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!! 🙌🏾]

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?

 

Progress: Flip IT! (mental and spiritual health – part 1)

I woke up this morning with slight anxiety. Anxiety that makes itself know to me from time to time, especially when I over analyse and dwell on situations (predictably, the situation was regarding finances) – even with positive quotes filled on my social media feeds! It’s easy to take that trip from time to time. But the important thing is not to let those feelings conquer your life, your emotions and your actions.

One train of thought that has been popping up more recently is identifying You as your best friend. ‘The Casual Artist‘ made this aware to me when we had a Skype consultation. During my childhood, I have always felt that I was my own worst enemy. I even have a distinct memory of receiving a report card when I was in year 6, with the teacher stating that ‘Meron can be her own worst enemy’. Once I told the Casual Artist this, he flipped it up and asked me this question: ‘Can you say to me the total opposite of that statement?’

I first stumbled. It was really hard, and I didn’t get why. But he broke it down to me and eventually I stated that ‘Meron is her own best friend’.

I was truly amazed by this. I had never thought of seeing my self in this way at all! Bizarre.

I am my own best friend….Meron is her own best friend. Meron..is…her own…best friend. That makes total sense! It’s the complete OPPOSITE of what I’ve been making myself accustomed to. And so I say to you: FLIP IT. Any negative or niggling statements that have prevailed in your life, ask yourself what is the total opposite of that statement. Then say it back to yourself. 

As an artist, as a human being carving a fulfilling career for myself, there’s still days like this morning where I stumble. However, I’ve been really progressing with being more resilient. Showing appreciation for what I do have. I have time and some means to do what I love. To do develop my work. To create alliances as well as art and change my way of life for the better. Some ladies my age, have been forced into marriage, enslaved, don’t have access to clean water. So hey, how can I complain right? I have some privileges in some sorts and I need to exercise those, if not for myself, than for the people who can’t.

Gratitude is a great attitude.

I will be making another post on mental health and spirituality concentrating on why this is so important to discuss in our community. Especially the ‘black’ communities, where it’s still such a stigma to receive counselling or psychotherapy. So stay tuned!

Stay blessed,

Meron x