‘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.
Being Black is not a contact sport! That statement, along with Black Lives Matter, isn’t one that I should still have to be saying in 2020. However, it is apparent from both past and recent incidents, news and comments that both statements still need to be not only said but shouted. You did not put that life on this Earth, and even if you did, it is not your right or place to take it. The idea that the colour of a person’s skin can determine how they are treated is an abhorrent but harsh reality of today’s society.
The recent increase in Black Lives Matter protests around the world has revealed more of the many racists amongst us. After the tragic murder of George Floyd, people were vocal from both ends of the spectrum. We had many people, rightly disgusted by the actions of the police that led to his murder, many more called out the names of others who had lost their lives as a direct result of racism and this loathsome idea that us being Black gives you permission to use undue violence and force against us. At the other end, we have the misguided who have an unshakeable talent of being able to justify all of the murders we have seen with blanket statements like “Has anyone mentioned that the police will leave you alone if you don’t do illegal stuff?”
It is from statements such as this that it is clear to see being Black makes normal everyday activities illegal. Lets take a look back at some of the “illegal stuff” that black people have been doing that caused the police or others to murder them:
“Unarmed. And dead.
TRAYVON MARTIN (Walking home with iced tea and Skittles. Shot by George Zinneman, who was found not guilty.)
KEITH SCOTT (Sitting in car, reading. Shot by police officer, who was not charged.)
ATATIANA JEFFERSON (Looking out her window, shot by police officer, who is still under indictment for murder.)
JONATHAN FERRELL (Asking for help after auto accident. Shot twelve times by police, case ended in mistrial.)
JORDAN EDWARDS (Riding in a car. Shot in the back of the head by police officer, who was found guilty of murder.)
STEPHON CLARK (Holdng a cel phone. Shot 8 times, 6 in the back. Officers not charged.)
AMADOU DIALLO (While taking out wallet, officers fired 41 shots by four officers, who were all acquitted.)
RENISHA MCBRIDE (Auto accident, knocked on door for help. Homeowner was found guilty of second-degree murder.)
TAMIR RICE (Playing with toy gun, shot by police officer arriving on scene. Officer was not charged.
SEAN BELL (Hosting a bachelor party, 50 rounds fired by police officers, who were found not guilty of charges.)
WALTER SCOTT (Pulled over for brake light, shot in the back by police officer, who pleaded guilty to civil rights violations.)
PHILANDO CASTILE (Pulled over in car, told officer he had a legally registered weapon in car. Officer acquitted of all charges.)
AIYANA JONES (Sleeping, accidentally shot by officer in a raid on wrong apartment. Officer cleared of all charges.)
TERRENCE CRUTCHER (Disabled vehicle, shot by police officer, who was found not guilty of manslaughter.)
ALTON STERLING (Selling CDs, shot at close range while being arrested. No charges filed.)
FREDDIE GRAY (Beaten to death by officers while being transported in police van. All officers involved were acquitted.)
JOHN CRAWFORD (Shopping at WalMart, holding a BB gun on sale, police officer was not charged.)
MICHAEL BROWN (Shot by twelve times by officer, including in the back. No charges filed.)
JORDAN DAVIS (Killed because he was playing loud music. Shooter found guilty of first-degree murder.)
SANDRA BLAND (Pulled over for traffic ticket, tasered and arrested. Suspicious “suicide” while in jail. No charges.)
BOTHAM JEAN (Shot at home, which police officer mistook for her own. Officer found guilty of murder.)
OSCAR GRANT (Handcuffed and face-down, officer shot him in the back. Officer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.)
COREY JONES (Waiting by his disabled vehicle, was shot three times by police officer, who was found guilty of murder.)
