Firstly, Happy Fathers day! I won’t be speaking on that today as I have previously touched on it in my article ‘A black parents love is tough….’. Following on from yesterday’s question, today I am asking you another one. What did you do? I have asked this question before and I by no means says this to belittle or begrudge anyone for their efforts or lack thereof. I ask, in order that you reflect inward and decide if you are doing everything you can to see positive change in the world. Many people have reached out to me and said they want to help but don’t know how. You can start with this petition and the many others that are out there.
‘Why do I care?’ Is a question that I have been asked a lot in the last few weeks. It honestly isn’t one that I was expecting to get asked or have to answer.
First and foremost I care because I am HUMAN.
You will have heard me say Black is Black and no man is an island. Those are statements that I stand by and I hope that my actions speak just as loud if not louder than my words. To me, a part of being human means to feel and to care. But I wanted to see what others thought being human meant. I took to google and stumbled across a few different websites that let people state what being human means to them in under 140 characters.
Whilst some of these answers were great, it left me still with questions. History has show us that at times (and even now) we have viewed many humans as less than. Women were treated as second class citizens for much of history and still fight for equal rights, equal pay etc today. What does it mean to be human? Is a hard question to answer. I am not the first person and wont be the last, people have been asking this for over 300 years. Before I digress any further I will simply note that I always strive to be a contributing member of society and one of the ways I demonstrate this is with my care and concern for those around me.
I care because I have been on the receiving end of prejudice and racism my entire life. I hope that I can help make changes that will benefit this generation and future ones to ensure that they do not have to go through some of the same experiences that I have. This is the main motivation behind my parliament petition:
I hope that you will click the link and help make a difference and be part of the solution.
I am not new to this, nor do I seek to throw shade on those who are just now taking the time to educate themselves and show support. Divided we fall but united we stand! There is power in unity and unity is necessary to effect change. 10 years ago I asked my friends “If I told you I was in a Newspaper what would you think I was in it for?” And by the second answer you can see I have ALWAYS cared. I have been volunteering and mentoring since I was a teenager, as an adult I have continued with this, including volunteering at the 2012 Olympics. I know I can do more and do better, so I intend to make more time for that. This is just the start.
WHY DO I CARE?
I care because it’s my prerogative to do so. I care because I have been given a gift and I don’t want to lose it again by wasting it. I care because I love. You have heard me reflect on the tough love of a Black parent as I also proclaimed that my love is not tough. It isn’t, I am first to admit that I am soft hearted. I want better for everyone and I believe that starts with YOU and I. Be the change that you want to see. So next time you think to ask someone why they care, I ask that you reflect inwards instead and ask yourself, “Why don’t YOU?”
If you know me, you’ll know that I often give nicknames out to people I care for and about. It Is very rare that people give me one back in return, maybe hypocritical, but I’m not the biggest fan and always go by Kristina. More time ‘Kristina with a K’, is my introduction, one that I only got a reprieve from when working with Scandinavia.
I was given the nickname Casper, by a good friends now husband, during university. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that I was always ghost (aka not around) unless I was needed. The same still rings true today. I am not one for the limelight or to be centre of attention. One of the hardest things to acknowledge with speaking up and speaking out on Racism in the UK was that I had to be present and front and centre. Publishing a petition, and my daily article comes with an element of exposure that I would prefer to have avoided if I could.
But I am aware that this is not a situation for me to ghost and instead it is necessary to put a face to this, my face! I have mentioned previously that my petition was initially met with a lot of resistance union first release. From the black community, which was the biggest surprise and whilst this shocked me I understood that many did not understand me or the motivation behind the petition or what I hoped to achieve. This led to me writing and publishing my PSA – In the words of Jay-Z…..Allow me to reintroduce myself! A necessity that has proven helpful in assisting people to understand who I am, where I come from and why I care.
Resistance didn’t only come from my community. I was attacked on social media (both Twitter and Instagram) by racists. I expected this going and choose not to focus on the negative. For every 5-10 people that send me racial abuse, there is one who has read my work and thanked me in return for letting them “walk in my shoes”.
