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.

Flaneuse roundup and other things

The month draws to an end. And so does my challenge of walking out every day, taking photographs and reflecting on the practice. I didn’t manage it every day as mid-way through sickness hit our household. But I do think I completed more walks than if I wasn’t trying to complete the challenge.

Today was a glorious window of light, that I’d be a fool to miss out on. So it was a quick dip in the bay and it was bitterly cold. And then a brisk walk along the shore to warm up. It was a great way to start my day and help with productivity for the rest of it.

As promised to my Patreon sponsors, I delivered my first essay from the forthcoming mixed genre memoir. I’ve made a commitment to share one essay and reading list that I used to complete the essay at the end of each month for the rest of the year. Yes only four months but still that’s four essays done than not.

The theme was climate justice this month and I enjoyed writing it once I got into it. This essay’s been brewing since I first came across the work of Wretched of the Earth. So the time and space and audience to finally complete the beginnings of an essay around this. This is just a draft but at least I now have something to work with moving forward. Making this commitment made me accountable. For which I am thankful.

You can jump on Patreon for as little as $1 to read it if you want. And as always, I appreciate feedback, comments and arguments.

Here comes October, my birthday month. Yay!

Flaneuse – 5/30

“Outside long enough, I lose the contours of my body and become part of something larger… I lose track of my own inhibitions and begin to wonder just what I might be able to do if I allowed myself the full scope of my potential.” – Camille T. Dungy

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.

The Re-Education of Sheree Mack

Fires broke out in 131 indigenous reserves from 15-20 August, 2019*

I considered myself to be an educated person. A person with a certain degree of knowledge, with recognisable qualifications which would signal knowledge and expertise. I’ve talked before about my eyes being opened and becoming wise to the system. At no point did I think I knew it all but when you’ve spent so long in the educational system as a learner and teacher, you do build up the belief that you know a thing or two. However, what I’ve learned or had to be re-educate myself about in the last few months is how this world, not my small insular world, but this global space we occupy and share with millions of diverse species is through an unfair and unjust and unequal and corrupt system.

Blazes have been seen on the Araribóia indigenous reserve in Maranhão state – a heavily deforested reserve on the Amazon’s eastern fringes, which is home to about 80 people from an isolated group of Awá indigenous people, described by the NGO Survival International as the world’s most endangered tribe.

I thought I had a handle on power and who has it and who doesn’t but I have to admit, my understandings were naive and academic. I’ve experienced inequalities and injustice and discrimination and prejudice. I know I’m at the bottom of the pile being a black working class woman in the U.K. But when I see black and brown people who look like me but who are losing their homes and livelihoods and lives because of big business, fossil fuel companies; because we in the global north demand material goods and lavish lifestyles at half the price then I know I enjoy a certain level of privileges.
I choose to be a vegan for environmental and animal welfare reasons. I can make this choice because I enjoy a certain level of income that allows me to pay for these select choices in what I eat or don’t eat. People surviving in poverty do not enjoy this luxury.

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been widely criticised for failing to respond quickly to the crisis, issued a
decree on Thursday banning fires in the Amazon for 60 days – a move environmentalists described as largely symbolic.

So yes my eyes have been opened to the disportionate distribution of wealth in the world but I still have so much to learn. Consider this the re-education of Sheree Mack because I realise now that I have been indoctrinated into a Western way of thinking and being. And it’s a total
mindfuck. Basically, I’ve been thinking and living as if I’m a white person but really I’m a Black Woman. And always will be. No amount of education and striving and hustling and appeasement is gonna change this fact. This reality. I‘ve been acting as my own thought Police within myself, keeping myself in check with blinkers on, trying to make others comfortable and not really questioning or analysing the news and information I’ve been fed and digesting.

The fires are often used to clear pasture and deforested areas in the Amazon during dry winter months, but there have been 28,000 this month – more than any August since 2010.

I’ve been fed a warped set of norms and values that places colonialism, imperialism and capitalism as the mordus operandi and the only way of operating that is worth my attention and respect and love. The Global South did not exist on my radar except as primitive, backward and unworthy. I’ve been ignorant of my people, my cultures, my heritage, my lineage. That connection was severed 500 years ago and it suits the minority in power to continue that disconnection by any means necessary be that through education, media, culture, science, policing; the system. The system in which I, and those that look like me, will always be viewed as ‘other’ and deemed inferior, not of value on a human level, but worthy enough to be exploited and oppressed and eradicated.

Fiona Watson, advocacy director at Survival International, said land grabbers are targeting indigenous reserves because they are often remote, well-conserved and unprotected.
“It’s clear to me that a lot of these fires are set off deliberately,” she said. “The difference now is that with Bolsonaro’s message, the Amazon is up for grabs.”

This story. This task. This re-education is not linear. Nature isn’t linear. Spiralling. I came here after actively reading and engaging with the fires in the Amazon. I was lead to believe that this was a natural disaster; lightning storms after such high temperatures etc. The reality is all about the climate, but not climate crisis but climate justice. I might be coming late to the discussion but this is better than never. And my eyes are wide open now.

