Black History Month 2020 reflections

2020 has been an extraordinary year, whether it is viewed positively or negatively.  A bombardment of news sensationalising the Covid-19 pandemic, while news affecting the rest of the world and everyday individuals has been scant at minimum, but mainly frozen out of the mainstream media. It seemed the pandemic had taken over the world.

We cannot deny that Covid-19 changed the way we live our lives.  In the midst, creating mass hysteria, fear and apathy.  Social media and television news provided on demand footage of the racial conflict, tension and divide in the US, more negativity.  Almost creating the impression that systemic racism exist only across the Atlantic Ocean and was no longer prevalent in the UK.  Until the backlash and racist tweets about the new Sainsbury’s Christmas advert, which features a black family planning Christmas dinner together went viral.  It was a poignant reminder that racism exists and is rampant in the UK.  Although, those of us who experience structural and everyday racism before, during the height of BLM, and beyond, exhausting as it may be, were not delusional in believing that racism no longer existed in the UK.  On the contrary, we have continued to use our respective platforms to challenge and change the negative racial discourse and promote racial equality and equity. 

BHM 2020 in the UK felt very different to previous years. It may have been a result of the use of virtual platforms that made presenters more available and accessible. Or maybe the guilt produced by the public lynching of a black man by a white police officer in the US, captured and shared via social media, was the catalyst for the significant increase in activities across public and private sectors in the UK, we will never know for sure. 

This year I had a lot to offer.  I had more than personal experience to share. I was able to use my research, concepts and ideas to introduce the audience to a new way of thinking about intersectional identities within the workplace.  This was rewarding and humbling, because my research and the application of intersectionality theory had been privately and publicly criticised.  So, the opportunity to use my research and application of intersectionality theory, organisational psychodynamic theory and autoethnography in a creative way, to bridge the gap between theory and practice was a significant personal achievement.

From the comfort of my home, I presented at several events, facilitated workshops and was interviewed as part of BHM 2020.  My aim in participating in these events and activities was to do more than promote my second book The Silenced Voice: There is Purpose in Pain.  But rather, educate and raise awareness about intersectionality theory and demonstrate how it is more than a theory, but a tool to support Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. 

During my workshops, I encouraged participants/attendees to ‘think feel & do’, using poetry to consider how they could create more inclusive respectful environments that would make their colleagues feel comfortable to be their authentic self at work and create a sense of belonging.

It was fun having the autonomy to demonstrate how history and contemporary issues combined, can help us to be effective in the moment and grow. #justicepeacepoetry

Perfect Timing

A week at Lochgoilhead, Scotland

Today is surreal! My second book is officially released and available to purchase right now. I was speaking to my neighbour Phil, sharing my good news. He ordered his eBook version for 99p there and then over the garden fence.  He’s going to start reading it this evening because he’s just finished reading his other eBook. Perfect timing!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I wrote the poems in my new book – The Silenced Voice: There is Purpose in Pain while completing my Doctorate.  I can recall sharing one of my poems with my supervisor Dr Gail Lewis, and she advised me to focus on my academic writing. Undeterred, I used poems as props to stimulate discussions about the psychosocial at two academic conferences, and to generate debates when used as data, with the encouragement and support from my supervisor. It was a risk my supervisor advised, but it was worth it, because it generated a rich discussion about the unconscious, feeling invisible, othered and not belonging in institutional and academic spaces.

I’ve always believed that poetry can be more than art. It can be used in academia as data, and in the workplace to support wellbeing, because poetry can provide a cathartic relief. So when others were sceptical about my interest in using poetry as data and as a learning tool, I was steadfast in my belief.  It was this determination that was the catalyst for writing an article for the Special Issue on Arts-based research for Qualitative Research in Psychology entitled: Reflections of a black woman practitioner-researcher’.

I have recently used poetry in my autoethnographic lectures, in a Peace (w)Rite Poetry corner for my colleagues, to support the department’s wellbeing drive during the COVID-19 lockdown, and on my YouTube channel, to help people understand the complexity of intersectional identities and how they influence the way we, as in everyone, interacts with the world and how we are perceived by others.

