When being black, female and sensitive just gets too much…

Earlier I went to the South London Gallery in Peckham to visit their current exhibition ‘The place is here’. It’s actually a decent exhibition with a collection of videos, photographs, mixed media pieces and archives relating to prominent black British art and artists in the 1980’s and 1990’s, at the time of Afrocentrism and riots.

I was there for a fair bit as I wanted to really get a sense of the space and the content. [context – I used to study black British art of this particular period as part of my history of art degree at SOAS…SOAS represent!! ūüôĆūüŹĺ]

There were artists I knew of like Eddie Chambers, Kieth Piper, Sonya Boyce, Mona Hatoum and Rasheed Araeen. So it was great to see their works close up! Although it didn’t help that when I arrived staff there decided to walk up near me and randomly have a convo about their personal life, like ‘Hello? I’m trying to engage with this video, not your life!’

I digress.

It was after when I exited the gallery that a very panic-stricken woman came up to me whilst I was texting on my phone and asked for money.

I usually just say sorry and keep going (keeping it real here). But she caught my attention so much I couldn’t ignore her.

She was in a right state. She begged for ¬£6 to help her pay her council tax bill as well as food for her children. “I”m suicidal! I tried to take my life earlier. I had to have sex to buy this [points to her carrier bag with a bread loaf in it], and he cummed in me and I have to get tested for AIDS now [and a lot more rambling that I couldn’t figure out because she was distressed]… I’m suicidal, I’m going to kill myself!!”

Wow.

“Don’t do that please”, I firmly said because who knows? She was that manic, that she may have just jumped in the road.

“Look at my feet, they’re all dirty… [mumbling again that I couldn’t make out as she was distressed]” She then took off her right shoe and revealed some dutty feet.

“It’s okay, you don’t need to do that” – This is going far now.

I gave her ¬£2 in the end – “no I need ¬£6” – I still gave her 2 quid and she was off.

Walking up to my bus stop, I was a mixed bag of emotions – what should I have done? Should I have just said sorry and walked away? Should I have googled a helpline for her? Should I have said “Everything is gunna be alright”. This lady looked Caribbean and distressed and I really felt for her but I still felt like I was being conned. But then, I just got out of an exhibition all about the struggles of British black people in the U.K. especially London, and here I am confronted by a real life example. I couldn’t help but to do something for my British black women community. But still.

I just felt helpless.

I knew my money probably didn’t go to her bills, but then this woman doesn’t need money. She needs a support system. People who have her back. People who can help her and won’t oppress her for having brown skin and curly Afro-Caribbean hair, for having outspoken opinions and a different form of banter. She may have had a history of mental health problems or just the struggle to have basic human rights is what made her this way. I don’t know. All I know is this shit ain’t right. And yes it’s upsetting. Today I really felt all the troubles and frustrations that people with brown skin have to endure in London. Sometimes it gets to me more than others and I do have a heavy heart…This shit ain’t right…

 

What would you do?

 

HerStory : Hidden Figures

I just watched the 2016 film ‘Hidden Figures’ which encaptures the inspirational stories of three African-American women mathematicians and physicists in 1960’s America. (It’s a true story based on the book by¬† Margot Lee Shetterly ‘Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race’).

Oh My Gosh.

Of course it was a little romanticised and honey sweet a times but just amazing to watch. I love Taraji P. Henson from ‘Empire’ anyways and also Janelle Monae but this was just ¬†so great! There’s even¬†teaching resources for school curriculum! (https://twitter.com/hiddenfigures)

Before watching this (or hearing the hype) I never really knew the history of NASA, especially the involvement of African-American women in the early days, and especially within the STEM fields, so it was a real eye opener for me. I had to google the three ladies:

Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn,

afterwards to find out more about their lives. It also just goes to show how much history is HIS (‘the white man’s’) story – that is, how much history has concealed and lied and twisted the truth for the benefits of ‘the white man’. What I mean by ‘the white man’ is any man who is privileged – mainly bankers, politicians, judges, CEO’s of mass market corporations that do nothing to society really but extract greed.