AHMAUD AUBREY (Jogging, shot by two men who claimed they suspected him of burglaries. Both men charged with murder and aggravated assault- Chyna Smith #unarmedanddead #BLM
Sadly this is only a small sample of some of the lives lost. Many of the murderers are still free and have never been charged. The seems to be a gross insensitivity to these cases, cases that are coming through at a greater frequency by the day. The police, its systemic and institutional racisms, are a part of the problem but not the sum of it. Until everyone is held accountable for their actions, and lack of action nothing will change. Black people are being targeted and killed by a racist cross platform of society. We should be equally outraged by every case that we see and not allow the amount of incidents to weigh us down and push us towards becoming desensitised (easier said then done in many a case).
In another display of the lack of value placed on Black lives we have seen the rise in a spate of lynchings across America, with police forces and medical examiners in the states where they have happened classifying them as suspected suicides.
The Cambridge dictionary defines lynching as ‘the act of killing someone without a legaltrial, usually by hanging (= killing using a rope around the neck)’. Lynchings were prevalent in pre and post American civil war, with the first recorded lynching being that of McIntosh, a black man in St. Louis in 1835, who was hung by a deputy sheriff in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people. It is not a coincidence that we are seeing this happen now and we must speak up, refuse the verdicts of suicide and demand answers and justice.
Closer to home, we are dealing with similar issues. The argument that our police don’t have guns like in America (some do) has not stopped Black British people from being killed by the police. The Guardian published an article earlier this month called A black man’s life is not valued’: attack on year-long delay of UK police death inquiry which took a look into the deaths of black people in police custody. In the UK black people account for 3% of the population but 8% of deaths in custody. We are being disproportionately targeted. I have seen many comments on social media where black people are being told to stop with our “victim mentalities”, I myself have been the target of such comments. This gross ignorance that it is only our ancestors that dealt with racism, prejudice and discrimination is what will allow the same system to continue.
As we look at those accountable in the actions that led to the riots, we must also hold the UK press accountable too. As reported but the society pages, “A Google search for [Mark’s] name offers a glimpse into the many faces of Duggan, as uploaded by the media.” We saw first hand the bias of the press and the effects that the choice of image they picked to print had.
The cropping of pictures of him paying respects at a gravesite commemorating his deceased daughter was not without intention and often accompanied articles that vilified him.
The killing of black people at the hands of police or in police custody is not new. Smiley Culture died on the 15th March 2011, during a police raid at his home. His murder, was ruled as a suicide following an inquest. The investigation of his death by the IPCC was not made public nor made available to his family, something that smacks of cover up and needs to change. This was nearly 5 months before the killing of Mark Duggan and the riots we saw as a consequence. But the black community has a history of discontent with the UK police. The 1981 Brixton riots, was the result of a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Brixton, South London, England, from the 10th – 12th April 1981. The peak of which, the 11th April, saw 279 injuries to the police and 45 injuries to members of public and was later dubbed “Bloody Saturday” by Time magazine and labelling it as “The country’s worst race riot”.
The BBC took a look back at the riots and asked Brixton riots 30 years on: What has changed? Noting ‘Three decades, one inquiry and the Stephen Lawrence scandal separate us from the Brixton riots and asking “Where are we now?”’ During a Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) meeting, there was calls for more engagement with IPCC investigations. Peter Bleksley, a young Met officer at the times of the riots recalled in a BBC Radio 4 interview that “Young black men in Brixton were routinely fitted up, beaten up, tortured” and worse “I was turned from a pretty decent 18-year-old into a violent, racist thug.”
Mr. Butts who was 9 years old at the time of the riots notes “I was already aware of the way police treated the black community. I was brought up to know it was my responsibility to watch interaction between police and a black person – so I could be a pair of eyes and recount what happened as a witness.” Recent years have seen Brixton become a victim of gentrification, much like many other minority ethnic areas of London so I am skeptical as I read that. “much has changed” merely because data and statistics still show that between April 2018 and March 2019, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black people. And that the Black African, Black Caribbean and Other Black groups consistently had the highest rates. We are also still seeing cases of Black people being killed while in police custody, with Simeon Francis, 35, ‘found’ unresponsive in his cell at Torquay police station and later pronounced dead on the 20th May 2020, 17 hours and 15 minutes after police had arrested him in Exeter. He died in police custody and this is not something that can be swept under the rug, we demand answers and justice for Simeon!
