My Journey in completing my degree

I was raised poor and grew up feeling that education was not for me, in fact my English teacher told me not to write stuff down because I had no idea how to write!  I left school at 16 with no expectations from my family or myself to go on to further education, because that is not what working class girls did – you went out to work until you got married and had children.

 

I also discovered later on in life that I had dyslexia and this was not picked up in school as there was little, if any, understanding of it at that time. There was also, among working class people, a cultural understanding that writing was not a working class skill, the way we communicated was orally, and this is how I learnt, through listening to the people around me and having conversations with them. In fact I remember many a time in school being put outside the class for disruptive behaviour because I wanted to have dialogue with the teacher when they were explaining things, this was my way of learning, but it did not fit the model of schooling.

 

So imagine when, some 30 years later the organisation I work for (Diversity Hub) had funding to release a staff member to go to university to complete a degree and yes, you’ve guessed – yes it was me. Did I want to do it? No – because I believed I was not capable of learning in that way “I was not academic enough” but I had the full support of a wonderful team and they made a huge difference to me in thinking it was possible I could do this?

 

I am not going to tell you I suddenly found the whole process easy, it was a massive challenge, not only academically, but my internal recordings telling me I am not good enough to do this. There was tears, anger, frustration, self-doubt all the way on this journey, but I worked my way through it. Today I opened the letter for my results, it was a 1st Class (Hons) degree and I’ve not stopped crying, It’s such a massive contradiction to all the messages I received growing up.

All my thoughts collated from the e-mail I received…

Last week, I received an email declaring that if Diversity Hub doesn’t receive sufficient funds by May they will have to close down. All in all, this is the most heart-breaking news because Diversity Hub has given me, my community, Leicester, my friends, my family so much. I just cannot image Diversity Hub not existing anymore.

Since I was introduced to Diversity Hub during my time at college, I attended their anti-bullying workshops which I appreciated because they taught me the essence of the mind behind the bully and the person being bullied. Furthermore, during my university study, I enhanced my skills by leading Diversity Hub implemented-workshops and working with young children, parents and moody/hormonal teenagers (I had always dreaded the latter ones!) All my workshops went well and participants as well as, us, as the deliverers, always received and learnt so much simultaneously. The workshops really took me out of my comfort zone because I hated being at the forefront doing majority of the talking but soon I learnt to slowly enjoy it (really bizarre!).

I am thoroughly aware that Bill, Margaret and Ian (and I – when I was there) have tried immensely in filling applications and applying for differentiated pots of money. It has been a tough journey. I remember at the time when I was volunteering for Diversity Hub and one of my application’s had been rejected. I did fully feel awful but nevertheless I informed Margaret that it is important that we complain about being rejected but WE must continue to search for funders and apply. This was because if we sulked regarding an application it would have hindered us from moving on to another application. Doing this transition was extremely important as was never giving up. This was good leadership because I was being a good ally to my colleagues and trying to demonstrate good leadership which was effective because Margaret always informed me that I was very positive in the aftermath of a rejection because I was motivated to move on to the next.

 

With everything positive Diversity Hub has done for us, it deserves to be open! For the young people, for the adults, for the old, for the young, for the rich, for the poor, for all those that Diversity Hub has given to, for all those that Diversity Hub has made a difference to…Diversity Hub deserves to continue to exist!

 

I wish Diversity Hub all the best in securing funds for a brighter future ahead.

 

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I am still making a difference…

Since, going into a different field, I have figured, I do not talk about racism as much as I would like.

Although, recently, the white people that I have been having lunch with and sitting with during lectures have welcomed me (I think). And more-so, rather than talking about racism – because from one of my earlier blogs, I stated that racism is an untouched subject when one is in a situation with different races in the room – instead my friends have asked me to teach them the language that my Asian culture brings with it, e.g. urdu/punjabi. Furthermore, we have had discussions about different types of naan bread and peshwari naan being a favourite. From this I have gathered, that some white people are curious and want to learn and eliminate barriers that may have been posed upon them in the past.

 

By writing this blog, I wanted to put forth my ideas that sometimes when we are in a particular field, i.e. youth work, talking about racism can be slightly easier than when one is in a different field such as teaching. I am trying to make a difference by sharing my culture, but I have a long way ahead.

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There Is Something I Have To Tell You

We all fall in love during our lifetime and some people will marry the first person they fall in love with but with me it was different for me it was harder.

