Saturday 26 September 2020

Amelia Abraham, Queer Intentions

I've really enjoyed reading Amelia Abraham's Queer Intentions: A (Personal) Journey Throught LGBTQ+ Culture, which has given me much to reflect on in relation to other issues that have been occupying my mind lately, particularly follwing the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the implications of this event on the American judicial system. 

I've been considering what it means to be an activist, ally and advocate and how this materialises differently in theory and in practice. One thing is clear: for someone who cares deeply about this issues, I'm not doing enough - and probably most people who also care are not doing enough - and it isn't acceptable.

Abraham's book was first published in 2019. She writes the following passage about the conflicts between certain British feminists and certain people (often expressed on Twitter) taking a stance to exclude trans women in certain female spaces:

This is extremely relevant today for many reasons: Covid-19 has meant a spike in domestic abuse and the murder of women, which affects trans women disproportionately. Moreover, we have been living through a resurgence of this Twitter argument and witnessing JK Rowling taking a stance against trans women as women, which has been distubring to many and feels like a definitively anti-feminst, exclusatory position. 

Moreover, the Black Lives Matter movement has shed light and rightly put at the fore of people's minds the unique discrimination, attacks and murders experienced within the black trans community. Another passage from Queer Intentions:

Intersectionality is time and again a necessary consideration if any of these issues (racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, etc) are going to be better understood and addressed. Hate crimes and incidents are on the rise and horror in the comfort of one's home isn't coming close to what needs to be done to mobilise and lobby for change.

I attended a training session yesterday for school governors offered by Bristol City Council on equality and diversity in school policies and objectives that as governors, we need to be constantly challenging, revisiting and reforming to ensure inclusivity is embedded in all aspects of school strategy. 

Returning to the immediate aftermath of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I have been asking myself the following questions:

- is it enough to volunteer at local community centres and groups? How can I have a wider impact?

- if I feel real change needs to happen not in the minds of your own liberal and left-wing community — who may largely already be on board and bought into EDI ideas, so that sharing posts on social media is merely speaking to the converted how do I reach those who may be open to having their views challenged to be more accepting, to changing their minds but don't have the tools or information to do so?

- i.e. how can I have an impact on a systemic level? How can I help to influence voting and/or policy and thus the minds of citizens across the country?

The last question is the hardest to answer as someone who is neither a politican nor a human rights lawyer. 

But I believe there to be good answers and I am committed to finding them. It seems as though school governance is a good start, and I'd like to further explore what steps need to be taken to have more inclusive policies/actions plans. I'm excited to dive into, analyse and scrutinuse school data to ensure equal access and opportunity and use this data to make important changes, as well as to explore what a diverse curriculum could look like and what steps should be taken without delay to make diversity and inclusion more visible to students.

Thursday 24 September 2020

Mental Health First Aid

I'm now a qualified mental health first aider in England! Very interesting course and proud to be an advocate for breaking mental health stigmas. 

Saturday 19 September 2020

Swallowing Geography by Deborah Levy

Really interesting to read this early novel as well as Beautiful Mutants by Deborah Levy. You can definitely see certain motifs early on that reappear... I'm thinking about the description of the pineapple and the importance of the pineapple in The Man Who Saw Everything

These two early novels are quite experimental, fractured and fragmented, dreamy and magical realist. Some passages:

In the following paragraph, the narrator has AIDS and is writing to a friend:

This passage below is what the white horse that visits J.K. in troubled dreams, galloping on her stomach, tells her:

Sunday 13 September 2020

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham at RWA

A few weeks ago, the Royal West of England Academy posted on Instagram about their new exhibition on Scottish Modernist artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and the work she made on several trips and journeys, connecting it to the work by the modernist St Ives artists in the 20th century. 

Finding Barns-Graham's work extremely interesting, I followed the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust on Instagram and by chance I ended up being their 3000th follower. To celebrate, they most generously sent me some books and postcards in the post.

Delightfully, they then posted the following:
I was finally able to go see the exhibit at RWA, which I loved. Not only was it wonderful to be in an art gallery again after the shutting of public (art) spaces during the pandemic, but I also found WBG's work to be really beautiful. 
Painting and drawing landscapes from her travels to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Lanzarote and Orkey, and sometimes using the earth such as volcanic sand in her paintings, I began to think anew about site-specific work, a topic which has always interested me, taking me back to times when I was consumed by Fogo Island. 
Thinking about site/place/location is of further interest for me at the moment as I have begun to research place-based giving in work at Teach First and thinking about people's connection to place/home/the local, especially as Covid-19 has forced us to contend with our immediate surroundings and very little else further afield. There are more connections here worth exploring for me. 

Selection of WBG works:

Thursday 10 September 2020

People without Power: The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy

I just attended online a great webinar hosted by Bristol Festival of Ideas with Thomas Frank, author of People without Power: The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy


He provided a really interesting history of the term populism and its movements of origin as situated in the 1890s in the United States as a labour movement aimed at mobilising farmers' rights, social equality and nationalising the railway. He then described the way the term has been co-opted and is now used as a foil to the intellectual elite in a way that presents the working class as something out of control, wild and to be feared.

It was interesting to learn about the Bourban Democratics, a group of white Southern conservatives in the late 1870s that sought to stifle and eradicate the labour populist movement of its time as a way to separate and create hierarchies between different race and class groups. 

On his blog, Frank has collected fascinating anti-populist cartoons, some of which I've pasted below. 


Tuesday 8 September 2020

School Governor

Excited to say that I am now a School Governor on the board at Blaise Primary and Nursery School here in Bristol. Really looking forward to contributing to the school's governance and engaging with the local education community.

Carlos Manuel Álvarez, The Fallen



I love this notion of being so slow that one's movements house within them repetitions as if time is functioning via other means in a loop that cannot progress with any real force that patterns of repetition can be felt/observed. 
I also love the notion of having a reason or not to know something as the catalyst of asking a question.