Above: First image: Ahamaud Arberry (25) Murdered 27th May in Georgia, the first slave state colonised by the spanish in the 16th century: the first enslaved Africans (1526) rebelled and lived in harmony with indigenous indians on the Georgia and Carolina coast.Second image: Rayshard Brooks (27) murdered on 12th June by police in Atlanta the first post civil war state to build a school for the children of freed slaves in 1869 Third Image: George Floyd murdered by police on 25th May in Minneapolis the first territory to make slavery illegal in 1787 but also the first territory to rule that Dred Scott (died at 59) and his wife, Harriet Robinson Scott (died at 61) that although they might be free in Minnesota as soon as they left Minneapolis they could again be enslaved.
Yesterday, Vera Lynn (103), died, (below Vera on Skype chatting to children at her old primary school) on her 100th birthday.
It’s a week after French second world war resistance fighter Cecile Rol Tanguy was memorialised at 101, today, 18th June 2020, Emmanuel Macron (42), Prince Charles (71) and Camilla Parker Bowles (72) have met at Clarence House to celebrate 80 years since General Charles De Gaulle (79 when he died) called for support to resist the Nazi occupation, a month after 100 year old Captain Tom Moore’s garden walk stimulated 32 million pounds of funding from all over the world for the NHS,
I’m thinking about premature deaths and a memorial podcast I listened to last week: my thoughts are with George Floyd (46), who was murdered by a group of policemen, Rayshard Brooks (27) and Ahmaud Arberry (25) and thinking about how the frighteningly high levels of BAME NHS staff and members of the public succumbing to Covid and dying reflect what historian Margaret Heffernen, referring to the Enron scandal, calls wilful blindness at every level in society in relation to the disease of racism and its consequences for everyone and everything.
The disproportionate effect and deaths due to Covid 19 on adults in BAME communities moved Dawn Butler MP for Brent Central and others in an emergency parliamentary debate yesterday: 394 of every 1,000 Covid 19 deaths were from Chinese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black African, Indian, self described as Black, Other, Black Caribbean and self described as Arab groups: Centre For Evidence Based Medicine:https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/bame-covid-19-deaths-what-do-we-know-rapid-data-evidence-review/)
Seventy years on we’re looking at the post second world war vision of what the world is, who and what it was reconstructed for is racist: instead of seeing, for example, the 108 nationalities working in 350 different careers and occupations in the health service as a marvellous investment in history, culture, knowledge and experience that can create a healthier Britain, what on earth have we done?
In tolerating an increasing lack of authenticity, service and reciprocity in our health, education, workplaces, governance, infrastructure, dreams and hopes we’re invalidating all the past struggles and achievements of our forbears in favour of the fake, the made up, the wonderful world of Dr Donald (I am all Medicine), Trump.
We need to recycle and repurpose the cruel tools of control and make the systems that work well for the few work just as well for the many so that we really debate in parliament, so that we really create a vocation in politics, so we really educate, we really train, so we really stimulate new kinds of jobs throughout the life cycle that improve local, regional, national and international life and longevity.
Speak Up/Speak Out podcast is a piece of action research for health, education, engagement and reflection produced by Charmaine Roche Ex Teacher, Ex Head, now an Executive Coach studying for a Phd on ethical stress and moral injury and trauma at Leeds Beckett University. In Episode 6 she opens a discussion with four other professional black women where learning is part of the memorial to George. I’ve given you a flavour of their really generous, clever and insightful comments on why principles are vital just now, listen and comment!
Above: Charmaine Roche creator of Speak Up Speak Out podcast
Charmaine “I am a very strong, professional successful woman… I’m privileged, my black privilege is I know my history, my black privilege: I’m a conscious woman but when these things happen…… I go to my childhood self.
My childhood self: there are different versions, the earliest childhood self is a child in the playground having an asthma attack, hyper ventilating because of racist bullying. I fought back and was labelled as a fighter and aggressive. I was told I must be ill because of hyper ventilation. At the doctor’s I allowed him to diagnose asthma because I couldn’t tell my parents the truth (about the racist bullying) protecting my parents from my experiences of racism.
There are different versions…
At secondary school I located the tallest year ten girl and year eleven girl, pushed them and said: ‘I’m not afraid of you’. That was the label I adopted: I was called the mouth. I would just flay anybody. I was a prodigious reader but flunked out of school: a white teacher wrote me a recommendation, told me I was bright, articulate, intelligent, that I needed to go to college. To everyone else I was a demon and I courted that image. Inside I was a shy reclusive introvert, I was a reader and later a writer.
