Take a look in this child’s face. Look deeper. What Mother would want to give him up? Not Rebecca Minnock anyway.
After the court ruled custody in favour of Ethan Minnock’s father, Rebecca Minnock did what any sane Mother with a supernal relationship with her child would do; Run.
What? Well rather than question my odd angle on this, the question should really be– what would it take to find the courage, or to some the stupidity, to take ‘your’ own child into ‘your’ own hands? That defining moment could only have been a moment of connection, as it is hard for me to believe that somebody who didn’t feel capable of raising their child would risk everything by running away for just a short chance to be with them. Maybe the consequences weren’t weighed up, even more to the credit of a Mother’s Hyperarousal.
One thing is for sure, several decades ago this would have been a most natural response. Has society really become so caught up in modern legislation, in the guise of law, that they can no longer appreciate what it is to be a human attached to their seed? For me, the balancing outlook comes from simply observing nature. I have seen animals, less bothered with politics and court cases, murder or even throw themselves in harms way when much more preponderant animals come within a few dozen metres of their progeny. So what’s the big deal? It’s natural.
I would like to think every Woman would at least consider this just so I know that they haven’t totally lost their power to those men with hammers in witches outfits. You could maybe see Rebecca Minnock like a Rosa Parks or a Harriet Tubman. There’s something powerful about when women become restive, it feels veracious and begins just where a male’s manhood ends.
Maybe the whole event asks a question that nobody wants to ask. I say this because at the core of it there is something innate within the soul that knows its own property, whether it’s the actual body or the body it created, even though most are afraid to act on it.
But then again as always there is another side. Less than six months ago a woman on my own street murdered her husband and child in a vicious knife attack. With such a large number of people with failing mental health within domestic environments, largely spurred through undiagnosed post-natal depression that can last more than just a few years, what can you do to protect the child and who’s business is it?
In 1666, just after the great fire of London, The Ceste Que Vie Act was signed and went into action immediately. The gist of it states that, by Maritime law standards, any individual born after the said date would be considered lost at sea unless within a seven year period after berth they would come forth and state otherwise. Strange as it seems it appears to me that what is being stated here is that all men born are considered by the courts ‘dead’ unless they prove that they are not.
Well what rights can a dead man have? I’m sure all things that would be considered property would be held in trust by the state, No? If I sound crazy by translating my own thoughts on the act, which by the way, didn’t take too much thought on my part, then see what you make of it. After all it is not a belief but something enacted into your legislation.
All that aside, there are many, many, opinions on whether or not the law is the law of the land or the law of the sea based on the Union Jack being a flag of the high seas and ra ta ta….However, whatever your position, the fact remains that decisions that only Mothers can make in sound mental health regarding their sentient child, are being made in a cold, clinical, lifeless, male milieu.
This seems quite absent of the very female spark that initiated the offspring and all offspring for that matter. One shouldn’t have to take the form of a woman to know her role and connection to decisions of nurture unless, in a Shakespearean prophetic manner, one is born of a glass tube. In this case the microchimeric cell attachment they share may well be severed but anything short of this proves that the creator and the creation remain together for eternity according to recent neuroscience discoveries.
Rebecca Minnock said ‘No’, whether it was a sane ‘No’ or a psychotic ‘No’ is the question here; but the larger question to all Mothers should be where does the state get the right and is it really a right or an antiquated legislation created, not for the health of the community but the capture of booty? This would then make it no less than a raping of the soul.
But I will leave the burden of deciding with you dear Mothers and whatever you decide I will only agree because I am just a mere man, the creation of a woman.
For Emily Davidson & Mum.
Sometimes it’s the things we don’t say that can cause the most damage.
I rarely write on this type of issue but I feel compelled.
It was only a week ago when I thought to myself ‘I wonder what this woman’s story is’? She seemed a little perturbed at times but would often afford me a smile and a wave if a little far, that’s if I didn’t get there first. This had become a ritual that we both kept up every morning around the never ending race called ‘The school run’. She and I never failed to say ‘Good Morning’ to each other. Sometimes I wouldn’t know whether to wait when I saw her stride suspended by her toddler walking at snail pace while putting my key in my front door. She seemed pretty patient waiting with the baby in the cumbersome buggy while she stalled outside my doorstep for the little angel to catch up.