I don’t have the answers of how to solve this multi-faceted issue, nor do I claim to. I simply ask that you do not treat us being black as an excuse to use undue violence against us. BLACK IS NOT A CONTACT SPORT. We are not here for you to treat this way. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
But it was not until Boris Johnson became prime minister that someone shouted at me to ‘go back to where I came from’ in addition to various other racial slurs and profanities. I didn’t know them, had never seen them before and was totally perplexed by someone being that angry at me merely because they disliked the colour of my skin. It was a vile and stupid statement to make given that I, as I headed to my daily spin class was less then 200 yards from the hospital I was born in. Far closer to where ‘I came from’ in the literal sense then the racist who shouted that command.
A racist country.
I don’t need to see any figures or statistics to know that racism in the UK, while always present and prevalent has become more pronounced in recent years. The conservatives have repeatedly demonstrated through their choice of policies and actions and further lack of other policies and action that they do not value black or even many ethnic lives in the UK. Before, you jump in uproar at my confidently spoken statement, I will be providing you with examples in a series of articles called: A racist country, led by a racist prime minister.
Firstly, lets look at the Windrush scandal. The very fact that I was born in England and am a British Citizen is due to the post World War II practice, known as the Windrush, of recruiting people from the Caribbean by offering cheap transport via ship for anybody who wanted to come and work in the United Kingdom. The ship HMT Empire Windrush brought a group of 802 migrants to the port of Tilbury, near London, on 22 June 1948.
And there was plenty of opportunity for them to do so, both British rail and the National Health Service (NHS). Many others came after with Ceri Peach, a social geographer estimating that the number of West Indian born people in the UK grew from 15,000 in 1951 to 172,000 in 1961. My mother was one of the Windrush, coming over to England as a baby in 1958 with her grandmother and on her passport.
I’m sure you’re now think ‘how fantastic’ and ‘what a wonderful opportunity the UK government gave these people’. You should note that it was not a one way favour, the war left gaping holes in many industries and this was one solution that the government at the time had. However, as said before the UK is a racist country. Its no surprise that bringing people from the Caribbean to work was a solution the UK ran with, it is after all built on the backs of slavery, the commonwealth and the British empire. And the moment Britain started to look ‘too Black’ we saw the enactment of the Commonwealth Immigrants act in 1962 which restricted the entry of immigrants. We the saw the introduction of further restrictions in 1972 whereby only holders of work permits, or people with parents or grandparents born in the United Kingdom, could gain entry. This effectively drastically slowly the deluge of immigrants from the commonwealth. My father came over to the UK in 1973 on one of those work permits to work for the NHS.
Fast forward to 2018 and the Windrush generation, one which should have been celebrated for the assistance that they gave the UK post World War II was instead embroiled in a scandal. Newspapers and television broadcasts across the UK and the world were reporting on British political scandal concerning people who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases,wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Many of these had come over as young children on their parents or grandparents passports and had never lived anywhere but the UK. Much of this was attributed back to the then Prime Minister, another alleged racist and Conservative party member who had fostered a ‘hostile environment policy’ during her tenure as Home secretary. Consequences of the scandal led to the resignation of then 2018 Home secretary Amber Rudd and the appointment of Sajid Javid as her successor.
But the scandal goes much deeper then anyone could imagine. The 1948, British Nationality Act, gave citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies status and the right of settlement in the UK to everyone who was at that time a British subject by virtue of having been born in a British colony. This act, combined with the advertisements and encouragements of the UK government and the subsequent Windrush drive saw a spike in immigration from the Caribbean. Teresa May, while Home Secretary, was found by the March 2020 independent ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ to have acted with ‘ignorance and thoughtlessness’ and that the Windrush Scandal had been both ‘foreseeable and avoidable’. It further found that immigration regulations were tightened “with complete disregard for the Windrush generation”, and that officials had made “irrational” demands for multiple documents to establish residency rights.
