as a single mother, because I am a single mother. I can only speak as a woman because I am a woman and I can only speak as a black person because I am black. When you ask me to offer my opinion on something I offer it as a black woman who also happens to be raising her children alone and the thought that in the eyes of someone else that means my children and I are not a “family” makes me angry beyond words.

I am unapologetically black and nobody has the right to tell me I shouldn’t talk about my trauma from my perspective as a black woman. Like it or not, we face the system differently to others. I remember the pain I was suffering on the labour ward with my son and being told I was exaggerating and just needed to use the gas and air and I’d be fine, before having to be rushed into surgery for an emergency c-section because apparently my word as a black woman means nothing. Before you tell me that this happens to other women too, black women are 4 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a white woman and it’s no coincidence that black people are more likely to die of covid either. Why do you think the results of those investigations are still hushed? The only reason for it is the disparity of care they receive due to their perceived “strength” After all isn’t that the reason we were brought and sold in the first place?

I remember as a teen, being told that perhaps I should be a nursery nurse instead of my ambition to be a lawyer or social worker, despite having better grades than many and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being a nursery nurse, I did go on to do the job and love it but why couldn’t I get a job that required a degree? What was it that the career advisor saw in me that told her it was unachievable for someone like me? Nothing but the colour of my skin. P.S madam career advisor, I now hold 3 degrees.

I also remember sitting in the staff room of one of my previous work places and listening to the other teachers rant about particular children and how, “It’s the single mums that are the problem.” I kindly had to remind them that this single mother sat right next to them as a peer, not only works her ass of to provide for her children but has worked since the age of 15 and is raising children to be non-judgmental human beings. This is one of the reasons I got into teaching, I didn’t want children, especially black children, to continue to be told they could not achieve all that they wanted to in life.

So back to my initial question; what is a family? A family is, in my humble opinion and closely agreed with by Google, a group of people who love each other where there is at least one adult that has people that depend on them. When you start saying that single parents living with their children are not a family, you shackle them, you tell them that in your eyes they are not whole. You tell them that despite how they got to that position, they are not worthy of the same life chances as everyone else and you feed into their already fragile self confidence.

Something has got to change and I will be one of the change makers.

5 books to read your children on World Book Day

It’s world book day this Thursday, in light if that, I’ve adapted my post this week to talk more about reading and less about me. Here are my 5 recommendations for awesome books to read to your children.

1. The Lion Inside

An inspirational story that shows we all have a lion inside of us.

2. Look Up

A story that teaches us the importance of paying attention and sometimes all we need to do to experience something wonderful is ‘Look Up’.

3. The Lost Happy Endings

Beautiful poetic imagery in this book in which our happy endings are rescued.

4. The Spiderwick Chronicles

A series of books filled with magic and mischief.

5. Noughts & Crosses

A teen read that explores slavery, racism and love in dangerous times.

I have read all of the above books and there are so many more I could list but these are a great place to start.

You can also go to this page to download a digital library. Check it out!

How to Succeed in the Struggle

I sometimes find it hardest to write when I’m happiest, it’s as though pain causes me to express myself in a way that no other emotion does. Strange that. Or is it?

Pain is, in my opinion, the body’s way to trigger our minds into searching for solutions. Without the pain of slavery causing my ancestors to be separated from their loved ones, would they have found a way out? Without the recent pain of watching George Floyd murdered on our TV screens, would my community have pulled together in such a way to start a wave of change, unity and passion to break down systemic oppression?

Without the pain of rejection and the fight to be seen for the work we do would migrants continue to create great works in London, ‘the melting pot of creativity’?

This week’s London Fashion Week has shown a great deal of fashion created through struggle. Whether that be the struggle of acceptance in the mixture of Western meets West Africa (Labrum SS 21 ‘The Cotten Tree) or those who champion fashion design for social change (Tolu Choker).