What I thought was my biggest challenge was my petition initially getting rejected by the House of Commons Petitions Committee on the grounds that they “can’t accept new petitions that make the same request as an existing petition”. I was pointed in the direction of some other petitions that they deemed the same as my own (all of which I have signed) but one closed door does not deter me and I published my OPEN LETTER TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS PETITION COMMITTEE in the hopes to help them better understand how my petition was unique and not a repetition of anything already out there. I was shocked to learn that they had read my words, understood my perspective and were reversing their decision to reject. Something I reflect on in The power of one voice…the courage of one person.
I am Casper the friendly ghost, and I am self aware enough to stand up and admit this. My preference would be to stay in the background, and I explored options that may have allowed for this to no avail. I am not doing this to become famous, the very idea of that being a consequence of all of this is rather abhorrent. To anyone thinking that is the purpose, I hope you will take some time to read some of the linked articles in this post. During correspondence with the House of Commons Petition Committee, they asked me to confirm I was happy to publish my own personal experience along with my name. I, like many of you saw the backlash and controversy sparked by Nickelodeon’s “I Can’t Breathe” Commercial. My very experience at the age of 5, shows that even when we don’t understand Racism, Black children are still victims of it. Many of these behaviours and words are learned and should be challenged and addressed as soon as they appear.
At the start of all of this I posted on my socials with a genuine question asking people “what did you do?” When they were at the receiving end of racism. It is a question I also asked myself, as I pondered the best ways for me to help. I acknowledge that my writing is a gift, and I will continue to use it as such. Ive taken it for granted in the past, and although I wrote my first ‘story book’ aged five and my first two full novels two years ago, I am aware I did not use it as I could and should. It is hard to ask yourself “what did you do?” And face the potential response that you have done nothing. I watched with great interest when Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the board and urged the seat to be filled by a Black person. He too had asked himself “What did you do?’ And wanted to have a concrete answer should his Black daughter one day ask him the same question.
I am not getting paid to campaign for better rights for Black people, I do it because I care. My hope is that if anyone ever asks me in the future “What did you do?” I can answer that I did everything I could, that I gave my best with the confidence that it was enough. My heart is clean and there are no stains on my soul.
You have heard me say “no man is an island”. It is a favourite saying of mine and one which I would like to recognise now. No man is an island. I may have started this journey alone, but I urge all of you to join me. I cannot do this alone, nor do I want to. If you have learnt anything about me thus far, it is that I will not give up. I would like for you all to not give up either. Please help me make a better society for this generation and the next. Racism is multi-faceted, and there is no right or wrong way to address it. It may be attacked from all angles but I believe a big part of that is education and re-education.
SIGN THE PETITION. SHARE THE PETITION. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION WITH ME AND NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM.
In my article ‘An Activist heart?’, I reflect on a joke I often made in the past that “give me a cause and i’ll fight for it” and I will always stand up and speak out whenever necessary. But I want it noted now, that none of this is a joke to me. I take the mistreatment of Black people very seriously and hope that the words that I publish on my website can help make changes and play a part in making a better future for next generations.
We have all seen in recent news what the power of one voice and the courage of one person can do. Marcus Rashford, a 22 year old Manchester United footballer used the power of his voice to speak up and stand up for children in poverty and got Boris Johnson to u-turn on his decision to all 1.3m children in England to claim free school meal vouchers in the summer holidays. In an open letter to the UK government, Rashford stated “the system isn’t built for families like mine to succeed”. He speaks from the heart and from experience in his quest for food for children from poverty driven backgrounds. Whilst we celebrate this amazing achievement we should also acknowledge the other great work that Rashford is doing for others and his communities. In conjunction with FareShare UK, he has helped raise about £20m to supply three million meals to vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown.