A slightly chubby woman with soft black silky hair always pulled back in a ponytail. There was a seriousness to her that caused me to wonder what had painted that expression into her soft, smooth, brown, face. I did remember seeing her a few times with a tall slim Jamaican guy who, as friendly as I am, I did try to avoid. My reasoning told me, children’s Daddy but they were pretty banausic and self preserving.
For me survival is a learned behaviour, after living in Brooklyn for the formative part of your adult life you get to know how to ignore people who move a little faster than natural. This slim sporty looking character was that. He knew almost everybody in the neighbourhood within just a few months. I would spot him talking with… let’s just say locals with way too much time on their hands. I waived many opportunities to become an acquaintance through those unwanted six degrees but some underlaying instinct kept me in the same street but on a different, different road. He was always coming when I was going and I was partly the orchestrator of this.
After a few times seeing them together I figured that they were certainly an item. At this point I believe it would have been safe for me to have said maybe more than ‘good morning,’ speaking from those thoughts a few months back because I feel it may not have warranted any negativity. She could have possibly answered ‘I’m okay just cant be around that man anymore’. To that I would have replied, ‘If it’s that bad stay somewhere else, a sister, your mother anywhere is better than arguing’. Or she could have said ‘Just so tired after watching the new season of CSI’. In which case my words could have been ‘You should try to watch some more inspirational stuff like some Deepak Chopra or something, that stuff stays in your head and when you get in an unfamiliar situation, you never know what’ll pop out”. I could have said a number of things to which she may or may not have listened but we will never know because none of this ever happened. Why? Lots of reasons: I was in a rush, It was cold outside, I was a bit scared, she was not that familiar.
On Friday evening…well no, on Saturday morning I was given a sheet of paper by a young man after he knocked on my door. The familiarity with his dark outfit let me know it was of a typical probing nature. He was looking for information on whether anybody had been approached about any of the goings ons within the flat at the end of my road. Immediately I thought of them.
By Friday afternoon our good mornings would be exchanged no more for the mother of two, allegedly murdered her husband and the toddler that evening and left a cold mystery for the neighbours to try and unfold, backtracking trying to figure out why. Alcohol, drugs, self defence? No, nothing makes sense. Obviously she had snapped. This cold act created a historical tragedy equal to any other Hollywood drama, that will be told to the neighbours children’s children. One day it will be told to the surviving child by her foster parents. This event will be the reason why the place will be gutted and refurbished and even years later when its departed from everybody’s consciousness, there will be someone questioning whether they truly heard the remnants of the slain souls that left so unexpectedly.
I have seen tragedy and death before but for some reason I felt attached to this situation and, for the past few days have used a practice called Zero Limits for removing negative energy and bringing clean and clear energy. Still I ask, rather than a moments silence for the all around loss of a family, this woman who’s life is well and truly over, to look deep within your neighbour’s eyes when you greet them and let it not be all formality and routine. Dare to see through them, see if they are really okay, really. Say something uplifting to them because if one word a wordy person like myself could have said at that opportune moment could have changed this, it would have been worth switching the ego off for.
Please look after your minds and definitely talk with each other.
Pay or Pray (or Consider a Third Way)
This spring schools around London allocate places to primary and secondary age children. Anxious parents will call their council’s schools departments when their first choices haven’t come up. The anxiety is well-founded; a bad choice could mean misery for a child and a disruptive change of school later on.
Last year my daughter started primary school but not before a bout of parental stress. We named our six preferred schools on the application form and were offered places at none of them despite their close proximity to home. Thankfully we were subsequently offered a place at an excellent local school and couldn’t be happier with it. Some parents aren’t so fortunate and some are forced to put their children in to schools that are neither suitable nor local.