Labrum
Getty/Tristan Fewings
Labrum
Getty/Tristan Fewings

The offering this year, in these unprecedented times has been bold and exciting. From collections that get you thinking about what you would do if you knew these moments were your last (IA ‘Hour Glass’) to the fun vibrant crystal jewellery collections. We have surely been spoilt for choice.

IA London Women’s Fall 2021

What have been your highlights of fashion week so far? Last week I touched on New York Fashion Week. Do you excel in pain or triumph in happiness? Let me know.

How To Show Up For New York Fashion Week

Fashion season is about to be lit! With all of us biting at the bit to get out of our homes and on holiday, we’ll be watching the fashion world for the next new thing to jump off the runway and straight into our holiday suitcases.

I know what you’re thinking, did I watch the latest broadcast from our very own poor excuse for a prime minister? The one who effed up by not listening to any of the early lockdown advice and landed us up shit creek without a paddle? Well yes, I listened to him attempt to make us lose all hope in a summer back on the beaches, enjoying a swim with our loved ones. As I listened, I thought, and this may be very selfish of me, I’m a Barbadian national, so I’m going home!

With that said, how are we going to see all the latest on the runway for Fall? Don’t panic E! has you covered. There will be live broadcasts of all the wonderful new trends beginning on Valentines day, so if you’re stuck for a date, it’s ok I’ll be virtually sat next to you taking front row to watch Jason Wu’s collection at 10pm UK time.

How I’m Showing up fir NY Fashion Week

Being that February is also Black History Month in the US, they will have special offerings during the month to showcase the black fashion icons who have been trailblazers and changemakers in the fashion industry. I, for one, am looking forward to finding out all the inside secrets of what goes into styling Beyoncé, being that I consider my alter ego a bit of a Sasha Fierce.

Alter Ego

So here’s to a month filled with a dollop of love, a sprinkling of fashion and a whole lot of fierce.

Are computers taking over our lives?

What a week. 

For the most part I spent it in PJs with cups of coffee and lots of junk food, staring at a laptop for what seemed like an eternity.

Normally, my laptop and I are great friends.  We watch movies, write bog posts and stories and generally have a whale of a time but there is something about being forced to stare at her glossy screen and do my actual day job that has made my fingers tingle with thoughts of her untimely death as she plummets to the ground from my bedroom window.  I know none of us signed up for this but I REALLY didn’t sign up for this, in fact I ran away from every job that smelled like there was the prospect of being on a computer all day. 

Jumpsuit: boohoo

I like interacting with my school babies, where I can see their expressions, make jokes and get an actual reaction from them.  You can tell I’m a teacher as most of my jokes are aimed at those under 11 so when I test them out on adults I’m met with raised eyebrows and concerned side glances.  Oh how I miss laughter!

This week, after the 9 to eternity job, I’ve spend some time writing on paper.  Call me a weirdo but there’s something quite erotic about holding a pen and watching it slide across the page caressing it with poetry and art.  As well as keeping an eye on my kickstarter campaign, I’ve been working on a lot of poetry, mostly focusing on the complexities of love. 

Bodysuit: Primark

A funny old thing is love.  Apparently we learn it from our parents, therefore, I’m doomed (I joke) but that’s a story for another day.  I did manage to get up and put on an outfit or two, so you lucky lot don’t have to be forced to see me slob out and instead get to look at me acting as though I actually have somewhere to go.

Jumper dress: boohoo

With valentine’s day coming, I’m definitely considering dressing up for the occasion, celebrating the fact that I love myself enough that valentine or not I’m going to celebrate me.  I know it can be a time where some single people feel lonely and unloved, I’ve been in that position myself at times but trust me, doing something special for yourself or even for a friend, will help you feel so much better.  Besides it’s one day out of the whole year and I can almost guarantee you will have many other times when people will show you how much they love you.  Just in case you don’t, know that I have love for you just because you stopped by and took the time to read my post to the end.

Leave me a comment and visit my Instagram (mummagz), I love to connect. Have a great week.