Regretfully Dad-Abu.

Regretfully Grandad,

I couldn’t attend your funeral

I wasn’t sad enough.

Not that I was short of love

Or you never let me feel,

I just wasn’t yours grandad- you were never a part of the deal.

Regretfully grandad I forgot you,

Shunned away from the responsibility of being like

You. Of being with you- because my life could never mix with yours.

Kismet.

There’s no room to spare-

There was never any conflict- I just wasn’t there

In that foreign terrain I’ve been made to call home

 

And you speak Punjabi Granddad.

I can’t and I don’t.

 

Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is the Creative Writing Editor for I RISE Magazine. 

Ostracising Communities: An Ofsted-Approved Guide

Some weeks ago the head of Ofsted, the government-run department in charge of overseeing state schools, announced that inspectors would now begin to question young girls who wore hijabs to class.

The word ‘question’ in and of itself is an outright understatement. Perhaps ‘interrogate’ or ‘grill’ would be more accurate, since the intent behind this questioning is clear. Ofsted are looking for signs that the girl has been forced into wearing a hijab and that she has had no say in the matter. They are looking for indications that the child will become radicalised or, potentially, has become so already. Apparently it is not enough to scrutinize every adult Muslim you see walking down the street—now you must question the intentions of every six year old you stumble across as well.

These changes in Ofsted ruling play into the government’s recent policies regarding the Prevent agenda, a strand of their counter-terrorism strategy. In theory, Prevent was put in place to provide support for those who are at risk of being radicalised, but in reality it has resulted in Muslim students and young people feeling even more isolated from modern British society, thus having an entirely counterproductive effect. The more the government singles out and discriminates against young Muslims, the more ostracised they will feel and the more likely they are to resort to radical means.

In the same manner, the singling out of young Muslim girls, especially at such a young age, will result in them feeling the same way—that they are not like the other children, that they are different or somehow in the wrong, and it is likely that they will not even understand why. It is ironic that politicians and various right-wing parties make arguments about Muslims not integrating into British society, when the reason Muslims feel ostracised is largely due to the doing of the government itself.

Ofsted’s argument regarding their decision is that young girls wearing the hijab promotes their “sexualisation,” since the hijab is not usually worn until the onset of puberty, but this is not always the case. For myself, and many other young Muslim girls, the hijab is an article of clothing worn to convey their cultural identity or simply so they can look like the other women they know. In the same manner that young white girls put on oversized heels and messy lipstick to imitate their mothers, Muslim girls do the same by wearing hijabs, and they should not be singled out because of this choice. There is no malicious intent nor secret agenda behind it.

This is not to say that some Muslim girls are not forced to wear the hijab. In certain families, cultures or locations, this is the unfortunate truth, but very rarely is this the case for most young Muslims in the UK. The actions of the few should not become a standard upon which the government can judge the actions of the wider community, and this applies not only to the hijab but also the broader issues that affect the Muslim community. The more the government puts into discriminating against Muslims, the more stifled Muslims will feel. It’s as if they are Britain’s dirty little secret.

I find it difficult to imagine that a young Sikh boy who wore a turban to school or a young Jewish boy who wore a kippah (skullcap) would be asked the same questions or treated in the same way—or indeed that their clothing would be a point of conversation at all. This is where the problem lies. It is always, always Muslims, and the same issues are stressed and laboured upon over and over again for no good reason; it is merely scapegoating, the act of having someone to point a finger at when things go wrong.

You could argue that I’m overreacting, since I do have a personal stake in this. I was one of those girls, who wore a hijab to school, except back then it was only a piece of clothing and not a political statement. Unfortunately, now, we live in a climate where every step, every breath, every move a Muslim makes is questioned and questioned until they are either convicted—falsely or otherwise—or they are scared into giving up their identity, their spirit, and melding into the meaningless grey masses.