The Windrush scandal wasn’t a rash instant issue, but rather a slow burning one that had seen the home office receive warnings as far back as 2013 after their contractor Capita was reported to sending correspondence to many older Caribbean born citizens informing them incorrectly that they had no right to be in the UK and treating the as illegal immigrants.
Furthermore the Home Affairs Select Committee issued a report in January 2018, with findings that the hostile environment policies were unclear, and threatened and practised deportations happening as a result of “inaccurate and untested” information. The Independent newspaper in its article Britain’s immigration system ‘too open to error’, MPs warn further examined the failings of the Home Office and also reported that more than 60 MPs, academics and campaign groups wrote an open letter to Amber Rudd urging the Government to halt the “inhumane” policy, citing the Home Office’s “poor track record” of dealing with complaints and appeals in a timely manner. The scandal drew mass press coverage with the Home Office agencies being accused of operating a “guilty until proven innocent” and “deport first, appeal later” regime; of targeting the weakest groups, particularly those from the Caribbean.
Many papers like the guardian in their article, ‘It’s inhumane’: the Windrush victims who have lost jobs, homes and loved ones put faces to the many names of those victimised under the policy. The public saw many more accusations against the government arise including accusations that they knew about the negative impacts that their ‘hostile environment policy’ was having on the Windrush immigrants and they chose to wilfully ignore it. On 16 April 2018, whilst in the House of Commons David Lammy MP challenged Amber Rudd to provide data on how many had lost their jobs or homes, been denied medical care, or been detained or deported wrongly. In May of the same year a motion was introduced by the opposition Labour Party to force the government to release documents to the Home Affairs Select Committee concerning its handling of cases involving people who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and the 1970s. Unfortunately but not surprisingly this motion was defeated by 316 votes to 221.
As is common practise in the UK when it comes to its institutional racism, we saw the release of more reports, with the Human Rights Select Committee publishing a ‘damning; report in June 2018, on the exercise of powers by immigration officials. Harriet Harman MP and chair of the committee accused immigration officials of being “out of control”, and the Home Office of being a “law unto itself”. The Home Affairs Select Committee also published a rather critical report in July 2018, noted that without radical reform, the Windrush Scandal will be seen again and called for many recommendations.
However, like prior reports this one left many gaps and unanswered questions and Shadow Home SecretaryDiane Abbott said it was a “disgrace” that the government had not yet published “a clear plan for compensation” for Windrush cases and that it had refused to institute a hardship fund, “even for people who have been made homeless or unemployed by their policies”.
Despite all the reports, recommendations, negative press and spotlight on the scandal, it emerged in February 2019 that the Home Office fully intended to continue with its deportations and Javid, attempting to justify said deportations as being people guilty of “very serious crimes … like rape and murder, firearms offences and drug-trafficking”, but the claim was rebutted by the Home Office and was criticised by commentators as inaccurate and potentially detrimental to the futures of the deportees. In response, Jamaica’s high commission called for a halt of all deportations until the Home Office published all its investigations into the Windrush scandal. On 23 April 2018, Rudd announced that compensation would be given to those affected and, in future, fees and language tests for citizenship applicants would be waived for this group.Theresa May also apologised for the “anxiety caused” at a meeting with twelve Caribbean leaders, though she was unable to tell them “definitively” whether anyone had been wrongly deported.
At present, the Guardian Newspaper reports Windrush scandal: only 60 victims given compensation so far. I helped my mother a member of the Windrush generation, apply for compensation, only for the Home Office to write to her requesting a long list of evidence, much of which they know will be difficult to provide and that she report to them to provide biometrics. As a now British Citizen, she did not need to do any of what they were unfairly requesting leading me to have the belief that the compensation scheme is no more then another avenue that the Home Office intends to use to target remaining Windrush immigrants.
