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The Uninvited Women Journal Vol.2 Nationality + Statelessness

Intersectional FeminiSt Foreign Policy (iffp) presents, THE UNINVITED WOMEN JOURNAL Vol. 2: Nationality + Statelessness

GRASSROOTS, INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISTS Developing SOLUTIONS TO THE URGENT GLOBAL ISSUES IMPACTING WOMEN

VOL. 2 NATIONALITY + STATELESSNESS

  1. Introduction
  2. Forward by the Founders Shaista Aziz and Amna Abdullatif
  3. The Impact of Gender, the Cultural Significance of Heritage and the Bureaucratic Obstacles to Establishing Citizenship by Ruth Mutsi Johanne
  4. My Identity: Care leaver a poem by Ruth Mutsi Johanne
  5. Nationality a photo essay by Dr Sharireh Sharif
  6. Why ‘home’ is no longer in my plans by Farida Y.A. Ismail
  7. Angel a photo essay by Mahboobeh
  8. Displaced a text image by Ekua Bayunu
  9. I am Kashmir a poem by Saira Qureshi
  10. Ain’t No Power Like the Power of People by Tatiana Sofia Conejo and Josephine Brook Moberg
  11. Windrush by Marcia Hutchinson
  12. Home a poem by Warsan Shire

1. Introduction

Intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy (IFFP) was founded to create a space for the experiences of women who are never invited to the tables or rooms where decisions about their lives are made about them - without them.

The Uninvited Women Journal believes that decisions should not be made about us - without us.

Many of the women from our communities, our networks and our lives told us over and over again that they are not seen or heard, that their realities and lived experiences are not valued, respected or prominent. These “uninvited women” have been spoken about and spoken for, but never actually provided with the space to speak for themselves and ourselves.

The Uninvited Women's Journal is a selection of work based on a wide theme or issue, where minoritised women are invited to share their experiences, their stories and what they have to say.

2. Forward from the founders

This year's theme of nationality and statelessness was in reflection of the many women who have reached out to us about this issue, and what it means to call somewhere 'home' or to not have the right to call somewhere ‘home’ and the impact it has on ones mental and physical wellbeing and safety. As women involved in producing the journal, we have lived experience of being the daughters of migrants, of having to move from one continent to another to seek security and the experience of being told by the majority group that women like us, who look like us should go back to where we came from.

This journal has been compiled behind the backdrop of increasingly open and mainstreamed racism, far right extremist violence across the world and the continuing rise of people around the world being displaced. This journal has also been compiled behind the backdrop of Britain’s Brexit, a deeply xenophobic political project that has dislodged many peoples rights to belonging and feeling like they belong. We continue to see the ugly increase in toxic narratives around refugees and migrants in Europe, the USA and elsewhere.

We have a selection of photo essays, reflective pieces and poetry from women on a range of areas entwined with the meaning of home and being stateless.

We send our solidarity to everyone experiencing these realities and our promise that we will stand with you and never look away.

In Solidarity and Sisterhood,

Shaista and Amna

https://www.unhcr.org/women.html

3. 'The impact of gender, the cultural significance of heritage and the bureaucratic obstacles to establishing citizenship' by RUTH MUTSI JOHANNE

Gender discrimination and impartiality remains a very controversial issue in Africa despite the number of charters and rights bills that have been signed by governance and related entities. On a national level and organizational level, changes have been made, yet at the grassroots level, things remain the same. Women as a population group are relentlessly impacted by their gender in accessing basic services such as a national identification document or even spousal inheritance in the case of death. Nationality and Statelessness was not a major concern to many people that live in some parts of the world of in the yesteryears. However due to migration and intermarriage, this is now a real issue that presents a problem to many people- especially women.

Growing up I thought my main concern was having food on the table and attending school, but that was not to be. When I turned 16 years of age, I needed to acquire identity documents as per the national policy and my constitutional right in Zimbabwe. However this turned out to be a headache as I faced many challenges and obstacles. The treatment I received from the authorities made me feel like I didn’t belong at all. Born to migrant Malawians, my birth certificate was stated ‘Alien.’ This term, ‘alien’, was foreign to me, till that day I needed to acquire identity documents.