Bareerah Sayed is a third year English student at King’s College London, and the Political Affairs Editor for I RISE Magazine.

A Seat at the Political Table

Upon scrolling through the barrage of messages left on the myriad of political tweets you can easily find on the internet, you are most likely to note a furious battle between liberal and conservative politics, harsh battle lines drawn between left and right, and, far too often, a belittling of any political opinion that does not correspond to the original author.

Yet, despite the unexpected British election dredging up the same worn-out issues between left and right with no true way of reaching compromise, something far more sinister and shocking evolved from this year’s political campaigning. And it went further than attack ads. Instead, we were all witness to a vitriolic attack on a black woman’s character.

Diane Abbott exceeded all expectations by gaining a coveted place at Cambridge in the 1970s, she broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first black female MP, and she recently stated that she joined politics to “make things better for people like me” – strongly advocating diversity in our political system.

When Theresa May stepped up to the lectern strategically placed outside of 10 Downing Street on the 18th April, I do not believe anyone could have predicted the chaos that would ensue. But in all the bickering, campaigning and promises of strong and stable leadership, racial and gender-based hatred proved the winner in an election with no true outcome. Despite not being naïve to the levels of abuse women of colour face daily, I could not have fully understood the level of hatred spewed out towards one woman who misquoted her numbers.

With a numerous amount of racial slurs and gender attacks hurled at her on Twitter and historically being subjected to ridicule by fellow MPs – David Davies the Brexit Sec. texted a Conservative MP to say he ‘would not hug’ Abbott as he is ‘not blind’ and Jess Phillips told her to ‘f*ck off’ after Abbott raised the issue of a lack of female representation in politics – Abbott was eventually forced to temporarily step down from her position due to illness, a move that has not been seen in British politics for a long time.

We can all probably agree that in the case of the ill-fated LBC ‘car-crash’ interview, Abbott deserved to be critiqued. And if critique falls upon others in equal measure, I will not take issue. But the truth is, it doesn’t. In fact, Boris Johnson, often lampooned as an idiot or buffoon, is praised, and could well find himself as the next leader of the country. This is evidence in itself – as long as you are a white, upper-middle class man – mistakes are just mistakes and nothing more. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, the relentless virulence Abbott was subjected to was out of proportion, and appears to speak to the attitude the general public appear to possess towards women of colour in authoritative positions.

Attacks on Abbott have reinforced facts the community of women of colour across this country have known for years. Echoes of familial words of wisdom instilled in me from childhood often came to the forefront of my mind when reading the latest attack ad, or noting the latest unflattering picture splashed across a tabloid front page: ‘You have to work twice as hard to achieve just as much.’ And as a dark-skinned, proud, strong black woman, the cards were stacked against Diane Abbott. She continued to show strength in the face of adversity. However, as she later announced at the #AbbottAppreciation event held in her honour by a group of well-meaning Twitter supporters, “Even strong black women cry, even strong black women feel alone…”.

Although the negative side of this election has proven to British women of colour that gaining a seat at the table is a battle hard-won, the victories made by ethnic minorities in mostly Labour constituencies significantly pave the way for young women of colour who seek to advocate.

Nevertheless, misogynoir and racism was highlighted as deep-rooted within our political system this election cycle.

It’s time to weed it out before it affects us all.

Rebekah Evans is a student at King’s College London, studying English. 

The Good In Me

The good in me is so breathtaking
The good in me is so mesmerizing
When I started to see the good in me and the value of my worth
I found it hard to stay around
People who didn’t
The good in me is sharp
Like a sword
Like an arrow it pierces
Every negative force that
Does not see the good in me
The good in me is so great
The throne of greatness
When somebody says they
Cannot see the good in me
I hug them with pleasure and
I say,”may the good Lord restore
Your sight for I see
you have lost it”