History has provided us with many examples of what the power of one voice and the courage of one person can achieve. It only takes the action of one person to start a movement and effect t change. If we look across the Atlantic at America we can see many examples of key events and leaders which led to big changes. One of the most notable ones, being Rosa Parks who on the 1st December 1955, amidst a society that still enforced segregations laws refused to give her seat up for a white man. We later saw the power that can come from multiple voices speaking up and multiple people standing up with Little Rock Nine and the battle to end public school segregation. There is power in unity and we need to make use of that.
Following on from this, I am happy to confirm that my response was well received and the petition is now live. I did it! And whilst this is only one small step in the right direction I feel as if I have won the lottery! This is just the beginning, I am not giving up and I urge you all not to either. Please click the link below and sign my petition, while it may only take one voice to speak up and the courage of one person to stand up, I need all of your support to ensure changes are made.
On the 14th June 2017, a fire broke out in a 24 storey block of flats in North Kensington, West London. As the world witnessed the WORST UK residential fire since World War Two, 72 people died, more than 70 others were injured and a further 223 escaped.
I can still remember turning on the news and seeing the fire that took 24 hours to get under control and which burned for over a further 60 hours before it was fully extinguished. But as we reach today, the third anniversary of this horrific but potentially preventable tragedy, any memories I may have, pale in comparison of those still living with the repercussions and nightmares of it.
There has been Police investigations into the fire, coroner inquests and a- public inquiry. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry ordered by then Prime Minister Theresa May, the day after the fire, launched on the 14th September 2017, exactly 92 days after the fire. The initial purpose of the Inquiry, headed up by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick “to establish the facts of what happened at Grenfell Tower in order to take the necessary action to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.” Divided into two Phases, with Phases 1 held hearings from June – December 2018, results were published on the 30th October 2019.
So what did we learn? A plethora pf evidence was collected from experts, survivors, and firefighters leading to the following findings:
The resident of the flat where the fire started was not at fault.
The principal reason the fire spread was the aluminium composite cladding filled with plastic used on the building exterior.
Firefighters showed “courage and devotion to duty” and 999 call operators were “unstinting” in their efforts to help trapped residents.
Incident commanders were not trained to cope with the fire and there was no contingency plan for evacuation.
The LFB failed to lift the “stay put” advice when the stairs remained passable, which cost lives.
The brigade suffered “significant systemic failings”.
Communications systems failed and there were serious deficiencies in command and control.
Pictures transmitted on the night of Grenfell could not be viewed by the LFB because the encryption was incompatible with its receiving equipment.
The publication of the report also saw ’46 recommendations embedded within 35 paragraphs of chapter 33 of the four volume full report, and published again in the executive summary’ all of which can be read in the report at the public inquiry website.
Rapper Stormzy, who featured on the charity single that was released to raise money for Grenfell victims has been very vocal about his requests of justice for them and accountability from those responsible.
At his historic 2019 Glastonbury performance he used his platform to call attention to the tragedy and the unacceptable response that the public has seen so far in response to it, stating:
“We urge the authorities to tell the fucking truth, first and foremost. We urge them to do something. We urge the fucking government to be held accountable for the fuckery, and we ain’t gonna stop until we get what we deserve.”
Additionally, he previously used his platform to bring awareness to the failings around Grenfell with a freestyle at his 2018 Brit awards performance of Blinded by your grace part where he rapped:
“Like, Yo, Theresa May, where’s that money for Grenfell?
What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell?
You’re criminals and you got the cheek to call us savages
You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages
We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this”
The UK media jumped on this, with number 10 defending its then Prime Minister, Teresa. May. The Guardian reported that “The prime minister’s spokesman said the government had committed millions of pounds to the community in the aftermath of the blaze at the west London tower block that killed at least 71 people in June last year.” Seeming to miss the mark as Stormy hadn’t disputed that money had been allocated but questioned where the money had actually all gone.
