Action not Words: A Journey through History to Freedom and Unity 

Growing up as a child back home in Lagos, Nigeria, I remember vividly when after another power outage by the electricity company notoriously known as NEPA at the time, children and adults would gather outside for some cool breeze. Children would sit on their mats, gathered round the adults to listen to folktales, mostly stories about a cunning and evil tortoise and I would wonder why tortoise was always portrayed as the evil and cunning one. However, sometimes I would take my mat, lay down alone and stare at the open sky with all its bright shining stars. I would gradually drift into imagination land where I imagined a big tree with gigantic root with different branches growing in different directions, all reaching high up into the night skies and somehow all connected to the different stars with shinning stars on the tips of its branches. I called it the Tree of life. The branches represented humans of all races branching out in different directions, but all rooted in one life source.

The branches were all human siblings and I wondered why we did not get along and why some think they were superior due to their race. At the time my knowledge of racial inequality was limited to Apartheid in South Africa. Charities visited our schools; they told us what was happening in South Africa and asked us to donate to the Apartheid fighting fund. I donated my pocket money to the funds hoping it helped. My dream was to see all those branches come together united under the tree and have a big family feast.

As I grew older and travelled far and wide, I began to understand better why making that journey back to the start of our life source would be difficult for us all. Also, more difficult, traumatic, and uncomfortable to different degrees for some more than others. It is the journey through History and history is not always a wonderful place to revisit.

Black history month is that time we journey through the lens of Black people to understand the forgotten contributions of black heroes. This Black History month theme is ‘Time for change: Action not Words’. Maybe the action to take is to commit to taking that journey through history in a bid to connect to the tree of life, the very source of it all with the hope that the journey, even though difficult and traumatic sometimes, would eventually make us a better person, with better understanding and better equipped emotionally to connect with ‘siblings’ all over the world.

Understanding history is important. The way I am perceived, the way I perceive others, the way I am treated, the way I treat others, and the way we all see things have been influenced by the culture we grew up in and the culture was impacted heavily upon by history. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we are all by-product of history and its legacies.

History is why a black child would pick a white doll over a black doll when asked to pick the doll they think is beautiful.

History is the reason when black girls were shown the trailer of a Black Ariel with red Locs, they cried with happiness and screamed “She looks just like me!”.

History is also why some white adults, who felt offended by a black girl playing Ariel, the mermaid, have created the hashtag #NotMyAriel on social media, to vociferously complain about the casting.

History is the reason when I was a teenager with wild imagination, I drafted short novels on notebooks which my mates would queue up to read. One thing that I later realised was that the characters in all my stories were white and the settings British, even though I was a black girl living in a black country, who never saw a white person. Yet, somehow, I had been socialised to think and dream ‘white’.

History is why in high school; we were forbidden to speak in our mother tongue. History is why many of us who grew up in that environment hardly speak or write fluently in any language, be it English or our native language. We have a love-hate relationship with our mother tongue.

History is why as a black woman I have a love hate relationship with my hair. It is also why we say to our White colleagues. “Don’t touch my hair”. When you know the story of Sarah Baartman, you will understand why we don’t want to be touched or treated like exotic exhibits.

History is why when I visited the British Museum for the first time with a white friend who was eager to show me the African artefacts, she could not understand why I was angry and sad looking at the work of arts from my motherland displayed in British museum. When I expressed that these artefacts should be where they belonged, her response was that more people are able to see it in British museums and Britain have preserved the arts since it could have been destroyed in there country of origin. Her pride at having these artefacts in the British museum was a result of the version of history she was fed and socialised to believe. She saw these artefacts and felt Pride, I saw these artefacts, felt helpless, and traumatised. Our perception although rooted in history, was different because we had different version of the same history.

When I did a short course at Michigan State university, Michigan, I used the opportunity to visit the slave trade museum in Detroit. There I saw the epitome of man’s inhumanity to man. I saw the boats, chains and the instrument of torture that were like something out of a hammer house of horror, only that this was reality, these atrocities happened. I was traumatised, I wept for days. I was angry, I was sad, I was baffled. I could not comprehend it; I still cannot comprehend it. I knew there was no way I would let my then young son visit such a place. However, history is not something we can or should hide from.

History is why when I first came to the UK as a Postgraduate student, the white male doctor at the University surgery refused to honour my medical prescription because it was from a Nigerian University Teaching Hospital and because of his racism, I almost died.

History is why George Floyd took his last breath begging for his life with the words “I can’t Breathe” while a white police officer kept his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds until George Floyd breathed his last breath. History is why killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin happened.

History is why we are where we are today. History is part of the reasons our society treat people differently.

Black history month is not just about Black people understanding their history, it is about everyone understanding History. Not just the part that appear in school curriculum but the part that, to various degrees, we have all been shielded from.

As a child, I was taught in school that Mungo Park discovered River Niger, but even then, I asked, but were people not living, bathing, and washing their clothes on the bank of River Niger before Mungo Park was born?

BHM- People Not SlavesThe history of Africa is not the history of slaves or all about slavery. Slaves were not taken from Africa, people were taken from Africa and made slaves in foreign lands.

Slave trade interrupted the History of Africa, but the history of Africa did not stop there. Africa had a rich history before slave trade, a rich history during slave trade, and a rich history after slave trade.

Black history month is about everybody, regardless of race, making the conscious decision and putting in the effort to learn.

History conferred advantages on some and wherever there are people with advantages, there will be those who are disadvantaged by the advantages of others. When we begin to understand where we still benefit from the history of our ancestors, we begin to understand and empathise with these who are the victims of some atrocious actions in history. Then, we can stand together and not feel like we are from two different worlds, just like I felt with my white friend at the British museum.

We have come to a place now where LGBT+ Pride events are attended and celebrated not just by LGBT people but allies as well. This is what we should be doing during Black History month. It is not just a month for Black people to learn about their history, it is a time for white people to learn about their part in the history, no matter how uncomfortable it is. When you do this, you can begin to unpack how growing up in a racially unequal society has impacted on how you view the world and the privileges it confers on you as a white person.

Aftermath of George Floyd murder, many white people started learning about race and racism. Many bought books such as ‘Why I am no longer talking to White people about Race’ and ‘White Fragility’. Many attended protests rally. Did we just buy those books and let them gather dust without reading them? Did we stop attending these rallies because it was no longer trending on social media? Were we just performative allies?

We should never stop learning. It is also not too late to read these books we bought. Being an ally is a lifelong commitment. This Black history month, ask yourself, are you still an Ally?

Now, back to my fantasy of the three of life. I now understand why making the journey from the branches back to the root would be difficult. For many, the path is filled with tears, sweat and blood. Branches aren’t equally strong. Some tree branches have been made strong from feeding off the other branches or cutting off light and water supply to other branches.

However, how are we ever going to heal and unite to have that feast at the root as siblings if we don’t make the journey back to our root?

Now, as an adult, when I fantasise about the tree of life, I imagine that the starry lights at the tips of the branches are lights we emit within us. The light is not from the stars but from within us. I want to connect to the light within another human, regardless of race, sexuality, disability, or gender.

If we are ever cornered in a cave and suddenly a ray of light appears through a hole, we would gravitate towards it and attempt to break down the barriers to let in more light. The more barriers we breakdown, the brighter it becomes. When we make that journey down to the root, our lights shine brighter with every step we take. And when the lights in me join forces with the light in you, we create a circle of light that shines bright not just on us but light up our surroundings too. And this will be our new stars that light up the stormy nights, not in faraway galaxies but right here with us.I hope we will see this Black history month as a Time for change. A time to start a conversation, to read more and keep the important conversations going. A time to act, to light the path, not just for us, but for others and start building a better history that is not filled with tears and blood but filled with healing and love for the generations after us. Happy Black History Month.

Africans in Ukraine face Racism

My heart breaks! Why are Black people so much hated everywhere?
I woke up to the hashtag #africansinukraine trending on social media and right now it is difficult not to rage at the world, at racism and how sad this all is. And they say White Supremacy is a thing of the past!

This makes me wonder; if we ever had a world crisis where people had to be rescued, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sign “No Blacks until all White people are safe” is openly displayed and a Policy to that effect openly implemented.

We say Never Again then things like this happen and we know yes, it can happen again. The true test of character and allyship is not when we are comfortable but when we are in a difficult situation.

