We are not the same.

We are not the same.

I wake up everyday knowing that I am not superior to anyone else. I wake up knowing that I am a girl, and nothing else. I hold no divine authority. I hold no power. But one thing I do know, is that I will be judged on the colour of my skin.

The colour of my skin has always been a difficult one for me. I remember thinking as a child that I was no different. I ran as fast as the boys. I played ‘Mummy and Daddy’ with the girls. Of course I knew that the majority of people were white where I lived, but to me that was never a problem. I would be complimented on my skin tone, with adults wishing that they could tan like me when they go away to Spain. So for me, being brown was just another thing that made me, me.

I remember a few things as a child that would make me wonder if I was actually really different. When I was eight, I participated in the school play as a Hawaiian dancer. The girls were required to wear hula outfits and skin coloured tights. This was the first problem, the all tones bought for us to wear were way to light. I went on stage with tights that made me look like one half of me was brown, the other half white. This got me thinking, were these tights accurate representations of what your skin should be? But as an eight year old, I brushed off this quickly, not understanding its importance. When I was eleven, my mum sent me to the local shop to buy some milk. I remember distinctly walking past this Chinese restaurant to be whistled at. I turned around hastily wondering where that noise came from and before I could recognise these boys, they shouted out “hey brownie” and “go back to your own country”.

This hurt.

I did not tell anybody about that for years as I stupidly put it to the back of my mind and told myself i was being an idiot and they probably thought i was somebody else. As a sixteen year old, I was faced with a hard decision. Knowing that schools like Mountview or Bird were interested in myself and my sister attending there schools, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to be a performer or an academic. One of the biggest reasons I didn’t follow my heart was because I knew that as well as being a twin, being a brown girl meant that less job offers or opportunities would be open for me. Less directors want to cast girls who look like me.

I know these are only little things and I should be grateful as nothing truly terrible has happened to me but I cannot help but wonder what if. What if I was born white. Now, this is not an article expressing negative views about white people because that, is well, just absurd. But I cannot help by think that if I was born white, I would have never felt isolated or lonely because of my skin colour. Those distinct moments have shaped me however. When I was eight I became more determined to be heard so I started to become more confident. As an eleven year old, I found my love for books and history throughout looking up what it meant to be in this country. At sixteen, I ensured a very happy and bright future for myself. I would not be carving a path to work for a prolific NGO when I’m older to ensure that thousands have not felt like I did for one second. I know I am privileged, so think about those who combat racism EVERYDAY. They carry around the “we are not the same” placard on their back.

WE are all the same.

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Popularity over substantiality

Popularity over substantiality

After being back in England for a day, I’ve been doing the menial tasks requited of you post holiday. One of them was to look through my blog and try and think about another thing to write about. Yes, I could write about an array of subjects but something really annoyed me today, and I think I’d like to share that instead.

While looking through the statistics of these blog posts, I’ve been both happy and saddened. Over half of them have got hundreds of views, which is fantastic and I am forever grateful as this is such an amazing community to be a part of. However, the posts that were the most popular were my least favourite (Exam Time being the most viewed). Next, I looked through my stats for my FGM piece which was my favourite to write about because it is something I feel very passionate about. But, it got one of the lowest viewings out of all of my posts. This got me thinking, in order for my readership to grow I need to write posts that are really popular, right? However, the trend right now shows that the pieces I’m not that fussed about writing are the ones that people want to see…

This puts me into an awkward situation. Do I compromise my literary integrity for more views, or do I write about substantial and meaningful issues that will get less views and my blog could then crash and burn. On one hand I want to, but then again this blog should be about what I want to write about and put across. It’s taken me a while to think about what niche I wanted to be a part of, and now I know will that all have to change?

So, this is where I need your help. Do I write about bubble gum subjects that are nice to read on a commute, or about the hard hitting reality of our cruel and viscous world that will inevitably get less views because of a mix of not wanting to know and apathy.

Please comment on this post or on the social media post what I should do, I really am quite stuck.

FGM: An age old tradition

FGM: An age old tradition

As a British citizen, I know I have rights. As a woman, I know I have rights. The case is very different for young girls and women in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.

This morning, with the WiFi down and nothing to do, I decided it was time to read my Amnesty Summer 2016 Issue that arrived on my doorstep some weeks ago. Unbeknownst as to what I would find, I turned the pages slowly until I saw the words ‘Sierra Leone’, ‘FGM’ and ‘forced marriage’.  As some of you may know, I am Sierra Leonean as well as British, meaning that any Human Rights issues over there impact me greatly. In the country where my father grew up, I have naively grown up thinking that Sierra Leone was a beautiful and free country; its national anthem even starting with the phrase “land of the free”. For years I have only seen Sierra Leone as this, until today. The illusion was shattered. Of course I knew it had its problems, like all countries do, but after the amazing news that Nigeria had banned FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), I could only assume Sierra Leone already had.