To see my poetry in print in my second book is amazing.  To be a testament that there is purpose in pain, especially at a time when my reputation continues to be attacked by a group of senior white women, because I dared to make black women visible in prison occupational literature, by contributing to theory and knowledge, while simultaneously being awarded a Doctorate, is like ice cold water being splashed in my face. For a moment I’m startled, like the excitement I’m feeling right now, but the reality as the effects of the cold water subsides, is that my journey continues and along with fulfilling my purpose, which at the beginning was to make black women visible in prison occupational literature. I can say my first book has accomplished this.  My purpose now however, is to inspire and empower others who may be feeling excluded, invisible, silenced and othered that these feelings are temporary, and with determination, focus and self-belief, you can achieve your goals in your career, in academia and your personal life. Just believe in your self-worth. #justicepeacepoetry

Anniversary Staycation

2020 has been an unusual year.  Covid-19 epidemic led to global lockdowns. Working from home became the norm for those who were not furloughed, while frontline staff continued to work under new conditions. I was in the latter group for a period of time.  Staycation became the alternative to vacation for many of us and now seems popular.

For the first time my husband and I had a staycation for our wedding anniversary.  We went camping in our garden.

Excursions in the Southdowns and trips to local beaches.

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We even supported the local economy, ‘eat out to help out’ at at The Vurger Co, Brighton. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fun we had during our staycation.  This was the first time I slept in a tent.  Granted it was in the garden, but now I would go on a camping trip, something I would never have considered in the past.  It was romantic watching day turn to night, the stars glistening in the night sky and the moon shining bright, and then the reverse, night turning to day, the sun rising and moving across the sky.  For the first time I enjoyed listening to the birds and ducks rising in the morning, instead of thinking of them as a nuisance.  The sounds of nature were priceless.  I never thought watching wildlife would be entertaining, until I started watching a bird build their nest in the tree at the bottom of the garden. It was funny how they would bicker and chase each other across the fence and drink from the pond. 

A week on annual leave enjoying my staycation was brilliant, I was not bored.  I had the headspace to enjoy nature and appreciate my surroundings.  Spending quality time with my husband and relaxing, exploring new trails in the Southdowns and visiting the smaller beaches in the region was adventurous. You will be surprised the amount of treasures we have in the UK which until now, I rarely took notice of them, preferring to travel to other countries.

I am pleased I was receptive to the changes this lockdown has created because it has given me the opportunity to enjoy the simpler things in life.  Who would have thought a staycation would be just as much fun as travelling to another country? 

Out of adversity, comes opportunity, restrictions propel creativity, the moment is special, hence it’s a gift! So enjoy, like I have done.

Variety = Spice = Growth

When you are prepared to adapt, you are willing to grow.  The COVID-19 lockdown has helped me to re-evaluate my life, my priorities, and how I generally go about my everyday practices. 

I have spoken to associates, colleagues, and family members who feel cheated as a result of the lockdown.  Not surprising when holidays have been cancelled, people have been furloughed, the uncertainty around academic attainment, not being able to see relatives and friends in person, or attend group functions.  While others feel this has been an opportunity to diversify in their work practice, build new relationships, interact using different ICT mediums, develop a sense of social justice, etc.  I fall within the latter group, because I have adapted my mindset to focus on the opportunities this period has produced. I would like to share a few snippets of how I used my time during lockdown with the aim to encourages others to be positive during this turbulent time.

The lockdown has changed my way of working. I work from home and engage with colleagues via different ICT mediums.  I speak to different colleagues on a daily basis.  Before the lockdown I knew very little about the people I worked with, interact with during meetings, and sat next to occasionally in the open plan office.  As part of the team’s well-being strategy, we have a daily 15-minute coffee break that allows us the time and space to have meaningful conversations.  This has created group cohesiveness. I genuinely feel comfortable and a valued member of the team and not just another employee.

