rosaparksnah

 

So #brexit happened. Cue weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth etc. The leave campaign have effectively galvanised over 50% of the voting population with a campaign that was essentially a single issue campaign – immigration. Those of you who voted leave for various other reasons are at this point protesting- not all of you voted on immigration, it was do with democracy, sovereignty, freedom, TAKING BACK CONTROL!!!! Sure. But regardless of your very legitimate reasons for voting leave, all the polls show that the majority of people voted based on immigration or issues related to it.

Since #Brexit, many have noted that xenophobic and racist incidents have been on the increase. It’s not Eastern Europeans that are the only targets for xenophobia (which I would add is different from racism and we should no confuse the two), but Black and Asian people have been targets of both xenophobia and racism. People are tweeting that they have been told to go back to their country. I myself have walked into shops in my local area in the Midlands and felt an atmosphere of tension that is palpable – more palpable than before.

What’s fascinating and frankly slightly hilarious,  is watching mainstream media collectively lament this new dawn of racism that has apparently been ushered in by Brexit. The white working class are demoralised and disenfranchised, they say. How awful that neglect from the left wing politicians that were supposed to look after them has pushed them into fear and bigotry. How can we rectify this? By creating more jobs, by ushering in a new semi-socialist dawn. We can TAKE BACK CONTROL!

This is a complete and utter piffle.

White working class racism has always been there. It was there in the 60’s when my Grandad walked through Wolverhampton with his six children and had rubbish and bottles thrown at them. It was there in the 1970’s and 80’s when gangs of working class white youth used to target and beat up young black men and women. It was there in the 90’s at Milwall football matches. It was there when, age 7, my next door neighbour who lived in the bottom flat of the house next door that had been split into council housing, threw a knife at my head and called me a nigger. It was there when a few months ago a patient called me a Paki. It was there when a few weeks later another patient told me the last doctor who screwed up his treatment was coloured.

Framing post-brexit racism as something new is another way of the white middle class pushing the stigma of racism onto the working class instead of admitting that white supremacy is part and parcel of what this country has built it’s legacy on. Overt racism from the white working class is no better than the institutionalised racism legitimised and upheld by the middle and upper classes. The foundation for bigotry was laid many hundreds of years ago and there has been little attempt to destroy the foundation- only half-hearted efforts to build flimsy structures of seeming equality over it’s rotten core.

The positive outcome of this is that maybe for many of the younger generation of African-Caribbean’s this referendum has been a wake up call. Perhaps, the casual xenophobia and racism that has been unearthed will serve as a timely reminder of how tenuous our position is in this country. Too many of us have been comfortable in an identity of Britishness based on the fact that we felt accepted and at home in the bubble of big-city diversity. The cosmopolitan nature of London  is not reflective of the mood of the rest of the country. In London you are British. In Devon you may well not be considered so. For some of us, we are adamant that we will not allow what is British to be dictated by the prejudice of others. For others, myself included, we have decide that Britishness is a label that is fairly dispensable depending on its utility at any given moment and feel uncomfortable feeling attached to a country where a good proportion of the population seem to be uncomfortable with our presence. However you decide to define yourself, now more than ever is a time where we can focus on unity as a community. We need positivity, support and kindness towards each other at a time when the atmosphere seems to be one of hatred and fear. We don’t need to prove to others that we are worthy of respect. We don’t need to beg for acceptance.

Brexit was a reminder that as sinful humans, we react with fear when we feel we have less than others. We lash out and hurt others when we think they have something we should have. We become insular and closed instead of open and warm. I am determined that I will never excuse or be sympathetic to the racism that was always present before Brexit and that will be there long after the dust has settled. Poverty does not excuse bigotry.  I will not be more sympathetic to anyone’s racism because they have less than I have. I will not allow myself to be fearful or hateful. They have chosen to do that.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

 

bearded man

 

