Ramdan diary: day 9

The first 10 days of Ramadan focus on mercy. One of the biggest mercies Allah grants us is our mothers. Mothers who sacrifice all they have for their children. But migrant mothers in particular are simultaneously rocks and pillows.

Our mothers moved through mountains. Literally. They left everything they know – the greenary they grew up around, the families they grew up with, the cultures they grew up in. Spat in the face. Ridiculed in the street. Ignored by the state. The trauma.

They taught us maths and they taught us to write neatly. They bought us books whilst they wore less. They taught us our values – patience, humility, respect. They shared the things they knew – kameez, plaits, curries, oils. We rejected. Straighteners and jeans, pizza and chips. English is cool. The trauma.

They stay with violent and controlling men. Continued to suppress their dreams to feed ours. Unable to leave and destined to stay. For us. So we could have the things we need and the things we want. The trauma.

All the trauma they face. The anxiety and depressions they suffer with silently. How many of them describe physical heart pain? Unable to distinguish the anguish in their heart.

And yet we are so harsh of their minor omissions. So unforgiving of their misunderstanding. So impatient when they call us.

Ami tumrar lagi shoba korsi (I did it all for you). – my mother

Ammu I can never tell you often enough. All the beatings you took so we could eat. Using the little money he would give you to use as our tutoring money. Turning him away for our safety even when the community talked trash about you. Pushing me to never quit – at college, at university, from work. My rock and my pillow. Reminding me constantly of who I am, what is important, what will always matter. Everything I gratefully am and everything I am gratefully not is because of you. Our mercy.

Even a few days ago my taxi driver gave me a recipt without the total on it. I had partially shared a journey so only had to pay half. Of course the expenses team do not know this even the driver hinted I could make back £20. Cash money – easy. My friend said I deserved it, it’s taking from the rich, think of it like a little blessing. My mum reminded me that every penny I take that does not belong to me is money that can never bring me any good. My mercy.

Oh Allah. Have mercy on our mothers. Let us be coolness of their eyes. Let us be the righteous children they deserve. 

Prayers with Orlando 

[I am a straight Muslim person living in the UK. I am just an individual and the thoughts I have here are not representative of straight people, straight Muslim people or Muslim people.]

My heart breaks for my LGBTQ+ siblings. Despite what they say on the news – this is 100% about you. You have every right to feel hurt that this is about you. That is not divisive. This attack, regardless of what people say about the murderer not able to say his motives, was done in an LGBT+ club. And that is in itself enough of a reason to unequivocally say it was a homophobic and transphobic attack. I mourn with you and send love and prayers to the families of those effected and the communities this has effected. Once again we are reminded that the world we live in is not a safe one for those who do not fit into the heteronormative standards that are peddled out.

It is tragic that news outlets are adding insult to injury by making this about “humanity”. The #alllivesmatter brigade needs to stop for a moment. Listen to what our LGBTQ+ siblings are saying. Listen. Your fear does not need to be highlighted here.

There are many intersectional issues I want to outline. These are all factors I have seen discussed and stated by QTIPOC friends. It is their voices I want to centre here but am not pasting directly as they were posted in certain anonymous  groups and I could not seek permission to share (as my blog is also anonymous). I am therefore paraphrasing.

  • The night targeted was catered to queer and trans latinx people. It was therefore people of colour who were targeted. Granted there were white peoples present and killed but this is once again highlighting how it is non-binary and trans people of colour who face so much violence.
  • It is disgusting how the murderers identity is used by the far-right to pedal hate. Do not for a second act like far-right people are not transphobic, homophobic and racist. When there are currently transphobic political discussions taking place that is furthering hate. When their politicians vote against same-sex marriage. Let us not forget that when they quote these Muslim countries that have laws against homosexual relationships – a) these laws are the remains of the British imperialist rulings. And very often these countries had very rich and inclusive homosexual communities & b) the western world only very recently started to reconsider their LGBT+ laws and policies – in fact in many of our living histories. So do not use the pain of people to push forward your hate and political agenda.
  • LGBT+ Muslims exist. And for people to outright claim Islam to be LGBT-phobic without understanding this are erasing their existence. Transphobia and homophobia does exist within the Muslim community, as it does with all communities because these things are structurally upheld. And despite the many instances of transphobia and homophobia you also have many instances of love and respect.
  • It is not the job of Muslims to disclaim this viscous attacks. Communities should be allowed to grieve and show their respect without apologising. We do not have to apologise for these murders. Just as all English people do not have to apologise for the hooligans.
  • The murderer is allegedly the son of a CIA-employee, worked for G4S himself and there are several images of him in NYPD clothing. This is not someone who did not love the military/American state. This is important as many of the attacks on him will be racialised and focus on his Muslim identity, hiding the many other intersections of his identity.
  • Once again a hate filled man had access to guns. In the last 3 years there have been 999 mass shootings, with shooters killing at least 1,135 people and wounding 3,937 more in the US. How many lives are too many lives? Gun control is absolutely the solution to reducing these crimes. The stats speak for themselves.