Twenty years on, I still dread going to the Registrar General to acquire identity documents. I have gone to the extent of changing my name and surname through lawyers so that my surname can be the same as my siblings, but still this has not eased the document acquisition process to prove that I am a Zimbabwean national. Surname change was necessary so that I would share the same surname with my sisters (who were using my father’s first name as surname). Next of kin for a person needs to be someone with same surname. I also went on further to change my first name (which had a Malawian origin) to a name that was in Shona (Zimbabwean vernacular language) in order to fit in.

I was born in Zimbabwe to immigrant Malawian parents who were also born from farm labourers. For some reasons unknown, my parents didn’t correct our birth certificates when the father’s name was put in as a surname instead of first name. As a result 3 children had a different surname to the other 3. The issue was not a priority to my father as he believed girls were useless. My father passed away when I was 7 years old and I was sent to an orphanage with 3 of my siblings. My mother also succumbed to HIV/AIDS later on and we were left with no guardian and just stories of where we really came from. The people that we thought were their relatives turned out to be neighbours they had encountered and shared the same country of origin, not necessarily the home village.

The orphanage I went to was run by German nuns, so the behaviors, attributes and characteristics that I picked up and learned were of German White women. As a girl of colour, of Malawian descent, I actually ended up speaking like a white person, not understanding neither Chewa (Malawian vernacular language) nor Shona (Zimbabwean vernacular language). At the end of the day people call me a derogatoryderogative name, MuSalad or salad in English. This is a title given to persons who are considered to be a mixture (like a salad that can comprise of tomatoes, cabbage, mayonnaise, etc.). This didn’t seem to be an issue as I had a roof over my head.

When the time came for me to acquire identity documents that is when all hell broke loose. I had to renounce my Malawian citizenship in order to remain in Zimbabwe, even though I had been born there.

In terms of relationships, nationality is a big issue in African customs. People want their children to date someone they can trace their totem, identity and region of origin. Due to lack of it, I have faced so much discrimination in trying to integrate into society. I have resorted to having lobola (bride price) paid to the orphanage or children’s home in my first marriage, as the relatives of the guy were willing. Without lobola as I am now with my current partner, I am considered to be ‘cohabiting’ and being regarded as a prostitute or of no value by my spouse’s family. The child that has been sired from our relationship is also facing the same discrimination as I and might never get accepted as she was born out of a marriage of perceived ‘cohabiting’.

It’s sad to say that, as a woman, I would expect the same rights that are accorded to a man to also be accorded to me. However in our community, it is not so. A man is only required to pay the required bride price and be accepted into the new family. I did not choose to be born in either of the countries, yet I pay the price for it.

In marriage, there are certain cultural expectations that one is supposed to exhibit in the bedroom, that I also seem to lack due to lack of identity. The nuns are married to Jesus, thereby could not teach me anything to help me with marriage as it is not their strong point. Teachings I have been imparted through colleagues, work mates and friends that have different cultural practices and understanding.

In African tradition, people tend to be called by their totems e.g. shumba (lion), mbizi (zebra) as a sign of respect. In my case, it was a difficult thing not to fit in, so one would tend to lie in order not to feel out of place. However as I have become more mature, grown confident in who I am, I now simply respond to totem questions like, “I don’t need to equate myself to an animal, I am who I am and fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God”. This tends to throw people back, but it is a milestone in me accepting who I am and choosing to celebrate life and not let the issue of nationality and identity determine my self-worth.

4. 'My Identity: Care leaver' a poem by RUTH MUTSI JOHANNE

Who am I? What is my identity

I am a child or young person who was in need of care, or protection , or rejected, or neglected, or abandoned.

Whether at birth, in my childhood was placed in an alternative care facility.

Some call them children's homes, some orphanages, some foster care.

But I call them Home sweet home.

My identity, obscured at times is real

I might have been named by a police officer, probation officer or well wisher, leaving me with no geneology to trace back to

But still I stand as a Care leaver

Beliefs and values shaped by care givers, institutions and media I struggle to find my true self

Attitude might have developed as a self preservation shield against labels, stigma and discrimination, yet I stand as a care leaver

Government and Dept of Social welfare are my custodians

At 18 the policy says its time to leave the nest, yet in most circumstances I am not ready.

In a normal family 1 leaves home when they can fend for themselves.

In my case I leave armed with O level or nothing at all( not even a blanket )

Going to nobody

Still I stand as a care leaver

Everyday I CONFRONT REALITY silently

For I know NO ONE IS COMING to my aid.