Every girl remembers when she started her period. I remember that it was one evening in 1st year of secondary school. As it dawned on me that it had finally arrived, I ran down the stairs admittedly filled with excitement, smug in the knowledge that I was now a ‘woman’. As I got to the bottom of the stairs I put on my cool pre teen slouch and turned into the front hall, where I caught my Dad coming from the kitchen. It didn’t occur to me that he couldn’t be the first person I could tell or that it would be weird. It was Dad. The same Dad who had fumbled my afro into two very loose and very messy pony puffs when my Mum had gone away for a work trip (that school day ended fairly traumatically with a kind hearted teacher braiding my hair with multi coloured elastic bands  to rescue me from the teasing of my classmates). The same Dad who picked me up from school most days because he finished work earlier than Mum. The same Dad who taught me how to ride a bike and who, equally scared of dogs as I am, pedalled furiously beside me when we got chased by a pitbull in the park. . Who helped with my maths homework. Who horrified my Mum by buying a £99 school rucksack in year 8 because it had a lifetime warranty ( I still have it, 14 years later).

And so, unable to hide my excitement any longer I blurted..”Dad, I started my period!”. He looked slightly panicked and I could see him trying to compose himself. This wasn’t on his list of things he’d have to do. “Erm…well..has your mother told you what to do?”. “Yes”. I replied. ‘And you’ve got all the stuff?” “Yes”. “Well, make sure you do everything she told you to do. Erm..and make sure you tell her when she gets home, she’ll be happy to hear”. I quickly learnt that the easiest way to get out of any trouble was to tell my dad his only daughter was on her period. “Dad, Shade hasn’t done the washing up!” “Leave your sister alone…she’s on her period”.

Whether it’s been starting periods, starting school, finishing university or my first break up, my Dad has always been the most reliable man in my life. That doesn’t mean our relationship has been perfect. Me and my Dad have fought, and we’ve fought hard. There were times I’ve cried and screamed and been angry enough to burst. But he has always been there. Like the ticking of the clock on my wall, he has been a constant that I have never questioned. Not once have I worried that I would come home and my Dad would not be there. There may have been times I wish he hadn’t been there, but there he was – stubborn and stoic in that old Jamaican way, and funny and full of life in a way that is unique to him.

And why is this special? I know so many people who have not had what should not be considered a luxury. I should not feel lucky to have a father that has consistently provided for me. He should not be congratulated for doing what is good and reasonable for a father to do, which is offer basic care for the children he produced. My Dad has gone above and beyond that, but in a community where fatherhood is sometimes seen as a casual extra that may or may not exist, he stands out.

I don’t want to add to the narrative that black fathers are bad fathers. As much as I can say that I know many people who didn’t have their biological father in their life, I probably just as many who did and some who had fathering from men who didn’t share the same genes as them. Half, isn’t good enough though. It’s not good enough that half of my friends had fathers who were consistently there and half didn’t. It’s not good enough that on Father’s Day, my Facebook timeline was flooded with people shouting out their Dads, but a large enough group of my friends were silent (and not because they don’t use Facebook like that).

Marriages end, couples split up and animosity brews. I understand that the woman you once loved may turn out to be someone you feel you have no respect for. Not everyone has chosen to do what my parents have done and brave the storms of marriage for 30 plus years. For some, they never had the option to choose to do the battle that is learning to love someone for life, sacrificing and being unselfish and remembering vows you made when it’s the only thing you have to hold on to. Life happens.

But whatever life does, fatherhood is never trivial. It is never unimportant. You will always matter to that little boy or little girl. Or 20 years later, that big boy or big girl. No matter what voices scream loudly that you are a bonus, an extra or even just dead weight, I believe that fathers, all fathers, black fathers are essential. I would not be the woman I am today had it not been for my Dad.

Some of you have incredible children who have managed to do impossibly beautiful things with their life despite your absence or inconsistency. You should be proud and ashamed. And you should know that it’s never too late to try. Some of you have been like my Dad – imperfect, faltering, human but persevering in your efforts to be fathers. And I thank you. #BlackDadsMatter

noy into you

I’m no authority on men or relationships having had fairly minimal experience with either, but I would say I’m a pretty good authority on unrequited love. I’ve had more than a couple crushes and ‘situationships’ which have ended with a lot of feelings on my side, and a couple ‘k cool’ text messages from their side.

My broken heart could have probably escaped with  a wee dent instead of being shattered with blunt force if only I had come to the realisation…he’s just not that into you.