The Downing Street spokesperson further stated “The PM has been clear that what happened at Grenfell was an unimaginable tragedy, which should never be allowed to happen again,” and that Teresa May “is determined the public inquiry will discover not just what went wrong but why the voices of the people of Grenfell had been ignored for so many years.” This was in 2018, and as we look back today on the three year anniversary it seems like these were nothing but empty words and missing gestures. No 10, flings out the £58.29m figure in conjunction with Grenfell but fail to further elaborate that this is the amount they have decided to allocate but not the amount that has actually spent. Nor has it given the British public a true breakdown of all funds spent thus far, lacking clarity and dismantling whatever little was left of public confidence in their handling of Grenfell.
In 2018, BBC News reported that by while by July of 2017, £20m had been raised for victims and survivors of Grenfell, only £800,000 had been allocated. Like Stormzy, they too ask, “Grenfell Tower: What has happened to the donations?”
Three years on, we are still disappointed with the UK government.
The Sun newspaper reports that “Almost seven in ten of those who escaped the tower block blaze on June 14, 2017, have needed care for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Figures released by Kensington and Chelsea council.
Karim Muissihly, Vice Chairman of the Grenfell United group and relative to Hesham Raham (his uncle) who perished during the fire, draws parallels between the governments response then and the governments Covid 19 response now as he’s states:
“The government has been criticised for not reacting quickly enough, making sure the NHS has the right equipment and is supported in the right way to be able to tackle the pandemic. They just didn’t react quickly enough.
“It’s also three years on, people always say that time changes, time is the best thing for healing, but in this case it feels like it just gets worse and so many things are happening that have so many similarities to what happened to us, and what continues to happen to us.”
Nothing seems to have changed. Phase 2 of the public enquiry opened on the 28th January 2020, it is expected to take approximately 18 months to complete and publish findings. In January of this year 10 days before the start of phase 2, despite a large majority of the 201 affected households being permanently rehoused, there are still at least 8 families living in temporary housing and one known to still be living in a hotel. This is unacceptable and beyond disappointing to see at nearly a whole three years on. It should also be noted that only 59 seats at the second phase of the public enquiry have been given out of some 560 bereaved. Teresa May had originally rejected calls for a diverse decision making panel to sit alongside the head of the public inquiry, something that was met with resistance from the public who wanted to ensure all voices were heard and the outcome was fair. This decision was reversed when a petition sighted by over 156,000 people and publicised by Stormzy became public.
The panel for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry issued a statement on today, the third anniversary of the fire, which can be read on their website.
What now? Today my thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims, survivors and anyone affected by the senseless tragedy that was the Grenfell fire, we still demand answer and justice. We want to see those responsible for ignoring the calls and concerns from the residents in the years leading up the fire. In the words of Simon Webb, an architect and fire expert who surveyed hundreds of residential tower blocks across the country in the early 1990s and found that half of those buildings didn’t meet basic fire safety standards,
“This tragedy was entirely predictable, sadly,” .
So as I quote the questions that Stormzy addressed to Teresa May, I quote him again as I also say to the UK government, Kensington and Chelsea council and any excuses they still may have as to why this is still not resolved,“SHUT UP”!!!!
Thank you for getting back to me and I appreciate your sympathy in what I went through as a child. I would like for you to note that my petition does not make the same request as previous ones and I checked this before first launching it. It is disheartening that you would think this and is again another major reason why my petition is needed and a discussion on the matter take place at the highest level. Lets look at the options that you have suggested were alternatives to me.
This topic does not fall into History lessons. Whilst I believe that it is important that diversity and Racism is addressed in schools, it can happen with social studies or even P.S.H.E. lessons. So it isn’t a repetition of what I am asking for but merely another avenue from which Racism can be addressed and tackled in the education system.
