Friday, 29 August 2014

Farzana: 'I am hopeful'

Feeling so moved by all the remarkable creative and critical young people I get to work with and learn from. Shake! last week, as per usual, blew me away. It's always just too much! Today is also the last day of a summer program I have been coordinating with young women in my community and of course they too completely smashed it.

I can't help but be hopeful for the future, especially for gender and race relations, despite the state of everything in this world telling us otherwise. How can there be so many imaginative, fierce and self-empowered young people and people of colour and things remain the same?

I pray and hope that the relentless injustices they face does not wither away their zeal for bringing about powerful and transformative change. Or that the day-to-day sickness inflicted by capitalism and patriarchy does not wear away at the rigorous challenging and questioning they have embarked on.

Equally, I hope that us as facilitators, educators, artists, activist or in whatever we do, we are always working to cultivate engaged and embodied spaces for young people, esp for young women and people of colour. And that these spaces always bring in and considerately hold the marginalised in our communities, in the way that any sense of other-ing only comes from a place of self-distinguished autonomy and affirmed identity and not ever from a sense of not belonging. More over, that these spaces are forever unapologetically gentle while stringently equipping us for the long fight in dismantling unfair power structures and working towards justice.

I am hopeful!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Shake! Update: Black Women Scientist Inspires Us!

We start all Shake! mornings with a few inspirations shared by participants. Today we had Anisa telling us about a space scientist that inspires her: Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist, mechanical engineer, and science communicator. Anisa tells us her story; Maggie is inspiring because she was the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, bouncing from one area of the country to the other, never able to find her own place. She was also diagnosed with dyslexia, which meant she had to overcome certain challenges while she was at school. Luckily she found science, something she was good at and made her feel better about herself. Then she found space science, and was able to follow her love for the stars and outer space. Space was great because, in her own words.

“Growing up in London at that time, I was a black kid in a mainly white area and I often got teased… Although I had never been to Nigeria, I was scared that if I said ‘I’m British’ the other kids would say, ‘No, you’re not’. You’re black, you’re not from here’. That led me to feeling a bit lost, like I did not belong here or there. That’s why space was brilliant: space was all-encompassing”.

Anisa remembers the first time she saw Maggie on a school trip and how inspired she was because she was the first black woman in a field which is traditionally seen as for privileged white men. But besides her strength and the fact that she overcame all these challenges in her life in order to achieve her goals, Anisa also finds Maggie Aderin-Pocock inspiring because of her commitment to giving back to others. She believes that being in a position of privilege comes with the responsibility of helping others realize their full potential, and for that reason speaks about science to school children and particularly hard to reach audiences.

We think her work is very inspiring! Anisa perfectly sums up the lesson she takes away from Maggie, with a Toni Morrison Quote:

"When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.'

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

HeadSpace Update: Challenging narratives and creating new stories & spaces

It's the second day of the Shake #Headspace course, and we're deep in discussions around narratives.  We started exploring building our own narratives and conceiving how we can challenge  power and dominant narratives with our own stories.

Yesterday we discussed issues of power and who has the control over dominant narratives in our society. Analysing how issues of class, race, gender, ableism, sexuality and age intersect in the uneven distribution of power and political voice in society. We heard from wonderful guests including Esther Stanford, Sai Murai, Jane Trowell, Orla Price and Josetta Malcolm who shared with us alternative narratives on issues of mental health, inequality, commodification of the body, race, and LGBTQI experiences.

 Questions we have been asking ourselves over the past two days: Who does our story serve? Whose interest is it in? What is the cultural value of a story? What does it take to craft a story? What is our responsibility to the story espeically when we speak on behalf of the other?

Responses that came through were issues around identity and belonging quickly came to mind, and also the idea of a story as a way of passing on rituals and reproducing a sense of community. Others saw stories as a way of presenting and constructing truth, but also possibly as propaganda.  We appreciated how stories are a form of catharsis, and as the visualization or projection of dreams and ideals. Devices like a structure and framework, empathy and reliability and a clear message help us craft the story.

Throughout the next three days Shake participants will be working in either film or poetry, fully engaging with their medium of choice and creating their own stories. As always we are excited to see the powerful art that will come out of this week.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Grainne Aldred: Voice that Shakes and Sends Ripples

At our recent Shake! showcase graphic artist & film-maker Grainne Aldred bravely volunteered to step out of her comfort zone and host the night with Lateef.

On the way down to London she wrote this piece to share with us:

"I am a part time factory girl and part time graphic artist living in Lancaster in the north of England. I work with an ethical mind and like to think that I make a positive impact with the work I choose to do.
This can sometimes be hard as people try and push you from this path and advise you that you should be chasing the money. As someone whose voice literally shakes, it can sometimes be hard to find your voice, stick up for what you believe is right and express yourself through words. But Shake! makes me feel part of a bigger voice.
We are all expressive and creative people and I know together we are doing something good and sending ripples of this energy and inspiration to others. I hope you take hold of these ripples and send them off in your own way."

Big thanks again Grainne for your own positive energy and inspiration - and those who attended the showcase were definitely touched by these words. The ripples roll on!

For more on Grainne and to support her ethical graphic design work check her website here.