Women especially, are professional love creators. We specialise in taking men with no love in their hearts for us, and using all the energy that could be spent on rock hard abs, a fantastic career and a relationship tighter with Jesus than all 12 of the disciples, on attempting to squeeze every ounce of non-affection from their souls.

The end result of this is wasted months, stress, a lot of kleenex and a complete rinsing of your thankfully, unlimited minutes on asking each of your friends in a million different ways why Jim-Bob just doesn’t seem to be giving you the attention you deserve.

My dear friend:Stop. Cease. Desist. Unhand the gentleman.

Shall I say it in patois for you? Him nuh want yuh

One thing men and woman both have in common though is that when we want someone, we show it.

Maybe not immediately. Sure, there’s the does -he-like-me, does-he-not stage  that can last varying amounts of time, but generally we’re pretty good at sending off signals. I could write an extensive list of signs that someone just isn’t into you, but there are two main signs:

  1. They don’t initiate contact. (Or in the case of many women, don’t accept contact)
  2. They don’t initiate commitment

That’s it. Simple. It all boils down to these two things – contact and commitment. Most men get to stage one and stop at stage two.

If he doesn’t text or call you and you’re always the one calling and texting – he’s not that into you. If he only calls or texts during unsavoury hours when Sam’s chicken and brothels are the only institutions open for business- he’s not that into you. If your phone calls last 10 minutes and the main point is clearly to warm you up enough so he can come over and get some sort of sexual intimacy – he’s not into you, he’s into getting into you. If she talks to you for 20 minutes and then ‘has to go’ Every.Single.Time – she’s just not that into you.If you disappear from the country, climb Everest, and 3 months later get a text saying ‘sup? you good?’. They’re just not that into you.If you’re in a relationship  and you have to beg him to check up on you once a week – no, it’s very unlikely that’s just his personality- he’s just not that into you. If he repeatedly cancels plans you make together to go out with friends/siblings/ his personal trainer and apologises profusely each time, but still cancels…guess what? He’s just not that into you. If she doesn’t pick up for 3 days at a time and doesn’t bother to  even text a ‘sorry I missed ya :-)’ text, then mate, she’s probably just not that into you.

Now on to commitment. Intimacy is the reward of commitment. And as intimacy grows so should commitment. Many of us have broken hearts because we give intimacy – be that emotional, sexual, mental without the appropriate level of commitment If you’ve been ‘talking’ for a year but there’s been no suggestion of a relationship, the odds are he’s just not that into you. If he/she says ‘I’m  focusing on my career right now’, then that may be a very true statement, but what’s also true is that they’re just not that into you. Because if they thought you were unmissable, they wouldn’t miss out on you. For my Christian folk – if you’ve been dating for 5 years, are both grown adults with a viable income and are ‘celibate’ but he still has not proposed, my friend, he’s just not that into you. Because no grown heterosexual man with a sex drive and a stable income needs 5 years to decide whether he wants to marry a woman and make attempts at procreating. Please be honest with yourself – if he wanted you to be his wife he would have asked by now.  If after 8 months of dating she doesn’t want to ‘tie herself down’ by actually having the title of girlfriend , she may fancy you , but really and truly, she’s just not THAT into you. If they break up with you, guess what? They’re just not that into you. Regardless of whether they tell you you’re perfect and amazing – they’ve broken up with you. Massive hint. Pretty huge.

Sure there are exceptions to all of these, but if you’re reading this and thinking your boyfriend/emotional booty call/person you fancy is the exception then you’re probably wrong. And they’re probably not that into you. And you should grab yourself by the shoulders, believe that you’re worth it and trust that God has someone for you who actually IS that into you.

So  pick up the phone and (with dignity) bury that relationship that is already dead.

What do you think? How can you tell when someone’s not into you?

gorilla

It boggles the mind that some people think that you can’t be concerned with more than one cause at time. If you tweet #freethebees someone will inevitably hyperventilate and stammer “How can you be concerned about bees when MILLIPEDES are almost extinct, do you know how important they are to our ecosystem?”

So I’m prefacing this post by reiterating that I understand that one is capable of caring about human lives and animal lives at the same time. I am after all, a vegetarian.