In North Kensington, there are ample primary schools but a paucity of secondary schools. The Aldridge Foundation has been gifted the North Kensington Academy in W11, which opens next year, but with very little enthusiasm in the area.
The choice for parents often comes down to ‘pay or pray’; expensive private education or a religious school.
Not the most progressive situation, but there is an alternative in North Kensington for parents on an average to decent income and looking to avoid some of these pitfalls. The Lloyd Williamson School, positioned between Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road and serving children aged between six months and 14 years, could be the answer.
The building is unassuming and tucked away, but the results achieved inside are “Outstanding” according to Ofsted.
I did some voluntary work at Lloyd Williamson’s summer school last year and found the school’s principals and staff to be refreshingly open and child (rather than bureaucracy) focused.
I spoke with Lucy Williamson, the school’s Proprietor and Co-Principal recently and asked her what the advantages gained at the school were, aside from the excellent academic outcomes. It wasn’t difficult for her to bring them to mind:
“There’s no need for nannies or inconvenient child care arrangements, we offer wrap around care by opening between 7:30am and 6:00pm every day at no extra cost. The most obvious benefit is the small class sizes; a maximum of nine in the reception class and 16 further up the school. This means each child receives more attention which in turn helps them to become happy, confident children, open to learning”.
But doesn’t the cost mean that Lloyd Williamson falls short of being an inclusive school reflecting its location in one of London’s most diverse and culturally rich areas? Not at all; six languages are taught at the school and home-cooked meals enhance the warmth and sense of community as children mingle across the year groups.
It’s hard to see a reason not to check out Lloyd Williamson. I’m no fan of private education and a firm believer that state schools should be funded properly, but I found a complete absence of snobbery and privilege at Lloyd Williamson; the benefits of private education without the downside of the child losing their connection to their community.
On my recent visit a parent told me: “I think the school has an intimacy that I never thought possible. It’s so refreshing to hear teachers tell me things about my child’s character that I just found out myself; they’re switched on and the school gives them the space to nurture each child as an individual thanks to the small class sizes.”
Of course, value for money is the major consideration after suitability. Lloyd Williamson is reasonably priced compared to other private schools and the children mainly head off to Secondary Schools like Frances Holland, Latymer, More House, Portland Place and St James’. My brief time at the school afforded me the chance to meet some of the parents; marketers, toy developers, authors and journalists greet each other in the morning rush. If these were Tories, they had me fooled. Parents leave their children in an atmosphere of safety, creativity and community.
What do you want from a school? Lloyd Williamson may give you a new perspective.
http://www.lws.org.uk/ for contact details, a prospectus and newsletters.
This article will soon appear at The Source Mag
The Baraka Youth Association have been grafting for over a decade to raise the level of educational attainment and integration of local young people of Somali origin.
With well-established roots in North Kensington and wider West London, Baraka forms part of the Somali Network in Kensington and Chelsea, a collective of Somali groups that organises events, support each other’s work and represent their community in meetings with local government.
Baraka carries out a range of educational and recreational activities: supplementary schooling for GCSE and ‘A’ Level students, English lessons, football coaching, gym and swimming sessions for children, as well as advice sessions and IT classes for adults. Baraka takes groups of local children on an annual field trip to East Sussex and last year the young people of the Association raised their own funds for a summer trip to Sweden for the first leg of a youth exchange programme.
Baraka’s enterprising efforts take place in a context of hardship for the local Somali community. A 2011 report by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council describes Somalis in the borough as a “Community in crisis.” Accounts of Somalis in London consistently identify a stream of problems: lack of adequate housing, a language barrier, poor educational attainment, arcane immigration procedures, hostile misrepresentation in the media, young men drifting in to crime and khat and institutional racism in Britain. There is a even a glaring underestimation of the size of the Somali population in London in official statistics, symptomatic of the fact that Somalis are an impoverished and somewhat forgotten group unable to demand much attention from wider society.
As public spending and welfare continues to be ruthlessly cut by our class conscious Tory government, the situation is precarious for many British Somalis. Education is identified in the community as the path to integration and economic well being, but with the dramatic rise in university tuition fees, there is a long road ahead for the bright young members of the Baraka Youth Association.