There are no levels to racism as far as i am concerned, you can’t justify any of it with the excuse that’s there’s worse out there. You are either racist or you are not. The policies enacted by the Home Office, and its practices of destroying paper work actively led to the unfair and prejudicial treatment if Windrush Immigrants. A scandal that received more recent publicity with the BBC docu-drama Sitting in Limbo, which not only reaffirmed the unfair suffering of many of the Windrush generation and put a face to it all.
Last week in my article ‘Best Boss Ever’, I reflected on the best boss that I have ever had within all my years of employment. This week I take a look at my time at Discovery inc, a creative powerhouse, and what I discovered while working there.
Disclaimer: I will start by saying I am not a TV person. My TV remains unplugged, unless it is being used for gaming (PS4, Switch etc) or for children’s tv shows by my niece. I’ll always pick watching the news, documentaries or factual shows over anything else, more often then not this is done on my iPad. So if you had told me that I would one day be working at a mass media company even one whose core operations are a group of non-scripted and factual television brands I wouldn’t have believed you. I was that child that ran crying to her mother aged 3 after nursery, because her father had turned the channel when the news had been on and she’d been avidly watching. I am also the adult that will pick reading a book over watching a tv show every single time that I am given the choice. Whilst I had no doubt that my skill set was transferrable and I could do the job, I was apprehensive about working with television brands when I’d most likely not watched many of their shows.
During the final round of interviews, Susanna Dinnage (my future boss), asked me what TV shows I watched. I can remember thinking ‘oh gosh this is it, you won’t get the role’, even as I answered honestly, “I don’t really watch many TV Shows, I love to to watch the news and documentaries and a secret guilty pleasure of mine is Naked and Afraid , as it’s amazing to see them overcome physical and mental battles”.
Fast forward and despite my many doubts, I started my first day at Discovery. One of the very first things I discovered, was how happy everyone was. This was very refreshing and unfortunately a unique experience for me within a corporate setting. I have never been more welcomed into a working space, company or situation so enthusiastically as I was at Discovery Inc. It would be easy to dismiss this as merely a side-effect of the role that I was working, however, having done this for over 10 years I can confidently say that it wasn’t that at all. I am excellent with faces, but it takes me a little longer with names, and despite the many people stopping by my desk to introduce themselves being a lot to remember in the moment, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for making my first day there so memorable and enjoyable. I have never felt more welcome, THANK YOU! I got to see first hand, that when people are happy, it makes for a happy working environment.
I have also worked in a wide range of industries and businesses and even at another media company (a story for another day) many of which imposed strict dress codes. I have worked in offices where the role specified that I couldn’t wear my hair down if it was past my shoulders in length, leading me to cut mine as a result, because I refused to be dictated to daily over my hair. I have worked in offices where my choice of wardrobe would result in passive aggressive comments such as ‘feeling the summer already?’ Or ‘new clothes, we haven’t seen that here before.’ The dress code at Discovery did not dictate any of this. In fact I didn’t feel like there were any strict no no’s. Of course I still dressed befitting the role I was working, but for the first time in my career, I wore jeans and converse to work on days when I had no meetings or external visitors. I can tell you that it made the biggest difference to my mood in the mornings not having to worry about my wardrobe choices and how they might be received in the workplace. I can also say that my work never suffered as a consequence of anything I wore and I hope that my former employer will agree.
Working for Susanna, I got to witness when passion, talent and excellence meets career. There wasn’t a single person that I spoke to at Discovery that had anything negative to say about her as a person. Nor is there anything negative that I can say. Working for heads of companies, HNWI or people in high positions of responsibility is never easy. I won’t even pretend that it is, and as someone that has worked for many people in those positions, I know that the responsibility they hold is a very heavy one. It can be easy to take that out on those around you, I have worked at places where EAs cried in side rooms at the end of the day and I myself have been in positions prior to Discovery that left me in tears. I didn’t experience this with Susanna or at Discovery.
I joined the company after a car accident, that left me needing weekly physiotherapy and was taken on board with that knowledge, something other potential employers asked me to cancel in order to take on roles. A request for a day off in order to get my hair put into braids (it really takes a whole day) was met with enthusiasm and acceptance and is something I will likely never forget. Thank you Susanna for showcasing what love of a job is and for not only taking a chance on me but accepting me as I am.