Let me paint you a picture, a parallel between my life and the life of a 19 year old in either Sierra Leone or Burkina Faso. I have a secondary school education, she does not. I am studying for a degree, she is not. I am free to go out whenever I like, she cannot. I can love whomever I choose, she must not. Of course this is not true for everywhere in these countries as forced early marriages and FGM are usually village traditions. Here are my stances on both issues:

Thousands of girls my age are already married with children and forced to work back breaking labour, day in day out for a 70 year old husband with 5 other wives. This is not an over exaggeration, but the typical life of many teenagers. They are forced into marriage because this is what the village traditions, and the in-laws, dictates. Some may point out that women are forcing this on other women meaning that this is not an unfair system. To those who say that you need to really think about what you just said. The reason why older women force this upon young girls is because they do not know they have rights. An Amnesty representative in Burkina Faso named Bibita Ouedrago went around villages and talked with the young women and men to try and educate them about Human Rights. When she, and workers Liv and Sara first went, none of the girls would speak as they were in the presence of the in-laws. When separated, the girls spoke out about their fears. Today, this village has been freed from it traditional ties and many marriages have ended. All it takes is spoken word and an education.

Now FGM. This is something that can traumatise a woman for the rest of her life. The pain that is felt never stops. Essentially, this is a circumcision for girls. The procedure is generally carried out by the elder women of the village, or an untrained midwife and no anaesthetic is used. The clitoris and either part or all of the outer labia is removed and sewn up. In many cases the vagina is completely sewn up, causing excruciating daily pain for the child. Yes, this happens when the girl is about 9. If you are a mother, I doubt you can even imagine putting your child through that much pain. From FGM, infections are caused, child bearing is not a magical moment for the mother, but tragically a life ending one in a lot of cases. Fistulas occur and the chances of ectopic pregnancies increase. This is something that is very real and happening as you read these words. We need to come together as both men and women and put a stop to this. Yes it is difficult because it is so ingrained within their societies, but that is only because they do not know of the Human Rights Act. Thousands of girls regardless of upbringing would never want to undergo FGM or be forced to bed with a man five times her age. This is unanimous among womankind and we need to foster this idea to ensure that in the future, all women are equal.

Today I woke up with no responsibilities or worries because I was lucky enough to role the metaphorical geographical die and score a high number. I will never be forced into marrying someone I don’t want to marry. I will never be forced into having children. This is not the case for thousands and thousands of young girls. They WILL have to marry and child bear, this often happens at the young age of 8. Imagine your little sister, cousin, friend’s sister or even daughter having to go through this. You can’t so don’t let others.

 

Visit Amnesty International’s Website to donate to the revolution, until the 18th of July the UK Government are matching your donations so your impact will be doubled. By donating £10 (£20) you could help set up a schoolgirls’ club that raises awareness for girls’ rights, provides a safe space for girls to grow their confidence and offers guidance to girls whose rights are being denied. Or for £100 (£200) you could send money towards the cost of setting up an ‘Alert Committee’ made up of teachers, parents and traditional leaders who can help prevent child marriages by letting authorities know when girls are at risk.

 

“Everyone get out and keep running”

“Everyone get out and keep running”

Up until today, I shared one thing in common with Orlando, the first half of its name. Never have I ever really given it much thought into the goings on there. To me, it was just another place in America. But after the recent events that have unfurled, I thought it only right that I become more acquainted with it:

  • Previous name: Jernigan
  • Population: 255, 483 citizens
  • State: Florida

These are the kind of facts that lit up my computer screen; or so I wish. When typing in ‘Orlando’, the first topic that sprang up was MASS SHOOTING. These two words have pasted themselves onto the city, becoming one of the sole reasons why people will research this amazing city in the near future. It is because of the acts of one man, that Orlando will forever be known as the city that accommodated the ‘biggest mass shooting in U.S History to date’. Being heralded with this title will certainly have a negative effect on the city.

When approaching these subjects or when writing generally, I try to stay as objective as possible. However, this cannot be done here. Not only was this an act of terror, it was an act of HATE. This man specifically went into the nightclub ‘Pulse’ armed with a handgun and assault rifle with the intent to kill. His direct mission succeeded, as he claimed 50 innocent lives, not including his own. This one man has not only wounded the lives of the families, but also the tenuous trust a lot of Americans have with the Muslim community. Donald Trump has been recorded again stating that all non-American Muslims are not to not be allowed in the country if he wins presidency. But, more shockingly than this, he had the audacity to not even mention the Second Amendment, or the accountability that gun sellers should hold when shootings like this occur.

