Oh boy

Man Repeller feels like home. I’m actually annoyed that I’ve been under a rock and therefore without it until recently, but ever since stumbling on it a few months ago I’ve quickly become a groupie. I mean that seriously: it’s not enough for me to simply read their posts. I watch the Youtube videos, the Youtube profiles on Leandra and Amelia, and most recently, I’ve been hooked (by my ‘ZARA WOMAN‘ coat label, and rather comfortably) on its ‘Oh Boy’ podcast.

The whole series is a dream. Admittedly I’m still working through all the episodes (quite quickly, I might add). But listening to the ambitious, funny, talented, smart and generally very likeable guests talk to the host, Jay Buim, about their upbringing and other random (but relevant) musings, is like tucking in to an aural comfort blanket. Jay starts each episode (that I’ve listened to) stating how much he enjoyed talking to such and such in his kitchen. You’d be tempted to employ a thick layer of skepticism to your thinking here, but it’s not merited. The conversation really is that enjoyable. 

And even though he asks the same questions each time, the format of the podcast does not get tired – each interviewee has an interesting story to tell, even if it sounds pretty ordinary. Plus, he’s a great conversationalist – easy going and flows with the tide of his interviewees responses, while adding anecdotes of his own experiences.

My favourite episode so far? It’s difficult to choose between Emily Weiss, Founder of Into The Gloss and Glossier, Leandra Medine, OG Man Repeller, and MR Deputy Editor, Amelia Diamond. But I think the conversation flows best between Buim and Diamond – she sounds so pleasant and has a great rapport with him. I imagine she would be exactly the same in person (…as opposed to in voice). But each story is so inspiring to me especially at this juncture in my life – because they are so relatable. Like when Diamond talks about an interview mishap in which she messed up due to her ‘cockiness’, or when she likens her assisting on the set of a Grace Coddington shoot to something from my favourite film, the Devil Wears Prada (“WE NEED MORE CHAINS!!”).

I also love listening to their ‘connect the dots’ tales of how they reached their current position. Hearing about the mustard seed beginnings of the enviably slick beauty brand Glossier, is like super greens for my ambitious streak. 

10/10, would recommend. Great stuff.

Advertisements

Thanks, Joan (and Tavi…and Youtube)

On those evenings when I wind deeeper and deeeper into the annals of 2013-14 YouTube videos, I am rarely rewarded. Today, I was pleasantly surprised. After watching one Tavi Gevinson video (my quest started from Casey Neistat’s channel…??), I’d worked my way through quite a few until clicking on this one, in which she mentions Joan Didion’s essay entitled: ‘On Keeping A Notebook’. Naturally, I google this because I love keepin’ me a good ol’ notebook.

Joan Didion

I read through and then reach the bottom of the second-to-last page, and stop, trace my eyes back up a few lines, and re-read. Didion writes:

“I have lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing “How High the Moon” on the car radio…

…The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished.”

This struck me because lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my sixteen-year-old self. About how, even with my feet (almost) to the ground, I lived in my head. I thought deeply and boundlessly. The songs I listened to then, the films I loved, the blogs I followed were like another home. I occasionally throw myself back and listen to, watch and read those things, six years later (mostly because I’m ridiculously sentimental). Yet, like Didion, I sometimes feel that I’ve lost touch with ‘that person I used to be’. But I’m working on reconnecting. In a similar way, she continues:

“It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

I’m pleased with the fact that I still keep a notebook; its details are not so distant that when I read through it, things don’t seem too out of context or tricky to follow. But I don’t want to  get to a place where I can’t remember what the heck I was writing about when I was eighteen. I’ll continue to grow and change, but I don’t want to lose touch with my formative thoughts.

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend 🙂

 

“I Stand With Baltimore”: Solidarity Gathering Outside The US Embassy.