However, the biggest thing I discovered working at Discovery, was that corporate doesn’t cancel out creativity. If you have read my open letter to Jill Scott, you will know that I spent 10 years deep in writers block. I don’t note this for sympathy, in fact I didn’t even notice that it had even been nearly 10 years since I had written anything from the heart until I started working at Discovery. I call Discovery a creative powerhouse because it is one. Not just because of the nature of its business but mainly because of the people that it employs. For many there, a job is not just a job but in addition to that, many have creative ‘side hustles’ that they operate simultaneously. I don’t often think of myself as a creative person, I remember the frustration my G.C.SE. art teacher felt as she proclaimed ‘you can’t draw or paint, what am I going to do with you?!’ She was right, I couldn’t draw or paint, but I still left school with an A grade in art G.C.S.E. I say this, because art is not one dimensional, I used sculpting and photography as my mediums and my gift with words helped explain what I was trying to portray. Like art, creativity is also not one dimensional. At Discovery I worked with actors, stylists, producers, and bakers etc. A whole plethora of talents, that Discovery fosters with internal events like it’s showcase markets and employee resource groups such as the Multicultural alliance, Discovery pride, Environmental groups and Women’s network group etc. They do entire days such as Discovery kids day and Discovery Impact day where once a year employees are invited to use their time for charitable causes like volunteering at old peoples home, community gardening etc.
My first experience of the talent, housed within Discovery was in fact with my predecessor in my role, Raya Dibbs, who was leaving Discovery to focus on her career as an actor. This wasn’t the only example I got to see, and I was starkly reminded of my own creativity when a colleague needed a cake for her daughters sleepover and I offered to make the cake toppers, a talent I discovered years ago when my mum had forgotten to order a cake for my younger sisters 18th birthday party. I like decorating cakes but just like with my writing this was also something that I hadn’t done in 10 years. I don’t actually like or enjoy baking cakes, so another colleague who operated a business away from Discovery baking cakes did that. It was wonderful to see colleagues recognise and draw on others talents when need be and something I am sure still takes place now.
To conclude, I discovered a lot of things while working at Discovery Inc. too many to list in this article but I hope that you see that not only is it an amazing place to work but it is packed to the brim with amazing people too!
Special thanks goes to Micheal McMahon and Annet Barry for lending an ear whenever I had a need to vent. You will never know how valuable your friendship was and is to me. I miss the catch ups and Nandos moments and hope we can have more in the future, as well as a good catch up when I am back in England and Covid is over. Thank you to Asha Bogle for also lending your ear and expertise whenever I needed it, I always left your desk with a smile on my face and I really appreciate you. I’d like to also thank Sean Thomas and Maxim S. for all the assistance you both gave when I needed it on the IT front. We all know that it sometimes turned out to be a lot and I have no doubt that I fast became your number one customer. I want to say thank you for all the help you gave me, your assistance meant I was able to get my job done to the best of my ability and I really appreciated that. I’d also like to thank Alison Smith and Sarah Spalding for the friendship that they both gave me. I looked forwards to the times that I got to stop at their desks and also the moments when they stopped at mine.
I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, may she rest in peace. A fantastic and talented woman, who was a major part of my time at Discovery inc. Laureline, taught me how things are done at Discovery, and showed me how to use the Macbook Pro to ensure the presentations at the weekly meetings were as they should be. She was my connection to everyone and always knew who to point me in the direction of when I needed assistance that she couldn’t personally help with. She covered my role anytime I was out of the office and when I had annual leave, accepting M&Ms and other sweet treats as tokens of my gratitude. But we didn’t only talk about work stuff and I enjoyed learning about her love for dogs and Haley and Blake, our joint love of aqua fitness and her passion for film and the work she did away from Discovery as a producer. An integral part of my time at Discovery Inc. and someone whom I will always remember fondly.