It is very important to assess and re-asses the role of stories in our lives. The last year or so I’ve been very aware of stories (usually through media), and learning more about how stories are an integral part of the human race. It’s a legacy, a past and a present time. Stories can include facts but we (I) must be careful to not take things at face value so easily. I will definitely be exploring this concept on stories more in my art and personal work.

This film has definitely added the figurative gasoline to my fire and awakened a more spirited side towards feminism and civil rights.

I also caught myself saying ‘I wish I was strong like those ladies’, and ‘I wish I had an insane gift’.

I had to think again. Nope. ‘I am strong’ I say to myself. And I have the potential to be more brave and courageous. I have a strength that is different, more quieter than others. I have the potential to still make a change. I have an INFP personality so I’m the rare type of personality in the world you will discover and I am quiet and introverted. But I am also strong in my own way.

I’m showing this to my future children (biological or not)!

P.s. I’m¬†happy (pun intended) to see Pharrell Williams co-produced and was in charge of the music for this film.

Stay blessed!

x

A little can go a long way

It’s been a hectic month leading up to Christmas with lots of exciting plans, projects and social visits going on – thank you God and the universe – but yesterday was a one of my highlights of that day.

I was on my way to meet my amazing friend. I was about to cross the road when a woman asks me politely “Excuse me, could you help me cross the road?” Of course I did. I assumed she was in her 70’s and had a shopping trolley/carrier with her. She took my arm and I started having a conversation about where she was from, where I was from etc. She was from Hong Kong originally and told me she had trouble walking sometimes because of her bad knee. She needed to sit down so she found a chair outside a pub. I told her to go inside where it was warmer but she didn’t want the fuss. I felt bad for leaving her there but I did have places to be and there were some men sitting near to her so I was sure they could help.

Call me a romantic or an idealist but those few minutes really touched my heart.

And credit to her for asking for help because sometimes pride can get in the way.

Her name was Lina.

Thank you Lina for that moment.

 

ūüôā

 

Talk about it! (mental and spirtual health – Part 2)

It seems to me, living in London, being brought up in an African/British household and community, and having reserved, conservative parents have definitely made accessing counselling or psychotherapy really off-putting. Team that up with a society where the previously expected formula for a successful is ‘go to uni + do a masters + do an internship = job’, and it increases more symptoms of decreasing mental health!

‘Sick, twisted people go the mental hospital’, ‘Are you mental? Are you sick in the head?’ – It’s this kind of statements and utterings that are often conveyed within a lot of households. The image of the distressed, rough looking person with a straight jacket and a constant twitch that eludes danger and insanity is commonly in the minds of a lot of people where mental health is involve.¬†THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE.¬†

Many people are suffering the same things but are afraid that it will make them seem weak. A negative label hanging over their heads like their an outcast to society. It’s simply not true. There are many ways to deal with our stresses and issues in life. Meditation is common place. Going tot he gym. Having sex.¬†(Okay maybe not so much as a long term solution, but it gives some endorphines to us). Praying. Art therapy, dance therapy, drama therapy, etc. Talking to someone about it….like…a friend, stranger, or going to a qualified counsellor at a local health clinic. Even creating online groups to discuss about certain topics like anxiety. It helps.

I’ve tried¬†counselling¬†and told one or two¬†people about it that aren’t family, because again of the social stigma. But I’m putting it out there now. And it helps. It’s one of many ways to work on issues that we all suffer from. Having an objective point of view within a completely confident environment and a professional experienced approach makes a difference. I had about six sessions – it was a free service available at uni – but even then it made me see a little ‘out of myself’. It gave me some distance and perspective that I appreciated because I didn’t think about it that way before.¬†Luckily it was free as well. I have to admit, many private health services cost an arm and a leg, which makes it even more inaccessible.