At times with no existing relatives or networks, I struggle to reintegrate in community

Employment and academic advancement are alien to me due to existing nepotism

Still I stand as a Care leaver

Silently I live among you, yet not part of you

Belonging to a nation, yet having no identity

That is clear or certain, as at times I embrace my identity

Or I am apologetic for being a care leaver

Overall I stand resolute, strong as a Care leaver.

RUTH MUTSI JOHANNE was born on 16 July 1982 in Zimbabwe. She is married with 3 children. She has worked with orphans and vulnerable children for 15 years, specifically street children. She enjoys reading, writing, swimming and basketball. Ruth aspires to mentor and transform lives of many young people, especially young women.

5. "Nationality" A photoessay by SHARIREH SHARIF

Nationality

Nationality: A tight frame of identity woven around you at birth. Not as a made-to-measure outfit but a second skin. It comes with its own set of customs, traditions and religious beliefs. Nationality can give you a sense of belonging, an opportunity to share and rely on the same value-system without having to explain yourself. But it also dictates your limits in life. It won't give in or rip open if you grow or challenge it. It simply crushes you down!

Dr. Shahireh Sharif: After graduating with a PhD in Pharmacy from the University of Manchester, Dr. Shahireh Sharif turned to writing. Her publications include Bazgasht (2015), a novel about...; Drifters & Devoters (2019), a collection of short stories; and a few flash fiction pieces in anthologies published in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Dr. Sharif has also had her photos exhibited in a group exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and also written and performed monologues at HOME, Whitworth Art Gallery and ZARTs since 2018.

https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

6. "Why ‘home’ is no longer in my plans" by FARIDA Y.A. ISMAIL:

Driving on one of the highways of Cairo, it suddenly hit me that I don’t know what it’s like to live in a country you’re from; meaning:,to live in a country whose people speak the same dialect as you, share the same background, culture, passport and rights as you. I don’t know what home is.

Although I was born and raised in Egypt and never felt like I didn’t belong, I still felt odd – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I felt odd when they separated Egyptians from 'foreigners’ for certain examinations in school. “I’m far from a foreigner,” I’d think to myself. I only wanted to be with my friends who I felt no different from. I felt odd at the airport at security check when I was bombarded with questions such as why I’m coming to Cairo and why I come and stay often. I’m bothered with having to explain my story and myself after every passport stamp. If Egyptians aren’t asked these questions, why do I have to be asked?

You’re probably wondering, “What about the country where you come from? Isn’t that home?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer yes to that, simply because I’ve never lived there. I come from a family of political dissidents. My father and uncles were oppressed during the era of Gaddafi and were left with no choice but refuge right after they were released from political prison around the 80s and 90s. Some of them weren’t even allowed to enter Libya up until the fall of Gaddafi in 2011. They all moved to Egypt for a few years then to the United States where they all reside now, except my father, he decided to stay in an Arab country, close to Libya and his family because he sought solace in only the feeling of being close in distance.

I started visiting my country of origin around fourth grade, when my grandmother got sick and we had to go see her. We kept going at least once a year for different occasions – usually cousin’s weddings or funerals, but I never felt like I was home – let alone ever feeling like I even belonged.

My country of origin is a breathtaking place – it just wasn’t utilized properly due to several decades of dictatorship and corruption that unfortunately is still existent, perhaps worse than before, even after the Arab Spring. It has some of the most beautiful sceneries I’ve seen in my life that are also rich with history. The views can cure a sick heart or a weak body– yes, they are that much beautiful!

The city my parents (and I, myself, I suppose, guess) are from is a small and beautiful city on the eastern side of the coast – not too far from Egypt, at all. Its people are very welcoming, warm-hearted, helpful and public-spirited, they would greet you to their homes with a smile on their faces and would offer you all they have and all they could do. There is nothing but love that spreads in the air of that city. I love it, and I love them. That city will always have a soft part of my heart, but I just never felt like I belonged, even when I made an effort to, if that makes any sense.

I used to anxiously wait for our yearly visit there, so that I could see my cousins from my dad’s family side, which are the ones that lived there. I wanted to grow a stronger bond with them and learn more about our culture, background and family from them, perhaps even improve my dialect through them.

My dialect is very Egyptian although the words I use are Libyan yet it still happens to sound Egyptian to every single member of my family, their friends and any person I encounter. It was (and still is) extremely frustrating! When I put in all this effort and force my tongue to speak a dialect it hasn’t been used to for over two decades and be picked on is highly irritating. I was constantly told I sound ‘foreign’, and constantly told, “we don’t do that here”, or “we don’t say that here,” etc. and I only felt like I definitely do not belong. And that doesn’t mean that I am not wanted, welcomed or allowed to stay, perhaps it only felt like I am out of place.