Is it any surprise we don’t read about these things on the news, no mainstream media coverage? If not for social media, many would deny that such is happening right now. I despair for humanity. In fact, I am close to giving up on humans. What a sad world we live in.

#blacklivesmatter #africansinukraine

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on 27 January each year to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides, which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children had been murdered in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps.

In the UK and around the world, millions of people face prejudice, discrimination and hostility simply because of their identity. Holocaust Memorial Day is a day of commemoration and a reminder that we need to take action to challenge these attitudes and behaviours.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2022 is One Day. There are many ways to interpret the theme, some of which are outlined here.

The Holocaust Memorial Trust provides a wealth of information about the Holocaust and genocide, as well as ways in which you can engage with this year’s theme. For example, you could:

Pick One Day in History and learn about that day.

Use this theme as motivation to speak out One Day in the future when you see injustices, prejudices, and identity-based violence.

The Holocaust Memorial Trust documents life stories of survivors of genocide.

Read about The Babi Yar massacre which started on 29 September 1941, devastated the Jewish community of Kiev and marked one of the deadliest single operations during the Holocaust.

Read about life stories of genocide survivors such as Mussa Uwitonze: Mussa Uwitonze became an orphan after being separated from his family during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

I was at a Holocaust memorial event and a sweet old lady was speaking as a survivor.The traumas she shared were heart-breaking. She was very upbeat and optimistic about the future while hoping that the horror she experienced first-hand never happened again in human history. It struck me when she mentioned that she suffers from dementia and that even when she forgets other things, the memories of the genocide are very vivid in her brain, she remembers every minute detail of the horror. No human should ever have such experiences imprinted in their brain. Such horror should never have happened.

I was taken aback though when she mentioned that during an event she was speaking at, someone asked her if she felt guilty about being alive when many died. I have no idea why anyone, especially when they are not her therapist, would ask such question. The only one who should feel guilty are the monsters who committed the crime and the monsters who stood by and did nothing. They are the guilty ones.

Her response to the question was that God must have kept her alive to tell the story. Immediately my heart sank.

This idea that there was a God who could have stopped the genocide but chose instead to spare the lives of a few people just so they could tell of the horrors they saw, was indeed a notion I struggle to wrap my head around. It reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible, his God-induced sufferings as a test of his faith and the immorality of this human creation called God.

I know if I had any superpower that would have allowed me to prevent such terrible events such as genocides, of course I would use my superpowers even if it cost me the last reserve of my superpower. I mean, is that not the stuff heroes are made of? Always ready to help humanity, anyone in need even if it means going that very extra length? Is this not why we love Spiderman, Superman, Voltron, Wonder woman and all great action heroes and heroines? Why can’t we expect same of God? Is God not a hero or is there a double standard for heroes?

This leads me to Epicurus age old unanswered question: –

” Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

I think we hesitate to call people out on this thought process because it is often difficult to call out someone who has been through a trauma. We say to ourselves, this isn’t the time or place. Yes, maybe it isn’t. However, there should be a time and a place to eventually have the discussion. For those who lost loved ones in fatal events and have to listen to survivors say things like “God must have spared my life for a reason”,  must hurt. it is as if their loved one who died in the same incident was not deemed worthy to be saved by God. Their loved ones were not good enough to be the chosen ones by Sky Daddy. It must hurt. I wrote about this in my blog posts Why  “Thank God I survived” or “God knows best” is a terrible thing to say in the aftermath of a fatal disaster and Natural Disasters are certainly not a time to thank God!

The world leaders who stood aside and did nothing to prevent the genocides are the anti-heroes and are as complicit as the perpetrators.

It is our hope that we will never again make the mistakes of the past and that One Day we will live in a world where genocide, racism, and discrimination in all its ugly form does not exist anymore. We can only achieve this by taking action.

As the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said – “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”.

 

Black History Month – Proud To Be.

It’s Black History Month and the theme this year is Proud To Be. I am Proud of everything that makes me Black.

I am proud of my Black Heritage.

I am Proud to be African.

I am proud to be an African Woman.

I am proud of the hospitality of my people.

I am proud of the creativity, the arts, rich culture and music that we have generously given the world which unfortunately are often appropriated without acknowledgement of the Black origin.

I am proud of the contributions of my people to Science and Technology.

I am proud of the exuberant nature of my people and the way we express ourselves with all our body gestures.

I am Proud of the renowned hospitality and welcoming nature of my ancestors.

I am Proud to be a Black African woman.

Africa is the cradle of life, it is the continuent that keeps giving even though they keep exploiting its human and natural resources, my people are resilient and continue to radiate hope.

They say Black is bad and not good enough, yet they refuse to return the beautiful Artefacts they stole from us that today still grace their museums.

They say Black is ugly yet they go under the knife to look like us to copy the very physical attributes they called ugly.

Still we rise because we know, and we know that they know, Black excellence is real, Black is beautiful. in and out.

To forget our history is to assimilate the lies of the colonisers and exploiters.

I know my history and this is why I Am Proud To Be. #HappyBlackHistoryMonth

As part of my celebration of Black History Month 2021 and in keeping with its ‘Theme ‘Proud To Be’ , I recited the poem ‘Africa my Africa’ by David Diop and shared with my work colleagues as a BHM video compililation project. Enjoy!

Africa my Africa – David Diop

Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral Savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun?
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.

Bi Visibility Day

September 23rd is Bisexual Visibility Day. This means as a bisexual, I can’t rob a bank today cos my society-imposed superpower of invisibility wouldn’t work today. Also, i have to pay for trains and bus fares today. It’s a small price to pay to be visible to everyone for one day of the year.

Yes, the B in LGBTIQ+ exist. Bisexuals are real, although we are also Unicorns.

Enjoy my Bi Visibility Day video.

Racism is not a winning attitude; Kick it Out!

I, like most Black people, knew the racial abuse was coming. It took just minutes after Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed their penalties for the racists to go wild and vomit their vile on social media.

I am not a huge football fan and the one time I had my heart in my mouth during the game was when Marcus Rashford stood there to take the penalty. I knew instantly it was not just the weight of the ball he was carrying; he was also carrying the weight of his race and people who look like him.

My heart sank when he lost the penalty because I could already feel the racial abuse coming his way, and when Sancho and Saka lost too, I knew the racists would have a field day. I was willing them not to miss, even if England lost the game because at that point, I was more concerned about the racist abuse these young men would receive than England losing the game.

When our black sportspersons win, they are British, when they lose, they are immigrants and the racists immediately resort to racial abuse. Why should we always be made to feel like this by the society we are part or ‘supposedly part of’ as equal citizens? And some still wonder why we take the knee!

There is also a lesson on white privilege here. If a white person took the penalty and lost, of course they would also have been abused. However, that abuse would not be because of their skin colour. No one should ever have to face abuse, abuse is never a way to make a point. For British Black sportspersons, they face abuse as sportspersons in addition, for their skin colour too.

We must also address the fact that we see a rise in violent behaviours during football season, often fuelled by excess consumptions of alcohol during a game. Previous figures have sadly shown that domestic violence occurrences rose by around 38% nationally on the days when England lost, and 26% when the team won or drew a match. This is toxic, I wouldn’t be surprised if these figures rose higher during the Italy vs England Euro final.

The racists were not only satisfied with sending abusive messages on social media, some of them took it upon themselves to deface the artwork mural of Marcus Rashford in Withington, Manchester shortly after England lost on Sunday. Adults defaced the motivational mural of a high achieving, inspirational young person with swear words and racists comments. How very adult and civilised!

I have learned to always look out for that human act of kindness amidst hate and despair; I was not disappointed. The indefatigable spirits of decent humans shone through in this situation as they covered up the act of hate with an act of love.

They left positive messages where once there was hate.

They rallied round someone who was being kicked down by vile racists and showed him how much he was loved and revered by decent people.

Kids from diverse backgrounds rose to the occasion and stood up against racism. They supported and praised their hero, the one man who stood up for them to make sure they or their mates from less privileged backgrounds did not go hungry during school breaks. To even think that this act of kindness and empathy from Marcus Rashford was one of the things the racists hate about him, I mean how dare he try to campaign for children not to go hungry!

Marcus, ever a cool level headed young man, showed his appreciation for the support via his powerful message on Twitter: –

I’ve grown into a sport where I expected to read things written about myself.

Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch.

I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from. I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of tens of thousands.

I dreamt of days like this. The messages I’ve received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up.

I’m Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have that. For all the kind messages thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.