You’ve all heard the news about Harambe the Gorilla. Tragically, he was shot at a zoo after an incident in which a 4 year old managed to climb into the gorilla enclosure. I understand the sympathy extended that an animal, which for all intents and purposes, was minding it’s own business and happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, was shot. Cool. Have your 1 minute of silence before you eat you factory farmed beef burger. (Did you feel the shade? It was intentional)

What I don’t understand (or maybe I do understand, but don’t want to)  is this disproportionate mourning that certain people *cough* will participate in for wild animals in comparison to:

  1. The animals they kill every day for food kept in horrific conditions.
  2. Black and brown people everywhere.

Many were calling for police to investigate the mother and bring charges for the death of the gorilla. Unbelievably, they’ve been successful and the police are now investigating the mum. Never mind the fact that anyone who has looked after a 4 year old should be able to understand that they can skedaddle in the twinkling of an eye. Never mind the fact that zoos should probably have enclosures that are pretty much childproof. Unless this boy was secretly an international athlete, he just shouldn’t have been able to get into a gorilla enclosure.

I wish police officers who killed unarmed black people were investigated that quickly. Isn’t it interesting that many of these same people who are so riled by live video footage of a gorilla being shot, weren’t equally as riled by live video footage of Walter Scott being shot in the back?  Wouldn’t it be nice if it could garner the same level of international outrage?  The only conclusion I can gather from reactions to Harambe the Gorilla and Cecil the Lion (the other animal that made headlines last year), is that for many of these people gorillas lives are more important than black ones. Especially when people are more intent on crying about a gorilla than being thankful that a little boy (who coincidentally happens to be black) was saved from what could have been a horrific death at the hands of an potentially extremely violent animal.

In fact, don’t underestimate the fact that this child was black and that his mother was black in this outrage. Black mothers face tremendous stigma. Black boys are seen as societal deviants and by extension their mothers are tarred with the brush of irresponsibility, regardless of the facts of the situation. Many of you might feel that I’m clutching at straws here, but I honestly believe that the reaction to this would have been slightly different if a blonde hair blue eyed little girl had been trapped in the enclosure and if the mother had been white.

I’m not stating that every person who is concerned about the gorilla is consciously racist.I’m not stating that you shouldn’t care about gorillas, bees or millipedes. I’m not even questioning the hierarchy of concern because I was already aware of the hierarchy. I’m just giving us a short reminder, once again, perhaps like a broken record, of how selective society can be is with it’s empathy. And that we should remember this. And that we should question in our own lives what moves us to mourning.

(We could also have a discussion about zoos and why they’re kind of questionable…but that’s another post)

 

Maybe you saw the title of this blog and felt slightly offended. What’s wrong with going to Southbank University? Or London Met? Or any of the universities where a significant proportion of  young black people attend? To which I reply – absolutely nothing. Congratulations on making a decision to enter higher education and following through with it. I applaud your efforts and achievements.

BUT.

Please allow me to be brutally honest: In the hierarchy of universities in the UK, Southbank, London Met, Kingston, and many of the other universities where you’re likely to find people that look like me flounder at the bottom of the league tables fairly consistently.

If we put our feelings aside for a moment and focus on the needs of our community, this is a problem. Black graduates find it more difficult to find jobs than white graduates. We know that institutional racism, classism and other factors contribute to that and in all honesty there’s little we can do about these things. One factor that maybe we aren’t talking so much about is that many young black people simply choose poorly when it comes to university. Employers look at you university  as well as your degree classification and judge you based on that. That’s the harsh reality.

Choosing a university  partly based on the numbers of black people that attend isn’t entirely stupid. Your emotional well being will actually affect your performance, and community is important to many of us. However, choosing a low ranking university compared to a good or brilliant one based on numbers of black people is shortchanging yourself and your community. (ETA someone pointed out not many people do this, but I’ve heard of enough people who choose London uni’s over non London ones because they feel ‘safe’ in london and part of it is connected to perceptions of diversity. I’m also aware that many people feel they don’t have the grades for better universities and that’s an important factor and another post)

So here’s a guide to choosing. I hope you find it useful.

1)Identify why you’re going to university.