In America, because of the Gun Law, mass killings are inevitable. This is fact. People can gain access to fire arms at the drop of a hat, both legally and illegally, means that murder and horror will never fade. This is fact. But what is not fact is what will happen if the second amendment is abolished, a policy that was written for its time which happens to be hundreds of years ago…

Secondly, this crime was one caused by hate, hate for the LGBT+ community and for anybody to refute this is lunacy. Earlier today, I watched an 8-minute clip of Owen Jones, British Columnist, trying to drill into these other reporters heads that this was specifically targeted at the LGBT community. He used the analogy that if someone walked into a synagogue and killed up to 50 people, it would be called, and ONLY called, an anti-sematic crime. However, the other reporters were trying to palm it off as a crime committed due to the certain faith he held, which was dubiously known anyway. This was idiocy as it shows that LGBT news is, in this country, being deflected. I was so happy that he ended up walking out of the live report.

It seems that everyone has a different view on what happened but what thing is certain: pain. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, friends, people of all descriptions lost someone. This is something we must not forget, amidst the blame and name calling, we cannot forget that the only way to get through a tragedy like this is to unite. Therefore Trump, it is NOT to ban millions of innocent and pleasant people from America. It is NOT to try and make this out to be something that it is clearly not. This IS a hate crime but we WILL allow Orlando’s and the world’s LGBT+ community to flourish and love in a safe and equal environment.

I pray for you Orlando.

Source: A clip of Owen Jones in the Sky News Broadcast. Please Watch.

27.11.2013

As part of my ‘Impossible list’ and summer challenges, I have started writing more. Needless to say that I enjoy writing, but writing in different styles scares me. Not scares me like someone jumping out of a cupboard after watching Carrie. I am more scared because it means that I am, in a sense, more vulnerable to criticism because I’m not used to this style.

In keeping with this theme, I have a short story about fear. The other day I was researching different styles of writing and this one follows the small detail concept. You centre the story around one item, may it be an emotion or a physical being. This isn’t about getting from point A to B, it’s about exploring a single dimension of A. From this, a springboard effect is created because if you wish to extend the story you can in so many ways.

Okay, so here is my first go at this kind of writing which is pretty far from my comfort zone. Enjoy.

The urge to dial the numbers that could unlock her happiness consumed her; enticed her. Just a stone’s throw away was the potential for everything she ever wanted- peace, love, freedom. Instead it was her own demons that cast away the light, burdened her with invisible shackles and sent her straight to the abyss.

It was John Steinbeck who wrote “maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other”. This quote, which resided in Amelia’s favourite copy of ‘Of Mice and Men’, made sense to her. The ideal that people were, in some way, the same. They were connected through the ability to fear, or be feared. The idea of this rang in her ears, never let her rest, and chained itself to her very being. This quote was to be the undoing of her character, but also her revival. It was to be more than a quote mindlessly read in an English class, to be robotically taken in to then be churned out by the institutionalisation of the education system. It would, in some ways, be the key to her freedom, but only if Amelia were to be fearless.

 

Amelia ran her delicate hands through her hair. The hair that she had inherited from her mother. It was a deep brown, darker than the richest oak. It fell casually around her shoulders, embracing the imperfections of her skin. Her slim figure was parallel to those of her looks, subtle and understated. Yet, she held a certain beauty. Only someone could understand this if they had experienced the world. She was so young, yet her face, her eyes, told a different story. But none of this mattered to Amelia. All she wanted was to be noticed, to not have to spend the minutes of her waking in this tempest of loneliness. She stood up from her desk chair and glided across her room, even her movements told a story; of a girl that wanted to be different. It was the book of ‘Of Mice and Men’ she picked up and surveyed. She turned over the page to read a few scribbled words and a number. As vaults are unlocked by codes, she could be unlocked by this number. This was the number given to her by a boy, James, in her class:

The light shone through he parted blinds, dancing across the blue tinted tables. Class had just started. Amelia walked in amidst the sea of students, clutching onto her notes. Just behind her was James, but he was running after Jessica, his girlfriend. The smile on his face was that similar to smile of a new born baby held in his mother’s arm. The innocence spread across his face shone light like the blinds did. It was only Amelia who noticed this, the subtle changes in his expression when he adorned Jessica with compliments, and the lack of from her. His hair fell neatly over his eyes that every so often had have to blow the blonde strands out of his way. Amelia sat down hastily, not wanting to appear as if she was staring. But this was too late, he’d caught her gaze and was not letting go. Getting the idea that Jessica was still annoyed at him from something that he probably did not even do a couple of days ago he gave up and slid over to Amelia’s desk. Without hesitation he said “Wow, you’re an ‘Of Mice and Men’ fan too? Most of my friends think it’s a waste of time, a book from a period not concerning us”. Amelia looked at him and said quietly

“Did they not live in 2008?” Surprisingly to her, he let out a laugh.

“Wow, the girl speaks. And she’s funny. Why have we never talked before, I swear we’ve been in the same class for around three years?” Amelia fluttered her eyelashes involuntarily and smiled inwardly.