This topic is definitely closer to the mark but it still misses it by a lot. It is a generalisation on the education system being more inclusive of BAME history. That can fall into a plethora of subjects such as including BAME authors in English Lit classes to looking at inventions by Black people in science classes. It also makes the sweeping generalisation that all ethnic minorities have the same history and should be treated the same. We are not and should not be, but that is a topic for another day and a feature of a different petition that I have launched – Ban the use of BAME as a collective term for minority ethnic groups (I avidly await feedback from standards on it)
It is insulting to imply that Britains colonial past is the sum of Black history. To quote the words of Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum –
“We have existed in Britain and been pioneers, inventors, icons. And then colonialism happened, and that has shaped the experiences of black people – but that is not all we are.”
A discussion needs to be had at a higher level so that what Black history means is fully addressed. It is abhorrent and not going to help with stigmas and racism to insinuate that Britains colonial past is the sum of all we are as Black people. Whilst I think it is important to teach the entirety of Black history and as such include this, it is dangerous and damaging to box Black History as solely being about the British Empire and Colonialism. We are taught a white washed version of the history of the World Wars in school and it is never mentioned that many Black soldiers helped fight for freedom while not fully experiencing it for themselves. A comprehensive look at Black history needs to be had by Black historians and scholars to ensure we are not pigeon holing what is means to teach Black history. I am not asking for a rose tinted glasses look at Black History, it is unfortunate that Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade is a massive part of that. It saddens me further to look at the active role the UK held within that and the history of the British Colonialism, the British Empire and the Commonwealth. Instead I am asking that while you teach that, you also teach about Mary Seacole alongside teaching about Florence Nightingale. That when you teach about the Romans, you also take the time to mention the Black people that were also on British shores at that time like the The Ivory Bangle Lady, whose remains were discovered in York in 1901. That when we look at Henry VIII and about the fate of all his wives and his tumultuous reign that time is taken to learn about John Blanke, an African trumpeter who is documented as having asked Henry VIII for a pay rise. Or any of the other hundreds of Black migrants living in Britain during 1500s Tudor England.
I hope that you read my words and understand all that I hoped to achieve with my petition and why it is not a repetition of anything that is out there. Should you still feel that it is, I welcome feedback on how the title can be adjusted to better reflect my intentions.
Yesterday I touched on the fact that I would rather list everything that I don’t eat then call myself a Vegan, in my article ‘Oh so you’re a Vegan…’. It makes sense, because my journey into Veganism did not begin with the desire and intention to save the world.
The reality is outside of the Vegan community, it is others that give me the Vegan label. I really did just list everything that I don’t eat for the longest time.
According to the Collins dictionary, Veganism is “the adherence to a vegandiet“. So if I was to base my classification off of that, I am at least following Veganism. However, others may argue that its bigger than just what you consume. According to Merriam-Webster, “ a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals also : one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)”. This requires a little more of a person then just what they eat. It goes into the lifestyle choices that one makes. So do I adhere to that? The short answer is yes. In recent years I have made a conscious effort to check the labels of products I use. What may have started out as necessity for health and quality of life has expanded to mean more to me. It matters to me now that if i’m using a product, it has the Vegan trademark and that products are therefore free from animal ingredients and animal testing.
My issues with Vegans, and why I’ll often distance myself from being labelled as one is their desire to police other Vegans and the militance they use to Police those that don’t adhere to the same diet and lifestyle as them. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t force it on anyone. You can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink and I fully follow that practise. If anyone asks my opinion on it, I’ll share where my thoughts lie but you won’t find me trying to force anyone into it. It has been wonderful to see my friends reduce their meat consumption over the years and also approach me for Vegan recipes of their own accord. You can do more with love then you can ever do with hate. Would I prefer all my loved ones to be Vegan? Certainly. My brother knew whenever he came to my flat that he was getting a Vegan meal because that’s what I eat. I can remember watching episodes of shows like Come Dine with Me, where when the host has been Vegan, they’ve cooked meat to make their guests more ‘comfortable’. You won’t catch me doing that. The other month I proclaimed to my friends that I can’t marry a meat-eater, I was called extra, and I can see why it would seem that way until you take into consideration all my reasons around it. I won’t list them here but its a big part of my life and I would like whoever I end up with to share that part of my life with me.