What a powerful message and from a 23-year-old too. A lot to unpack there.

My heart goes to the 3 heroes, I hope they continue to hold their heads high because they are champions, they are kings, they are heroes. #BlackLivesMatter

Resisting Hate Together – International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

MAY 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). It was first celebrated in 2004 to draw attention to the discrimination and violence experienced by Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Intersex and Transsexual people for their sexual orientation, gender identities and characteristics. IDAHOBIT has since become a global event celebrated in many countries. This year’s theme is Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!

On May 17, World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified Homosexuality as a disease. May 17 (IDAHOBIT) was specifically chosen to commemorate the decision.

31 years after WHO declared that homosexuality is not a disease or mental disorder, in 70 countries, it is still illegal to identify as LGBT+ and in 12 countries, you could be given the death penalty.

Although many would say it is getting easier to identify as gay and that lgbt + people are no longer stigmatise. However, the truth is this is not the reality for many lgbt+ people across the globe, including in the UK.

1.5 billion people live under regimes that deny the right to love.

Same-sex relationships are currently illegal in many sub-Saharan African countries. Sodomy law is a colonial legacy inherited by former British colonies, a law which many have not abolished. Roger Jean-Claude Mbede was a camerounian who was imprisoned for sending a text message declaring his love for another man. He died in prison. Eric Lembembe was another Cameroonian prominent gay rights activist brutally murdered Dwayne Jones, was murdered in Jamaica after he attended a dance party dressed in women’s clothing. Corrective rape targeted at lesbians is still prevalence. This is not just in African or Caribbean countries. In 2016, the world woke up to the news of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was horrific homophobic attack where a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53. Russian currently has many LGBT+ activists languishing in jail.

I am from a country where Same sex love is a criminal offence. In Nigeria, same sex relationships carry a 14 years’ jail term and advocating for LGBT rights attracts a 10 year’ iimprisonment. As a bisexual woman who had her life heavily impacted by this, I know first-hand the horrors criminalisation have wrought on LGBT+ people who live in societies where it is illegal to be your authentic, fabulous self. Being openly LGBT+ could be a matter of life and death.

There are many LGBT+ people fleeing oppression and violence across the world. Persecutions and discrimination have displaced many from their families, childhood friends, loved ones and support system. To start life afresh in an unknown land, they become refugees, a term which comes with its own stigma. There are many who never had the opportunity to flee an oppressive regime or the wrath of a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic lynching mob.

This week, I read about the heart-breaking case of a gay man, Alireza Fazeli-Monfared, brutally murdered and beheaded by family in Iran in what is known as ‘Honour killing’. He was just 20 years old. The family found out about his sexual orientation after they discovered the Iranian military exempted him from service because of “sexual depravities”. Basically, the discrimination against LGBT+ people in the military caused him to be outed with fatal consequences. A young life brutally cut short and unfortunately not the only one and would most probably not be the last one.

In 2020, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported there was a high increase in the number of transgender or gender non confirming people fatally shot dead or killed by other violent means, the majority of which were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Transrespect versus Transphobia worldwide (TvT) reported that 350 Transgender people were murdered, suffocated and burned alive in 2020. The list was sourced via local and national news stories. This is probably a tip of the iceberg as many hate crimes and deaths go unreported. Also, we cannot disregard the severe impact of Covid19 and lockdown on LGBT+ people in regards to hate crime and domestic violence.

IDAHOBIT is a day to recognise that lgbt+ people still suffer persecutions in many parts of the world. It is a reminder to stand up and say no to hate and promote policies that help dismantle discrimination. As the founders stated, the main purpose of the May 17 mobilisations is to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBT communities worldwide, which in turn provides an opportunity to take action and engage in dialogue with the media, policymakers, public opinion, and wider civil society.

We must not assume all is well with the world just because we are not facing the same problems experienced by others different than us. In the workplace, on the streets, within the family, in schools and closed community groups, lgbt+ still face subtle and not so subtle discrimination, bullying, hate and harassment on a daily basis. Many are still afraid to come out of the closets for fear of what they stand to lose.

We must ask ourselves, how can discrimination be legal?

In the spirit of this year’s IDAHOBIT theme –Together Resisting, Supporting, Healing!, let us be consciously aware of the persecutions, discrimination, oppressions and violence others face which we might never experience.

Let us Resist these discrimination and persecutions.

Show your Support in words and actions, for the human rights of persecuted LGBT+ wherever part of the world they live or are from.

For Healing to cmmence, we need to show we care, are willing to stand up for freedom to love for all, and actively promote equality and human rights for all.

You don’t have to be affected before you stand up for human rights. You don’t have to be lgbt+ to stand up for LGBT+ rights. You don’t have to be a woman to stand up for women’s rights. You don’t have to be an animal to stand up for animal rights. You don’t have to be a tree to be against deforestation. To stand up for lgbt+ rights, all you have to be is human, a decent human being.

Together we must stand up for the voiceless lgbt+ people in solidarity and let them know they are not alone or forgotten. Together we can end all forms of oppression and discrimination.

Human rights are not optional. We are not free until everyone is free. As Dr Martin Luther king said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Happy IDAHOBIT.

 

 

5 Things You Should Not Ask Bisexuals

As it is LGBT History month, I have written an updated version of my blog post-5 Things You Should Not Ask a Bisexual

BISEXUALITY is romantic or sexual attraction towards same and other genders. It is attraction to men and women and it encompasses attractions to other gender identities including non-binaries. Bisexuality does not mean Man or woman; gender is not binary. There are other gender identities beyond binary. This is why Bisexuality is defined as attraction to same and other gender. The other genders could be any, multiple or all type of gender identities. Bisexuals are capable of sexual and/or emotional attraction to same gender, multiple genders or all genders.

The fact that Bisexuals do not fall into the normative heterosexual attraction narrative or the homosexual narrative, does not mean bisexuality is invalid as a sexual identity. We easily understand that heterosexuals are people who are sexually/emotionally attracted to people of opposite sex and that homosexuals are people who are attracted to same-sex. In the same vein, we can easily understand that Bisexuals are people who are capable of sexual attraction to same and other genders. It really is as simple as that.

Therefore, it’s upsetting when people say things like

  • Bisexuals are confused.
  • Bisexuals are greedy.
  • Bisexuals do not know what they want.
  • Bisexuals just want it all.

Below are 5 Things You Should Not say to or ask a Bisexual

5 -“Maybe you are just confused?”

It is astonishing how many people still say this to bisexuals, including within the LGBTIAQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersex, Asexual, Queer) community. Being capable of romantic and/or sexual attraction to same and other gender does not mean Bisexuals are confused. This stereotype is not true and it is harmful to our physical and mental health.

4-“Are you not just being greedy?”

One very annoying thing about this question is the judgemental tone that usually accompanies it. No, my sexual orientation does not have anything to do with my libido or the number of partners I have or had. Bisexuals are not greedy; we just have the innate capacity to be attracted to genders different than ours. As I like to see it, as a bisexual, I am not emotionally or sexually allergic to any gender. This is not about greed.

  • There are bisexuals who are virgins. Not having any sexual experience does not disqualify anyone from identifying as bisexual. Bisexuals are born this way, we are born Bisexual.
  • There are bisexuals who are in monogamous relationships. This could be with same or opposite sex or non-binary partner.
  • There are bisexuals who are in polyamorous relationships. The partners can be of same, opposite or multiple genders.
  • There are bisexuals who are in polygamous relationships.
  • There are bisexuals who are not in any relationship.
  • There are bisexuals who have sex regularly.
  • There are bisexuals who do not have sex regularly.
  • There are bisexuals who do not have sex at all

Bisexuals are like, well, everyone else on planet earth! Our sexual orientation is not an indication of how often we have sex or the number of partners we have or how sexually greedy we are.

When you ask Bisexuals if they are not just being greedy, what.we are really saying is that being capable of sexual and/or emotional attraction to same and other genders is greedy. Don’t do this, there is no correlation between sexual orientation and greed.

