Posted in Blog

MUNROE BERGDORF IS SPEAKING UP FOR BLACK PEOPLE EVERYWHERECHARLIE BRINKHURST CUFF1ST SEPTEMBER 2017

http://www.gal-dem.com/munroe-bergdorf-speaking-black-women-everywhere/

This is black, trans model and activist Munroe Bergdorf’s statement released after she was trashed in a Daily Mail article (which we won’t link to here), for calling out white people’s racism following the events of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. She was dropped by L’Oréal Paris’ “diversity campaign” after the article was published:

“Sit still and smile in a beauty campaign ‘championing diversity’. But don’t actually speak about the fact that lack of diversity and is due to racism. Or speak about the origins of racism. It’ll cost you your job”.

This makeup brand cares about nothing but MONEY. I urge you to boycott L’Oréal Paris. I can’t express how disappointed I am in the entire team in dealing with misquotes that were entirely placed out of context.

First up, let’s put my words in context, as the Daily Mail failed to do so. This ‘rant’ was a direct response to the violence of WHITE SUPREMACISTS in Charlottesville. It was not written this week.

Secondly, identifying that the success of the British Empire has been at the expense of the people of colour, is not something that should offend ANYONE. It is a fact. It happened. Slavery and colonialism, at the hands of white supremacy, played a huge part in shaping the United Kingdom and much of the west, into the super power that it is today.

Whether aware of it or not, in today’s society the lighter your skin tone (people of colour included) the more social privileges you will be afforded. Whether that’s access to housing, healthcare, employment or credit. A person’s race and skin tone has a HUGE part to play in how they are treated by society as a whole, based on their proximity to whiteness.

When I stated that “all white people are racist”, I was addressing that fact that western society as a whole, is a SYSTEM rooted in white supremacy – designed to benefit, prioritise and protect white people before anyone of any other race. Unknowingly, white people are SOCIALISED to be racist from birth onwards. It is not something genetic. No one is born racist.

We also live in a society where men are SOCIALISED to be sexist. Women are SOCIALISED to be submissive. Gay people are SOCIALISED to be ashamed of their sexuality due to heterosexual people’s homophobia. Cisgender people are SOCIALISED to be transphobic. We do not need to be this way. We are not born this way and we can learn to reject it. We are just socially conditioned to think this way from an early age. With the right education, empathy and open mindedness we can unlearn these socialisations and live a life where we don’t oppress others and see things from other people’s points of view.

So when a transgender woman of colour, who has been selected to front up a big brand campaign to combat discrimination and lack of diversity in the beauty industry, speaks on her actual lived experience of being discriminated against because of her race and identifies the root of where that discrimination lies – white supremacy and systemic racism – that big brand cannot simply state that her thoughts are not “in line with the ethics of the brand”.

If you truly want equality and diversity, you need to actively work to dismantle the source of what created this discrimination and division in the first place. You cannot just simply cash in because you’ve realised there’s a hole in the market and that there is money to be made from people of colour who have darker skin tones.

The irony of all this is that L’Oréal Paris invited me to be part of a beauty campaign that ‘stands for diversity’. The fact that up until very recently, there has been next to no mainstream brands offering makeup for black women and ethnic minorities, is in itself due to racism within the industry. Most big brands did not want to sell to black women. Most big brands did not want to acknowledge that there was a HUGE demographic that was being ignored. Because they did not believe that there was MONEY to be made in selling beauty products to ethnic minorities.

If L’Oreal truly wants to offer empowerment to underrepresented women, then they need to acknowledge THE REASON why these women are underrepresented within the industry in the first place. This reason is discrimination – an action which punches down from a place of social privilege. We need to talk about why women of colour were and still are discriminated against within the industry, not just see them as a source of revenue.

Racism may be a jagged pill to swallow, but I suggest you force it down quickly if you want to be part of the solution. Doing nothing, does nothing and solves nothing. Empowerment and inclusivity are not trends, these are people’s lives and experiences. If brands are going to use empowerment as a tool to push product to people of colour, then the least they can do is actually work us to dismantle the source, not throw us under the bus when it comes to the crunch. At times like this, it becomes blindly obvious what is genuine allyship and what is performative.

I stand for tolerance and acceptance – but neither can be achieved if we are unwilling to discuss WHY intolerance and hate exist in the first place.

