Saving Lives

I could make excuses or just tell the truth.

I’ve missed two days of being here. I didn’t post anything over the weekend. Did you notice? I mean who is actually reading my blog. Some days nobody and sometimes that hurts but then I remember I write for me first and foremost. But sometimes that harsh reality feeds into my desire to post or not post especially if I’m sick or low on energy. Self-care is one of my mantras as well as practice.

This weekend I completed my Outdoor First Aid training. 16 hours of intense learning, practical study all the way so that if anything was to happen while taking a group out into nature I could administer first aid.

60% of deaths in the U.K. could be unavoidable if more people knew how to save a life or give immediate, temporary first aid to give an individual who’s injured or had an accident a fighting chance of survival.

I found this figure staggering and unacceptable. Also the figures show that women and children receive the least amount of first aid, CPR really, as there’s a reluctance to touch for a fear of causing offence or being too heavy handed. I find this even more appalling and start to think what the figures would show regarding black women? I’m not even going to look because I don’t think those figures would have even been recorded, never mind be any better.

I shouted out in my class, I don’t care if you have to cut my bra and see my breasts to administer CPR on me if it saves my life. Of course this received a laugh and then jokes about having a t-shirt made with that same message on.

But I think there are people in this world who think that my life isn’t worth saving. And who has the right to think that or to act or fail to act in a way that endangers life?

I find this world maddening and angering a lot of the time. But I have practices in place that helps me to diminish this anger towards others and this society we live in so I can turn towards light and love. And that’s no new-age woolly all nicey kind of love but this is a fierce, fighting self- love which is self-care and feeds my self-worth so it isn’t dependent on anyone else’s opinion or actions. It has to be.

So yes I missed a couple of days here and I’m not tracking back to fill them in as I might have done in the past. I’ve made this decision because I think and feel, and I don’t need anyone else’s opinion on this, that I was doing greater and better things this weekend.

The Weekend

It’s been a busy weekend. I’m not sure if it was planned that way or if it just creeped up on us. But it was definitely a family kind of time. And as I start getting ready for turning in with a good book ( more to say here as I share my reading for the month soon), I do so with a contented smile on my face.

For the last few months, the weekend has come and gone with nothing to show for it. Yes this is prime time to rest and recover from the week. But it is also important time to reconnect with those closest to me. My peeps. And this can be done inside or outside the house. The important thing is to make the time. And to be honest, we haven’t been making the time.

I feel the difference, now at Sunday night, of enjoying a weekend where we have made time for each other. We’ve been to a basketball match as a family. Met up with friends for rollerblading. Went on an evening excursion to look at the dark skies. It was cloudy though but still a learning experience. And then today, having granddad round for dinner, was the best way to round it all off.

We’re not made of money and probably couldn’t do all these activities every weekend. But it wasn’t so much about what we did or where we went. It was all about spending time with each other.

I’m grateful for what we did this weekend as well as how we were. Doing and being together has set me up for the week ahead with a smile in my heart.

The Goddess Series is going on show!

I recently got this photograph from the #100daysofthegoddessandlove series enlarged and printed onto photo board.

I sat for a few days with her in my living room exhibited on a black metal easel. I would sit and just look at her. I would say to anyone passing, I made that. I was blown away by how beautiful my work looked. And it didn’t bother me if no one else loved it/ her it was enough that I did. I’m proud of my creation. I look at her and smile. I feel a deep swell of love for her. But really it’s for myself and my achievements. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m ‘doing good’. External validation is not sort or needed.

I didn’t make this physical piece of art to sit in my sitting room though. I’m preparing for an exhibition of prints; prints of the Goddess.

I’ve been invited to exhibit this series at a special fund raising event for a charity which is close to my heart, with which I’ve been developing a relationship with over the last couple of years.

The Angelou Centre, Newcastle, is a unique Black-led space dedicated to supporting and uplifting Black, Asian and ethnic minority women across the North East region of England. This centre offers a holistic approach to improving the lives of these women, some who are very vulnerable and are suffering. At a national level, the Angelou Centre strives to make sure these women’s voices are represented and heard, especially in relation to the issues that they face every day.

The Angelou Centre is celebrating 25 years this year and are organising an inspiring fund raising event to mark the occasion. It seems fitting that the Goddess should make an appearance at this special event because she is so very good at teaching myself and others what it really means to love and care for ourselves. There will be music and dancing, food and spoken word. I will be performing my poetry and reciting ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. Such an honour.

I’m looking forward to the event but also nervous as I will be exposed in more ways than one on the evening. But I know in my gut that I’m so ready for this.

Friday 25 October, at the Grand Hotel, Gosforth Park. More details can be found here. See if you can come along. It’s for a great cause.