I attended my first virtual academic conference on the 16/17 July.  The 3rd International Conference on Gender Research was held via Zoom.  I chaired the Parenting, Families, and Girls stream. This was my first time chairing a session at an academic conference.  I really enjoyed the experience and the two-day conference as a whole.  The conference was truly international, with presenters from every continent presenting their work. 

I interact with relatives in the Caribbean more now than ever before.  I particularly enjoy my weekly conversations with my dad and Bro-in-law in Jamaica.

I have become even more creative with my writing.  I published a new instrumental poem on my YouTube channel entailed unabashedly me! and will be publishing my second instrumental poem at the end of the month.  I’ve never met Joe Prose @joeprose in person, but we have collaborated via our social medium platforms to produce my first instrumental poem.

I’ve joined several Facebook groups including Black Owned Economy and have made links with several black Owned businesses and entrepreneurs.  I have also increased my activism by proactively supporting Black Pound Day as much as I can, by sourcing what I need from black owned businesses in the first instance.  On Black Pound Day if I’m not spending black, then I don’t spend at all.

Black Pound Day 2020: What is it and how to get involved | Metro News

I attended my first council meeting via Zoom.  This was not possible before the lockdown because the practices involved physical attendance to meetings and with my commute, I was not able to return in time.  With the development of the residents Facebook page, I am now able to actively engage in my local community, meet other residents, and keep abreast of what is happening locally.

Diversity is definitely the spice of life, a negative situation like the Covid-19 lockdown has been perceived in different ways, but nonetheless it has definitely spiced up the way we do things and view things.

Let’s continue to grow and proceed through 2020 with purpose.

Growth during Covid-19 lockdown

It has been several months since I last posted on my blog, three months to be exact.  A lot has happened since then.  The most noticeable is the arrival of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  I would never have imagined the things we take for granted such as visiting family and friends, traveling across the country and the world, shopping freely without any constraints, and other things would be temporarily suspended.  We have all had to make drastic changes to the way we live our lives.  It has also been distressing for those of us who have lost love ones during this time.

It is clear to see that fear is rife!

  • Fear of the virus,
  • Fear of each other,
  • Fear of the future,
  • Fear of the unknown.

If we are not careful, we could easily become paralysed by fear.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV states:

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

So, let us be fearless, continue to adapt to our current situation and use this time productively, and grow in different areas, for example:

  • Emotionally
  • Intellectually
  • Spiritually
  • Physically

Let me share how I have grown during this lockdown, with the hope that it will encourage others to use this lockdown period to our advantage, as this time will surely past.

Emotional growth

When you are going through a challenging time, it is easy to feel resentful towards the perpetrators.  During the lockdown, I have had time to read through my Ph.D. thesis. The thesis reminded me of how the insidious undercurrent of institutional racism is embedded in organisational culture, which in turn unconsciously affects people’s attitudes and behaviours.  This realisation has been liberating because I am able to draw on my own research to analyse the psychology of a situation that is currently happening.

Intellectual growth

By chance, I had the opportunity to take part in a podcast interview on The Sociology show, talking about my book – Black women prison employees: The intersectionality of gender and race, and my reason for completing my Ph.D. research.  I also set a goal to write an academic article.  I have finished one article, the working title: Invisible privilege: The notion of the Strong Black Woman and I am in the process of writing my second article.  I have identified a journal in which I plan to submit my article for peer review and publication (wish me luck).

Spiritual growth 

I have spent my time during lockdown reading my bible more.  I remember as a child listening to my preacher Rev Terence Cain refer to the bible as a storybook containing every genre possible.  I never fully understood what he meant until now.  It has been particularly interesting reading the Old Testament and being a black feminist, I was particularly drawn to the book of Esther and Ruth.

Physical growth 

I have always kept myself fit, weight training, running, and cycling.  What I have enjoyed during this lockdown period is my evening walks in the South downs with my husband.  This is something I would not have time to do before the lockdown, due to the pressures of work and the daily commute.  The stillness of the evenings, the clear skies, and watching the sunset and day change tonight has been surreal.

downs

Writing this post has motivated me to continue persevering and use this time to grow even more.  I now feel energised to start a new project.  I will share what this will be in my next post.

Stay safe!