Yesterday, the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence organised a peaceful protest in solidarity with Baltimore and the protests following the death of Freddie Gray. Held outside the US embassy (I had never been there before but I would not expect anything less of the imposing building), the protest drew attention to the injustices experienced through police brutality in the US and the UK. Here are some pictures:

Check out more about the event and the aftermath here: https://www.facebook.com/events/816469358430934/

London Campaign Against Police and State Violence Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LCAPSV

Elif Shafak on ‘The Politics of Fiction’

It has been difficult to find time to sit down and write on here. The past few weeks have been charged with tasks, appointments, classes, and projects which I am completely dedicated to and thankful for. Yet, I have neglected a few of the things which truly keep me ticking on the inside! It’s time to refocus, gather my energy and start re-funnelling it into the more personal and intimate areas of my life. Hence, my first post in a while!

Late last year, I followed my good friend to a hidden bookshop at our university, in which we got talking about books and authors we enjoy. He told me about an author who he admires immensely – Elif Shafak. After watching her TED talk on ‘The Politics of Fiction’, I couldn’t keep it to myself. If you have a few minutes, please watch, and enjoy.

One is NOT like the other: The aftermath of Charlie Hebdo.

It took three days and 20 deaths to see the siege which engulfed Paris come to an end. ‘Ironic’ cannot begin to describe the sequence of events which followed Stephane Charbonnier’s or ‘Charb’s’ illustration in his last edition of Charlie Hebdo. The killing of journalists, a caretaker and a policeman at the satirical publication on Wednesday, in addition to subsequent shootings and hostage-takings over the next two days, shook not only Paris, but those in solidarity around the world. This attack on outspoken proponents of democracy has been denounced by all, excluding the network of extremists who claim to be fighting in the name of Islam. But how can this violent cause be conflated with a peace-loving religion? With regards to the murdered police officer, Ahmed Merabet, how can it lead to the killing of those with whom you wrongfully and insultingly associate with?

Last Sunday’s ‘Marche Republicaine’ saw almost 4 million demonstrators including 70 world leaders proclaim ‘we are not afraid’, most notably through the adoption of ‘#JeSuisCharlie. Yet, almost as quickly as the ‘#JeSuisCharlie’ hashtag emerged online, so did criticisms towards it. What many expressed after the killings was that Charie Hebdo, despite being a satirical magazine, used this label to disguise underlying racism and Islamaphobia. Although the magazine’s illustrations are devoid of political correctness often provocative, as widely remarked by journalists and the late Charb himself, all sectors of French society were targeted equally by the magazine.

We cannot eliminate the issue of culture: France is a country in which freedom of speech is exercised as fully as possible. It is no coincidence that a British equivalent of Charlie Hebdo does not exist in the mainstream; it certainly would not live to compete with Charlie’s forty-four year presence in the media. Aptly, the famous Voltaire quote: ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but i’ll defend to the death your right to say it’ has been adopted by many and reflects the respect that societies around the world express towards the freedom of expression, despite the controversy surrounding it. Undeniably, the images depicting the prophet Mohammed were offensive and in bad taste. However, it in no way justifies confrontation to this extent. That is not Islam.

A principal concern of the French population, Muslim and non-Muslim, is the potential ‘amalgam’ which is anticipated to follow. I, along with most, fear for the plight of the Muslims who may find their position in French society in a vulnerable state. Already, ‘revenge’ attacks against mosques and innocent Muslims have taken place, only serving to heighten religious and cultural tensions, and add fuel to the fire of ignorance. Blaming the majority of followers of Islam is both irresponsible and vilifying.

In contrast to #JeSuisCharlie, ‘#JeSuisAhmed’ has also been been used to voice the heroism of the murdered policeman who many remarked was ‘protecting a magazine which made fun of his religion’. The hashtag also marks the position of Muslims and non-Muslims alike who, although sympathising wholeheartedly with victims of the attacks, do not accept the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo.