3- Will you join me and my girlfriend for a threesome?
Bisexuality is a Sexual orientation, not a fantasy or fetish. This is a particularly painful stereotype because it reduces not just our sexual identity but our person to a sexual object, to be served up as an exotic dish for consumption. As a single bisexual woman who is on one or two dating sites, I know first-hand how much this question hurts, especially when it is the conversation opener. This has discouraged many bisexuals from indicating their sexual orientation on dating sites. Having to hide our identity because of the hurtful, inconsiderate actions of others only further contributes to the invisibility of Bisexuals. Just like heterosexuals and homosexuals, there are Bisexuals who are interested in threesomes and those who are not. However, we do not go around fundamentally assuming that straight people or gays are by default interested in threesomes. The frustrating part is, when we say, “No, thanks, not interested”, they come back with, “But you said you are Bisexual.” Yuk, No, just no, pls, do not be like that.

2-“Does this mean you are now lesbian/gay/Straight?”(When bisexuals date same or opposite sex)
When a Bisexual person starts a same sex relationship, it is very common for people to ask if they are now lesbian. Same goes for when we date an opposite sex person, we are asked, “are you straight now?” Hmm, actually, this fluidity is kind of the reason we are bisexuals. We exist as Bisexuals regardless of the gender of our partner.

  • The fact that I am in an opposite sex relationship does not mean I am now heterosexual.
  • My sexual orientation does not change with the gender of my partner.
  • My sexual orientation does not change every time my relationship status changes.
  • No, my sexual orientation does not change with the biological sex or gender identity of my partner.
  • Also, not having a partner or lack of sexual activity does not change my sexual orientation.
  • Yes, I am still bisexual whatever the gender, sexual or marital status of my relationship.
    Therefore,
  • Bi Girls who have only dated boys are still Bi.
  • Bi Boys who prefer boys are still Bi and vice versa.
  • Married Bi people are still Bi.
  • Bi people are Bi regardless of relationship status.

1- Was your last relationship with a man or woman?
I personally find that this question comes across as scrutinising and judgmental. It is as if they are about to score me on my sexuality. Since they already know I am bisexual, why ask this annoying question? The question is invasively scrutinising. If I said my last relationship was with a man, they start thinking, maybe she really prefers men. I am not experimenting.
If I told you my last relationship was with a woman, they start thinking, maybe she is actually a lesbian who has not accepted it yet. No, I am not in denial.

  • The gender of my last partner is not an indication of whether or not I am going to leave a new partner for the opposite sex.
  • The gender of my last partner will not indicate how I rate on the Kinsey scale or my fluid sexuality spectrum.
  • The gender of the last person I was in a relationship with is not a clue as to whether I would cheat on anyone.
  • The gender of my last partner will not tell anyone anything beyond the fact that I am bisexual.

We do not go around asking prospective straight partners if their last partner was black or white, tall or short. This would be considered distasteful and rude. So, why do we think it is OK to ask bisexuals the gender of their last partner?

I will leave you with this food for thought-

Some people like Ice-cream.
Some people like cookies
Some people like ice-cream and cookies.
Hope that was easy enough to digest.

Happy LGBT+ Month 

What Black History Month Means To Me

October is Black History Month in the UK and what better year to celebrate this than 2020. The past events of 2020 has shone a light on racism in the US, UK and other parts of the western world including China re its reactions to black people living in China during Covid19.

From the police murder of Gorge Floyd and his last haunting words, “I can’t breathe”, to the white supremacists lynching of Ahmaud Arbery while peacefully jogging on the streets, the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor while sleeping in her own bed, the disproportionate police stop and search of black people during covid19 lockdown in UK to the many Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, 2020 has indeed been that strange year of strange happenings and reckonings too.

It is not unusual for people to ask why we need black history month. My answer is, 11 months of the year is white history month, it is the default history. It is what is taught in our schools every day. White history is the creed and the tenets we are urged to learn and live by every single day of the year. Surely, it is not too much to set aside I month of the year to shine light on the history of black members of our society. It is white history month all year round, just as it is heterosexual history month all year round. I’m definitely happy to officially be able to grab the headlines with my struggles, achievements and celebrations of my whole self at least one month a year. Black History matters too.

Some have argued that celebrating Black History month further divides rather than includes. I’d say the spirit of inclusion would be fostered by the knowledge we stand to gain through engaging in Black History Month. It’s a month we make that extra conscious effort to learn, share experiences and ask questions such as – What are these hidden contributions of black people to world history? Why are Black people so ill-treated? Is Windrush scandal a reflection of disregard of Caribbean people’s contributions to British History? Who are these unsung black inventors, heroes and heroines? What does equality really look like? Why are there so many complaints because Tesco featured a black woman in its advert? Why should Black Lives Matter?

For me, Black History month is a great time to reconnect with my root as a black person, to feel the pain and the triumphs of my people amidst all the racial struggles in this white privileged society I live in.

It is so sad that Black history is not taught in British schools; history, they say, are written by victors and of course, they write it in their own favour. Colonialism and the appalling, inhuman act of 400 years of Trans-Atlantic slave trade set black people back 400 years. Cultures were lost, so many native languages wiped out and people forced to assimilate into a new culture that was deemed ‘superior and civilised’, yet, artefacts looted from my so called ‘uncivilised’ black ancestors adorn the British museum galleries. I hope and wait with bated breath that one day, these artworks that are testaments to the great empires of my black ancestors will be returned to their ancestral lands and be reunited with the descendants of their makers. Black history needs to be taught in all schools at all level. Black children need to know they have black heroes and heroines they can be proud of.

Black history is not just about Slavery. They tell us slaves were taken from Africa. This is not true. PEOPLE were taken from Africa. These people were made into slaves in foreign lands to build the wealth of empires and white slave owners. A stupendous wealth of which descendants of these slave owners still reap from today. The consequences for the descendants of African people that were taken and made into slaves include Racism, low income due to redlining and segregation, economic disparity, police brutality, disproportionate arrests and a loss of identity for many African Americans whose ancestors were displaced. Imagine never being able to trace your root and not knowing the language your ancestors spoke.

So many atrocities have been committed just because one race believed (some still believe) that they are superior to other races. White people need to acknowledge the wrong done when they engaged in trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonisation. Honest discussion about racism, its impact and acknowledging how deep-rooted it is, will pave the way for change.

My heart breaks for every Black/Brown child who has been told that their skin colour is ugly and inferior. We are taught that Black is evil. It is an appalling society that created these divisions and discrimination, and are in one way or the other, still upholding these racist beliefs and systemic /institutionalised racist structures.

The famous Educator and strong white ally, Jane Elliot, conducted an interesting experiment with school children based on eye colour. Pls, google it, everyone should watch it and read about it.

As black children we are told we are not good enough, as adults we face same discrimination at workplaces. They tell us our accent is not good enough, our faces do not fit in leadership positions, we are systematically denied promotions etc. Black History Month affords the opportunity to change the narrative. To remind our black children that they are beautiful just the way they are. To celebrate all that is black in them and about them.

It makes no sense to determine that one person is superior to the other based on their skin colour, yet that is what racism did, what slavery did, what colonialism did. Unfortunately, this is what some still seek to uphold.

Everyone is entitled to human rights and dignity of person regardless of race, skin colour, sex, gender identity, geographical location etc. Human right is an inalienable right; it is not something you give to someone out of the benevolence of your heart. It is sad that we still need to demand, scream, protest for our human rights, in this day and age. White-supremacy or racism of any sort does not belong in any civilised society. A society that thrives on racism does not deserves to be called modern or civilised. We can do better; we must do better.

As a white person, please educate yourself about how deep rooted racism really is and how the system is built to uphold racism. Stop being so defensive when we mention racism. Listen, Learn and Act. Only then can we truly begin to dismantle racism. Listening is great for understanding, Action is important for accountability. I look forward to a better understanding and accountability on racial issues.

Silence is compliance. It is not enough to just not be racist, you need to be anti-racist for progress to be made. It is not enough for white people to say they are not racist; they need to be vocally anti-racist. Every ally, every support, every voice counts.

As Black people, we need to decolonise our history and tell our stories.

To me, Black history month is

My history. My reality.

My Pain. My celebration.

My story to tell.

Your sins, awaiting atonement.

Your conscience, a lifetime to cleanse.

As we celebrate Black History Month in UK –

Think Equality,

Think Freedom.

Think Justice For All.

Stand up to Racism.

Stand up for Black Lives Matter.

It is the logical thing to do. Do not allow racists and xenophobes divide us. There is strength in diversity, together we are stronger. A better world is possible; be part of the solution, not the problem.

 

Time to get uncomfortable; Let’s talk about Racism

It is no news that white colleagues often feel uncomfortable when Black/Brown colleagues talk about racism. They fidget, try to change the subject, subtlety excuse themselves and some see it as a cue to tell us that their best friend is black. What is it about discussing racism that makes white people uncomfortable? Whatever it is, it is time to address this discomfort.