*These quotes are taken from Dom Philips an article printed in The Guardian 29/08/2019 here (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/29/brazil-amazon-wildfires-indigenous-reserves-remote-areas)

5 Problems with Social Media

I’m currently on another social media hiatus.
After my last three months absence, from November 2018 – February 2019, while away I left Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been posting once or twice daily on both my Instagram accounts. I was posting about my #100daysprojects as well as my personal adventures into nature. Things were going well, but I knew a burnout was coming. I was being too prolific and focused. I knew, from experience, that I would run out of things to say. So I called the hiatus before that point, but by the time the end of April came along, I was ready to go.

I value the connections I’ve made through Instagram. I enjoy witnessing what others are doing. I take the time ad energy to cheer them along on their journeys. But at the same time, I’ve my issues with social media and these are what they are.

1. Social Media can be a distraction.

I find that social media can be noisy and distracting. So many people are doing or offering great things and telling everyone about it. And it can mean, I spend my time watching them instead of watching what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just another way to procrastinate and take me out of my own creative flow.

2. Social Media can be damaging for the self-esteem.

I’m not stupid, and I know people post potted, designed versions of their lives and journeys but that doesn’t stop me from falling into the comparison trap. Sometimes, I see other people’s brightly photoshopped lives and feel paralysed. No amount of effort or time or talent could get me to this level, so why bother, I think. So I do nothing.

3. Social Media can be toxic.

I’ve met some good people on social media. Good people who now support me through Patreon, or through reading my writings and posts. But one reason I left Facebook was because of the negativity and arguments and harm that was showing up on my feed. There wasn’t much love coming my way or being circulated around. I saw a lot of hate and it was affecting me, physically and mentally. So I had to go for my own sanity and well-being.

4. Social Media is not the real world.

I know if you’re living far away from loved ones that social media is a great way to stay connected. With the photos posted you are able to ‘see’ them and feel as if you’re not missing out on their lives and happenings. But this isn’t the same as living in the real world. Nothing can beat having face to face contact with friends and family. And sometimes, we use social media as a substitute for making more of an effort to connect with our people physically.

5. Social Media is controlling our lives.

Being on social media takes time and effort. We post our loves and hates, we post our joys and worries, we post our dreams and successes. We invest a lot of our time and energy and love into platforms that are set up to leach our personal information and money. They profess to be fostering community but really they’re keeping us locked into the vicious cycle of being mindless consumers. Yes I’m still on Instagram and yes I know it’s owned by Facebook. But I’m looking for a way to leave all social media and still be connected with my peeps around the world. One possibliity is here, blogging and my website. I’m trying.

I’m hopeful but …

After my last blog post ‘I’m hopeful …’ I’ve done some reading and I’m not liking what I’ve been reading.

Call me ignorant, call me naive. Call me blinded by love for the common people rather than being critical or cynical or overly politcally.

In my last post I mentioned Extinction Rebellion ( XR) and the work they’ve been doing with non-violent action to put climate change back on the agenda. And they’ve had some measure of success with the all party agreement on calling a state of emergency on climate change as well as a massive influx of people wanting to be involved in the movement. Hell, I’ve even thought about getting involved.

What I’m learning is that XR is predominately white and middle class. This is a long-standing critique of the British environmental movement being too white and middle class and not enough inclusivity.

There should be more black and brown bodies taking part in XR protests and actions. But if XR’s strategy is arrests then I’m fucked, because historially the evidence indicates, my black body would be treated far differently in police custody to a white body. Fact. So you’ll have to excuse me from getting involved in that way. I admit it, I’m scared of what would happen to me if I was arrested.

The main issue I have with XR is that the climate issue is a racist issue and this just isn’t being addressed enough for my liking.
The people of the global south, the poorest people of the world as well as where the majority of people of colour live are experiencing the effects of climate change the most. Communities in the global south bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change, whether physical – floods, desertification, increased water scarcity and tornadoes – or political: conflict and wars and racist borders.

The people and movements of the global south deserve more than mentions in speeches. They should be leading the protests for climate justice. Climate change is the result of colonialisation and
neocolonialism ( more to come on this point).

“Extinction Rebellion US have already added a fourth demand  – a just transition that prioritises the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a liveable, just planet for all.” source

And in the words of Wretched of The Earth, a grassroots collective for Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups and individuals demanding climate justice and acting in solidarity with our communities, both here in the UK and in Global South, “The climate movement will be decolonial or it will be nothing”.

Things I Know About Starting Over

Work in Progress

In 2015, when the shit hit the fan, I had to change. My whole life was in tatters and I had to find a way to live again. But live on my own terms. Live true to my soul.

For decades I’d been on the production trail. Do do do. Produce produce produce. Because I’d eventually I’d get to the promised land. I’d be successful, famous and accepted.

What I know now from having to start over is that there is no end point. There’s only the journey. I’m in a constant state of becoming. Becoming a better version of myself. But I will never be complete or perfect because that state just doesn’t exist. It’s a fallacy we’re fed to keep us keeping on. The desire or promise keeps us working with our heads down, selling out our souls for very little rewards. We think we are living the life we want to live but really, we’re living the life ‘they’ want us to live. The system, that is.

Now, I’m happy with less. Happy to work small. Happy with little ripples I create because I know in my heart that this is the authentic me at work. I know now, what I do, I do from the heart. I do in service to others with no expectations or need for anything in return. Living my life on my terms is my reward. And that’s enough. I’m enough just being me.