Over the days following the killings in Paris, pictures on the French news channel ‘France 2’ showed measures taken by teachers to educate and debate with students on the implications of such an attack. One picture which struck me was of a teenage girl weeping, overwhelmed by what she saw as a ‘war’ breaking out. What the peaceful protests have shown yesterday, today and I hope tomorrow, is that we are not at war in terms of deadly weapon against deadly weapon. Right now, we are fighting with our pens and pencils, defending our right (to the death) to use them, and to exercise freedom of speech.

In the same vein of democracy and freedom of expression, it seemed contradictory to exclude Marine Le Pen’s ‘Front National’ from participating in Paris’s upcoming national unity rally. However, this was a <em>very</em> welcome contradiction, and it spoke volumes: while Le Pen could use the attacks to further her political agenda, her ability to do so is being restricted. The core-rattling events witnessed over these past few days nearly always engender a strong unity and nationalism within the affected country, and it is reassuring to witness that, publicly, Islamophobia has no place in it. Privately, however, we must not be under the illusion that ‘unity’ is our reality – it is not. Europe is a deeply fractured continent, and, as the Pegida movement in Germany shows, Islamophobia is a profoundly rooted problem which governments and citizens must actively work to rectify.

Beyond these protests however, we also cannot ignore the wider issue of extremism, its advocates, and the dangers it presents in the future. It has been said that the attack on Charlie Hebdo is a French equivalent of September the 11th; one of the most poignant illustrations published as a response to Wednesday’s attack is a symbolic representation of 9/11. In it, two green pencils stand upright, with a plane heading towards them. Given the comparisons made between the two era-defining attacks, it is yet to be seen whether the cause of action which follows Wednesday’s attacks will mirror that of 9/11.

In proclaiming ‘Je Suis Charlie’, supporters are standing in solidarity with the principles of a publication which fully exercises freedom of speech, as well as its victims and their families. Yes, the magazine is polarizing, and often as ‘nasty’ as it proclaims itself to be. But ultimately, the freedom of speech – this ‘pillar of democracy’ – is one which we must defend our right to exercise. Journalists of Charlie Hebdo cannot be blamed for their deaths, for such extreme defensiveness can never be justified – and certainly not in the name of Islam.

LSE on Ferguson

A few weeks back, The London Globalist headed out to the LSE campus to find out what students made of the grand jury decision which decided to not indict Darren Wilson of the killing of Mike Brown.

Essence.

creativity

I have mentioned before that writing is a cathartic process for me. What started out as a hobby and a method of therapy has developed into something which I would like to do for the rest of my life. Lately, I have undergone a process of personal evaluation: met with a crossroads, the time has come for me to pick a direction. However, being a reflective thinker has meant that the decision making process has been drawn out, involving extensive list making, seminars, thinking, crossing things out, re-thinking things, exploring my curiosity and errr, more thinking. A lot of thinking, perhaps too much! Not only has this process brought about internal turmoil, indecision, and eventual transformation, but it has also brought an effective solution.

After proceeding with caution, it has become clear to me that taking that feared leap need not be so….restricting, or even complicated a process. How did this clarity emerge?

By revisiting to my teenage self.

Although not that long ago, looking back has revealed to me the internal change which has taken place over the past 4 years. It all started by flipping through an old, neatly kept A3 sketchbook. Filled with collages, design sketches, doodles and mood boards, it represented who I was at that point, and who I still feel am. It is a pure expression of creativity, of a time when ambition was a mere thought, a hope. Essentially, I am – and love being – creative.

Now, that ambition is very much at the fore of what I do; it is something which I cannot afford to not keep thinking about, but I must action it.

In working towards making that happen, however, I’ve been guilty of drifting away from what inspired it. New aspects of life become prioritised; characteristics of the ‘real world’ come to the fore, and shake you out of your younger, imaginative self. I am enjoying witnessing and experiences the changes that this time in my life bring – although sometimes anxious, I remain excited on the whole. However, keeping in touch with my essence, what I enjoy, what inspires me, and what aligns with my purpose in life – even knowing what that is, is just as important as blooming into a young adult and shouldering the responsibilities that it entails.

