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For My Sisters, #BlackOutdoorArt

For International Women's Day the stars aligned and this billboard was shared in Brixton and Peckham.

This series is called For My Sisters. I was moved to make work in response to the experiences of black women.

Profits from these prints will be shared with charities Sistah Space, Black Minds Matter and the Jesuit Refugee Service.

Huge thanks to Greg Bunbury, Curator of #blackoutdoorart, Brotherhood Media and Kellie Marsh for helping make this a reality.

Protect black women

Under-enforcement of laws on rape and sexaul assault

UK femicide

Pay Black Women

This series is called For My Sisters. I was moved to make work in response to the experiences of black women.

Profits from these prints will be shared with charities Sistah Space, Black Minds Matter and the Jesuit Refugee Service.

For Bangladeshi and Pakistani women the aggregate gender pay gap with White British men stands at 26.2 per cent, while for Black African women the gap is 19.6 per cent.

Black women are least likely to be among UK’s top earners

Black medics in NHS paid thousands less than white medics

Promote Black Women

This series is called For My Sisters. I was moved to make work in response to the experiences of black women.

Profits from these prints will be shared with charities Sistah Space, Black Minds Matter and the Jesuit Refugee Service.

11 out of 1,099 positions in the UK’s most powerful institutions are held by women of colour.

Over one-in-five BAME workers who were furloughed during lockdown have since lost their jobs

The Gender and Race Benchmark 2014 found that Black women are the least likely group to hold executive or non-executive directorship positions

I am not here to twerk for you

Part I: Representation isn’t Liberation

The cultural visibility of black women has not resulted in material changes for the majority of black women. We adopt the anthems of Beyonce, Cardi B and Lizzo while not changing the employment contracts of women like them in our everyday lives, not to mention their darker skinned sisters.

It can feel as if the only way to take up public space as black women is to be entertaining. You have to be serving looks, songs or dances which can be co-opted.

As Audre Lorde wrote: “Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that’s not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant [see the bum implants], or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.”

We’re getting distracted by reporting about Meghan Markle while turning a blind eye to women in exploitative work environments, or those can’t leave abusive relationships. Girls tweet ‘slay queen’ and instagram ‘get your bag’. As we’ve seen during this pandemic, the women making those bags or cute outfits have no job security, maternity cover or sick pay. Carbi B sings ‘I was born to flex, diamonds on my neck.’ The women in the villages where those diamonds are mined suffer the highest levels of violence in the world and outrageous femicide is barely reported. Representation is not the same as liberation. Don’t misunderstand, I love Cardi B, but I am not going to let a bop make us complacent.

Feminism in its current iteration is deeply flawed. For me the main flaw is the way in which the flourishing of some women, in the glittering apex, is at the expense of other women. You are not entitled to comfort and convenience at the expense of the lives, health and dignity of black women

Part II: My body has inherent worth and dignity

The hypersexualisation of black bodies, (male, female no-binary) is not new.

Almost 50 years ago Audre Lorde wrote: “The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling.”

We all have a right to be. Just be. Not so we can be of use to someone else. We don't have to earn that right. Respect for this inherent dignity has to be at the heart of how we relate to one another. This is not about puritanical extremism.

Again Lorde said it best:

“[An] important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy, in the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, harkening to its deepest rhythms so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, [painting] or examining an idea.

[O]nce we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives.

Of course, women so empowered are dangerous. So we are taught to separate the erotic from most vital areas of our lives other than sex.”

For me tapping into this knowledge and power has been enormously freeing. This power gives me resilience and allows me to be better at putting things in perspective and right order. My fulfillment does not come from anything external. I am human and socialised, so this is a work in progress. I write this to remind myself as much as to share with you.

Part III:The unfinished work of feminism

'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.” ― Toni Morrison

One of the ways in which women’s power is suppressed is to act as if individuals cannot make significant and strategic changes. If you’re working in HR, and seeing the contracts with women earning less, how does it serve you to allow that to continue?

If you’re hosting an event and you have no diversity in your panel or your audience, what does that say about you?

If you are not holding your local MP to account for the way they voted on NHS pay, then are you surprised when they don't serve your needs?

Have you written to your pension manager to make sure they are not investing in weapons manufacturers? Are you in a real partnership with your husband?

How are you hoarding opportunities?

It is up to us to talk about the right to proper maternity care, and living wages.

As Naomi Klein says’ Slavery wasn’t a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one. Racial discrimination wasn’t a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one. Sex discrimination wasn’t a crisis until feminism turned it into one. Apartheid wasn’t a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement turned it into one.’ It is our complicity with the status quo that keeps things the same, so our refusal to obey changes everything.

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