“It’s been five. Maybe that’s because you’re so transfixed by your latest beauty?” She immediately regretted saying this, even though she has wanted to for half a decade.

“Ah yes! My undeniable attraction to the aesthetically pleasing. But if that is so, why have never exchanged words?” Before she could answer, he quickly put in “Hey! We’ve said, what, ten words and you’re already judging me”, her heart sank, “I like it”.

In this moment, however small to outside observers, she felt fearless. She felt dauntless. But that moment was whisked away as quickly as it came. “Jay, come and sit over here with me baby!” To this, James looked over his shoulder and adopted the previous look he gave his girlfriend, but to Amelia, it looked as if was less sincere.

“Of course, one sec’. I’ve always pipped you as a girl scared of everything, you don’t talk, you hide away in the shadows, why is that?” This question took Amelia by surprise, it felt to much, too personal for a first meeting. But because he made her feel so, well, alive, she looked at him in the eyes and whispered while the class was settling down: “maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other”. To this he looked taken aback and bowed his head.

It came to the end of class and Amelia had packed up her things and was ready to leave before she was stopped. The gentle touch of James’ hand was felt upon her shoulder. Her body shuddered, her breathing quickened, and she no longer felt fearless. James looked at her and said “Well that class was dull, but I was glad to have met you. If you ever want to go over the parallels of the current and past economic depressions, give this number a ring. I’ll be at the other end. Waiting”. And with that, he shone her a quick smile and clasped the hand of his, then, girlfriend.

 

It was that day that the character of Amelia had been released. Before then, she was merely a sketch, trying to colour herself in with books and quick exchanges with her parents. But now the time had come to not be scared of everyone, to not be frightened anymore. The time had come for Amelia to break the shackles that she burdened herself with. She picked up the weightless phone and stared at the keys. Her delicate fingers pressed each number in sequence, like she was following a melody. She looked over and held Steinbeck’s masterpiece up to her chest, as if to keep her heart from breaking out. The final number was dialled, all she had to do was press ‘call’. All she had to be was fearless.

My Impossible List

For those who read my most recent post, you will remember that I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted to complete or improve upon this summer. A friend of mine then posted a blog post about this concept, ‘The Impossible List’. At first sight, this just looks like a really long bucket list, but in actual fact it is so much more than that. See, it’s called the Impossible list for a reason. The point is that you keep on adding to it or changing it as the years go by. Because of this, you will never actually complete this list, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But what you find during is far more advantageous because you find you are capable of so much more than you think. Already, I have crossed some things off my life and I will change them soon.

This is only going to be short as the purpose of this is to use this platform to share my list. Just remember, this took me around an hour to create, but I will get this time back ten-fold in appreciation  for having these guideline to my life.

Here is the Link to my list, enjoy:

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s564/nl/143517648/8a06afa5-834a-4b4f-abc9-c2d67d79ca60?title=My%20Impossible%20List

Exam time

Exam time

It’s that time again where the pen meets the blank paper. Where the fingers press the keys. This is a definitive moment in any students life, as exams are just around the corner. Whether you are cramming the last chapter of your 800 page book, or you are sifting through revision cards acquired months in advance. It does not matter how much preparation you have done prior to the exam, one factor remains a constant; nervousness.

To be nervous is perfectly natural, if not admired. As well as it showing that you have an actual emotional attachment, it shows that you are not some thoughtless and mindless drone, churned out of the education system; you have original thought. Original thought is a blessing. It is a symbol of Whig progression and an example of our own intelligence. Many would argue that this is not true. Scholars have recently suggested that every though that modern man makes has already been made before, ergo original thought is null and void. From this springs the argument that the education system is not actually doing its job. This is where protests meets sectaries.

I would only agree with this to an extent, but the fact that we are no longer original is so far off the truth. I can drone on about how we are all individuals, how examinations do not cater to our individual needs but that would be a waste of space (and time).  Instead I will leave you with two thoughts.

One, the fact that we are individuals is great. Yes, you may suck at exams or coursework but do not hate yourself for this. If we were all the same, imagine how grey and dull the world would be. We are the individual strands that make up this rich tapestry called Earth. So don’t kick yourself the day before the exam because you have suddenly taken on a very nihilist approach to life. Think that you may not be that person who can write solidly for an hour, and that’s okay. You are the person that may become that diving instructor that lives in the Bahamas when the person that could write the exam is in a Office in Hull.

Secondly, this is not to say that those who ace the exam or who are confident about it should feel bad. Do not think that you are not individual. We are all required to make up humanity.

So, if you have an exam, I hope you can find solace in the fact that these exams may determine the next summer, or the next year of your life. But take pride in the fact that you are an individual. You will make mistakes. You will have achievements.

First and foremost, you will survive.