How we live now

Seconds to minutes to hours to days to weeks to months to a whole year. A whole year has flown on by and here we are in a world void of so many that filled it with their breath and voice and movement.

It was in last Ramadan that the world mourned for our dear brother, our leader and our friend Bashir Osman. Those who had met Bashir, even once, will tell you how they fell in love with his warmth, his humour, his character. He made everyone feel like his best friend. And for how well he was known and how much he achieved he still remained grounded and humble.

The response after his death was equally warming and numbing. He had messages from scholars across the world, people who did not even know him got to know him. People donated to the building well project he had started. It was truly exceptional to witness.

As I remember him now I remember one of his last tweets, hope simple yet so powerful.

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When I think of Bashir I think of the amazing life he led. But in all he did – leading FOSIS, all his charity work, the immense friend he was – he did as a student. A young person just like you and I. I wonder how I will be remembered after my inevitable demise. Will strangers sing my praises and wish to know me? Will my acquaintances mourn me even after a year? Will my loved one be proud of me? Will I have a legacy that can live on?

Bashir fills me with hope. We all have the potential to be like him. So let us take heed of his advice. Take advantage of today, worry not of the past.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah said: ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.’ ” [Narrated by Tirmidhi]

This is my entry for Ramadan diary: day 15. 

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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.

Lefty or a Righty?

Which brain side do you use the most? A Mercedes Benz advertisement. 

Our society places the left side of the brain on a pedestal. Students able to teach Maths, Chemistry and Physics receive a grant – getting paid to gain the teaching qualification whilst everyone needs to pay for the same course. Universities often offer more research projects in these areas – and those that are able to offer more research are considered leading institutions. Students excelling in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, Medicine and Maths) are seen as the “brainy kids”.

Considered “brainy” even though the other subjects require just as much “brain power” – but perhaps require the other side. For instance, not many STEMM students can paint, write poetry or even an extended essay.  Continue reading

The final step 

Me trying to instill passion into the prospective students, perhaps being mistaken for desperation.

I still remember coming home after my final day of primary school, sitting on the floor of my room and crying. I was going to miss my friends and my teachers, I didn’t want to grow up and I had an empty pit in my stomach. And I remember the final days of secondary school. That same pit there every time someone signed my leavers book or uniform, reminding me of how once again I’m leaving behind all that I am accustomed to, all the familiarity.

I moved on to college and then university. At each step I’d make new friends and, bar a few, leave my old ones behind. At each step there would be people who got me better than my previous friends and I was welcomed into a new place that allowed me to be more myself than before. Because at each step I knew more about what ‘being me’ is. 

Graduating from university was such an emotional time. I had done it. This was the final one. The final step I had before I reached the landing of options, full of doors I could enter. Some would be locked, others slightly jammed but accessible with a hard push. But it would be up to me which door I tried to open and which I walked into. Continue reading