Creativity is a pervasive element of who I am, and what I do everyday. Even something as simple as cooking, I realise that when I am doing it, I am at my most engaged yet relaxed point. I am not thinking about anything else but that which I’m creating in that single moment. Although Anthropology is not a classically ‘creative’ discipline, it is a deeply explorative subject which has allowed me to combine my creative and academic interests. Not to mention that it involves a lot of writing.

My hope is that I remain able to stay in touch with that essential part of my identity.

The ‘Global Hand’ Profile Part 2 | Ben Solanky, Director

Hey everyone!

Following on from my previous interview with Global Hand, I decided to find out a bit more about the people behind the organisation. In this next part of the series, I sat down with the director of the charity, Ben, and asked him about his background, the advice he would give to his younger self, and his family.

Name: BEN SOLANKY

Title: DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HAND UK

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY, BACKGROUND, AND PREVIOUS PROJEDSC_0456CTS YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF.

My background could be summarised in a simple way – i am the son of a refugee. My father was given 30 days to leave Uganda on august 4th 1971. In a dramatic change in my family’s hopes of raising a family in there, they were given days to leave the country with one suitcase. My eldest brother was 6 months old, and I was subsequently born. It was a community group that came and rallied round and supported my family in ways that equated to stitching up mattresses, providing clothes and food, picking up my family at airports and taking us to a strange country. It was that goodwill, that love and that help which allowed my family to survive potentially quite a critical point in our lives. So I believe that experience has played a powerful part in my desire to say ‘thank you’ throughout my life.

In terms of what I have done with my life? I am a student of philosophy, so I find I’m pretty much qualified for good pub conversations and very little else! I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I ended up working in a charity. I didn’t plan for it, but I enjoyed it and kept drifting from charity to charity. I have now acquired enough wisdom and experience to understand this sector a bit better and to apply what are my hopes for trying to influence the whole sector.

“I LOVE LISTENING TO PEOPLE AND HEARING THEIR STORIES…I’M A BIT OF A SOCAL ANIMAL.”

OUTSIDE OF GLOBAL HAND, WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS AND HOBBIES THAT YOU TAKE ON?

I feel I’m quite boring! I have three children, soon to be four, and I find that they keep me occupied. I absolutely love my family – i’ve got three boys and they’re very active – I love hanging out with them. I really like stories and narratives so I enjoy watching and reading good stories, I love listening to people and hearing their stories so I’m a bit of a social animal. I’m also a lover of music.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

I don’t know – however, it’s a profound ‘i don’t know’. I would love to counsel and listen to that younger self, but I would also encourage that younger self; the people who have inspired me most are the ones who have encouraged and inspired me. So I don’t know what I would say, but I think I would encourage.

IS THERE ANYTHING/ ANY ISSUE YOU FEEL PARTICULARLY STRONGLY ABOUT?

Yes…what I care about is caring and loving. I would love to see more of that. I see a lot of this hatred, anger and a lot of people throwing their hands up in despair and it’s hard to think what the antidotes are to such situations where somebody wants to hurt another and take their land. It just feels like a massive spiral that if somebody hurts someone, they have to do the same to the next person and it’s a cycle that we keep observing. Personally, I see that cycle continuing, and there is nothing that will break it until an action of love breaks it down. As an organisation, we take inspiration seriously….it is a powerful tool against that hatred, that hurt.

The ‘Global Hand’ Profile: Part 1

DSC_0471The first time I came across Global Hand was around a year ago, when my friend, Becky, enlisted my help to volunteer in one of the simulations they often run to raise awareness around issues of poverty and a lack of sufficient dynamism around the subject. Having volunteered with them again this past summer and getting to better understand the work that the organisation is involved with, I realised that the work that Global Hand does carries more complexity than its mission as ‘the partnership people’ humbly states.