This sounds simple enough. To get a degree, innit? Not so fast Damilola, not so fast. Do you have an idea about your career path and what you want it to look like? No. That’s no necessarily a problem. But do you have a vague idea about what you want your life to look like in  5 years time? What is your skill set? What are you good at? Are you entrepeneurial? Are you creative? Are you practical? Does what you want to do even require a university degree? Does it require a lot of networking?

University is currently £9000 a year without living expenses. That’s a pretty hefty financial investment. If you have rich parents and can afford to go to university for the sheer joy of learning, then great. If not, think about whether your time and money needs to be invested in this.

I personally think that for a lot of people a university degree from a good university is a sensible choice because it proves to employers you have a skill set. For some people though, it’s a waste of time and a few grand.

It’s not enough to go because you want to be able to say you have. That’s like paying for a ticket to China to see the Great Wall when you actually hate Chinese food, culture and planes. It’s pointless.

2) Choose a sensible course or courses.

Sensible doesn’t necessarily mean traditional – it means a course that aligns with your answers to question 1. If you’re a rich Nigerian who’s Dad has oil money and university is just for intellectual exploration, then Ancient Russian with Events Management joint honours might be the one for you. For the rest of us, we need to think more carefully.

Write down a list of the subject/s you’re interested in. Then write down a list of your  realistic predicted  A level grades in those subjects. If it’s a D and you know in your heart that you’re probably going to get a D, then slap yourself and get a tutor (if you can afford it,  some of us can’t but if you can afford £20 a week on going out or eating takeaway, you can afford it you’re just not prioritising it), or rewrite your list of subjects.

3) Use a university guide and look at the ranking for your course/s.

There are websites where you can check which universities are good for certain subjects. Redbrick universities are older, more prestigious universities. Universities in the Russell group are elite universities known for their research credential. Some universities like Aston are neither of these but have good reputations.  Some universities might be lower in the league table overall, but have a higher ranking for your subject and be well known for it in the field you’re interested in entering. Google around to find out what each university or course is well known for. They might be ranked highly for music, but is that because they’re known for classical and not jazz performance? If you want to do jazz performance, then maybe that’s not for you.

4) Eliminate universities that you know are unsuitable.

Contact the universities, or use their website to check for their requirements. That might be grades, work experience etc. If you know there is absolutely no chance of you attaining even close to this then cross them off your list. (But don’t be pessimistic – if you’re not 100% ideal but determined, sometimes there are ways around this).
Now look at things like, placement opportunities, chances to study abroad and location. Is it an absolute requirement that you have a placement year in France? Are you adamant that you’re not gong to be able to study in Scotland and retain your mental health? Then St Andrews is off the list. Try to keep an open mind though, and remember that new experiences aren’t always bad experiences.

5) Visit the universities.

This is crucial. You cannot choose a university without going there before you apply. I actually applied before going to a couple. In hindsight it’s a bad idea. You need to get the feel of the environment, the city/town and decide whether it’s somewhere you can see yourself. Go to open days. Or even go again on a day where it isn’t an open day. Talk to people who go to the university. If diversity is important to you, spot some black people who go there and ask their honest opinions on living in the area and attending the uni. Research cost of living and house prices.

6) Don’t get mugged off by teachers at your school.

Teachers often have low expectations for black pupils. They will mug you off and tell you that the University of Nonsense is ‘a good uni’ and that your low/mediocre grade is acceptable. Set a standard of excellence for yourself. If you’re starting out your A levels, I think it’s a good idea to get a tutor from the start if you or your parents can afford it. Don’t let teachers get away with giving you low predicted grades – negotiate! This is your future!

7) Find a mentor.

Try and find someone in your field through your social circle who is where you want to be. It doesn’t have to be the exact same career field if that’s not possible – maybe just someone who is successful and might have connections. Use your connections. If you have no one in your social circle be brave and contact someone you respect and see if they are willing to mentor you. Ask your school about alumni who might be interested.

8) Have faith.

You might not get the grades you wanted. You might not get into the university you wanted. But with hard work and determination you I believe you can still achieve great things. Say and prayer and jump – with faith and hard work you’ll land on your feet.

What do you think? Was this helpful? What advice would you add? Please share this with as many people as possible!