Posted in Blog

When Cece Met A Real Life MP – Speaking Up for Epilepsy

“People with epilepsy are dying prematurely because of poor neurological care”

“The Department of Health need to invest in improving neurological services”

The interior of Wanstead House alone, although incredibly beautiful, is an intimidating experience.

Wanstead Park
I felt incredibly under dressed for the occasion…..

As I sat in the waiting room, attempting to mentally untangle the knots in my stomach, I wondered I was making a huge mistake.

In March, I volunteered to become a campaigner for the Epilepsy Society; to be honest, I hadn’t asked for many details. Being Epileptic myself, (I have focal onset epilepsy with partial complex seizures and secondary generalized tonic clonic seizures) not only is living with the condition a daily struggle; it’s also a daily battle against constant stigma.

The Epilepsy Society’s latest campaign – Speak Up For Epilepsy – seeks to encourage as many people as possible to meet with their local MPs, in order to encourage the Department of Health to commission a new audit into preventable deaths in epilepsy. Whilst an audit had been done in 2009, unfortunately not much had been done since. Therefore, Epilepsy Society’s aim is that through this new National Sentinel Survey, strategies can be put in place to eradicate avoidable deaths.

Being a part of something bigger than myself, which also affected myself, convinced me to push my fears of speaking to people aside, and on 7th April I met with Mr John Cryer – Local MP for Leyton and Wanstead – at his surgery at Wanstead House to discuss the latest Epilepsy Society Campaign.

“I can do this”, thought I, as I bit into the sides of my fingers. As I always do when I am incredibly nervous.

From the moment I met Mr Cryer, it was evident that he was a man for the people. With his surgery running slightly late, he personally kept all those waiting to see him informed and assured. As he led me up the stairs of this colossal house, he joked about not needing to ask me if I was ok to walk up the stairs and hoped that he hadn’t been wrong in assuming this as that had once gotten him into trouble before (which instantly made me envision an angry old lady hitting him with the walking stick he had failed to see before!)

His aide was already seated, ready to take notes and from the moment I began to speak, Mr Cryer was enthralled by the campaign as well as my story – particularly when I relayed my own personal experiences with GPs and the unfortunate case that as like me, many people with epilepsy fail to be diagnosed for an extremely long time (for me it was 20 years). Of course there is the case of medical negligence, however, the problem with the last audit was that very little had been done since, in order to educate clinicians on being able to recognise the symptoms of epilepsy so that patients can be swiftly referred to secondary care for a diagnosis.

The last audit furthermore, highlights the tragic fact that in less populated areas of the country, access to specialty care is extremely poor. In fact, at times nonexistent. Moving to London so soon after my diagnosis was a frightening decision for me. However, it was also the best decision I could’ve made because it gave me access to an amazing Epilepsy Specialist and Neurology team at Homerton Hospital, which I didn’t have while living in Kent (where I was originally diagnosed). In 2009 in fact, 60% of acute trusts did not employ an Epilepsy Specialist Nurse (ESN).

 

It is estimated that over 500,000 people in the UK have epilepsy.

That’s one in every 100 people.

We need 1100 ESNs across the country to meet the ideal number and there are currently only around 250.

 

As I also suffer from depression, I was also eager to discuss the difficulties people with epilepsy face in regards to mental health. We want the Department of Health to invest in new screening tools to not only help with the early detection and treatment; we also want more established support for our mental health. Having epilepsy is incredibly dark and isolating and at the moment, unfortunately the burden of support seems to lie with charities such as Epilepsy Society and Epilepsy Action.

This information seemed to visibly move Mr Cryer, and more so when I informed him that for some, life expectancy is reduced by up to 10 years. With new information from an up-to-date audit, we could largely improve the quality of life for these people.

Just a few weeks or so before this, I had been told by my own ESN that with medication not working as effectively as hoped, this meant that my epilepsy was a lot more serious than originally thought. This was henceforth creating a concern for my quality of life and future. Imagine being told that at the age of twenty-nine.

I was impressed to hear that Mr Cryer had in fact, heard of the Epilepsy Society and he embraced my request to act on our behalf and to get behind the campaign.

And true to his word, a few weeks later, I received a letter from him to confirm that he had written to Jeremy Hunt and would keep me updated in his response.

Many have called me naïve to believe that this meeting can change anything, and perhaps they are right. However, I cannot stand by and do absolutely nothing at all, and I left Wanstead House that afternoon reassured that neither could Mr Cryer.

So join the fight.