Un-braiding

by Chloe Batten

Enclosed for the winter. hibernation.

each strand runs through softly calloused hands,

firm, reassuring fingers whisper sweet nothings

to my newborn roots, like

warm honey. Chloe, Un-braiding image

enfolding strand

over strand, one leads, one hides,

one follows, one leads

one hides, one follows

all clinging to each other for dear life,

sworn to protect the hair they hold,

to incubate the soul that lies within

my newborn roots.

hibernation.

 

Don’t mistake synthetics

for dormancy. like a cocoon they hide

growth and beauty,

and they too will die.

but as spring melts winter’s spite

and warmer air beckons hair

outside the neat twists and folds,

I follow nature’s cue.

in cathartic ritual,

un-braiding plait

after plait,

old dead hair is laid aside.

my fingers run through soft curls,

and linger.

 

This is home.

the feeling after a deep sigh

when lungs resettle.

feels like warmth and peace

and honey. this is my soul.

like Aunty Solange reminds me,

my hair

it is the rhythm,

the feelings,

I wear.

 

 

Getting Over It vs. Getting Through It

By Samyat Kolawole

“I pushed everything I felt so deep inside … sadness became too familiar.”

I am writing this a year on from an experience that showed me the difference between getting over something, and getting through it.

A little over a year ago, I was in a relationship with someone that I really cared about. The way I felt about him made our breakup a very difficult experience for me. Because it was so difficult, I tried to just ‘get over it’ – basically, I tried to stop feeling how I felt as quickly as possible. I tried to suppress how I felt; I told myself I didn’t really care anyways, so why would I need to be upset? When I talked about it with my friends, they’d ask if I was okay and I would downplay how I felt and say I was fine. I did this so much that I pushed everything I felt so deep inside that sadness became a lingering part of me; sadness became too familiar. This, along with other things led to me becoming depressed, which affected so many other aspects of my life.

The worst was probably academically. I was in year 13 at the time, which anyone who has been through A Levels knows is the most stressful time of your teenage life. School required so much of my energy, and I felt like I had no energy left – the way I felt had made me feel this drained. There were many, many times where I couldn’t get out of bed. I’d get up for school late, leave school straight away just to go home and go back to bed. I did this so many times but dismissed it as laziness. At school, I was distracted.At work, I was distracted, and at home, I was distracted. This continued for what felt like forever.

“I should have thought practically about what I was going to do to make myself feel better”

It wasn’t until I met one of my good friends that I actually began to talk about and address how I felt. This made me realise how much I had tried to force myself not to feel anything, and that it hadn’t worked at all. Instead, I felt much worse than I would have done if I had allowed myself to get through it at the time, rather than trying to run away from how I felt because it hurt. I would tell myself not to think about it, when I should have asked myself why I feel the way I do. I told myself to get over it, when I should have thought practically about what I was going to do to make myself feel better.

Through this example, I wanted to illustrate the pain that you can cause yourself by trying to get over something, rather than trying to get through it. But what does getting through it actually mean?

This means understanding and accepting what has happened. I see this as the ‘wowwwwww’. The ‘wowwwww he really did this’ or ‘wowww this really happened?!’, for example. You also have to forgive yourself for anything you feel you did that contributed to the situation, as well as forgiving anyone else involved in the situation, even if they have not apologised to you (because you really don’t know how long you could be waiting for an apology, or if it will ever come at all). As difficult as it may be, you have to think about how you feel, and why you feel that way. Whether you have this conversation with yourself, or with a friend, it is an important part of getting through something. You have to learn to be honest with yourself and dig deep into your thoughts and feelings.

One thing that prolonged how I felt was that I didn’t want to be sad any longer but I didn’t do anything to actively make myself feel better. I would say ‘I’m tired of being so upset about this’ but never did anything to change how I felt. What will help you feel better is dependent on you; it could be avoiding things that remind you of the situation or it could be doing things that generally make you feel better. What doesn’t help is doing nothing.

“I’ve learnt to allow myself to feel whatever I feel, without judging myself for feeling that way.”

It is very important to give yourself time. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to ‘just get over it’. They only say this because they don’t understand what you’re going through. Instead, it helps to talk to someone who understands how you feel, or at least can listen to you talk about how you feel. If you feel like you can’t talk to anyone, you can write about how you feel. If you’re religious, talking to God always helps.