The conversation is a difficult one to have but it must be had. It is a privilege to be able to ignore racism, as a black person, I do not have this luxury. Racism has its ugly knee on my neck, even when I scream “I can’t breathe”, I am told to be silent. The people who benefits from the system which emboldens the perpetrators are the ones quick to say they are uncomfortable, you’d think they are the oppressed with the knee on their necks!

Denial of racism is itself a racist act.  When as a white person, you become annoyed whenever we speak about racism, you are being dismissive of our reality. When you say to us, “but we are nice to you, why do you keep talking about racism”, you need to understand that trying to silence us is an act of microaggression. You might be ‘nice’ to us, you can try to convince us how much you don’t see colour (which itself is problematic), however, we live in a world where we are exposed to some treatments and realities you are protected from because of your race.

Please, understand that this is not about making you feel guilty for being white. It is not necessarily about you; we are not after your guilt. We are opening your eyes to our experiences which you might not be aware of because it does not affect you. It is about creating awareness and demanding change. Look at it as an opportunity to learn and to take an active stance against racism by committing yourself to being a white ally. We want to build a better society and we want you to do your part to make this happen. So, no, we don’t need or want your guilt, we want you to be anti-racist.

Silence is compliance. We live in a society where the voice of a white person is deemed more important and more valued than the voice of someone from a BAME community. White people listen better to other white people on racism than they would black people who actually experience racism every day. This is sad but it is our reality. Therefore, it is important for our white allies to keep educating themselves so they can educate other white people.

Racism hurts and the micro aggression directed towards us in the workplace because of our skin colour, accent, hair and everything that makes us different is extremely sad and painful. As Black/Brown children we are told we are not good enough, as adults we face same discrimination at work, our accent is not good enough, our faces do not fit leadership positions, we are systematically denied promotions etc.

I always say microaggression is one of the worst type of racism out there as it is so easy for the perpetrators to flippantly dismiss it as “it was just a joke” or “You are too sensitive”. As women, society expects us to take small space, as black women, we are even expected to take less space and be “less loud” and “less aggressive”. It is a challenge to be our true self in the workplace especially when our true self is not valued. As a black/Brown person, when we enter a room or try to contribute at a meeting, people assume because of our skin colour and accent, we are less educated and just there as the token BAME to fill the inclusion seat.

I listened to a talk given by a colleague on micro-aggressions where he shared some of the heart-breaking racist experiences he had been subjected to in the workplace.  As a black man with an ‘African’ accent, he was not believed when he mentioned on the phone that he worked for the department. He was advised by his manager to go with a white colleague to verify his identity. He needed a white colleague to verify to another white person that he is legit. This started me thinking about ‘borrowed whiteness’ (for lack of a better term).

Are you aware that as Blacks, we sometimes attempt to ‘borrow’ white privilege from our white friends, spouses, partners? A white colleague mentioned that his Asian partner would hold his hand at airports to borrow his whiteness for protection. It is a scenario I understand very well.

One of my earliest experiences of borrowing whiteness was when I travelled the world as a trade union organiser. When travelling with white colleagues, I was always the only black person in the group. I made sure to stay close to my white comrades, to be associated with them, so I would be looked at less suspiciously. This gave me some sort of protection from being immediately classified as a criminal. I borrowed/hid under their whiteness to be protected from racist gaze and scrutiny, a white privilege they did not even know they possessed because they had never had to consider it.

It is heart-breaking that we need to be associated with the skin of another to afford us protection/validation because our skin colour is considered not good enough. Even at a crime scene, our words are not good enough unless a white person corroborates us. The witness evidence of a single white guy in a crime scene carries more weight than the witness evidence of three black guys at the same crime scene. Ask mothers who have been at the brink of losing their black sons to crimes they did not commit only to be saved at the last minute when a white witness turns up and corroborates what the black witnesses have been saying all along.  This is degrading and dehumanising, this is how systemic racism works.

There are reasons black people do not trust the police, every black person knows a family member or BAME friend who has been a victim of police brutality. There is undisputable evidence that Police use their Stop and Search powers to disproportionately target Blacks. During Covid19 lockdown, 22,000 young black men were stopped and searched in London. We are stereotyped as prone to committing criminal activities, we are deemed guilty before proven innocent, our skin colour used as the damning evidence of our guilt. Even the healthcare system is not immune to this racism. Blacks were used as guinea pigs in medical trials, most times in inhumane conditions, and are still used as guinea pigs to this day. Just a few months ago two French doctors made racists remarks on TV that Coronavirus vaccines should first be tested in Africa. My very first encounter with a GP in UK was steeped in racism and it almost proved fatal. However, that is a story for another day.

Discrimination really hurts. It is painful to be looked at differently with suspicion in a park, supermarkets or departmental store when all you want to do is buy a bottle of perfume. Remember what happened to Leona Lewis and her father? Even as an international superstar, she still experienced racism in a store. Her black skin did not fit the clientele. Her black skin was viewed as criminal, as suspicious, as inferior. I can tell you that Blacks have same experience every day as Leona Lewis and her father.

My sister who recently started an event planning company has become weary when speaking to white customers on the phone. She told me about a recent case where she had been communicating with a white woman via emails and had almost sealed the deal. However, when it was time to complete the transactions on the phone and exchange bank details, the woman was surprised that my sister was Black and asked where she was from. The woman then said she will get back in touch and that was the last she heard from her. Unfortunately, that was just one of such cases since she started her business. She has now put up a beautiful picture of herself on her website dressed in resplendent Nigerian attire. This way, she avoids the hurt that comes with being rejected to your face or deemed not good enough because of your race.

White colleagues, you should take time to reflect on why you are uncomfortable when we bring up racism. Listen, learn and empathise because if you do not put yourself in our shoes you might not understand the pains of Black people whose ancestors were subjected to the worst kind of man’s inhumanity to man and whose descendants are still being treated as less than human by individuals, police and the system.

Some of the things we read on social media make us wonder where our colleagues stand on Racism Some of us, both black and white, lost friends when we voiced our support for Black Lives Matter. Don’t be afraid to take a stance against racism even if you lose childhood friends. Take solace in the fact that your friends’ group is now less racist. Who wants to be friends with racists anyway. You wouldn’t want to be friends with paedophiles even if they were childhood friends, so why make excuses for racists friends who refuse to learn and are easily offended when we challenge racism?

It is sad that we work and live in a society where speaking out about oppression in our workplace is considered a brave thing to do. The fear of repercussion is real, the ostracism that comes with challenging our oppression is a price too high for some of us to pay.  How did we come to this?  Not today; it is centuries of oppressing and silencing black people. I understand just how tempting it is for us as BAME to hide away and not challenge perpetrators. However, in doing so, we gradually lose our voice and wither away.

It is time to have honest conversations no matter how uncomfortable some might find it. White colleagues need to remember that their discomfort is nothing compared to the daily experiences of their black colleagues who live with racism every day. We must hold racists accountable for their actions. We need more than placating words, we demand action.

A society where racism is still rife has no business referring to itself as a modern society. No one is born hating another for the colour of their skin, society taught this hate, society promotes this hate, it is time for us to collectively act to break the chain of this injustice. It is time to be vocally anti-racist. Time to stand up for true change and help build a better, fair and just society where no one is treated as inferior to the other or denied opportunities because of their race or accent.

Finally, pls, understand that Black Lives Matter is not about White vs Black, it is Racism Vs Anti-racist. Where do you stand?

 

Black Lives Matter Protest Chelmsford

It was a surprise when I was contacted  on LinkedIn to speak at a Black Lives Mattter protest in my local area, Chelmsford, Essex.

It was a very pleasant surprise because Chelmsford is not exactly known for its Liberal views. It is a conservative city with a white majority and very low black population density. I moved there from London almost 3 years ago and the contrast was shocking even though it is just a 35 minures train ride from Chelmsford to London.

I happily accepted to speak and offered to help the young organisers with the protest. I was sceptical that people might not turn up. I’ve never been so happy to be proved wrong!

The rally was held on Saturday 13 June, 2020 at Central park for speeches followed by a march through the Central areas to Oaklands Park where protesters took a knee for George Floyd.