It’s funny that in the States it’s not a big of a deal to have a psychotherapist on hand. Or have a marriage counsellor (or at least its more accepted in society). But in the UK, it seems like a very big deal. Why? Hmm.

It seems that discussing mental health publicly or at least having a person to talk to about is a real demand – even in a world where everyone is ‘talking’ (communicating ) on social media.

Happy #WorldMentalHealthday ! Keep sharing.

On my next post in this series I will be talking about Art therapy as it is a new found appreciation of mine, and more.

Please share your experiences, stories or opinions whatever it may be. I would love to do podcasts or interviews with anyone who would like to share and contribute towards future posts in the series. You can always contact me directly on my email mm.dubale@gmail.com.

ūüôā

Stay blessed,

Meron x

 

Africa Utopia is Here!

So for the second time, the Southbank Centre is hosting Africa Utopia, which explores the many dynamic and creative cultural elements of Afrika and its affects on the world.

The first thing when I encountered the food market is the sounds of the vibrant, bold beats of African music and the sumptious smells of Caribbean, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, South African and Kenyan food. Oh my gosh.


As I drift away from the outside market and navigate towards the Royal Festival Hall (where the inside events take place), I see lots of beautiful accessories and clothes with glamourous prints. Yellow, orange, wood, metal, cottons, rayons, the chitter-chatter of negoatiations and the bored looks of the chidren helping out their mamas on the stall.

Finding something to observe or participate in is not hard as there are so many events and opportunities. Take for example ‘Meet [the Author] Chibundu Onuzo’. At 25 years old, with two books under her belt (The spiderking’s Daughter and Welcome to Lagos¬†– which is coming out soon!), a coloumnist for The Guradian and overall diva, she has a ¬†young yet impressive quality about her! She was very quick with her back-handers and wit which made us all laugh.

This is her response when asked about her political stance as a hypothetical Nigerian politician: “Am I here to talk about my political ambitions or about my book!” I get you Chibundu. It’s not the one for me either. Despite that, she did answer well referring to education, female sanitation and the high levels of youth unemployement and crime.

In terms of fashion, my partner and I discovered a great talk about lookng beyond African prints in the fashion industry, as it can stereotype some African fashion designers! Unfortunately, we got hungry so we ate and missed the catwalk that was after.

The last day of the festival is tomorrow, Sunday 4th September. If you haven’t been before, or you like African culture and want to explore, please go! Visit the Southbank Centre’s website which will tell you the schedule if you’re pressed for time.

Enjoy!

M x

 

 

 

Look beyond the label.

Labels are everywhere, right? You have Gucci, you have Autistic, you have Terrorist, Millionaire, Gluten-Free, Smart, Tourist, Organic,¬†Quiet, the list goes on. How positive and how useful are labels though? We have them in society for convenience of categorisation. It’s easier to classify someone or something as a label as it seeks to identify and associate an idea or a schema to that label. But I find it so damaging.¬†

You have White, Black, Asian, Latina, Poor, Rich. And you have a lot of stereotypes. 

This really annoys me. 

It annoys me because people are lazy or perhaps don’t have the time to look beyond the label to see who or what it is that they are dealing with.

Black: We all associate the term Black with negativity. And the ‘black race’ (i.e. people of African descent) with negativity. At least refer to people as Brown. That would be more logical. And it’s even more odd when people assume¬†that I must be mixed race because I don‚Äôt look ‘black black’. What’s that even supposed to mean? “Oh right, you’re not in the ‘Black’ club so I’m not going to respect your ancestors?” It’s an issue that many people of Ethiopian and Eritrean¬†descent¬†face including me, as we have features very much similar to that of Arabs or European.¬†