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

Someone told me once …

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The other week I went back to where I grew up. My time in a small village by the River Tyne were my formative years. I grew into a woman there and then left to go to London for university. I couldn’t leave quick enough. I found the place small and claustrophobic. It was a place where everyone knew your business. And to top it all we were the only black family around for years and miles. So we stood out.
Someone once told me that I should learn from the past but not hold onto the past. At the time, I didn’t quite get what she was getting at. I nodded my head and said thank you and moved along. Going back to my roots the other week this piece of advice came back to me.
Growing up in that all white village, I learned how to fit in, I learned how to make people laugh, I learned how to make other people comfortable being around me.
That is in the past. What I know now is that it’s okay to be myself; my whole self because if somebody doesn’t like me or gets uncomfortable that’s their problem not mine. I’m not in this earth to make everyone like me. I’m not on this earth to just blend in and smile.
I know I am here to shine. To offer up my gifts to the world and those who are on the same plane can appreciate them and learn from them if they do choose.
In the past, I worked hard for you to love me. In the present, I work at me loving me. And that’s enough now.

Life Drawing Class

 

A couple of evenings ago now, I attended a life drawing class locally. This was the first time I’d attempted something like this. But in all honesty, I wasn’t worried about going along. And once I got there, I totally enjoyed it.

It was weird at first though as when I got there, I recognised one of the women standing up taking. I thought to myself, I didn’t know such and such as an artist. It was only when the introductions were made did I realise she wasn’t an artist but the life model.

It could have been an embarrassing night after that but it turned out to be very liberating and interesting. Within that setting, the human body naked became nothing to be embarrassed about but became something else. Something, an object for want of a better word, that I was attempting to capture a likeness of on paper. It wasn’t flesh but more so angles and curves, light and shade.

It was good practice for getting lost in the flow of creativity. To feel the texture of the paper, hear the scratch of pencil as well the rubbing of charcoal and stains appearing everywhere. My senses became heightened and I was present in the moment. It was awesome.

Would I return? Yes I would but I would probably go along to an open session rather than a tutored session. As I didn’t go along so much as to learn about drawing the human form ‘properly’ with the right proportions. I went along to play and just let loose. A chance to try something new and free up my creativity. I’m not practicing this to get anything right. I’m doing this just to express what I feel or see or think. That is always right to me. For me.

Getting Angry

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Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.

This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.

And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.

Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.

I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.

At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.

Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.

And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone

New Month

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I’m glad January is out of the way. We enter the new year with such high hopes and expectations that we, well me then, weigh the month down with it all.
It’s a dark time of the year in more ways than one. And I’m not sure when it became the norm but me and January fell out. I’ve been trying to heal the rift through time away, meeting friends, setting goals. But I have to be honest, I lost it there mid month. Maybe it was coming down after my Iceland trip. Or maybe it was post-Christmas fatigue. But I am glad to see the back of January.
February has already got a different feel to it. But correct me if I’m wrong but it is lighter, in more ways than one.
So as I stand at the threshold of this month, I set my intentions, take on new challenges and commitments for my creativity and soul.
I’ve returned to the body and my self-portraiture practice. Projects are started and will continue leading me where, I haven’t got a clue. Feeling my way through the process and practice and enjoying the journey.

My Creative Year in Review – Part 2

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In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year is split into two part,  part one here) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

July offered up the opportunity to share my practice with others as I became one of the women in residence with Idlewomen for a week on a canal boat. This was such an amazing experience, one I was most thankful for as I got to share my love of visual journaling with other women who were in need of a safe space to explore their own voices. I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to support women, particularly black women in their relationship with the natural world.
Hence me putting feelers out there on social media about who was interested in the creation of an Iceland Creative Retreat.

August was downtime as I took the family for a tour of Southern Iceland. It was lovely to return with the family and witness them fall in love with the country just like me. The only problem is now is that they want to return so it might mean I don’t get back there alone ever. But it’s not really a problem as I love sharing my experiences of Iceland.

After the summer break, in September, I came back to business with planning a visual journaling workshop just down the road from me. I also completed an important draft of the chapbook focusing upon black women’s bodies in society due to be published with Culture Matters in 2018.

October was a month of upheaval and change as we were forced to move house and downsize. But it was really a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to declutter, to become more minimalist as well as to prioritise my creativity. As a reaction to less time, I made time to blog more consistently through the move.
I started my next creative non-fiction project around the theme of death. More to talk about around this soon.

November was earmarked as a period of time to settle into the new home but that didn’t go to plan as I did withdraw from social media again but I was still beavering away behind the scenes. I was interviewed by Amanda Fall from The Phoenix Soul, as part of this digital magazine’s Truth Tribe Interviews. I had a soft launch of The Iceland Creative Retreat and filled half the spots. And then I enjoyed a women’s gathering in Pendle Lancashire called Shifting Loyalties when I enjoyed the challenge of sharing my visual journaling practice with over 30 women all at the some time. To be there, to witness this transformation in creativity made my heart sing.

December was time to wind down and get ready for the holidays. I took the time to explore December Reflections on IG hosted by Susannah Conway. With a much needed rest again from social media, I spent the time gained to read as well as fire up the creativity with completing Tara Leaver’s Practical Intuition course to create my own Iceland Oracle Deck. This fed into #IcelandInsights where I am sharing text and images each day in January in relation to my love of Iceland. There are more Oracle Decks in the pipeline for 2018.

So on reflection of 2017, on the whole, was very productive and successful in terms of moving forward with my voice as well as increasing my courage in being present as my authentic self. I hope to build upon the gains made here into 2018. I have learnt that the downtime and rest is just as important if not more so than the productive times. In these quiet moments, conversing with myself, I am learning to listen and observe more deeply and truthfully.