As a child, I never questioned what home was. All I knew was Egypt. But growing up, I started questioning, where or what home was and finding answers.

It’s strange how my relationship with my ‘home’ or country of origin has transformed. I must admit that at first, around 2004, when we first started visiting, I used to cry to the thought of my parents wanting to go there, but only because I knew no one and had no one there, and honestly speaking, I didn’t hear the best of stories growing up. I was forced to go anyway.

Around 2006, I started befriending some of my cousins and attending their extremely fun weddings. I was also astounded to have met a bunch of outstanding people who come from the same city, and had the same mentality. It felt great to know the different people who I shared a lot in common with and the stories behind each and every one of them. Some of these people I met became my best friends till today. I started liking the yearly visit we made to Libya but unfortunately, this only lasted till 2010, the year I lost one of my closest cousins (we’ll skip that depressing part). The year after, we welcomed the Arab Spring, and I was lucky enough to witness not only one but two uprisings, one in Egypt and one in my country of origin, Libya – which was quite traumatizing, frankly. All the years post-2010 were of no good memories, only distressing ones. Yet they taught me a lot.

Sometime around 2012 to 2014, my beautiful city turned into a battleground. My last visit was late 2013, and for the first time, on my flight back to Cairo, I didn’t want to think of when I’d be able to come back again – because I didn’t want to. The city left me dull, wretched, and in despair and I left it an identical condition. My heart was, and still is hurting for it, but I’m helpless. There’s nothing I can offer to fix the situation, and all it can offer me in the time being is stagnation, discouragement, and depression.

With the rise of complications in our residency and life in Egypt due to the situation back ‘home’, it has become difficult to feel like I belong here too. We are unable to issue the new electronic passports and are given a hard time at our embassy renewing our old ones. We are obligated to renew our residency and are only allowed to keep it if we are enrolled in a school or have a business in Egypt. Men need a visa to enter Egypt and aren’t allowed to stay longer than 90 days. There are no direct flights to or from Cairo, only from and to Alexandria. And from Alexandria’s Borg El Arab airport, we take flights to Labraq airport (Eastern side), which is in a city called Beidha, around four hours away from Benghazi by car or Mitiga airport (Western side), which is used as a substitute to Tripoli international airport that was burned down by militias in 2014. Things don’t look like they will get any easier or better for us in Egypt or Libya anytime soon – they only keep getting worse and tougher.

In the first week of my last year as an undergraduate, I went to ask for a paper needed in order to renew my residency and it hit me that this will be the last residency I’ll be able to obtain. It also hit me that I have to face the real world. I’ve been contemplating all summer about what I want to do with my life post-graduation. Perhaps, get a masters degree or apply for different jobs, but what both of these options had in common is that none of them were foreseen in any of the countries I call ‘home’ – not Egypt, or Libya. Libya is still considered a warzone, it isn’t a suitable place to build a career or live a pleasant life. Even all my friends and family there moved out. Egypt is going through a financial crisis, everything is becoming hard to manage or obtain. It’s been so good to me, and always will be. Both are home to me and always will be but it’s time to find a new home, to explore a new me (as cliché as this sounds.)

It often crosses my mind to go to the United States where my mom’s side of the family has been for decades. Every time I visited, I never felt like I was out of place. My family is there, so it automatically feels like home. I’m comfortable because they’re around – and that’s probably because I’ve always been closer to my mom’s side more than my dad’s. They were always present at all phases of my life. I also have many friends there that moved after high school.

With the rise of this thought, I realized that home isn’t a place. Perhaps it’s a feeling, or a person. My mom is home*. My dad is home. Wherever they are, is home. Wherever my cousins are, is home*. Wherever my friends are, is home*. The person I love is home*. Egypt is home*. Libya is home*. Texas is home*.

Clarification*: The definition of home in the previous statements may differ, but the feeling is the same.

Farida is a human, world citizen and refugee, lifelong student, and ex journalist, and a current copywriter - in that order. Her goal and calling in life is to help the underprivileged and voiceless, and to change lives. She believes that the most important thing about a person is their heart and that writing can change lives because words aren't just letters you read. She aspires to one day write a book about a story only she can tell.