There is much damage in the assumption that a black woman cannot be passionate about anything without being labelled as ‘angry’. We are repeatedly labelled as this in the media, and by our peers for purely speaking up and having conviction with it. We are seen as aggressive if God forbid we oppose any of the negative actions directed towards us. This is a toxic stereotype and one that has been discussed plenty in the press, journals and literature; yet it is still allowed to reign free today.
The Cambridge dictionary describes a stereotype as “a set idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong” This can be racial or sexual amongst others. In this case I maintain that, it is only black women and not women of other races that get labelled as angry when they are passionate or over zealous about anything.
Black female celebrities are constantly having to overcome this unnecessary label. An article published by forbes.com last year called ‘Overcoming The Angry Black Woman Stereotype’ examined the crux of the problem. The writer, Janice Gassam, provides what she believes to have been the origin of the angry black woman stereotype – ‘the 1950s radio showAmos ‘n’ Andy, which depicted black women as sassy and domineering’. But if that is where this stereotype stems from, it is even more disheartening to see that nothing since has been able to dispute or change this. In 2020, I am still being called angry by peers for having care for a cause.
The Forbes article goes on to expound on this theory and provide readers with a three point action list on how they may overcome and stop this stereotype. But as I read through the action plan of to 1.Educate yourself, 2. Express yourself and 3. Check yourself, I cannot help but think that while this is a starting point it is not enough.
As mentioned, Black female celebrities don’t escape the ‘Angry Black Female’ tag simply because they are famous. In 2014, time.com published an article called ‘Where Are All the Angry Black Women?’. The article opens with the rather flagrant words ‘We’ve been hearing a lot of about angry black women this week’. A phrase it notes that New York Times television critic had used to describe Shonda Rhimes, a famous black woman noted for gifting us shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM). Robin Givens, the writer, remarks on the various reasons for a black woman to be validly angry. Pay inequality, injustices to our ‘fathers, brothers, sons and husbands’ are amongst the reasons shared. Givens proceeds to let the New York Times television critic know exactly where all the angry black women are, with the statement ‘Mostly we’re working. Anger might just be a luxury we don’t have.’ The article touches on the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown both of whom lost their Black sons to overt racism in America. However, while this is a well rounded piece examining the intricacies of the ‘Angry Black Woman’ stereotype we are no closer to a solution on eradicating this stereotype.
There have been many journals, written and published on this matter. M Mgadmi (2009) Black Women’s Identity: Stereotypes, Respectability and Passionlessness (1890-1930), L Green, Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans, and L Rosenthal (2016) Stereotypes of Black American Women Related to Sexuality and Motherhood, are just a few of many. Despite all of these published journals and others out there we are no closer to a universal solution to this issue with scholars such as Dionne Bennett and Marcyliena Morgan quoted in Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America as suggesting that the reason behind this is that researchers tend to accept this archetype as being true.
It is not just in the press and in journals where this stereotype is seen or addressed.
There has also been books, films and shows which look to this matter. It may be argued that much of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies perpetuate the caricature of the angry black woman. In addition to the character Sapphire in Amos ’n’ Andy, there is also Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son, Bernadine in Waiting to Exhale, Madea Simmons in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty, Rochelle in Everybody Hates Chris and Cookie from Empire. With all of these and more it is no wonder that we still struggle with the weight of this depiction today.
I contend that the crux of the problem is RACISM. Until racism is dealt with properly, levels and variations of this stereotype will still exist. We must first battle the root of the problem before we look to the leaves and branches. Cutting off the top of the tree is not enough either, this will just encourage new offshoots to grow.
So with all of this reflection and energy being put into looking at stereotypes of black woman, why is the misnomer that black women with passion or interest still being perpetuated? I always say if one thing doesn’t change then nothing will. In todays climate it is even more important that this stereotype is defunct. With the current momentum that we have seen for the Black Lives Matter movement, statements and derogatory inflammatory stereotypes are a distraction not needed. I ask that next time you think to call someone ‘angry’, pause and consider why. If I was male, or white would you have been so quick to label me as angry? I may be Angry but only with reason, and I am Black and I am a woman but the three are not synonymous. Think before you use this stereotype. Be part of the solution and not the problem.