The main thing is that you are actively trying to feel better, and in this way, you definitely will – but this is a process and it’s never easy. Trying to get over it seems a lot faster, and it is, but only because you are suppressing how you feel. Suppressing something means that it’s only going to come out at some point, and it will probably be a lot worse. If you’re like me, one day you’ll be drunk and start screaming. (don’t be like me pls)

I’m an emotional person and I actually like this about myself, but I still managed to convince myself that being upset is a bad thing. Now I’ve learnt to allow myself to feel whatever I feel, without judging myself for feeling that way. This has helped me a lot more than I expected. I also understand myself a lot more and have become even more self-aware. This self-awareness made me realize that there is so much power in engaging with your emotions!

All of this doesn’t just apply to relationships – there are a lot of other situations in life where we force ourselves to get over something. Whatever the situation is, the best thing for you is to get through it, rather than get over it. It takes time but you’ll ultimately feel better.

‘If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you’re fighting.’ …

RED & the Power of Short Films

“I wanted to make something which recognised the dire impact such illnesses like OCD have on one’s mental and emotional frame of mind, by creating a character that seems to live a life of ease but is driven to the edge at the exposé of infidelity.” Divine Layokun, Co-Director, Co-Producer and Star of RED

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Day at The Beach, 2018

Day at the Beach, 2018 is the second in a series of sartorial interpretations centering African-inspired dress, and style, in four different time periods.

“Afrocentrism and my particular African identity more than anything else inform and inspire my fashion photography practice. A lot of the concepts that I choose to explore are me reflecting on society and culture and offering commentary on what I see. Other times it’s primarily aesthetic. In any case I aim to champion being African, being black. I want people to appreciate the aesthetic significance of the visuals while joining in the observation, reflection and celebration.” Uzoma Orji
Production Credits
Photographer: Kene Nwosu (Instagram: @glass_stop)
Creative Director and Stylist: Uzoma Orji (@uzzzoma)
Models: Veronique Belinga (@vbelinga), Data Pepple (@datapepple), Uzoma Orji (@uzzzoma)

‘Black Panther’ is worth the hype.

by Annice Abanda

When I hear about a movie that everyone has claimed is amazing, I’m always a little bit apprehensive. I ask myself: will this movie be all that everyone has made it out to be, or does the hype mean I’m going in with high expectations that the movie can never fulfil? After watching ‘Black Panther’, I can honestly say it deserved every positive review it received.

So, what makes it so noteworthy?

  1. Its representation of Africa.

Although Wakanda is clearly a fictional country, it’s evident that its conception is based on  natural beauty and cultures present in actual African countries . The various panning shots of Wakanda’s landscapes are comparable to the surreal ones in existing African nations.

Building on the interconnection of a fictional African nation and non-fictional Africa is the existence of vibranium, an imaginary metal, which is comparable to the very real resources produced in Africa – from diamonds, cocoa beans, iron and copper to tropical fruits, gold, petroleum and more.

Wakanda is the bedrock of technological advancement as well as rich traditions. The infrastructure and technological discoveries show Africa to be more than the primitive, technology-deprived continent it is often represented as. At the same time, the presentation of different African cultures through clothing, rituals, accents, tribal organisations and so on means their traditions are neither denied nor seen as inherently opposed to technological innovation. The two exist alongside each other which subverts the narrative that whiteness is a necessary prerequisite to progressivism.

It was clever to set ‘Black Panther’ in a fictional country that is historically contextualised by Africa, as it avoids the misrepresentation of a single African country whilst being able to showcase a multitude of African countries in one single place: Wakanda.

  1. Its representation of women.

I loved seeing women alongside men in battle, in leadership positions, and in governance. Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) is undoubtedly the most skilled and most captivating warrior who prioritised her duties and dedication to her craft over her relationships; she was willing to fight her husband for what she believed in. Shuri (portrayed by Letitia Wright) is a technological genius and one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe. Although this does nothing to tackle the structural barriers that see so few black women worldwide involved in STEM, it challenges the idea that they are incapable or undeserving of a seat at the table. It shows that black women, when given the opportunity, can equal the performance of their counterparts, and even outperform them. Meanwhile, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) showed us that fostering gentleness, compassion and empathy is not mutually exclusive to demonstrating strength and assertiveness. She never belittled herself for a man – compassionate yet assertive.

‘Black Panther’ showcased dark skin black women of all varieties (short hair, natural hair and even no hair) which was important considering black female representation has normally been limited to light skin black women.