According to the Vegan society ‘Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’ Thats right, ‘as far as is possible and practicable’, this is a definition that definitely applies to me.
When I first gave up the consumption of all animal products, I was ignorant to much of the food practises involved in the preparation. I was aware of battery farms, was adamant that animal milk is for animals and not Humans. It’s strange that Humans are the only mammals that consume the milk from species not their own. The more I would learn the more it would confirm in my mind that I was on the right course for both myself and the planet. I always say that if one thing doesn’t change, then nothing will. I might only be one person, but all of those singular people doing their bit eventually adds up when numbers are combined.
I am not an animal person, in all honesty, they scare me. Whilst fear is irrational, I have always been wary of animals due to my inability to communicate with them and know what they are thinking. In my youth a friend got bitten by a dog intent on attacking me after he stepped in front of me. My fear of dogs is therefore less irrational and more based on experience. Before you make any further assumptions about me, you should know that I am no less wary of humans. While I am not an animal person, I am equally not a human person either. I do not agree with the idea of having pets, especially if you live in flat or don’t have the means to make that animals life as spectacular as can be. They can’t tell you if they are unhappy though, so its up to you as their owner to ensure you are doing the most. Many people fall in love with the idea of having a pet, and when faced with the reality not matching the dream, send their pets off to pounds. I’d rather no-one keep pets than that, but if you are a potential future pet owner, I would suggest not heading for a breeder but getting your animal from a rescue centre instead.
By that same measure I am not a fan of Zoos unless they are actively contributing to the conservation effort. I hate that the new norm for many holidays is to be pictured with a declawed tiger, on the back of an elephant or something similar. I love animals in the wild, I believe the only interference that should come from humans is ensuring that we don’t lose any more species to extinction. Like many of you I watched the Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. I would have liked to have seen these ‘zoo owners’ prosecuted for their crimes to animals, illegal breeding of tigers and full on animal cruelty. You won’t catch me signing a petition to free Joe Exotic and I genuinely hope that they lock Carole Baskin and all the other big cat owners up soon too.
Back to the Vegan society’s definition of Veganism, and we look at the line to ‘all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’ As I said before, I love all animals in the wild. A few years ago, on one of my annual Easter trips to Grenada, I told my dad I wanted to take a trip up to Grand Etang to see the monkeys. These monkeys are wild. They roam free in the rain forrest unencumbered and are protected by local laws. There’s not guarantee that they will come out of the trees and see you but some give in to the lure of an easy dinner, an offering of some bananas. Looking back, I question if this was exploitation but the monkeys are wild and free to come and go as they please. I was probably more scared then the monkey that decided it wanted to sit on my head to eat the banana that I gave it.
I love all animals in the wild. I hope that future generations understand the importance of them getting to stay in their own natural habitats, with minimal to no interference from humans. So whilst I abhor animal cruelty I must speak up when I see people hunting and killing endangered animals for sport. Last years winter love island over on ITV saw a contestant named Ollie Williams outed for being a trophy hunter. If there’s anything I hate more its the hunting of animals for trophy. Ollie’s twitter bio states that he is a staunch conservative, I miss-classified him as a racist because of this, and with no proof I retracted that statement and apologised. But given that I now had his attention, I felt it was important to address his status as a trophy hunter despite papers like The Sun printing article where Ollie claimed not to be. The Mirror also published an article on this entitled ‘Love Island’s Ollie Williams denies trophy hunting in defiant statement’. However, pictures don’t lie, and Ollie deleting the evidence of his trophy hunting actions from his instagram did not make them disappear all together. Once on the internet always on the internet.
My Twitter argument with Ollie saw him attempt to threaten me with the notion that I will get my ‘fingers burnt’, and I would like to take this opportunity to remind him that he courted fame when he went on a national television show.
My argument with Ollie fast saw him changing his tune to state that hunting is important to ‘the survival of many African species’. It made me wonder what did Africa do before Ollie was born and embarked onto the continent as a white saviour.