Let’s go back to when I was in year 6 and the 14th February Valentines Day, a few days before it got out that I fancied this girl and on Valentines Day she gave me a card it was blue with a heart on it covered in red glitter (a lot of glitter, I hate glitter) it was signed with a ?. But I knew who it was from, she set a deadline of lunchtime to ask her out but I didn’t because when your 11 it’s a daunting prospect because it got around the whole year group it felt like everyone was watching waiting and I got scared so I chickened out. I felt as though I cared for her but I was young I didn’t love her did I. Years later as I look back at this occasion a part of me was left wondering if I made a mistake and if I asked her out would it have changed what was going to happen later on in life.

I ask this because as I was going through the rest of school I was fighting with my inner demons because I now know looking back that the only time I really loved someone was when I fell in love with my best friend.

For a lot of people that’s ok because some people marry their best friends but for me it was harder to accept as my best friend was male. This was the first time that I realised that I was gay. I cared for my friend I wanted to be with him all the time, I wanted to know what he was doing, how he was, if he was sick I wanted to look after him I wanted to care for him and I wanted him to care for me but he was straight nothing would ever have happened and at times I hated the way I felt about him.

I didn’t want to be gay why did it choose me what had I done to be that person, I went into complete meltdown I thought it was just a phase that I would grow out of. I would lie to myself thinking I would get a wife and have kids because that’s the ‘normal’ thing to do . I wasn’t camp I didn’t like the colour pink I wasn’t going to be gay I had decided.

I went through the rest of school hiding who I was, going into 6th form people were coming out and I thought about coming out but I didn’t. I left school still not accepting who I was I didn’t want to be that person, I hid it to everyone portraying the ‘straight person’ not confiding in anyone and then I came to Diversity Hub.

When I joined Diversity Hub I thought this was going to be the first time I had to be honest with myself and I was going to be ‘out’ but then I saw one of my old classmates from school and I then resorted back to my old self I went back to being ‘straight’ that person left and I just remained that ‘straight’ person.

Until now, writing this is just the start I’m at a point in my life where I’m thinking about the future, thinking about families and to do that I have to proudly say that I’m gay.

Ian

Talk to tackle terrorism

There have been some horrible headlines in recent weeks, not least those concerning the beheading of two American journalists by Islamic State (IS) militants. (And as I post this, it is being reported that a British aid worker has now also been killed.)

And learning that young Muslim men, born and raised here in the UK, are amongst those fighting for IS, has made things all the more unsettling. There have also been reports of young women getting involved.

So what can we do to stop more young people getting caught up in extremism? I think we need to start off by asking ‘why?’  Why would a young British Muslim want to become a jihadist? Why would they want to get behind such barbarism?

I don’t believe these men and women were born evil. I believe they grew disaffected with the world around them; got angry at a system which they perhaps thought discriminated against them, didn’t represent their realities, or heed their voices. They became disconnected from society, and as a result, were left exposed to the lure of the extremists’ lair.

In order to tackle terrorism then, some honest conversations need to take place – not only between young people and community / religious / youth leaders, but amongst families and friendship groups as well. Conversations where intolerant and hateful views are challenged, and fairer values and beliefs promoted.

We need to make the effort to engage with vulnerable and disaffected youth. Ensure they have a voice. Inspire them to express their discontent in positive and productive ways; that will involve creating, not killing; making a better world, not war.

Our political leaders may bring on the fighting talk and air strikes to counter the terrorist threat. But in the long-run, it will be acts of everyday leadership, starting up conversations in our local communities, not dropping bombs in far-off lands, that will keep us safe, together.

Michelle

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How long until we Asian people feel that we can take leadership?!

Over the last few weeks, I have been in and out of conferences and presentations for various events. There have been numerous times where there has been a question and answer session, or a part where the audience have been asked to present something, so on and so forth.

 

My observation in these events has been that the Asian people that have attended have not voiced their opinion; not taken leadership. It has really infuriated me because of the chances that we were given to speak, I have been one of the Asians that had the courage to put my hand up and contribute to the discussion. (There have numerous other white people who also did, but White people tend to have much more confidence than Asian people especially in this context).

 

So, this anger or blaze in me is not going to die until, us Asians, step up the mark and start contributing towards discussions, debates, conversations, and voicing our opinions in front of others in large audiences! I mean, what are we waiting for?

 

Come on people, let’s try and make a change, infuse confidence in us and take leadership! What are we waiting for? What’s holding us back?

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How much difference does it make?…

… is a question I often ask, one that helps to guide my choices, to gauge how I might feel about doing something, and to measure my own success. Should I apply for this job – what good does the organisation do? Is it worth posting this blog – will it get any response?

It’s a big question, and therefore a difficult one, and definitely also a troublesome one for me, because too often it can feel like you make no difference; that your work, your words have no impact, are of little consequence.

But maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way. When I think about wanting to make a difference and what that would involve, I tend to imagine it on some grand scale; that what I do and who I am in the world should be bringing about some fundamental change and affecting a significant number of people, or at least changing something for me so that I can keep growing, and moving forward.

I’m taking in these sorts of messages our society sends: a video on You Tube needs to go viral, a blog needs to be # re-tweeted, if they are to count; a march needs a few million before it will make the news; change-makers are Great Individuals – the leader as Artist, as Activist.

If these are our expectations, if this is the standard by which we measure the extent of our own change-making, then it’s no wonder our own efforts  – which may have ‘only’ resulted in a couple of comments on Facebook or a few signatures on a petition – can seem insignificant, and we begin to wonder ‘what’s the point?’

But what if we were to acknowledge the many ways we could make a difference closer to home amongst those we find ourselves in our day-to-day lives? For example: encouraging a colleague to go for that promotion; reassuring a sibling who’s unsure of the next step to take; helping a stranger you can see is struggling; listening to your Mum?

These are all acts of everyday leadership. And they all constitute making a difference. Smaller in scale maybe, but certainly no less meaningful. Definitely compassionate. And while many people may not get to hear about what you did, perhaps that’s what made your actions more true.

However, everyday acts of leadership are not necessarily easier to carry out. Making a difference on this level can take just as much courage, energy, time, as change-making on the larger scale. It’s easy to dream about making some big difference in the world… so much harder though to actually find the right words to comfort a loved one; to intervene when you see someone in trouble; to not just put your head down and keep on walking. You risk exposing yourself, making yourself vulnerable, being seen, being the ‘only one’.

These are all challenges for me, and ones I know I need to work on if I’m genuinely intent on making a difference… because it may just be that the way we choose to treat those around us is how we end up making the most difference, the most tangible difference, in both our own lives and those of others. And it’s from there, that further change can follow.

Michelle

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The Joint Enterprise Law: Innocent People In Jail?

The BBC aired a drama by Jimmy McGovern called Common which looked at the Joint Enterprise Law or Common Purpose, for those of you who don’t know what the Joint Enterprise Law is this is how Jimmy McGovern explains it “I remember as a boy at school there would often be fights and we’d sort them out after school – Boy A would go with Boy B to a park and have a fight. Boy A would have his friends and Boy B would have his, and if one boy had accidentally killed another in that fight, there would have been uproar, of course, but they would not have all faced prison. Nowadays you would face life in prison because you went with the common purpose of starting this fight knowing that one boy would attack another boy. If you egged on your boy and he killed another boy, you’d go to prison for life.”

In the drama someone ends up being stabbed and they end up dying, whereas before the police would have to prove which one stabbed the person, now they can just charge everyone involved with murder, even if someone was just waiting in a car for his friends thinking they were going to get a pizza.

There is a campaign group out there called JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) who are trying to get the law changed on there website there is a list of 140 people who have all been charged with Joint Enterprise murder or murder with association For example the case of Jordan Cunliffe, Jordan was walking home from the chip shop when a with his friends his neighbour mistook his group of friends as vandals. He challenged the children and after an altercation he received one significant blow to his neck and died 2 days later in hospital. At the time Jordan was 15, he did not take part in any vandalism or the attack, he was sentenced to 12-year life sentence for joint enterprise murder, Jordan didn’t see the attack because Jordan is blind.

In April the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) found that in the years 2005-2013 there were 4,590 prosecutions for homicide with two or more defendants. This is equivalent to 44% of all homicide convictions for those years. Prosecutions for homicides involving two or more defendants meet the Crown Prosecution Service’s definition of joint enterprise.

Whatever you think about the Joint Enterprise Law, there is a discussion to be had, for those families that have been victims of Joint Enterprise you hope one day they find justice.

Arranged and forced marraige’s

Last week my attention was caught by our new law making forced marriage illegal for both men and women. I spent a little time reading and looking at some of the material that was appearing, recognizing this milestone legislation and realised I had been stereotyping arranged marriage. The  Muslim Women’s Network UK gives some easy reading, fact sheets and support links. In my minds eye I have been viewing arranged marriage as the same as a forced marriage. With a moments thought the weakness in this thinking is apparent. Plainly arranged marriages can be freely entered into ….and forced marriages are what they say on the tin. ChildLine has a short animation illustrating the differences. 🙂

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It’s a man thing……………..speaking up about mental health

For many of us mental health remains a difficult subject to talk about with those around us. The prospect of being stereotyped as crazy, weak or inadequate limits our abilities to seek and give support.

 

The Black Dog Tribe is a platform for mutual support for those who are experiencing or supporting others with mental health issues. Their recent newsletter provided me with three moving and distinctive accounts written by men about their experiences;

Each and all of them were worth my time.

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