7. "Angel" A photoessay by MAHBOOBEH

When I came to Manchester from Iran, I felt so lost at the beginning. I felt I can not be a part of the society and everything in the country was so new to me.

I used to go to the art gallery a lot. As an artist it gave me a feeling of where I belong. I used take photos, sit down and I write poems, have a coffee in the cafe and thinking what will be my future as an artist.

I took this photo in one of those days. From this angel, I saw my self that I want to fly but I can't and I don't know where.

5 years after and I still go to art gallery but with a lot of change for me.

I am a professional artist with international works in my background, working with communities in Manchester and making our society much better with the power art and I am proud I made it.

I go to art gallery with my husband and son and I talk to my son this is a place you also need to come and think about never feeling scared to fly with your wings.

Mahboobeh

Mahboobeh is a digital artist, creative producer, writer and theatre maker. She uses different art forms such as dance, movement and digital arts such as animation, moving image, documentary, music and drama. Mahboobeh is passionate about creating innovative and participatory pieces, using new methods to communicate untold stories. Her works have been shown internationally in Europe, Far East of Asia and she has collaborated with Manchester International Festival, awarded the Jerwood Creative Fellow in 2017, and arts organisations across Greater Manchester such as CAN, Commonword and HOME.

8. "Displaced" A text image by Ekua Bayunu

Originally called the Travelling Heritage Bureau of Displaced Women Artists, I have created this image from sampled text of an email exchange between us as we explored our relationship to the word ‘Displaced’.

The Travelling Heritage Bureau was a co-research project with and for international women artists based in the North West of England. A virtual space of resistance, creativity and inclusion; a space for women artists including refugees, exiles, those seeking asylum and other migrant women with direct experiences of journeying or displacement.

Now the new CIWA, Centre for International Women Artists provides a new network for us including studio spaces to work and a gallery to present our work, workshops and new collaborative adventures.

Many new conversations are emerging.

https://www.facebook.com/CentreIWAhttps://www.instagram.com/ciwartists/https://www.travellingheritagebureau.com/

Ekua was a member of the Travelling Heritage Bureau. She is the founder of Global Arts Mcr who co-manage CIWA alongside the Digital Women's Archive.

Ekua is an artist. A sculptor, live artist and film maker. She is also a grandmother, mother, friend and activist.

https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

9. "I am Kashmir" a poem by SAIRA QURESHI

I am Kashmir

I am the land where the Emporer Humayun set foot and declared, "if there is heaven on earth, it is here it is here, it is here."

For the past 70 years, my rivers flow red with my blood. Corpses of my people ride the torrents from India to Pakistan.

My lakes lie silent as a grave.

My homes have become dungeons.

My women are trapped, awaiting their fate, " will it be me who will be raped tomorrow? Will my 10 year old son be dragged from my arms? Will it be my mother who will die from lack of medicine? Will I ever see my father, husband brother again? Is anyone hearing my cries? How can I hide my beautiful daughter when they come breaking down my door?

I will keep screaming, keep writing, keep protesting, I will not be silenced!"

You have soiled my land, for what? You sell my beauty at a meagre price. You butcher my children for what gain?

One of your heavily armed brutal soldiers to 12 of my innocent people, you fear me that much?

Oh world you are impotent.

Hollow are your words.

You sit in your ivory towers and complain, to what end?

But...

I am Kashmir, I will survive.

I am Kashmir, I will survive

I am Kashmir, I will survive.

SAIRA QURESHI

Saira Qureshi: Karachi born of Kashmiri father and Indian mother whose families were forced migrate at the time of Partition in 1947 from India to Pakistan. My father could walk from Jammu Kashmir to Sialkot as a child which is the route his family took when fleeing the violence and brutality, and finally settling in Karachi. The journey was never spoken of.

I grew up in Birmingham, married and moved to Yorkshire and settled 30 years ago in Manchester. I am a founder member of our family charity and have always maintained strong connections with family in Pakistan.

Originally a Biologist I taught at Keighley Technical College and went on to work and train in Community Development for Calderdale. I returned to studying at Manchester University as a mature student with a young family to study Arabic and Persian, followed by Post Graduate in South Asian Studies.

10. “AIN’T NO POWER LIKE THE POWER OF PEOPLE” by TATIANA SOFIA CONEJO AND JOSEPHINE BROOK MOBERG

What are “autonomous zones” and why have they popped up all around the globe?

