July 02, 2019

#IStandWithBusola: Beyond hashtags.

The “When they see us” Netflix series, tells the story of five black boys aged 14-16, who spent between 5-12 years in jail for a crime they did not commit based on wildly conflicting testimonies alleged to have been doctored by the New York Police Department to incriminate them.

Several years later, the real criminal who had not only raped but assaulted the victim, inflicting injuries that left her with life changing injuries and disability, confessed to his crime. This led to a series of events that saw the release and vindication of the five men and a TV series based on their story.

I not only watched Oprah Winfrey’s interviews with the five who paid for another man’s crimes but read interviews and news stories about the rape survivor.

Although someone went to jail for the rape and the wrongfully jailed were released, exonerated and compensated, the lives of the central six people involved had been irreparably damaged by one life altering event, with ripple effects on hurt families, communities and racial relations.

For the parties, a palpable sense of hurt remained that the hands of justice could not erase- they needed healing.

Healing to overcome the crushing pain of destinies altered and time stolen. The lost sense of security and trust in the goodness of God and people. The lost faith in the safety of the world. The shattered confidence in their ability to protect themselves from evil and the ability to be protected by the people, systems and societies they trust.

I recognised this same sense of loss and struggle to heal in Busola Dakolo’s retelling of events from when she was 16 years of age. Events which for her, stopped time.

Since her public allegations of rape against Biodun Fatoyinbo, the head pastor of COZA, there has been social media outrage and protests at the church, spurred along by understandably angry but also inciting narratives in some quarters.

Demands for a confession and “I stand with Busola” hashtags have been amplified across several social media platforms by an improvised community of supporters trying to even the power distance between the accuser and the accused, protected by a large and loyal following.

But it will be short sighted to think protests to disrupt the peace of innocent congregants on a Sunday is the answer.

It will be naïve to think that getting on the handles of church members to disparage their experiences which may have vastly differed from hers or insult them for their opinions where they have gone against hers, is redress.

It will be insulting to think her message- and the reason she put herself out there- was to feed our angst with the next trending story to form camps to lambast each other with.

It will be an oversight to have watched and yet not seen a woman trying to take another step in her journey of healing by owning her narrative and innocence. To have listened and yet not realised that this acrid environment we have created on social media in her name is likely the very thing she wants to walk away from- entitled behaviour characterised by a lack of self-control, misguided show of force and unchecked disregard for the boundaries of others.

If we are only standing with Busola online and not using the right channels to challenge the absence of justice for victims of rape and consequences for rapists, then we are only after our social media fix because to stand with Busola is to provide, back and fund legal action against sexual predators and protest against laws, policies and systems that institutionalise rape, harassment, domestic violence, and hostile conditions against women so this is not allowed to happen again!

It is to stand with the victims she gave a human face and human voice to by speaking out and create or publicise where they already exist, support for victims so they can find their voice and regain their confidence faster than she did.

It is to support the vulnerable women around us limping about with half-told and untold truths because they have no one to turn to for solace or courage.

Other survivors have and will speak out but let’s not make them the victims of their stories by turning their life’s pain into ammunition for our distracting #MeToo movements, cancelling culture, online bullying and dissention with religious organisations.

It will be simplistic to think that this is what it will take to stop sexual predators from getting away scot-free and change our deeply entrenched culture of enablement let alone help survivors get the justice and the healing they need!

If all we take out of this is reduced to a hashtag and we are not challenged as a society, to move away from the system of victim silencing and victim shaming that makes the victim carry the shame of the perpetrator and the perpetrator, the innocence of the victim, then she has told us her story in vain.

If we are not challenged as friends, spouses, family members and members of religious and secular organisations, to remove the log of misplaced loyalty from our eyes, that makes us enable where we should love tough and hold people to account so that they can experience the natural consequences of their actions and course correct, then we have simply allowed ourselves to be entertained.

May 30, 2019

You and the others in your head.

You're in a meeting. You feel nervous because you will soon be addressing the room.

You are aware that you can speak and nothing outside your skill set is needed, not even a boost to the volume of your voice, since you've just heard the last person speak at their normal range and you picked up what they said just fine. 

Stepping out of your head, you notice you are not the room, just the chair. A chair much like the one you are occupying now. You see that everyone has a chair too, a role they play in the room. Together you all fill up the space in the room, one person saying his piece and then the other picking it up.

You realise you are not required to fill up the silence because there is no silence, just voices- ones you are listening to now.

And maybe that's what you are here to do, to seat in your chair- the one that's holding you while you listen. So you do, and there is something interesting to hear, and see too! That person over there is also thinking about being the room like you were a minute ago- they are nervous but bravely speaking on. 

It's almost your turn to speak, what will you say you think? "It might not go very well" you say to yourself, dismissing the first idea that comes to your head. But you remember you are the chair not the room, and you own the space your chair seats on, that and nothing more. So you say what it is you think of, leaving others to say the rest.