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”!!!!
As a young child I was often told do as I say and not as I do, by my parents whenever I pointed out inaccuracies of hypocrisies on their part. The UKs choice of words towards the protestors when many defended Dominic Cummings and the sunbathers is the epitome of this.
I have watched the stories unfold in the press over the past weekend. I have seen the press sensationalise the one officer that got injured and thrown from his horse during the protest (I hope they are well).
I have had to listen to the hypocritical advice given by Priti Patel to avoid the protest and stay home. Her words are why I would like to see the phrase BAME abolished but thats a discussion for another day. It seems that the Conservative government has fallen onto ‘thuggery’ as the buzz word of the moment, smacks of Donald Trump, right?!
I watched the London Black Lives Matter protest from overseas, acutely aware that I am getting to witness living history. I am proud to be British, Black British AND West Indian, these are not incongruent to each other. But that pride does not allow me to be ignorant to the fact that even in the year 2020 black people are not treated as equal. I also watched Boris Johnson (the UK prime Minister) boast about shaking the hands of COVID positive patients whilst using no PPE. I had to witness him double down on strong and wrong with regards to the actions of Dominic Cummings. Boris, according to Michael Gove, missed five coronavirus meetings, causing the UK to lose “a crucial five weeks in the fight to tackle the dangerous threat of coronavirus’. Is such a morally corrupt individual that he cheated on his wife Marina Wheeler, whom according to the guardian ‘its one affair to many.
But his party doesn’t care’. In fact, its very apparent that Boris himself doesn’t even care, his actions shout that. He not only impregnated the latest woman he used to besmirch his marriage vows, but then moved said side chick into 10 Downing Street when he became Prime Minister. He has been the most absentee Prime Minister that the UK has ever had, and at a time when one is needed to be active and present his actions speak far louder than any of his words.
My parents were nurses who gave over 70 years combined to the NHS. The systemic racism in the UK is causing Black people to die from COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate than any other race. I know they would not be dishonoured by people marching and would in fact appreciate that people are taking action through protest to make others lives better. It’s ignorant, prejudiced and I would go as far as saying racist to post about the protest in a manner that suggests we are selfish when no one spoke about the droves of a certain demographic who broke lockdown rules just so they could get a tan. The very same people who now want to look down on people campaigning for rights for those with coloured skin, who are only asking for equality!
If you are going to jump in the bandwagon of copying and pasting that racist Facebook status, please let me know. Id rather not have any racists on my facebook page or hiding amongst my friends.
So i’m going to drop some statistics for you:
Black people make up 12% of London’s population but made up 31% of arrests during lockdown
as at March 2019, over 1.2 million people were employed by the NHS
of NHS staff whose ethnicity was known, 4 out of 5 (79.2%) were White (including White ethnic minorities), and 1 in 5 (20.7%) were from all other ethnic groups
there was a higher percentage of staff in medical roles (working as doctors in hospitals and community health services) from the Asian, Chinese, Mixed and Other ethnic groups than in non-medical roles
among the non-medical workforce, staff from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups made up a smaller number of those at senior grades (bands 8a to 9) and the ‘very senior manager’ grade than at the support (bands 1 to 4) and middle grades (bands 5 to 7)
a higher percentage of junior doctors were from the Black, Chinese, Mixed and Other groups than senior doctors
Black Caribbean people had the highest rate of detention under the Mental Health Act out of all ethnic groups, at 254 detentions per 100,000 people. This was 3.7 times as high as the rate for White British people (69 per 100,000 people). (England, 2017/18)
So when you look for someone to hold blame for the over 40,000 who have died from COVID-19, don’t look to black people asking for equality. Look to your government and their failings first. Your choice of words shouts “Do as I say and not as I do”…we are too far past that sentiment
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.