As two young women and recent college graduates, creating a travel blog called “En Que Mundos Coexisten” was our way of spreading the word about inspiring social change movements and projects around the world. Now we are in month three of our travels, and we have seen many ways that people have reclaimed their space and power in systems that don’t ensure that their needs will be met or even that their safety will be guaranteed.

These movements have created systems by and for children, women, people of color, and environmentalists. We’ve seen everything from student-run schools in Spain to collectively-managed renewable energy grids in Puerto Rico. These spaces, where people create non-hierarchical self-governing communities that protect people and their environments, are called “autonomous zones,” and they flourish outside of the governments and economies that surround them.

A quick look at the modern geopolitical landscape of autonomous movements and the social justices that they ensure might just awaken your inner revolutionary. We can begin with the feminist indigenous Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico. This army, which took up arms in 1994 to defend their territory against colonization and privatization, was one-third women. The movement sparked a wave of indigenous women organization in Mexico, with Zapatista women becoming critically important advocates of indigenous women’s rights as they fought for the reclamation of their land.

Uriel López Martínez, a Latino organizer that we met with at the Can Batllo autonomous community complex in Barcelona, emphasized the anti-racist component of autonomous zones as well. He writes that in the movement he organizes with, they “believe that dismantling the patriarchal/capitalist/colonial system is a collective task that requires the collaboration of diverse people and groups…. For example, the denunciation of racism should not be a task exclusive to people of color, but should be collectively tackled by all people who aspire to generate deeper social transformations.”

Lastly, a deep-seated and radical environmentalism permeates essentially all autonomous zones. In fact, autonomous zones such as the Hambach Forest occupation (since 2012) in Germany or the La ZAD occupation (since 2009) in France were specifically formed for protection of natural areas. Both of these projects, in addition to protesting deforestation for open-pit lignite coal mining and industrial development, have demonstrated wildly successful self-governance. The founder of Gaviotas, an autonomous zone and ecovillage in central Colombia, for example, states his community could be “a chance to plan our own sustainable tropical civilization from the ground up.”

These hope-giving movements shouldn’t be underestimated in their power to transform the world as we know it. Whether looking at Rojava, an autonomous zone in northern Syria, or the Mapuche indigenous community in southern Chile and Argentina, these people are actively challenging the status quo to create a world where everyone’s needs are met.

Enric Duran, the founder of the Catalan Integral Cooperative in Spain, said that “integral revolution means comprehensive transformation from below of all aspects of life like culture, economic, social, personal, ecological. We achieve this by empowering communities from below to build a new society, new systems that are not based on the state or capitalism.”

These places are out there - and they need us to believe in them, educate ourselves about them, and tangibly support their efforts around the world. They’re the frontlines of utopia, and they’re the solution we’ve been looking for.

TATIANA SOFIA CONEJO AND JOSEPHINE BROOK MOBERG: Tatiana Sofia Conejo and Josephine Brook Moberg are two young women who recently graduated from Pitzer college together. They studied Neuropsychology and Environmental Science and Community Organizing, respectively. They’re anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, intersectional feminists. They are currently traveling the world visiting autonomous zones from the Catlan Integral Cooperative, Spain to Chiapas, Mexico. More information about their background and current work can be found at their website enquemundoscoexisten.org as well as on their instagram @enquemundoscoexisten. Ain’t no power like the power of people.

11. "Windrush" by MARCIA HUTCHINSON

The Windrush Scandal has been caused by the British government's passing off the 'Hostile Environment' Act in 2014 which means that people cannot access government services without proof of citizenship. The Windrush Generation are West Indian migrants (and their descendants) who came to Britain between the 1940s and the 1960s. They were British citizens at the time they came but the paperwork proving this has in most cases been destroyed by the government. Many have lost jobs homes bank accounts pensions and been debited healthcare. Some have died and some have been deported. The British government admitted culpability and have set up a scheme to compensate victims but so far very little has been paid out.

It may surprise many to know that the area with the greatest number of Windrush cases is actually Manchester Central. The assumption that most people affected are in and around London has probably been brought about because Tottenham MP David Lammy has been extremely vocal in in campaigning for the rights of this group. Together with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott they have been the face of the protests about one of the most appalling pieces of legislation enacted in recent times.

There are some truly horrific stories in and around Manchester including the case of Diane (not her real name). Diane is both blind and the wheelchair user she is a Jamaican citizen whose son died in Manchester.