I would have been more inclined to believe Ollie’s sentiment that by killing and posing with the bodies of animals he was acting on the greater good had he not been exposed by the metro newspaper in March 2020 in the article, ‘Love Islands Ollie Williams shoots venison after denying Trophy hunting claims‘. In an instagram post captioned ‘Hunting wild venison: my kind of stockpiling’ Ollie can be seen hunting Deer. In todays climate, you do not need to hunt for food, with the exception of indigenous tribes who live off the land, it is not necessary. The Guardian newspaper reported that ‘UK householders throw away 34,000 tonnes of beef every year’ in their article, UK households wasting 34,000 tonnes of beef each year. That article is now 4 years old and I imagine we waste even more food per annum now than we did then.
I will always actively confront those that I see practising animal cruelty. Hunting of animals is not needed today and those that do it, do it for sport alone. Activities such as clay pigeon shooting can be done instead to tackle those desires. To conclude, whilst I may not have started out as a person concerned with the right of animals, know that I care. I will not sit by blind to the practices of animal cruelty. If you ever thought that I would then you should know this: Today I’m one of THOSE Vegans!
I always joke that you just need to give me a cause and ill fight for it. I’ve always been one to champion the underdog. Bet on any David over a Goliath.Im the friend that calls in when theres a problem with the food, my friends and family tend to prefer that i’m the one that speaks to management when situations call for it.Why though? Does it come easier for me? Not at all. I suffer with social social anxiety and as such I am always making a conscious effort to move past it. I’ll often voluntarily put myself into the situations that I don’t like or wish to avoids, ones that the inner me is screaming at me to flee from. I know what it feels like to get to my worst point and I actively work to avoid this. So no, I don’t speak up because it comes easier to me. It doesn’t, but I was a little girl who didn’t speak up and I refuse to be an adult that does the same.
I joked in a twitter post that I made back in May that lockdown had made me discover my activist heart. But the reality is I have always known that I have one.
3 years ago I embarked on my until now, biggest David to Goliath battle. It had come to my notice that my local gym was getting rid of the health suite when it was remodelled. Now, you’re probably thinking its not that deep. And it shouldn’t be. However, having a disabled mother who paid monthly gym membership just to get the benefits of the health suite, I took to the cause with full vim.
I hadn’t ever confronted a corporation of this size on anything before but knew that I needed to garner support and that involved making people aware. I had heard the news myself through the grapevine, but I wanted to reach a much wider audience. I started a petition on change.org to get people to sign up and oppose the changes that the gym were planning.
I spoke to management who informed me that everyone had been made aware during the consultation stages. This contradicted many of the responses that I had from people. In fact while I got every other spam content from the gym, notification of this major change was not one of them. My petition on change.org was not moving fast enough for me, so I began to print flyers and hand them out before and after every class. Leaving flyers on the various notice boards around the gym didn’t help as staff would efficiently remove them at a rate faster then I could post them.
As my petition began to gain publicity and promotion, other people expressed a desire to be on board. I found that there were more people invested in this then I had originally anticipated. Now as a group we were able to create a much bigger stink, and ended up finally getting enough attention of the local council and upper gym management to facilitate meetings. This led to the arrangement of our local MP who had learned of our campaign. I didn’t win in keeping the whole health suite. The gym seemed adamant that the design would not allow for it, and even having an architect in board who drew up alternative plans, could not sway them.
Overall, this battle took 2 plus years. It was exhausting much of the time and, til now I have no clue how I became the face of the driving force behind the campaign. We didn’t win the war but we survived many battles along the way. They renamed the area on the new plans as a health suite and increased the capacity of the steam room and sauna from their first. I don’t say all this for you to give me credit, no, instead I say this, I know championing a cause is the long game. I tried for years to make this change. That was just the warm up! Education and the irradiation of racism are even greater causes and so much more dear to my heart. So as I prepare to depart on my latest journey, just know that I begin with eyes wide open. I know it will be hard work, but if one thing doesn’t change, nothing ever will!