RMC Event Photography

Chelmsford, thank you for turning out in large numbers to support Black Lives Mattter protest. Special shout out to the young organisers Black Lives Matter – Chelmsford and the young people who attended and marched with passion. It shows there is hope for humanity, the younger generation will do better.

Here is the video of my speech at the protest. #BlackLivesMatter.

Pictures from the event. Some from my camera, some from RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

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    RMC Event Photography

    RMC Event Photography

Your black colleagues are most probably not okay right now

As a migrant black woman living in UK, the events of the past few weeks have left me emotionally drained and mentally exhausted and I can say this is true for my family, my black friends and black colleagues. Many of us are traumatised. Black people all over are distraught by these events, and this includes your black colleagues.

These past few days and weeks, we have seen a black man, George Floyd, being choked to death on camera by a white cop, the very people who are supposed to serve and protect the community. The words “I can’t breathe” send shivers down our spines. It sounds eerily familiar. It is a haunting cry for help and now a rallying cry for justice.

I remember spending the weekend watching videos of white people just being cruel, abusive and derogatory towards black people for no other reason than the colour of their skin.

We were still reeling from the shock of the daylight murder of Ahmaud Arbery who was peacefully jogging on the street when a white man and his son hunted him down and fired shots at him like a wild animal, they killed him and waited by his dead body until the police came. And guess what, the police did not think they had done anything wrong, they went home to celebrate getting rid of another black person in their neighbourhood. It was not until the video of the murder emerged on social media several weeks after that the killers were finally arrested following public outcry.

Just a few weeks ago, Breonna Taylor, a black woman, was shot dead in her own bed by police as she slept. Turned out the police were in the wrong house, the suspect they were looking for was already in police custody. Let that sink in. As a black person, even sleeping peacefully in your own home could still get you murdered by cops.

I have seen video of a white woman calling the cops on a black man in a park while making false allegations against the man. She made sure to emphasise on the phone that the person threatening her life was a black African American. We know what happens when they call cops on black people.

I have watched a white man call the cops on young black men at a residential gym just because they don’t look like they belong there, their skin colours did not fit in the neighbourhood, never mind that they were also renters in the property.

I have watched the video of a white woman call cops on a black woman in the park while making false accusations about her. The sense of entitlement to police black bodies was very evident there.

And let’s not forget the teenager, Trayvon Martin who was murdered on the street by a white vigilante, the boy only had skittles in his pocket. The white man who murdered him said he looked like a demon. His black skin to this racist screamed “Demon”, his black skin screamed “Thug”.

I shed tears when I read the account of Steve Locke, a black professor, who was stopped and searched by cops on the street and treated like a criminal. He was not believed when he said he works at the university few blocks away and just came out to get lunch. They said he looked like a suspect, during the ordeal, he feared for his life, as he should.

All these victims were killed, attacked, dehumanised for one major reason, the colour of their skin. As a black woman, I know any of the victims could have been me. It could have been my son. It could have been my family members, black friends, black colleagues.

I remember walking into the office after a heavy weekend of sadness and anger, thinking, I have to leave that part behind and let it be business as usual in the office. Put on a smile and tell people you had a good weekend because that is what we have learned to do.

However, how do you compartmentalise such pain? It is not as if you can leave your skin colour behind and put on a brand-new identity at work. These issues follow us everywhere; we as black people have just learned over time not to bring that to our workplace especially when it is a white majority workplace. We stand the risk of being labelled the “sensitive aggressive black person” and be told to “get over it”.

Racism kills. It kills us physically. It kills us mentally. It dehumanises our existence. It thrashes our dignity and humanity.

Imagine you were going to work and came across a fatal accident, as a human being, you feel sad. Also, you feel thankful that it wasn’t you or a family member. Now, imagine that the fatal accident was simply due to the colour of the skin of the victim, as a white person, you think, that is sad, you might even think that is bad but you go about your normal duties. However, imagine your black colleagues came across same fatal accident scenario. They feel sad but that is not all, they feel traumatised, devastated and angry. They know the victim could have been them, their black son, black partner, their children, their father, mother, sister, black friends, all because it is targeted at people that look like them. See, we do not feel these racially motivated killings the same way. We know it could definitely be us next. It hits too close to home for black people.

Some might say “but these horrible things only happen in the USA, we are better here in UK”. No, we are not. Most importantly, it is not enough to simply be less racist; the goal is not to be racist at all. We see the way black people are disproportionately stopped and searched on the streets by cops, how black people are disproportionately arrested, how black people die in police custody. We see how black people are portrayed in the media.

In London, Sean Rigg died in police custody in exact same condition as George Floyd. Racism, Racial profiling and police brutality are contributing factors in the deaths of Joy Gardiner, Leon Briggs, Christopher Adler, Rashan Charles, Olaseni Lewis, Stephen Lawrence, Mark Duggan, Dalian Atkinson, Sheku bayoh etc.

As a black person in UK, I have been shouted at in my local shops and on the street to go back home especially following Brexit. I know what it feels like to walk into a store or venue and immediately be made to feel you do not belong there. We have lived this experience; we are living this racist nightmare.

It does not matter whether it is in USA, UK, Germany or China, the ordeal is real and painful. To be judged everyday solely on your skin colour is traumatising. To be deprived of your humanity, dignity, rights and respect because of your race is devastating, infuriating and sad. Being black should not be a death sentence.

To our white colleagues, please know that your black colleagues are not okay right now, acknowledge their pain. Reach out to them, speak out. We have all being watching the news and reading the newspapers, there is no need to pretend we do not know these things are happening. Silence is not the best policy in this case. If we truly want people to be themselves at work, it is important to acknowledge who they are, their total package.

We say Inclusion is not just being invited to a party but also being asked to dance. However, it is not always about the dancing, it is also about sharing the pain. Right now, it does not feel like we live in the same world. I step out from my world and walk into another world every morning I go to work. Yet, I carry with me the trauma, unrecognised, unacknowledged by people who tell me I can be me in my workplace. They tell me that they are serious about Diversity and Inclusion, yet I sit in my corner of the office feeling very isolated in these unfolding global events. How do we feel included when our struggles are not acknowledged or when we are cautious about raising the issues because it could make our white colleagues uncomfortable? Some of us are even afraid to bring up the topic at work for fear of being accused of stirring the pot.

The question is, how can you as a white person be a good ally to your black colleagues?

First you need to sincerely Ask them how they are feeling.

Listen to them, don’t talk over them.

No, it is not the time to tell them you are not racist because you have a black friend or you married a black person. You can do all these and still be very racist.

Educate yourself about race issues. Read about white privilege, structural racism and understand that you as a white person benefits from institutional racism. Pls, do not expect your black colleagues to educate you on racism. We talk enough about this already, it is emotionally draining. We have the talk with our black children, we have the uncomfortable but necessary talk with our black sons to keep them safe. We talk about this on social media, it is exhausting.

Donate to Black Lives Matters groups. Donate to organisations that are committed to combating racism.

Talk about racism with your family and friends. Develop your understanding of the struggles of black people and aim to do better.

Please, do not say you are Colour blind. We live in a world that sees colour. If you do not see my colour, you will not see my struggle. Saying you do not see colour is a cop out. You need to understand that racism is not just an individual thing, it is embedded in the very fabric of our society. We need to do more than sing Kumbaya to disintegrate racism.

It is not enough to be quietly non racist; this is the time to be vocally anti-racist. This is not the time to be silent, this is the time to reach out to your black colleagues and inquire about their wellbeing. Show that you care. Show that they matter.

When we say Black lives matter, pls, do not counter this with All lives matter. Understand that we wouldn’t be saying black lives matter if all lives already matter. White lives have always mattered; we are calling for black lives to matter just as much. As we have been trying to explain to the All Lives matter brigade, if one house was on fire, you wouldn’t insist that the fire fighters spray all the houses on the street, because all houses matter. Your house is not on fire, let’s spray the one on fire. Also, when we raise funds for cancer research, we do not scream All diseases matter. Why do some people think Black Lives matter is a dirty word? If you are one of these who immediately say All Lives matter, you need to take a very deep look at yourself and ask yourself why you are unable to just say Black lives matter. Check your white privilege.

We need to have honest conversations. We should be part of dismantling racism. Let’s do our part. Racism is not going to go away overnight. However, we can chip away at it by doing our part. This can be our legacy when finally, our grandchildren and great grandchildren are truly free from the evils of racism. A better world is possible, it starts with you and me.

Trans Rights are Workers Rights too.