She applied for a visa to come to his funeral but was initially refused on the grounds that she might abscond. I was contacted by one of her relatives who asked if there was anything I could do to help. I immediately called everyone I knew and although she had already contacted her MP I managed to get the letter to the top of his inbox and he contacted the Home Office; who at the eleventh hour granted her a visa.

The cost of a last minute flight from Jamaica to Manchester was well over £1,000 and it was an extremely stressful flight for a blind and disabled woman. (The father of her son was already in England having been granted a visa earlier so she had no one tree accompany her.) She arrived the day before the funeral and was able to say goodbye to her son but the stress caused by the delay in granting a visa took its toll and she died ten days later. I attended her funeral in October of this year.

When such unconscionable things happen there is a tendency to forget or to minimise. And we can be sure that in a few years time some people wil go into denial. I set up Migrants Union to record the stories of some of the Windrush Generation to ensure that what happened to Sharon and many others is never forgotten.

We are training family members to carry out interviews to record stories for publication in a book to be launched in October Black History Month 2020.

It's hard work because the interviewees are understandably traumatised and the interviewers are inexperienced in carrying out interviews but we're providing training and counseling and and we hope if nothing else their stories will never be forgotten.

@MigrantsUnionUK

Born in Bradford to Windrush generation parents, Marcia Hutchinson was the first from her family to go to university and first from her comprehensive school to attend Oxford University.

She started multicultural publishing company Primary Colours in 1997 delivering teaching resources and training to schools throughout the UK. She was awarded an MBE for services to cultural diversity in 2010.

She founded Migrants Union in response to the Windrush crisis. The organization's first project is Windrush Wonders an oral history of stories from those affected by the hostile environment in order to make sure that their struggles are not forgotten.

12. "home'' a poem by Warsan Shire

After winning the Brunel University African Poetry Prize, Warsan Shire was asked to talk about her sense of displacement, belonging and home. She said:

“I’m from Somalia where there has been a war going on for my entire life. I grew up with a lot of horror in the backdrop – a lot of terrible things that have happened to people who are really close to me, and to my country, and to my parents; so it’s in the home and it’s even in you, it’s on your skin and it’s in your memories and your childhood. And my relatives and my friends and my mother’s friends have experienced things that you can’t imagine, and they’ve put on this jacket of resiliency and a dark humour. But you don’t know what they’ve been victims of, or what they’ve done to other people. Them being able to tell me, and then me writing it, it’s cathartic, being able to share their stories, even if it is something really terrible, something really tragic. Sometimes I’m telling other people’s stories to remove stigma and taboo, so that they don’t have to feel ashamed; sometimes you use yourself as an example.“

HOME

No one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats

the boy you went to school with

who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory

is holding a gun bigger than his body

you only leave home

when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it’s not something you ever thought of doing

until the blade burnt threats into

your neck

and even then you carried the anthem under

your breath

only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet

sobbing as each mouthful of paper

made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms

under trains

beneath carriages

no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled

means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences

no one wants to be beaten

pitied

no one chooses refugee camps

or strip searches where your

body is left aching

or prison,

because prison is safer

than a city of fire

and one prison guard

in the night

is better than a truckload

of men who look like your father

no one could take it

no one could stomach it

no one skin would be tough enough

the

go home blacks

refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers with their hands out

they smell strange

savage

messed up their country and now they want

to mess ours up

how do the words

the dirty looks

roll off your backs

maybe because the blow is softer

than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender

than fourteen men between

your legs

or the insults are easier

to swallow

than rubble

than bone

than your child body

in pieces.

i want to go home,

but home is the mouth of a shark

home is the barrel of the gun

and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore

unless home told you

to quicken your legs

leave your clothes behind

crawl through the desert

wade through the oceans

drown

save

be hunger

beg

forget pride

your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying-

leave,

run away from me now

i dont know what i’ve become

but i know that anywhere

is safer than here

Credit: Amaal Said/ The Guardian

Warsan Shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and lives in London. She is a poet, writer, editor and teacher. In 2013-2014, she was the Young Poet Laureate for London and wrote “Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)” in 2009. Shire wrote the piece after she had visited the abandoned Somali Embassy in Rome which some young refugees had turned into their home. Shire told a journalist that the night before she visited the centre, a young Somali had jumped to his death off the roof.” Shire describes how this news impacted her and increased her desire to learn more about the reality of living as an undocumented refugee in Europe: “I wrote the poem for them, for my family and for anyone who has experienced or lived around grief and trauma in that way.”

With Thanks

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