I cannot wish to be somebody else
To wish you are somebody else is
To waste the person you are
I am happy to be me
The good in me is powerful
I may not be perfect but
I am loving
I am honest and happy
I am what I am because of
The good in me.
I can breath and yes I am living
I am not dead like a stone
I can see the good in me
And it shines like the sun
Very bright and radiantly

The good in me shines so much
That it can give light in darkness
Can you see the good in me?
Yes or No
If yes I am grateful and if no
It is still a fact
The good in me is powerful
The good in me gives me
Wings to fly.
I fly high like an eagle in the skies
Above my enemies and challenges
I fly high above my problems
The good in me gives me courage
It reminds me everyday
That I am a victor not a victim
Blessed and not cursed
That I was born for
A purpose not by mistake

The good in me reminds me that
I can do anything
That I am unstoppable
That I am a winner
That I am victorious
Even if I stand in Africa
Somebody in Europe can see
The good in me
The power of the good in me
Can cause an earthquake
The power of the good in me
Can cool a volcanic eruption

The good in me is a warrior
It chases away my fears
It defends me against those
That critisise me
The good in me gives me confidence
I never feel insecure because
Of the power of the good in me
The good in me chases way
My fears and insecurities
Like a dog chases away a thief
The good in me is my advocate
My commissioner of oaths
The good in me reminds my enemies
That their negative opinion
Towards me is completely
Null and void
The good in me is valid
Do you see the good in me?

©Nancy Kili 2016
All Rights Reserved.

Nancy Kili is a Ugandan poet and Lawyer based in Kampala. She performs poetry performances in Uganda under the Ministry of Education and Burundi. Her poetry book is called “Failure is a wizard” with a version in French called “L’echec est un socier”.

Image credits can be found here.

VOGUE India X Kendall Jenner

Recently, out of sheer boredom, I was starting down at a magazine aisle in IGI airport, where ridiculously inane tabloid headlines and pictures of an imposing zigzag splitting happy-looking couples covered the rack – but only one cover managed to dominate. The gleaming, glossy center of attention was propped up, piercing through my eyes, making me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

There the cover was, constantly reminding me that my brown skin, curvy body and thick lips were just not good enough.

I’d like to start by saying that I fully understand and acknowledge that as a socio-economically privileged non-resident Indian, I have definitely not faced the brunt of the devastating effects of the permanent colonial hangover the empire has left us – one of their many parting gifts.

But as a young brown woman, an Indian woman, it bothers me that VOGUE India, a so called progressive, liberal and most importantly, feminist magazine, decided to celebrate its 10th anniversary by parading Kendall Jenner, a flag bearer of white feminism and intersectional racism. Jenner, by the way, was hot off the Pepsi commercial gaffe, where she and Pepsi managed to commercialise and trivialize strong, pure movements such as Black Lives Matters and the Women’s March.

Oh! – Let’s not forget, she still hasn’t issued a simple apology.

When my melanchochic eyes loom at the Glossy VOGUE cover, Kendall draped in chic black lace, collarbones daintily out, it reminds of my uncle asking me whether I hadn’t washed my face the night before as it was looking grimy and dirty – not ivory-like and unpigmented.

It wasn’t looking white enough.

“Ato Kalo kaano lagche toke?” (Why are you looking so black today?)

I was looking ugly and unkempt because my skin was looking particularly brown today.

Looking at the cover also brings back haunting memories of relatives telling me that I looked as pretty as a Meimshahib, which translated to ‘white girl’.

Was my beauty only justified when I resembled a white woman? Could I not looking beautiful and still be a brown skinned woman at the same time?

What VOGUE India doesn’t recognize is that when you are willfully choosing a white woman to cover an Indian magazine, you are inadvertently, yet essentially sending a message to all Indian woman: You aren’t really attractive if you don’t have fair skin.

The incredibly frustrating issue with VOGUE India is how they incompetently tried to justify their decision by using pathetic statistics. Telling us that 90% of the covers already feature Indian models and therefore giving the coveted spot to a white woman is a frankly ridiculous and a woefully insufficient explanation.