That long bit of storytelling about me is about how we adopt identities that don’t belong to us to survive. Some of the identities are destructive, some are empowering. The reason I made the reference to Frantz Fanon (who died prematurely at 36 of leukaemia), either black people envy the privilege of the white person (people have actually tried to bleach their skin) or try to be acceptable: being articulate, being intelligent.
Wanting/seeking approval when you’re constantly rejected will affect your mental health: you’re not being a human being, you’re playing a role and that can empty you out it, can erode your insides: Fanon’s basic appeal is that he says:
” I don’t even want reparations, I don’t want to make white people to feel shame, I don’t want them to feel guilty. I just want to be treated as a human being I want to talk to you as a human being and be communicated with as a human being it’s my right….it’s all I’m asking for”
Above: Cara Thompson
Cara ,“Charmaine, that moment when you said at secondary school where you were characterised as a demon really jumped out at me because I’ve had an almost identical experience.
I was quite lucky to have a very diverse primary school at secondary school I was one of the few black people in the room one of the few black people in the year and I remember after having a really bad day experiencing racism was part of the deal, I flunked an essay because I was ‘done’, I was ‘over’ it and the teacher, the white teacher, instead of asking what was wrong because I was normally a very high performing student, said “What was that?” “You acted like a demon” I remember it links into what you were saying Nicole, that I’ve really been processing recently as a Masters student, (I also do English), that’s my background.
For a long time my choice of being a Master’s student was because I wanted to be a professor but recently I’ve been thinking and hovering over that route because of the things I’ve observed in academia where we are excluded and not often seated at the table. This is really the reason why we should be in there but the fight is so exhausting. I’m also very conscious Charmaine, of this thing you were talking about, being the articulate black child and how often sometimes a certain respectability politics is used against black people and black bodies to say that deserved the treatment they get, that they’re ghetto and they don’t deserve a certain amount of respect.
I’ve tried to be conscious of that recently because even in my own academic pursuits it was often a thing I was trying to prove myself, hey I deserve to be here, I can do what you do, read the books you read, speak the way you speak, but actually my entire axis, or anchor is really shifting and I’m realising how much that idea of respect is based on a euro-centric idea of respect and I just want to reach a point no matter how our ‘blackness’ manifests itself like you say I want to be treated as human beings because it’s been a truly exhausting battle trying to navigate all these fields from such an early age…”
Charmaine “Am I laughing too loud, am I gesturing too much?…” It’s like those things you have to be vigilant about…”
Above: Ayesha Roche
Ayesha “And these systems that we’ve been forced into believing we need to fit into are what are killing us! This is the pain that I’m talking about: what is that about? How messed up has it become that we have felt that we have to fit into and play the game and force ourselves behind these masks to accommodate the people who are oppressing us and killing us. It’s horrific when you think about it. This incident and the response has really highlighted how messed up these systems are and what we need to do metaphorically, physically is think about transformation, burning it down and transforming some of these system. It’s scary but it’s a really powerful message and it feel like the message that’s starting to come through: instead of research, statistics and intellectualising, we need to realise this pain oppression is real and has always been real.
Above: Nicole Roche
Nicole I think we’re at a really unique point in history where we can actually do that and part of it’s to do with the fact that it’s come during the pandemic: we’re not as comfortable as we were and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so interesting in the way people are reacting as this point.
Above: Martha Da Costa Sherwood Martha I think you mentioned so many things that were really pivotal. My surname’s Da Costa Sherwood and so naturally…we have a thing in our community because we are very much aware that we don’t belong and particularly from a Caribbean background we no longer have African names so when people ask me that.. literally, it’s ignorance because of the fact that you’re asking me that and that you’re comfortable thinking what’s the reason why I don’t belong here but you’re not comfortable asking me about the reason why I don’t belong here….
Martha And so… I give it to them…If you’re going to be ignorant to ask me ” Oh wow: Your name’s Da Costa Sherwood what does that mean
Martha “and I look at them like that
Martha “And I tell them directly “it’s a slave name” And everything closes because you force me to remember it and live it every single day but you don’t want to and so my biggest thing is not to allow people live in this level of ignorance, it’s literally been that and that thing about asking where you come from we can’t allow that it’s so very true it’s one of the biggest things and the other thing about being too loud and I mentioned this on something I wrote recently, because it’s the truth.
