Above: founder of Box Smart ZaHra Butt
The point is that she’s from Nottingham, develops projects across Nottingham that consider the world, the counterpoint, that her grandad was a prisoner of war in the second world war for eight years and her dad started Nottingham’s first takeaway, Royal Sweets on Gregory Boulevard in Nottingham. ZaHra’s dad, Mazhar Butt went on to found the first Naan bread factory in the Midlands, Butt Foods.
Above: ZaHra recently worked on YMCA’s Young Creatives Project on The History of Immigration Project (tomorrow, Sat 8th July you can go to the Nottinghamshire Archives and take a tour…9-1)
ZaHra is a mum to two boys and a girl and is a qualified college IT teacher. Since having her first child fifteen years ago not only has she developed jobs and projects across the third sector such as Box Smart (Box Smart is an independent community group and doesn’t receive Sport England funding. Although it has received some funding from Sport England, Box Smart was founded some time before this).
Behind the scenes she’s always working to develop a community ethos that passes on, connects and networks more people, more of the time into meaningful ways of living and earning a living. Everyone knows ZaHra now and that’s an asset!
Knowing the place of Nottingham in the world too helps everyone raise their game, learn more, realise what they can do to make Nottingham an even better place to live.
Herstories and histories are intertwined: being a woman, a mother and a sister, daughter and observant muslim doesn’t make her unique but it has made her aware and thoughtful and confident that although 90 per cent of people are kind and good, yet we have to be honest about race hate and call it what it is. It’s like a mental illness, a delusional state, fixed beliefs that prevent an individual from growing and developing. It’s banal when it’s the kind of things she encountered when she had to go into hospital: where because her head was covered and she was with her dad it was as if she was maltreated (these people cover their heads and have old men as partners was the first assumption and the second was when she uncovered her head because she was in all all female ward, although ZaHra couldn’t fault the care she was shocked when one of her nurses assumed that ZaHra couldn’t be ‘one of those muslims’ because she wasn’t wearing a veil).
I think that the separation of workers in the NHS (at the lower levels the diversity of backgrounds aren’t valued, at the higher levels institutional and class bias prevents meaningful cultural insights being integrated into the working day).
The NHS needs to become more like a lion for justice with an increasing appetite to develop all of its senses: it’s like a body itself, should listen, should see, should touch and feel, think and reflect and then it will become healthy enough to provide healthcare. Being able to see who and where and why people are in a hospital is part of their diagnosis, part of the puzzle of health and well being and we all need to believe in it. To trust it.
In the contracted out environment that we saw in the Grenfell Tower aftermath, the casual racism and classism that prevented those residents, those citizens even being properly accounted for much less being immediately rehoused and compensated needs to be called out and made accountable, too.
I think of the terrible cases of acid in the face, the way Bijan Ebrahimi’s racist killer was allowed to become a murderer by the banal, everyday racism and classism of the Bristol police service and I think, ‘they let Lee James become a monster, their monster of racist hate’. Bijan, a Syrian refugee, contacted the police 85 times about racist abuse and hate crimes and they treated him with contempt.
They let his tormentor(s) turn from low level bullies into killers. What a responsibility that is.
I think of Stephen Lawrence’s dad being co-opted onto a new police monitoring group and I think about the death of Damilola Taylor and the terrible hatred and festering in, on and around the notion of welfare state housing and the gradual disconnection of ‘estates’ from expectations of reliable education and jobs (David Cameron referred to council house tenants who considered themselves as a kind of aristocracy as they expected to be able to keep their council house and pass it on to their children) and I realise that we need more people like ZaHra Butt to bring us into a decent and proper relation with each other.
It’s about time.
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If you want to work with Zahra you can contact her here: boxsmartnotts at gmail.com
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