I’m not disappointed in Kendall Jenner. I’m disappointed in VOGUE India.

By plastering a white woman on a coveted issue of an Indian publication, read predominantly by Indian women, reminds us of the narrow standards of beauty that have ravaged Indian women for eons.

By placing Kendall Jenner, a privileged white woman on a cover of an Indian publication, they are essentially being fixated on the same archaic concept of beauty.

When publications such as VOGUE India give preference to white woman over brown woman, it is reminiscent of how Indian woman feel outside of India – marginalized, stereotyped and unattractive.

Outside of India, Indian women are stereotyped as hairy, submissive, with thick accents and slated for an arranged marriage.

Once, someone in London had the audacity to tell me that I smelt like curry.

I shouldn’t feel marginalized and unattractive in my own country.

Publications such as VOGUE India should use opportunities to celebrate all types of Indian beauty so that Indian woman are able recover from the colonial hangover and remain confident of their beauty – no matter how many relatives describe us as wheat-ish or the number of sales assistants hounding us to buy the new and improved whitening and brightening skin cleanser, we should remain confident of the fact that we are strong Indian woman, proud of our bindis, headscarves and melanin.

 

Antara Dasgupta is part of the Editorial Team at I RISE magazine, and a Chemistry student at King’s College London.

Why We Started I Rise

“It makes me so proud to be part of a group/social media platform that celebrates melanin, headscarves and bindis – a group that recognises the shortcomings of Kings/the world in general in terms of catering to Women of Colour and plans to do something about it.”

“It was only recently that I discovered the boundaries faced by PoC and women in particular. I was shocked and dismayed but soon realised that I had the power to do something. As a WoC, every artistic endeavour I embark on will inevitably be seen in the context of gender studies and racism.”

“Issues that are faced by People of Colour and especially Women of Colour have been disregarded for too long and I think it’s a brilliant idea that this magazine is going to address the issues we face through creative forms such as writing and art.”

“I am and have always been super super super passionate about the unfortunate struggles and hardships a Woman of Colour comes across in this world. The idea of a space by POC for POC is genius! The opportunity to contribute would be immense, I can finally vocalise many melanin related tales.”

 Above are just some of the many inspiring reasons the amazing women that make up our editorial team came up with when they decided to take part in this initiative. The willingness to make WoC and non-binary PoC voices heard, and document our experiences was a prominent feature – and we aim to do just that.

We want to break the rules. Break the stereotypes. Stand on our two feet. Rewrite the story. Set the record straight.

We want a space especially designated for us, to share our experiences, unleash our talents, and ultimately, celebrate our diversity.

This is the ethos that I Rise places at the center of its aims. We ultimately want the voices of Women of Colour and non-binary People of Colour to be heard wide and loud. We strive for boldness, ferocity and fearlessness. Have a look through our narratives, and see for yourself the brilliance that we have.

With love,

The Editorial Team of I Rise

xxx

 

Writer’s Guidelines

Want to write for I RISE? You’ve come to the right place!

We urge all contributors to strictly adhere to these guidelines. We read all entries very thoroughly. Failure to comply with the following guidelines will immediately result in your contribution not being considered for publication.

  • All contributors MUST BE a self-identifying WoC (Woman of Colour) or a non-binary PoC (People of Colour).
  • No discrimination will be tolerated on the grounds of gender, gender identity, religion, class, disability and race. If you’re submission breaches this, your piece will not be published.

 Guidelines using photographs

  • If you wish to use your own photographs and videography – please state this clearly.
  • If you’re using a photo/video that isn’t your own property, please acknowledge this clearly.
  • Using sources must be acknowledged. Any form of plagiarism will result in immediate rejection of your submission.

If you have any further concerns, or questions about this, please contact Rahma at irisemagazine@gmail.com.

 

Image taken by Rahma Hussein