Creating partnerships between businesses, charities and individuals is instrumental in trying to bridge the gap between two disconnected worlds. Within Global Hand’s remit, the charity actively calls upon the empathy of its partners to create change in their actions and become more dynamic in thinking about and helping to solve problems of poverty that can often be (directly or indirectly) linked to their actions. The work they do is impactful and educational: it sheds light on the issues of corporate responsibility and global economic inequality and helps economically powerful figures as well as young students, to face a world that their daily schedules and lifestyles might separate them from.

Having worked with CEOs and schoolchildren, the work they do spans the spectrum of influence. In the first part of the 4-part profile on the organisation, I met with three members of the team: Ben Solanky (UK Director of Global Hand UK), David Watson (office administrator), and Matthew Gurney (Chief Operating Officer) to talk about their vision for the charity, the people they have worked with, and their motivations for doing what they do. 

| WHAT IS GLOBAL HAND’S VISION?

“PRIOR TO COLLABORATING COMES THE WILL TO ACTUALLY DO SO”

MATTHEW: The vision is to connect and bring people together. We live in a world of surplus and a world of need, and often, these two worlds do not connect, and so we want to find ways to do that – to bridge that gap – and bring people together. We want to form partnerships and utilise resources, skills and knowledge.

BEN: One thing we have seen increasingly is the desire for people to accumulate their knowledge and skills, and help where it is needed. Prior to collaborating comes the will to actually do so. Allowing others to have that empathy and see the world as it is seen by those living in poverty is enlightening and powerful in inspiring that collaboration, and so the simulations have inspired such collaborations.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH GLOBAL HAND – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH IT?

MATTHEW: For me it wasn’t planned to come into this organisation. It coincided with a time in my life in which I wanted to leave the sector I was working in,
which was a design and construction company, into an area that was close to my heart but that I hadn’t anticipated working in. That was it – a very unexciting way!

DSC_0454DAVID: For several months, I was going through a rough patch with work, not knowing what to do and so Global Hand appeared to me over that summer. And so, the ‘odd job’ went, and Global Hand came into being. It is something that changed my career massively and I’m learning everyday.

BEN: I should be a teacher, in my mind! I worked in the charity sector for a number of years but I didn’t have a lot of hope staying in it. I was trying to become a teacher at the time, however I was reintroduced back into the idea that the world is a place that is full of need, and that is why we charities exist. We cannot address these problems by ourselves – as individuals we are dwarfed by enormous needs such as poverty, suffering, and climate change. Ideas of collaboration and partnership are real assets and are powerful tools to address those needs. As I was trying to become a teacher, that desire…to be involved in charities came to me, and the attraction to it was the idea that we can all contribute and we can bring our knowledge, our contacts, our wisdom and our resources to a world in need. But, yeah, I was trying to be a teacher!

LINKED TO THE SIMULATIONS YOU TALKED ABOUT EARLIER, WHAT ACTIVITIES AND PARTNERSHIPS DO YOU OFFER AND WHAT THAT HAS LED TO?

BEN: One account of a partnership stems several years from the impact of a simulation we did in Davos in [in conjunction with] the UNHCR, at the World Economic Forum in 2010. The chairman of Nestlé turned up at the event and he was clearly moved by this journey into the life of a refugee and some of the reenactments of life within a camp. Upon coming out of this simulation, I was able to discuss with him how he might like to be involved with this in the future. Sometimes we don’t know or see what happens next, but this year we were back in touch in touch with this same chairman, and he happened to be sponsoring the same event in Davos this year, which was focused on galvanising support for Syria. At the end of one particular simulation, he gave a testimony explaining how he had attended the same event that we ran in 2010 and how it had changed his worldview. As the chairman of Nestlé, he is so removed from that world, but it changed his worldview in that when the Nestlé factory was blown up in Damascus last year, they wrestled with the question of: what SHOULD we do as a company? We have people and employees who depend on us – if we take them off the payroll, it would most likely make the refugee situation worse because of the lack of money and support. So he said that he decided to keep them on the payroll. What was also powerful is that, in sharing his testimony, he had tears in his eyes realising the agony of these big decisions, and other powerful figures became inspired to do likewise. So much of the power of these simulations lies in the peer-to-peer influence that is inspires, and that is a privilege, to see that degree of testimony. Often we don’t hear back, but that was one of our most touching testimonies.