You easily pass on the baton, barely noticing you have already spoken. Your ears welcoming the small giggles rippling to either side of you. 

It did go down very well!

Central to my end of year message of 2018, was not so much the charge to unleash our potential but really a call to get out of our own way so what's within can shine through.

I said: "Consider how much of your inherent potential you can release if you overcome the critic in your head that creates the self doubt, fear of failure and vote of no confidence which interferes with your performance to the point where you don't do what you think yourself capable of or never find out how great you can be it."          
It's about getting out of our heads, so we can do what comes naturally to us- being brilliantly ourselves without the 'self conscious- us and the judgemental others'. 
For instance, we have no real reason to feel inadequate when we don't know something, because not knowing is not only inevitable but perfectly realistic. But we might feel that way because we've considered how other people will think of us negatively because of this and depending on how negative or positive our mental habits are, we could over estimate in either direction. 

Getting 'ourselves and the others' out of our heads in this example will really be stopping the fantasy and handling only the reality of the present- "I don't know about 'x',".  It should only be an observation we make that then informs our decision to either learn or not learn more about that thing. 

My conversation with a friend earlier this week illustrates the point.

She'd spent more time than she liked at home, sorting out the small issue of what she was going to wear for an engagement the next day, when she 'should' have been on her way to work. I listened more amused by how often I too had been boggled by a ward robe change that felt absolutely important in the moment, instead of getting myself out of the house.

I came out of reverie though when she started to anticipate some repercussion for her lateness and effectively turned our chat into a brainstorming session on how she would handle it. 

It had not happened.

It might never.

And yet here we were stuck in an unpleasant future in her head, the present realities of our actual safety from repercussion, fading in our rear view.

I said something along these lines to my friend but writing this today, I now realise what I really meant was: "when you come to the moment and a response is needed, you'll give one. For now own the present- your purest of intentions neither to shirk on work nor to suck at the social responsibility to turn up at a colleague's wedding wearing the agreed outfit . 

Those accepting thoughts could prove really useful if at all you need to give a reason for not being in at your normal time. You'll be able to own the confidence from knowing you do not need to turn up early all the time and it is you not anybody else who is responsible for managing your calendar such that your life in and outside work balances"

By only noticing the event and not running away with the thoughts of repercussion and judgement from 'the others' we disinvite the feelings of nervousness, fear, worry and anger- another waste of our mental energy. 

Again we pick up your internal self talk from the point where you are angry at 'insert name' and you are just saying "'insert name' is a 'name insult'!" and what you mean is that they seem to be frustrating your efforts and standing in your way. 

The only problem is you have just told yourself that that person is a road block and how do you feel when you think of them and the thoughts 'road block' come to mind? You'll likely feel blocked or feel like a person who is able to be blocked- which is a defeating feeling.

The result is you have magnified that person or situation just by your colourful description of them. So a good emotional habit is to cut them back to size and instead say- "that's just 'name' and they are not stupid, I am just upset because I am not having my way which is usually a difficult feeling for me to handle". 

See, you can use your words differently to describe the event you are noticing not the person, focusing your attention on the real issue of your perception of the situation.

Without the obstructive feelings of self doubt, nervousness, inadequacy, worry, anger and un-useful mental and emotional habits, you'll be letting your natural state of confidence and brilliance lead and optimising your results without doing a single thing! 

February 17, 2019

This is not about how I met Basket Mouth

Basket Mouth and I

This is about my husband and boyfriend of seven years- Haruna.

So I’m travelling en route Euston station to London, when I catch the image of Basket mouth and his signature “Fido dido” hair cut in front of me. Without thinking I say, “is that basket mouth?”, to which the owner of the head with said hair cut turns in response.

I only notice a handheld camera when he gestures to a young man to stop filming while he explains to me that he is in the middle of a shoot and isn’t supposed to be recognised by a fan. I’m not listening, only thinking about how I’m going to ask him for a photo, fan indeed that I am.

So we pose for a selfie while I’m gushing some nonsense about how he reminds me of Fido Dido from the 7up commercials back in the day (I know! No filter right?) and how good he actually looks in real life (I have no shame! Chai!). 

Picture taken, I wish him well barely noticing his crew’s camera is back on, taking footage of us.
Understandably, when I’m on the phone to Haruna a few minutes later, I’m still excited by the chance recognition of not only a familiar but popular face at the busy train station.

“I met basket mouth”, I gush into the phone. “I was the typical star struck fan”, I say, reporting myself.

“As you did for him, so will they do for you”, Haruna prays, dismissing my self consciousness with a prophetic reference to my future fans, so touched by my work they cannot mask their admiration, good will or sense of national pride.

I break into a wide grin.

I suddenly feel unable to delay my reunion with my family any further, as I head for my connecting train, forgetting my thoughts of basket mouth and his not so incognito shoot.

(I told you this was not about how I met Basket mouth! *wink wink*)

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