It is saddening that transphobia camouflaged as concerns for women’s rights is growing within the left movement and seeping its ugly way into progressive movements including Trade Unions.

This article in the Morning Star on 20/02/2020 was particularly saddening, I am particularly ashamed of this article because it was written by the General secretary of my union although he said it was in his personal capacity and was his personal opinion, it still matters. Personal opinion of elected union officials expressed in a paper matters to me as a union member, especially as this opinion goes against the official position of the Union on Trans rights.

Groups such as Women’s Place UK and LGB Alliance were condemned at Union conferences for their transphobia, therefore an elected member of the Union defending these groups is concerning and disappointing. These groups make no secret of the fact that they are Trans exclusionary and their actions scream it loud and clear. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Why would anyone think otherwise?

As a Cis woman who is black, bisexual and feminist, I know what inclusion feels like and it is not these groups and I know what exclusion feels like, it feels like these groups.

The rights of trans women to exist without having their very existence questioned is not going to take away hard fought for and hard-won women’s rights. Groups that encourage dead-naming of Trans women or shouts “Penis” at them when they try to speak are nothing but a shining example of what hate looks like. This is not feminism; this is pure hate. If you associate with such groups, do not be surprised when people think you agree with their principles.

This is truly disheartening. My rights as a cis woman are not threatened by trans women. The existence of trans women does not stop women, trans women inclusive, from fighting for women’s rights.

The feminism I embraced and that has defined me from a young age was based on deconstructing gender roles especially as imposed by the society. Now, are we going back to enforcing these gender roles just because we want to police who gets to be a woman?

What is it to be woman anyway? Is it the ability to give birth, menstruate or have a womb that makes me a woman and grants me an automatic pass to women spaces? What happens when I can no longer do all these things or no longer have these ‘women things’ due to age, medical conditions or because I was born without these ‘women packages’ as is the case with some women?

Really, what is it to be a woman? Is it the appalling fact that I can be raped that makes me a woman? Anyone can be raped, however as a woman, I am at a higher risk of being raped than a man would ever be. However, statistics also show that I am likely to be raped by someone I know, rather than strangers.

This continued fear-mongering by trans exclusionary feminists that trans women and non binary siblings are potential rapists trying to gain access into women spaces or lurking in women toilets just so they could rape women is pathetic, disgusting greatly misinformed and goes against statistics. As a woman, I am more likely to be raped by a male family member than a trans women in a public toilet! Also, in most cases, Rape is about asserting power and comes from a position of power, this is something feminists know too well. Trans women and non binary people are vulnerable groups and demonising them this way is just wrong.

Oppressed and marginalised groups should not be looking to marginalise or oppress other minority groups, if we are fortunate to be able to empower others, go ahead and empower. We have nothing to lose from lifting others up, we gain a better world. As Cis women, we should be lifting up our trans sisters and non binary siblings, not demonising them for daring to live as their true self identity.

It was not that long ago that black people as a whole were routinely demonised for the actions of a few black people. The actions of a few were eagerly used as a reason to demonise a whole race and as an excuse to deny basic human rights to black people. The pathetic excuse of white supremacists that white women must be protected from “barbaric” black men led to the executions and persecution of innocent black men, and this continue till date. Do we really want to demonise our trans sisters and siblings in this manner too?

As if the article on 20/02/2020 was not bad enough transphobia, on 22/02/20, a cartoon was printed by the Morning Star which depicted a crocodile getting in to a pond of newts.

Newts: “But – You can’t come in here, this is our safe space!”
Crocodile: “Don’t worry your pretty little heads! I am transitioning as a newt!”


This is terrible, disgusting and overt transphobia. This is really concerning considering many trade union leaders sit on the board of this paper.

There is a petition on Change.org. Pls, feel free to sign and share. As stated in the petition-

We are disappointed that, according to its 2018 return, the Morning Star had a number of trade unions on its management committee (those we are petitioning above).
As a registered mutual society, the Morning Star claims that it “produced a daily newspaper under the strapline ‘For peace and socialism’ and reported on the social and political developments as well as the plights and struggles of people trying to achieve a safer and fairer world.
We believe that The Morning Star has gone against those principles and needs to be held to account.

This conscious spreading of transphobia is appalling and divisive. We need to unite to fight for a better world for ALL not just spew out rhetoric that further divides the working class.

Transphobia has no place in our collective struggle for workers’ rights. Trans issues are workers issues. Trans rights are workers’ rights. Trans rights are human rights. No to Transphobia, Yes to a better world for ALL.

The Deafening Silence of White Privilege

What happened at this conference in the name of entertainment is outrageous, demeaning and reeks of blind white privilege. Unfortunately, some white people never seem to understand that racism is not entertainment. Racism is not Art. Racism is not something you intellectualised or play devil’s advocate with. Re-enacting a slave auction is certainly not something you entertain your mostly white audience with. The oppression of my ancestors is not your entertainment. When I read what happened at this conference in this article, I could not help but fume with anger, and to think there were people defending such appalling behaviour on twitter. You need to read the article to understand why the anger.

A quote from the article that resonates with me –

Slavery is considered an egregious human rights violation, alongside torture. The prohibition of both constitute the only two absolute, fundamental human rights which can never be justified or derogated from. Both can amount to crimes against humanity. This is for a reason. The gravity, horror and the harm of slavery, and its continued legacy, is important to understand–not intellectualised, minimised, sanitised, denied or dismissed as ‘that was in the past’ or ‘nothing to do with us’. The oppressive weight of Whiteness lives on, and its manifestations in individual, institutional, overt and covert, indirect racism are all around us, in us and in our practices. Racism and complicity in racism are always wrong. Racism is brutal. Racism is always an assault. Never entertainment.

It is also sad that most white people who consider themselves as not racist or ‘woke’ just sometimes get it so wrong. Also, it is important to bear in mind that fighting racism is not the sole responsibility of people of colour.

This reaction below was the response of a rather well-meaning white friend when I posted this article on my Facebook page

This is not the time for decorum anymore. Instead of walking out and issuing a statement the next day, why on earth didn’t those who object not stop the auction, physically, and denounce the audience for its passive acceptance of such an outrage? I’m fed up with objecting from the side-lines. If necessary, trash the place by throwing the chairs around. Get in their faces and dominate. It works.

While I was finding the right words to respond to such short-sighted statement from an online friend, another friend chimed in with her well thought out response.

I imagine that people walked out because they felt vulnerable and traumatised. I imagine that a direct response such as the one you describe did not feel available precisely because of the power dynamics and context described in the article. It would have been an option for the members of the majority white audience to take that action. Apparently they chose not to, or didn’t see the need. As white people, it’s on us to challenge racism because we have the privilege to do that. To leave it to those being oppressed to challenge that oppression by themselves is profoundly unfair because they are already vulnerable and traumatised. That’s my understanding anyway.

His response-

I see it in a somewhat different way. Sure some people will feel vulnerable and just want to get out of there. That’s understandable. However if you want to change things then you have to have the courage to challenge other people there and then, that reaction gives leadership so that other people will join you. This particular event is typical of what happens daily in many different forms. It must be met with immediate response and a readiness to escalate. It is not easy to do and often the moment is missed, but is has to be done.

Though to tell the truth, more often than not in the past, to my shame I haven’t reacted quickly enough in the moment. Sometimes it somebody totally unexpected who speaks up and demands solidarity from us all. Thank goodness for them. I suppose we have all experienced that.

When I finally found the words to respond, I wrote-

This is a white privileged view of the situation and very similar to blaming the victim rather than addressing the behaviour of the oppressor,.

You have focused on the reaction of the victim. Very tantamount to asking a rape victim…”but why didn’t you fight back or attack your rapist?”

What you have done here is blame the oppressed for the continued action of the oppressor and for not reacting the way you as a privileged white man would have preferred them to react to their oppression.

What’s wrong with this was actually highlighted in the article. You have failed to take into consideration factors such as shock, power dynamics, class and race privilege and the minority factor amongst other things.

Black people at that conference were in the minority as mentioned in the article, and the article mentioned that in that particular profession, that is the norm, which also translates to, the black people at that conference could probably only attend because they got a sponsorship or part sponsorship so as to not make the conference appear all white. I have seen this in action, I have been a beneficiary of such superficial equality action for conference organisers to look good and to tick the equality monitoring form.
Most probably the black participants were junior colleagues hoping to use such conference to network and climb up the ladder. They do not have the power luxury to start throwing a tantrum and chairs around or grab the microphone to disrupt the event to protest a play that offended them.