Once again my prayers go out to all those affected. I have seen some straight people comment on how there are other mass murders happening all around the world – in particular Syria – and discussing the bias given to this particular case. To this I answer yes the media is biased. But our humanity is not finate. And we can with the same lens critique the media and still empathise with how this particular attack will effect particular communities that are already marginalised.

It is the month of mercy and here we are thinking about these things. Where is the humanity?

Politically Black

The weekends #NUSBlack16 shoved the discussion of political blackness to the front. As someone who has organised in these circles – thought I would throw my thoughts on the matter into the mix.

But first a few things:

  1. NUS Black Students’ Campaign (BSC) is an autonomous and democratic student campaign that organises for UK students with African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent. Those pro/anti/undecided on the name are all united in agreeing the work done by BSC is both relevant, incredible and needed. So all those white people using this as an opportunity to show your racist self, please take yourself elsewhere
  2. There has been a lot of foolishness about BSC being shared on Twitter – most of it untrue – and I am happy to unbunk some of these but not in this article. Ask in the comments and I may reply

Political blackness is an inherently British term which was used to unite the African and Asian people in the 70s onwards. Both of these peoples were called the N word for example and when signs saying “no blacks” was put up it was meant for everyone who was not white. It was therefore a unifying term used to organising. You had the Black trade union divisions and creators of Black History Month UK was originally meant for Asian and African histories.

Over time, this term has become less and less common. And now, black means sub-saharan people – those who we racialise as black and face the oppressions that come with that.

Even with students, when I ask students to come to Black Students’ events they answer with “but I’m not black though” or, for those who are, “this not what I was expecting”.  So the name can serve as another barrier to getting students who are already disenfranchised involved.

This gets even more complicated when you consider the racial oppressions other communities (including my own) cause onto those racialised as black. Some would argue using the term politically black is co-opting the oppressions whilst not addressing these issues. We are not a homogenous community and within ourselves we face our own oppressions – e.g. the attainment gap, treatment by police, treatment by PREVENT officials – and it is important to tackle each of these. I will note here that BSC has worked on all of those things and more.

The other side is loosing the the rich and unifying history we have with the term. There is no other term that is so politically charged specific to British histories and goals. BME was defined to us by our oppressors. And once again reminds us we are the minority – even though this is not the case. No name chosen for us will empower us and will always be used to our detriment.

Then I guess the question that begs is do we teach people that they are politically black or do we use language people identify with in everyday rhetoric, I’d suggest the latter. But similarly those that have the privilege and luxury to be ‘out’ define the LGBT+ movement and this is something the ‘NUS LGBT’ and similar campaigns really need to look at and consider. And I’m sure far more people are going to be interested in this status discussing a division between PoC [people of colour], than one discussing the ridiculous racism myself and the other few students of colour experienced at ‘NUS LGBT’ conference, question yourself why. Sips tea, but I digress…

Black is the identity I’ve known my whole life. Black is what connects me to the people of the Sub-Saharan diaspora all over the world – given we are the most displaced people in history. Black is my hair, is my body, is me. I can’t wake up and decide not to be seen as black – nor can I choose to adopt it as a political identity, whilst exercising racial privileges that lighter skinned people *may* be afforded due to colourism in many communities. – Melissa Owusu, Leeds SU Education Officer

The newly elected Black Students’ Officer, Aadam Muuse, has promised to start an open discussion on the name of BSC with plans for next summer conference to have a unified motion put forward based on the discussions had this year.

My own view is to go with students of colour. I know there is no British history/context to this term and it has been popularised through US struggles but with social media and ease of access to information, I think the lines between the two struggles are growing weaker and weaker. And in unity we will grow. I believe our prioritises should be inclusion and unity – and if a name change is called, then so be it.

My name 

They spell my name wrong even when my email is my name. It is not just rude. It is lack of care. Othering. Demonstrating just how unimportant I am.

Do you have a nickname?

No. Not for you. My pet names are names my loved ones call me with care.

When we apply we have to consider changing our name. Jay. Not Jayanet. No not Jay-a-net. Never mind.

When we know they turn us down for jobs. When they assume we are already too stupid when we hand in our work. At the very least they can call us what we are.

Every time I correct you is my political warfare. I exist. I am here. I survive.

Named by my grandfather. The history of my ancestors passed through me and I carry their strength. Queens, Warriors, Mothers’ of Prophets. It surpasses above and beyond the time you exist in and cold land you know. My name is fire. It is power.

give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right. – Warsan Shire

Bringing down the system 

I have been invited to work for “special teams”. And by that they mean the police, ministry of defence, home office and so on (and yes even the ones I can’t name).
My immediate reaction was hell no – they won’t let me in. Then I realised, well actually they will let me in.  I haven’t broken any laws and I am a British citizen. Maybe I can change the system from the inside? So I started the process to get security cleared.

