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  Even the hint of such an outdated critique on the morals of our  Great British soul has us hiring the other, to write reports that defend our covertly racist systems.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.

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.

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

It’s now that time of year where the shops have swept out the last of their Christmas goods with January sales and are stocking their shelves (all be it virtual at this point) with chocolate roses, stuffed teddies, drinking mugs with affirmations of love plastered all over them and fluffy socks, just in case your partner has cold feet.

Now, I’m going to start off here being very cliché and letting you know that the best gift you can give is the gift of love. I can almost hear you cringing but hear me out…

We are in the middle of a pandemic and Covid is killing off loved ones and ripping away the finances of many. It has been attributed to the rise in domestic violence and some studies suggest a rise in suicide rates. Now, I’m no expert in those areas but what I do know is that the mental health of our nation has been hampered by the lack of available services.

Reaching out to people, especially those who you know live alone, is even more so important in times like this when popping to the local community centre and having a chat with those around, is no longer an option.

It’s evident, even when I take the dog out for a stroll, that people are hankering for human connection. The amount of people who have stood at a distance and attempted to strike up conversation is above and beyond what I’m used to. It’s no longer just a smile for the dog and a nod in my direction, it’s people telling me where they’ve walked from that day, how many days a week they work from home, what they do for a living and whether or not they’re bothering to cook their solitary Sunday roast.

I must say, having my 2 children at home with me is an absolute God send. My 20 year old, the socially conscientious child of my two, struck up conversation about the number of cancer patients that have died, likely due to the cancelling of their treatments because of the pandemic. Not only does this sadden me but it makes me feel truly grateful for the current state of my health. So the next gift I would put on my list is gratitude. Let someone know that you are grateful they exist, let them know you are thankful you can call and hear their voice. We aren’t going to be here forever so let’s make our moments really count.

You get the gist here, the gifts I’m suggesting are more acts of service over physical items however that’s not to say physical items can’t play their role in our humanitarian efforts. I was gifted this great little bracelet from Refocus Bands.

At first glance it’s just like any other wrist band but when you flip it over, there is a reminder on the other side.

They come with many options of messages and there is even the option to create your own message. It’s an affirmation on your wrist and a cute, meaningful alternative to the generic box of chocolates and single stemmed roses (though if you buy me a rose I’ll be beaming).

Now to the more traditional gifts, this one is traditional with a twist. Me, just like a lot of people, love a sweet treat and my girl Nikita over at Kitaskakes has so many offerings for the valentines season. For example this beauty of a cookie, the promo version features my ugly mug but don’t worry, you don’t have to scare your loved ones off with my face, if you get your orders in on time the choice of face they eat is entirely yours.

If all else fails order in a takeaway grab a bottle of wine from the supermarket and Netflix and chill the night away.

If you have a product or service you’d like me to share, ask away, I don’t bite but I usually charge a fee, after all, how am I going to pay for the takeaway?

The Write Stuff – How to write creatively

Let’s say this is not going to be your usual how to guide. Yes I lead writing in a primary school. Yes I write this little ol’ blog in my corner of the interweb and Yes I studied creative writing at university but does that mean I have the right to tell you anything?

Technically no.

I’m unpublished, except for that one poem hidden in an out of print book somewhere; the name of which I can’t remember. That technically means that I know absolutely nothing. However, what I do know is how to write from the heart and to me that’s what creativity is all about.

Nobody has exactly the same thoughts or opinions about the same thing. I mean let’s test it out… what 3 words come to mind when I say the word morning?

For me it’s stretch, work, yoga now if you chose exactly the same words as me I’d like you to hop out of my head and make your own way in the world because this lane is taken. However if by some non-miracle you chose different words to me congratulations, that is the beginning of creativity. The best exercise in creative writing I got was just to sit and allow your mind to wonder and write EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT that comes to mind. When you’re done you have so much on the page that can create something beautiful.

This poem was composed from random thoughts.

If I could sit in a different city everyday and write for a living, I think that’s what I’d do. Creativity is often born out of experience. The more you allow yourself to experience in life the more you have to write about. How many of us can write about stripping off in the Caribbean on a back road up a mountain and jumping into a river in the mid morning sun with soap and flannel in hand for a river bath, before climbing into the back of a strangers pick up truck to head into the nearby town?

Though it can be taught in books, it’s probably better to read a wide range of books about everything than to read one book on creativity and think that you can unlock the power of creative writing.

So to be clear, what I’m telling you is this.

1. Write anything and everything.

2. Live a life worth writing about.

3. Read widely.

Get those creative juices flowing and when you’ve done that share it with me. I love to see it!

Why So Serious?

Today has been a long day, in fact I’m tempted to say this year has been a long year and it has only just started. That being said, Happy New Year everyone and welcome to my first post of the year. I probably shouldn’t start the year with a moan but having spent the last 3 days between bawling my eyes out and hysteria it may be best that I do just that.

The beginning of the year is great. It’s all about renewal, replenishment, revival, it’s the time where we feel we can have a fresh start and look at life from a whole new perspective. It is of course also a reflective time and many of us, myself included, can spend it beating ourselves up about what we’ve yet to accomplish. We are left questioning the decisions that took us to the place we are now and at times we are left hankering after change or simply a way out.

When I called my best friend at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t expecting to be met with a barrage of tears and a snotty rendition of why nothing was wrong yet I was falling to pieces. Thank God for friends like that (including the one I had already spent the morning lamenting to before this). You’d think that one conversation with the bestie would have me sorted and back to bliss but no by 7pm when another bestie called I was at it again and after approximately 5 hours of talking and laughter I had snapped back to the positive version of me that it took me years to develop and even longer to fall in love with.

Now, 3 days in, where am I? I spent the whole of the day working (by the whole of the day I mean after my morning ritual of affirmations, exercise and coffee) I finished working at 7pm and popped on here to write this post. Preparing for a week of remote learning combined with an inset day and 2 days working with the Keyworker children. I can guarantee you that by the end of the week I will not be fresh faced and full of energy but I will be proud. Working in education you can’t help but feel proud at least one day in the week, whether that is pride in the progress of a child or pride in your own practice as an educator.

Despite my moaning I have a lot to look forward to this year. I have many private plans, which once accomplished, I will share with you and give God the glory. I also have some big birthdays to look forward to. My step daughter will be 13 in a matter of days, my daughter will be 21 in March, My son 10 in August and I will be the big 40 in October (don’t tell anyone, they won’t believe you). So for now I’m just going to revert back to my attitude of gratitude and make the most of every moment.

I did tell you I was a self proclaimed mess didn’t I?

P.S. if you get a moment to visit my Depop store I will be listing items for sale across the year as the mood takes me.

What are your new year plans?