Walking out itself was a protest tool they felt comfortable using and I applaud them for taking a stand. They also forfeited their rest hour to come together to draft a response and insisted it was read at the conference the next day.

However, did they get support for the statement from the white audience? Nope. They were met with silence. A loud silence of white privilege who wondered why the black people could be offended by something so entertaining. To them the black people there had no sense of humour, no wonder their ancestors were enslaved.

Look , there was a time when if I was at such a conference I would have jumped on stage and disrupted that event, but that was a younger me. Would this me that is a civil servant do such a thing now? I doubt so. I would walk out, I would silently protest outside if possible, I would draft a statement and insist it be read, same thing they already did. However, I know I wouldn’t jumped on stage to stop the play. Power dynamics, civil service code of conduct, immigrant status, race factor which definitely has and would affect my getting another job or a promotion and the need to pay my Bills are factors that would deter me from reacting in the way you as a white man suggested.

Instead of being angry that the black people did not react aggressively to stop this racism that continue to happen, why not direct that anger to the people that keep doing this act of racism and the white audience who enjoy such and the white audience who maintain a grave silence in the face of such outrageous racism.

In other words, don’t tell people to fight their rapist, tell rapists to stop raping. Tell racists to stop being racists and don’t blame black people for not fighting back the way you as a white man would want them to. Finally, remember fighting and stopping racism is definitely not just the responsibility of the oppressed, it is a collective responsibility and white people needs to take a huge part of the responsibility.

From his response below, it is good to know that he has at least had a rethink

Thanks Yemisi Ilesanmi and****** for your your well considered replies. Yes I am speaking from white privelege. It is a different power dynamic. It means that I can fire back at those who offend me and if necessary go down with all guns blazing. That is a freedom I assume, wrongly as you point out, that every citizen has – no matter their race, gender or sexuality. At any rate that is the ideal, even if doesn’t exist in practice. The accusation of blaming the victims for their non-aggressive reaction rather than focusing on the oppressors – stings – and I shall remember my mistake; though I suspect I shall probably repeat it when I next try to wave the flag for more militant, break-the-limits-of-convention type of action that I am in favour of. In the last few years I have increasingly lost patience for a safe/tolerant/polite approach with my opponents. The Amazon burns, Brexit disaster looms, Trump is doing his stuff, the Tories are about to be re-elected, Racism is so much more overt, Religion is even more unbearable, Fascism manoeuvres into the mainstream and we have only a handful of years left to stop runaway climate change. We are losing, not winning. Whether I have a privileged position or not, my attitude is to slap back. The only real question is how best to carry the majority of the people with us. And in that respect my non-too-subtle approach may be counter-productive. I suspect you both have your own ideas on how, but how does it chime with the times?

It’s good to know that at least they got part of what I was getting at. However, it reiterates the saying-He who wears the shoes knows where it pinches most.

No matter how much white people think they get racism they cannot really feel the tragic impact as Black people who know and understand their history do. Even when I organise equality events , now neatly and ‘conveniently called inclusion events, with white people, I am so conscious of how they only want to speak about the ‘feel good’ part of inclusion which comes with phrases such as “We are all one”, “We all bleed same blood”, “let’s all just get over things and just get along”. However, they get very uncomfortable when words such as white privilege, class differences, race power dynamics are mentioned. Surface equality is not enough to dismantle the power structure of racism. People with the power must learn to speak out against racism and call it out, Afterall their white voices still hold more power that the people affected by racism.

All I ask is that, beware of your white privilege and use your voice when most needed to condemn racism.

Liam Neeson: The face of white privilege and the advert for “Power-walking” as a cure for racism

The confidence of Liam Neeson casually confessing without any prompt that he went out with a weapon for a week looking to kill any black man, without even thinking there might be repercussions, reeks of white privilege. Just imagine if this was a black man confessing to going out every day for a week looking for a random white person to kill, just imagine.

In the interview with UK independent, Liam Neeson said

I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody- I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him.

On Good Morning America, he explained:

I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence, and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had.

The fact that Liam Neeson could confess to this is not really about the bravery, it’s about his cluelessness, about him not even realising a black man, a Muslim, an Asian man cannot just casually confess to this without serious repercussion , and not just from an angry populace on social media, but from the legal arm of government, starting with a knock, if not a kick , at his door from police officers ready to haul his black ass in for questioning for planning terrorist attacks. Liam Neeson is blissfully oblivious to this, Afterall it is normal primordial urge to want to murder black bastards, he really deserves a cookie for overcoming this very normal urge through power-walking 2 hours a day for a few weeks. Talk about white privilege!

Well, the power-walking worked, until he suddenly felt the need to refer to black people as “black bastard” during an interview, a case of repressed racism bursting out to show his inner racist, perhaps? Why on earth did he use that racist term and tone in that interview? Maybe we have the power-walking to thank for his not adding to the long list of black men who were killed and lynched by white men just because they can, think Emmett Louis Till, and all the black men that were lynched under the guise of protecting white women’s honour.

To all white people defending Liam Neeson, keep doing so, you are showing your low-key racism. Hand Liam a medal for his ‘bravery’, give him a cookie because we live in a society where it is such a heroic thing to no longer feel the primal urge to murder any member of a whole race for the alleged crime of a member of that race, and when that race is black people, damn, give that man an extra cookie…what restraint he showed!

It is one thing for Liam Neeson to acknowledge that it was wrong for him to try to seek revenge on behalf of a friend, but he never acknowledged it was racist of him to want to machete, in his own word. a “black bastard” to death. What Liam portrayed in that interview and what he continued to miss in the nonpoplogy, ‘I am the Victim here’ interview he later granted on Good Morning America, was that while he acknowledged that wanting to take Revenge is not the solution, he failed to acknowledge that his rage for revenge was further fuelled by the skin colour of his friend’s alleged rapist. Why was he concerned about the colour of the rapist anyway? Why did he not ask for the age or height of this alleged rapist and why didn’t he feel the urge to hunt down any man of same age and height? If she had said the rapist was white, would he really have gone out every week to look for a white man to kill?

His rage to want to lynch any black man to protect or avenge the honour of a white woman is one that is unfortunately very much entrenched in black history as one of the horrors committed by white people against black people. This horror is not a distant, past memory, this white man’s fantasy for black lynching still lives with us today. Remember Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman’s confession of seeing a young black boy walking on a white populated street, and immediately thinking he was a demon. Zimmerman admitted he saw a demon, not a human being, not a young boy, but because of the boy’s skin colour, what he saw was a demon and that cost Trayvon Martin his young life. Liam Neeson’s casual confession while promoting his revenge themed movie, is tasteless and even more so was his attempt to convince us he is not racist on a day that would have been the 24th birthday of Trayvon Martin who was murdered by a white man with same urge as Liam Neeson, to kill a black man, any black person. Only George Zimmerman did murder, he got away with it, and till date, has no remorse.

Liam Neeson has obviously not identified the Hate crime element in his confession. It is impossible to acknowledge and deal with something when you have not even realised it is a problem. After one week of going out 4 to 5 days to hunt down any “Black bastard”, he finally realised his primal urge was wrong, but did he realise it was a hate crime? Didn’t sound like it.

Did he realised just how much hurt based on real lived experiences his confession brought black people, myself included? It is a confirmation of what we as black people already know, we are not fully seen as humans of same status by many white people. We still have every reason to have that doubt, even if it’s the tiniest doubt, about how a white person truly sees us, no matter how open minded or progressive the white person claims to be. Liam Neeson’s confession confirms what we as black people have always known, we are not safe, hence why we march with the placards ‘BlackLivesMatter’, why we bend a knee during national anthems, why we use the hashtags BlackLivesMatter.

In this Black history month, Liam Neeson has unintentionally reminded us that we are not safe, that we can be the target of hate crime just because of our skin colour, that we are easily demonised because white people painted the devil and all that is evil in black colour. If Black is the face of evil, it is perfectly understandable when white men see evil when they see a black man.

Liam Neeson claimed-

I was trying to show honour, to stand up for my dear friend in this terribly medieval fashion.

If every black person went out to take revenge for what white people did to us, our families and dearest black friends, there wouldn’t be any white person alive today. Yet they tell us it was all in the past, that we should move on, if only they would let us truly move on and not have to live with their everyday racism.