But now I am not so sure. See, I will be doing project work – not starting a one person revolution. I will be not only upholding the structures that oppress me and my community but improving them. I may be told things that will haunt me and I will not be able to share them. And let’s be honest, they very well could kill me – that is how little trust I have in those teams.  

So now I’m in two minds about the whole thing. And the guy who invited me in the first place – a white, upper class, rugby-playing lad tried to persuade me to go for it. “What are you all ‘fuck the police’?” he asked. “Yes I am actually,” I replied.

And then I described my reality with the very people who I pay to protect me. I have seen them beating up a young boy in the street while the others stand in a circle, their backs to this incident. I see them dragging students by the hair during peaceful and legal protests. I see them stopping black people for no reason whatsoever. I see them snarling at me and my friends. I see them not believing me or even caring when I reported sexual abuse. I see them to be the oppressive force that protects the rich and keeps the poor, black and brown down. Over 1500 have been killed in police custody since 1900 and not one officer has been charged. That is my reality with the police.

He listened and nodded.

A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect

I apologise for being lost over the last few weeks. Working all day and volunteering all evening has left me with so much to say but so little energy to say it with. 

Their sacrifice

I watched In time recently – a film set in the dystopian future – where currency is time. I can’t say I enjoyed the film very much but the concept was an interesting one.  The film touched on many themes – capitalism, greed, the idea of what living truly means. Now I can’t say that I understand capitalism well enough to give a coherent criticism and I do work in the corporate world so that would be somewhat hypocritical of me.

But one thing idea that did linger in my mind is the morality of killing a few to save the many. Immediately I am sure we would all say no, that is wrong. All lives matter.

Yet this is the reality of our peaceful survival. The only way we know how to continue being happy, continue pretending our lives are important. Believing in meritocracy.  Continue reading

Vigil for Sarah Reed

The family of Sareh Reed have called on Blaksox to organise and announce a peaceful candlelit vigil on the same day as Sarah’s funeral. The vigil will take place from 7-8.30 PM on Monday 8th February (tomorrow) at HMP and YOI Holloway, Parkhurst Road, London N7 ONU.

One person cannot do everything but everyone can do something

Please share and attend if you are able.

This is happening here – not the US. Police brutality and violence in the hands of the state cannot keep going. How many more lives stolen before we wake up?

Formation: Beyonce drops it

I have been watching and listening to Beyonce’s new video – Formation – all day. Her politically woke video shows images of her daughter rocking her afro, a wall with “stop shooting us”, her lying on top of a sinking New Orleans police cruiser, a black child dancing in front of riot police and them putting their hands up, a man holding a newspaper called “The Truth” with Martin Luther King Jr. on the front page captioned “more than a dreamer”. Damn.

And that’s just the video. Her words speak about black positivity and send messages of owning and loving blackness.

The Queen has done it again. Slay.

Music has the ability to inspire and empower.  As a non-black person of colour, I cannot sufficiently explain the importance of this message to black people having to survive racism so I will leave others better equipped to comment on this.

But I am excited at the fact that mainstream music is highlighting the problems. Historically – music has been an important tool in political warfare. Joining hands with social media, the potential to connect globally, demonstrate realities and remove the need for mainstream media channels – this once again has people talking about violence at the hands of the state. And that in itself is a powerful thing.

Happy Black History Month.

Self-care: my weapon and shield 

Self-care is an act of political warfare. Learn to share only when you have the strength to do so. Say no when you do not. Say nothing when even this is not possible.
Our pain matters. Our words are worth something. Our experience is real. 

We are not exotic. We are not submissive or unduly angry. We are not different to the others.

There is a difference between offensive and oppressive. And we know when we are being oppressed. By their words, by their actions, by their systems. We can recognise the dull pain it causes deep in our stomach.

And so we do not have to explain it. Not why we do what we do. Not why we want what we want. And certainly not when we hurt the way we do.

Expecting marginalised peoples to disregard their own emotions to calmly educate you is the epitome of entitlement

Seeing yourself: Mr Robot

There is overwhelming evidence that people are ready to believe that not only white people have stories to share and problems to solve. And the majority of the globe – who are not in fact mostly non-white (unlike what you would think if you turned to mainstream media) – would actually like to see people and stories that remind them of themselves.


So you can imagine how excited I was to see Mr Robot. A visibly Muslim women in a very diverse team – and they show her praying too. Ok so she is very quite (nothing wrong with that as such – some people are quite, but this annoyingly plays into the quite and submissive rhetoric around Muslim women) and the white man says “she’s got some ‘Allah akhbar’ in her” *side eye*. But on screen she is, and for that I am grateful.

I am grateful because seeing oneself on popular and mainstream shows reinforces the idea that you exist. People like us are normal. People like us deserve to take up space. People like us are just as capable as the white man. And hell, if we have to pay the same amount in subscriptions and licenses – we deserve to feel that way.

I loved Mr Robot so much I managed to finish the whole season in one sitting. I had a headache in the end because I had watched 10 hours of TV. But it was worth it.