Ethiopia geographically and genetically is at the birthplace of the Homosapien whether people care to recognise or appreciate it, or not. We are about as ‘black’ as you can get – if you were to refer to that scale. As a continent, Africa is the most genetically diverse in the entire world and Africa is pretty huge. People forget. It’s bound to be genetically diverse. What people are really referring to when they mean ‘black’ is people from west African societies as there are probably more descents of West African/Bantu origin outside of Africa then the other ethnic societies in Africa ( although Ethiopians are everywhere, especially in Washington D.C.). And don’t get me started on those Ethnicity Monitoring Forms which get you to label yourself into a nice little box. For me, ‘Black British African’ or sometimes I don’t even state it.¬†

Labels are damaging and it needs to stop or at least people need to look beyond the label ¬†a bit more. That goes the same for clothing labels. Kanye¬†loves¬†him some Louis V. and they¬†sure¬†love his money and advertising! I personally don’t always buy into labels, both economically and psychologically. I’m not going to spend ¬£2,000 on a designer¬†handbag¬†just because it’s popular or a status of wealth. Especially if I know I’ve got bills to pay and food to buy. I’ll buy a handbag because it looks cute and is functional and I actually like it for what it is. Not the label.

My next holiday adventure awaits! 

I’ve just booked a short vacation to Florence for 3nights in August with a dear friend of mine. 

I’ve never been to Italy but I’m hoping some of you out there might help me with some trip ideas! Yes (as pictured) I have my paper back travel guide but it’s so much better to have people’s experiences. 

Of course there is TripAdvisor but still, I would love some comments on the best places to eat, have ice cream, photo ops etc. I’ll be sure to let you guys know come August how it went ūüôā 

Ciao x

Thoughts for tomorrow

It’s the first day of 2016 and I’ve watched a couple of reflective vids on Youtube that are¬†just so inspiring.

There was a key quote that David Isay stated in the a TedTalk vid that really touched my heart and it was a simple sentence but has the depth and breadth of our universe:

 

“Every ¬†single life matters equally and infinitely”

 

And I thought about it, and its counter arguments like what about the paedophiles and murderers and people who have committed grave acts beyond our moral scope, and even then I thought (not to justify ANY of those behaviours) as a society we have let those, once innocent, people down by not giving the support they needed in the beginning. And you may disagree with me, that’s okay, but the statement still resonates deeply within me (and perhaps a topic of discussion that I could take up at another time).

There’s been much more media coverage on the #BlackLivesMatter campaign as a result of the continuous justice occuring which cannot be tolerated anymore, and it’s not a case of Black people are better, but more so we need to continually prove our worth.

But essentially, spiritually, biologically, technically:

EVERY SINGE LIFE MATTERS EQUALLY AND INIFNIETLY.

If we, as a community, as a society,¬†a family, a couple, a government or however we identify ourselves as, if we don’t actualise that or realise that quickly and internalise that so we can accept and move on and overrule the majority of the hate and despise people have for one another, then we need to start planning for action. ‘Cause this **** ain’t gon’¬†last forever.

Just saying.

 

Welcome & Selamta!

At a local small town restaurant in Lallibela, Ethiopia. Lovely vibes.

If you’re reading this then thank you for visiting firstly! I think it’s about time I started a blog since i’ve just started my new Youtube channel of the same name!

Anyone who is habesha (that’s anyone who is Ethiopian or Eritrean) might guess from my title that, yes, I am habesha too! My mum is from Eritrea and my dad from Ethiopia. Me, I’m a born-and-raised Londoner, but that doesn’t stop me from questioning my identities now and again in terms of how I fit in this society that I live in, as well as other things….like being….akward…. lol. It’s harrddd.

So that’s why I will be sharing my passions, my views as a brown 20something female with Afrikan roots.

I’d love to know more about you too, hopefully you can share your thoughts too on topics like society, Afrikan culture, addressing the big questions…oh and what cartoons were the illest when I was growing up back in the late eighties/nighties (go ninja turtles!) and also what star sign you are (go pisces!)

Ciao! Ahmesegenalow! (That’s thank you in Amharic)