MATT: We run these experiential programmes in order to allow participants to step into the shoes of those who are refugees, or living in desperate poverty, and allow those in the simulation to get a sense of feeling of what people in that position experience in their everyday lives. This element of empathy is critical – we want to touch people’s hearts so that they understand what these issues are. Eventually, with that understanding comes the desire to do something about it, and we have seen those results from the simulations we run.

DAVID: We often go to schools and community groups, so we do things on a smaller scale also. It’s quite inspiring to see effects on a smaller level.

WHO HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?

“THE PEOPLE THAT COME THROUGH THESE SIMULATIONS…WE’VE HAVE THE KING AND QUENN OF BELGIUM ATTEND, THE HEAD OF NESTLÉ, SHERYL SANDBERG.”

MATT: The list is very long! One of the main platforms we run these simulations on is at the Davos World Economic Forum (for the last 6 years). The people that come through these simulations… we’re constantly staggered by it because they’re heads of industry and world leaders. Earlier this year had the king and queen of Belgium attend, an astronaut, the heads of Nestlé and Unilever, Sheryl Sandberg  – all sorts of people have done this, but it is not just the big names for us. Everybody that takes part is as significant as the other, and so we run the same programmes for schools, church groups, community groups and businesses. It’s been a journey and hopefully will continue to be.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INSPIRING MOMENT? AT THE SAME TIME, YOUR MOST CHALLENGING MOMENT?

DAVID: for me, it was when I went to Davos for two weeks a couple of years ago. From seeing the setup and the types of people coming through [at the start] compared to when they leave, it is incredible to see the way it changes peoples outlook. It’s a privilege to know that they took time out of their busy schedules to attend.

DSC_0451BEN: I’ve been privileged to see quite a lot over the years – from partnerships with the UN, to  seeing a small organisation grow. A particular project I was close to was in Haiti, and seeing an earthquake survivor get to the Paralympic Games. Over my time here, I have worked with colleagues that don’t have to be here. Everyone is a volunteer, and that is a real honour and privilege to be working in a community like this. It is by no means easy, but it is an honour. Those are the things that make you proud – working with volunteers who are keen, committed and serving, it blows my mind. I do have to keep reminding myself of that because there are times when you have a lot to do, and there are a lot of resources you don’t have; working in this sector means you’re always yearning for more. But when you take stock and look around, it is pretty amazing to see what has been gifted and the lovely environment you have to work in that is this organisation.

MATT: I would say the same as Ben: It always comes back to the people you work with, the people you are partnering with and people who are doing things that are sacrificial of themselves and with little reward – that is hugely inspirational. The most challenging aspect is, however, people – the limit that we have of them. The work that we do is limitless and we need more people to do it. In that sense, it can be a constant struggle to move forward, but we do!

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?

(laughs)

“THERE IS NO TYPICAL DAY…IT IS VERY FLUID, BUT THE COMMON THEME IS PEOPLE.”

BEN: There is a wealth of information we have to navigate through, so a lot of out day involves stewarding information between two groups and facilitating a level of communication between them. There is also a huge heap of event planning and meetings, networking and correspondence. What we’re trying to do is steward resources towards where there is a need. It can be a thankless task because as a middle man you can be pushed aside, but we have to keep encouraging each other and that’s a powerful part of working here.

MATT: There is no typical day. It can be here in the office, on the road, running a simulation in a school in Oxford, or travelling around Nicaragua, as our communications manager Dave Crisp is doing at the moment. So it is very fluid, but the common theme is people.|

To find out more about Global Hand, visit their website:http://www.globalhand.org/en

Thanks for reading 🙂 What did you think of this interview? Do you have any questions about Global Hand? Let’s discuss in the comments!