Being a teacher in the education field your whole life is a part of it so your whole life you’re a role model and the higher up you get you become leadership and you’re supposed to act and behave in a particular manner (under normal circumstances before we add the fact that you are black and you literally represent every other black person) that has come from there. I came to a point like yourself Nicole where I was disillusioned.
I was burying my boys, we were burying our boys. They were getting stabbed: all these things were happening and these were boys we had kicked out and when three years later these boys got stabbed or killed or shot we were not surprised all of us said we knew exactly what was going to happen but we still kicked them out….
….and whilst I was this amazing cool teacher getting 98% outstanding results with the kids we’d kept but the ones we were supposed to help we’d got rid of them and I had a point where I was really disillusioned with the whole system but I don’t have anything else but education, that is my passion that is why I went to Nigeria and honestly I was there for a four year period and for the first time in my life I wasn’t black not that I wasn’t proud of being black but it wasn’t a negative thing: noone ever said I represent the black faith, you’re good for a black person, I wasn’t too loud, I wasn’t aggressive: none of those things.
My passion, my fight, the way I articulate myself was just seen as the way we do things. Nigerians are loud, they’re fiery, so dong all that was normal. My blackness never had a role in that it has it’s own issues but what it did was when I came home I noticed the racism so much more because when you’ve been away from it.
It’s as though you were in the fire and you’ve lived every day in the fire, getting all these burns on your skin and then you come out of it but when you go back in you just touch that burn and it’s painful and that’s that trauma and you no longer have that resilience to hold it.
I came back into the system last year and I do not have I do not have the level of tolerance or the resilience to turn a blind eye, like I did to get through the system. I proved myself throughout my whole career I did the legwork, proved myself: if I didn’t I wasn’t going to get anywhere but I’ve done my proving and I refuse to prove anything and that’s the whole reason why I’m no longer in the system.
If I was in a school I would have power. If I was in a school I would not have been able to post as I have been posting, I’d have been restricted: I’ve been having back to back conversations with people and I know exactly what they’re doing: one lady went on to my page to check and she told me:
“I went on to your (social media) page, I read through your posts do you see all these things?”.
I knew why she did it she wanted to find my employer so that she could send a message to them “Look what Martha’s been writing on social media” when she herself is self employed…because she’s done it to someone else and said you see I’ve been on your page I’ve sent your comments to your employer, don’t worry about me, I’m self employed”
I’m not going to accept it I’m going to fight it and call it. They know exactly what they are doing. I’m not going to work with people who are racist. If it means people or organisations or individuals or companies won’t use my services because I refuse to accept racism they’re not a group of people I want to work with.
I don’t want your money I cannot be taking your money.
The damage that it does your life is the most important thing this (death of George Floyd) doesn’t just kill one person: Floyd is not only one person, this is going to ripple through the whole entire society so that we’re never safe, we’re never free.
I don’t want that. There’s a saying: “You don’t have to like me but you have to respect me. I take it a step further I don’t even care if you don’t respect me but you will not disrespect me and that’s my point on all of that…
There’s much much more about these five women in their courage, strength, humility and compassion. They make me feel that many, many more people are going to keep on loving, living, fighting and breathing: we owe it to the children of George Floyd and their children.
We owe it to the planet.
Charmaine Roche, ex Teacher, Head, Executive Coach now researching her Phd into ethical stress at Leeds Beckett University, who started the podcast to encourage professionals to speak up and speak out against things that they can feel and see are causing moral injury in the workplace https://www.lifeflowbalance.co.uk Twitter @lifeflowbalance
Martha Da Costa Sherwood ex teacher, Head of Department, Principal, now Transformational Coach and Director dacosmeconsulting.com/MarthaDaCosme
Dr Ayesha Roche, Clinical Psychologist, NHS and Lecturer in Psychology, Nottingham Trent University,https://www.linkedin.com/in/ayesharoche/
Cara Thompson, Black Creative ,Writer, Public Speaker, Diversity and Inclusion Champion https://www.linkedin.com/in/cara-thompson-aa5926153/
Nicole Roche, MEd Educational Leadership, English Teacher, Senior Leader.https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-roche-5962b7176/