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.

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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!

 

Reset and Research

I’m a strong believer in being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right person in the right season. I spend a lot of time encouraging, motivating and supporting others. But at times, I meet people who without realising do the same for me.

This happened on Sunday. I attended my local church, New Testament Church of God, it was Youth day and a guest preacher Rev Nerissa addressed the congregation.  Her message was directed at the youth, but I got a lot from it.  What particularly stood out for me and is the focus of this post was her take on the prefix ‘RE’ from a spiritual perspective.

Before I begin, I would like to give some context to this post.

Between the 2nd and 3rd April 2020, I will be presenting a poster and article entitled: Black women in leadership: The Complexity of Intersectionality, at the Third International Convention on Gender Research – University of Reading. The study was a continuation of my Ph.D. researcher, Defining Our Experience: A Psychosocial Analysis of the Racial, Gendered and Subjectivity of Black Women Employees in the British Prison Service. This study was converted into an academic book: Black Women Prison Employees: The Intersectionality of Gender and Race, published in 2018, by Edwin Mellen Press.

My article and poster have been peer-reviewed and accepted. I had planned to update my article by publishing my research findings. Unfortunately, I have faced several barriers and challenges from my chosen organisation and have not been able to undertake my research.

There are times when good ideas are dismissed and ignored. Studies have shown that black scholars’ ideas and research are more likely to be rejected when the focus is on race/ethnicity issues, because of the colonisation of the curriculum and structural racism/sexism within organisations. So, I was not surprised by the rejection, but I was disappointed.

Don’t be deterred!

The ‘RE‘ words were just what I needed to realign my focus and move around the barriers I am currently facing. So, I am sharing them today because I strongly believe they will inspire and motivate other scholars who may be facing similar challenges.

There are many words with the prefix RE. I will be discussing six: Reignite; Reenergise; Reinvent; Rethink; Rework, and Rebuild because these are the words that I have decided to apply to my situation.

Reignite – There may be times when the flame which once burned brightly metaphorically speaking, flickers and needs reigniting to shine brightly again. The flame is your passion. When you feel passionate about your project you will find a way to negotiate, amend, or move to a different institution to complete it.

I have decided to pursue a different project in a different organisation. Look out for my updates.

Reenergise – Life, work, responsibilities can take its toll. I’ve noticed recently how I have had to discipline myself to prioritise my time to ensure I have work-life balance. The energy and drive I once had for my original project were seeping slowly away because I was distracted with work commitments and wanting to follow my original plan, even though it had been rejected. However, now that I have redirected my interests into a new research project, I’m feeling reenergised and excited.

Reinvent – My interest in black women working in white patriarchal organisations has not diminished. I completed my PhD because I wanted to make black women employees visible in HM Prison and Probation Service. I have achieved that through my research and publication. I recognise black women work in different sectors and have similar and different psychosocial experiences depending on the dynamics of the organisation and the reality, not policy on inclusivity. For my own growth, it is time for me to move on and take my innovative thinking and revolutionary ideas and talents elsewhere.

Rethink – I’ve realised how easy it is to become complacent and comfortable. I was in a state of institutional paralysis. In simple terms, I was focused on my current organisation, overlooking other organisations interested in embedding inclusive practices for all staff, and the opportunity to work collaboratively with others interested in my area of expertise.

Rework – I now accept the barrier I’m currently facing as a blessing in disguise. Because it has forced me to think beyond my organisation and rework and rethink my current study interest.

I still have an interest in black women’s positioning in white patriarchal organisations. My new study will still focus on black women in leadership from an intersectional and organisational psychodynamic perspective, but within a different organisation.

Rebuild – I have built and established a network as a result of my study. I aimed to draw on this network to recruit participants to take part in my original study. Now that I have changed my research focus, I plan to rebuild my network in different sectors. It will be a challenge and take time, but I am looking forward to meeting black women from other organisations.

My recent discussion with a new sponsor from a different organisation was fruitful. I am looking forward to working beyond the carceral space (a term discussed in my book).

To summarise, do not be disheartened if your ideas are rejected. Apply the prefix RE to your situation, have faith and persevere.

You will succeed!

Keep going!

After an intense week of pushing my way through the challenges of systemic racism, racial micro-aggressions, ignorance, and white patriarchal superiority.  I received the following endorsements from women who have read my book and thesis.  These comments reminded me of the reason why I undertook the audacious task of completing a PhD and publishing my research in a readable format.

My advice to those who are afraid to try.  Tired of the challenges and barriers and want to give up.  Keep going.  We need more black women academics producing knowledge through research across different disciplines.

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Stepping out

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalms 139:14

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On the 24th April, I attended the DoDs Diversity Supporting BAME Colleagues in the Workplace, conference in London.  There were delegates from other Government departments and the private sector. The majority of attendees worked in the diversity and inclusion space.

I wanted to deliver the session on intersectionality, as you’ll know from my previous posts and my academic research that this is my area of interest and specialism.  I was asked to deliver a presentation that would encourage delegates to consider:

  • Does the BAME label help or hinder workplace diversity?
  • Are the requirements of each individual group under the BAME umbrella met?

I accepted the opportunity to present at the conference for two reasons:

1) Presenting at the conference would raise my profile and my research interests.
2) It was an opportunity for me to network with others.

I was nervous about presenting at this event because the topic was an area that I had particular views about.  I was very conscious that my views were not relevant, as my responsibility was to design a presentation that was factual, balanced, and interesting.  Bearing in mind, I have never delivered a presentation on this theme before, I only volunteer in the D&I space, and I have not worked in this field for many years.

Undeterred I welcomed the challenge because I knew it was a chance to broaden my sphere of activity which would allow me to design and research a new area of social interest.  I was also given the autonomy to introduce the psychosocial into the debate.  Psychosocial is my other area of expertise.  This was my opportunity to introduce this theoretical framework, to help delegates explore the psychosocial impact of the BAME label on individuals who are associated with the term.  While also encouraging them to explore how it influences the way those who are exempt from the BAME label such as everyone who is white, interact and perceive those categorised by the BAME label consciously and unconsciously.

What was interesting for me was the way the audience engaged with the debate.  At first, I was a little apprehensive because I was the last speaker for the day and my presentation was very different from all the other presenters.

Doubt tried to settle in and for a moment I felt the Imposter Syndrome creeping in.  But then I said a prayer and remembered I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  My style is bound to be different because I am different! And my academic and teaching background will influence the way I present.

My presentation style was interactive because I wanted to change attitudes and behaviours.  For me, it was important to bring the audience on a journey which involved connecting with them emotionally as well as logically.

I accept that this may not always be achievable with everyone, but at this event, I witnessed a genuine interest to explore the personal and social effect of the BAME label. And I observed a shift in some delegates’ attitude towards the terminology.

So if I may, I would like to leave you with these few encouraging words.  Step out of your comfort zone and try something different, something new, and something challenging. In doing so, you will grow and build your confidence.