  1. Its message of equality.

Michael B. Jordan’s character, Erik, is very important. He symbolises the many aggrieved and oppressed people who want to do to their oppressors what has been done to them. A very valid feeling. Though tempting, T’Challa’s rejection of this idea is key. It would simply feed a never-ending cycle of one demographic dominating until another manages to dethrone them, creating chaos and havoc as ‘Black Panther’ shows. Instead, we need to fight for equality and that means embracing our differences whilst living in harmony. We can love our own race/culture/gender/religion and simultaneously respect other people’s.

  1. Agent Everett

He initially held all the stereotypical views about Africa and had them dismantled.

  1. The soundtrack.

It speaks for itself really- but the fact that the soundtrack wasn’t generic mainstream music that a lot of big Hollywood movies, especially superhero ones, have was refreshing. I loved the hip hop beats throughout, the sound of the Weeknd, and Kendrick Lamar. To witness vibrant music of black origin take pride of place was thrilling.

  1. The humour.

It was actually funny!

  1. That it was a superhero movie.

Placing aside its rich and multifaceted depictions of blackness, ‘Black Panther’ revealed itself to be a superhero movie just like any other. Filled with enthralling action scenes, special effects and ‘cool’ gadgets, it brought together people of different backgrounds who enjoy exciting movies. The cinema was full when I watched ‘Black Panther’ and, though it was branded as a ‘black movie’, the audience wasn’t solely filled with black faces. Especially significant as the positive messages are consequently communicated to people of all backgrounds.

The success that ‘Black Panther’ has garnered in the few weeks since its release date is a testament to the skill Ryan Coogler demonstrated to turn a favoured comic book story into a ground-breaking production. Whether you’re a Marvel fanatic, a pro-black enthusiast, or just want something exciting and different to watch, I’d seriously recommend watching this movie!

Anaphylaxis, Shonda Rhimes and Vulnerability as a Black Woman

Navigating the world as a black woman, there is something terrifying about vulnerability. People underestimate us, so we feel the need to overachieve. People stereotype us, so we become hyperaware of how are words and actions are interpreted. Every experience of misogynoir adds another layer to the wall we build between the world and ourselves, our true selves. But, for me, it took a near-death experience to realise how emotionally damaging this has become.

Last night, I said two words I haven’t said out loud in a long time: “I’m scared.” They were uttered between the short, sharp breaths that my fellow severely asthmatic people know the struggle of. In a mixed up Chinese delivery, I ended up eating nuts, going into anaphylactic shock and simultaneously enduring an asthma attack and a panic attack (so just your average Friday night…) In a moment of sheer desperation, unable to breathe properly and entrusting my life to two paramedics, I admitted the feeling that I, as a black woman, am not at liberty to express – fear.

“I fulfil the role of the ‘strong black woman’ and being scared isn’t part of the job description”

Whilst lying in the hospital bed, I tried to remember the last time I’d verbally expressed fear, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I mulled over my inability to communicate fear, and I soon came to realise that in every situation of fear I navigate, I fulfil the role of the ‘strong black woman’ and, in performing this trope, being scared isn’t part of the job description. So many of my relationships depend on me finding the solution, offering solace to others, and performing emotional labour. Where, in all of that, is my space and time to be scared, to show weakness, to be vulnerable?

Just the other day, Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the incredible Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder tweeted:

“Entertainment industry, time to stop using the phrases “Smart Strong Women” and “Strong Female Leads”.  There are no Dumb Weak Women.”

“our Black Girl Magic does not exist in spite of our vulnerability, but because of it”

I completely agree with Rhimes – we need to stop coded sexist language in phrases like “strong female lead” from pervading our language, to prevent them from pigeon-holing and diluting women’s complex narratives. Given that I have more than the 280 character limit of a tweet, however, I’ll expand on Rhimes’ take, and add that there is power in not only applauding well-written female characters for capturing women’s strength, but also for recognising that there is power in weakness. This is, perhaps, the most compelling aspect of Rhimes’ storytelling – in both Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating we see black women who are strong, and competent whilst simultaneously vulnerable, and, at times, ‘weak’. They, like all of us, have their strengths, flaws and all that comes in between. In showing the plurality and complexity of black women, Rhimes is showing us that our Black Girl Magic does not exist in spite of our vulnerability, but because of it
Letting my guard down won’t be easy but, from now on, I’ll be embracing my vulnerability, and admitting it when I’m scared more often. I just hope that other black girls and women are able to do the same, without needing a near-death experience first.

 

This blog was first published on BEBB: Be Educated Be Bold.