These young people excel at school, attend Baraka’s volunteer-run supplementary schools and homework clubs and talk about their love of London and their commitment to retaining their heritage and Somali identity. That they managed to find the time and energy to raise the funds for a hugely successful trip to Sweden is worthy of immense praise. But Britain hasn’t yet enabled its Somalis to maximise their contribution to society and their work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit remain largely untapped resources. Britain’s sluggishness combined with the inevitable problems resulting from grinding poverty leave a serious and worrying reality.
The Guardian carried a couple of op-eds in 2012 putting a positive spin on the Somali Diaspora in Britain. There are reasons to be positive as the community begins to gain a foothold and individual Somalis make outstanding contributions. Nevertheless, the headings given to these articles, ‘Somali community in Britain begins to find its voice’ and ‘British Somalis: Nomads no more’ are somewhat misleading and do not accurately reflect the concerns of the authors.
Baraka Youth Association was been taking positive steps since long before David Cameron’s dud ‘big society’ idea was announced in 2010. During the preparations for Baraka’s 2012 Sweden visit, Abdullahi Ali, co-ordinator of the Youth Association told me of an idea he had: “Why not grow and sell our own fruit and veg? People will see Somalis in a positive light if we engage with them in business.”
True to form, Abdullahi and the Baraka Youth have made it happen. Baraka’s allotment in North Kensington is up and running and the ‘Garden of Hope’ Launch Event will take place this week.
Working in partnership with Groundwork London Baraka are raising awareness in their community about the environment and sustainable food issues by growing their own fruit and vegetables. The young people will showcase their hard work on their allotment at the launch event with an afternoon of gardening workshops, games, prizes, food and refreshments.
At Baraka’s HQ on Ladbroke Grove Abdullahi told me: “We held a meeting and asked the children and young people what they wanted us to do. They were keen on doing something environmental; specifically they wanted to know how food is grown. So I spoke to the Kensington and Chelsea Youth Service who set us up with the Groundwork Community Development Team, who were then able to meet with the young people and develop ideas that have now become a successful project. The young people have already attended a number of sessions with Alice and Richard from Groundwork and are blogging about their experiences.”
And the Baraka Youth themselves? “My experience with the project has enabled me to become proactive in leading a group as well as being in a team” Suad Nur told me. “We all work towards our goal together: to grow our fruit and vegetables and distribute them to our community. Our gardening sessions brought us together as a team, and the support from Groundwork really helped with that.”
The ‘Garden of Hope’ Launch Event will take place on Saturday the 13th of April, 12:00-3:00pm at the allotment in St Charles Centre for Health & Well-being. Everyone welcome.
This article was first published @ The Source Mag for Kensal Green, Kensal Rise, Queens Park and North Kensington
In these austere times of high unemployment and cuts to essential services, the Somali community in North Kensington is probably better prepared than most to cope. They have, after all, been living with austerity and economic hardship for years.
A detailed report by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council describes Somalis in the borough as a ‘Community in crisis’, outlining the many problems to affect the London section of the Somali Diaspora. The problems identified range from high levels of unemployment to drug addiction, a lack of integration and low educational attainment.
Raising educational standards is identified as the key to improving integration and enhancing the lives and prospects of this and future generations of British Somalis.
Given the right conditions, Somalis will prosper. According to Abdullahi Ali, co-ordinator of the Baraka Youth Association in North Kensington, Somalis have a natural flair for entrepreneurship: “Somalis are naturally business-minded people. We put in long hours to make our businesses work. This comes from Somalia itself, where opportunities to get rich are limited and so feeding your family is the biggest motivation”.
One of the problems Abdullahi identifies is that this work ethic and aptitude for business has struggled to translate in to success in Britain, and the host country has not yet harnessed the skills of its Somali community. “We need to put ourselves out there more if we are to be successful” Abdullahi tells UDL; “Somalis need to focus more on serving every community in Britain, not just their own.”
Baraka Youth Association (BYA) has been aware of the needs of the community for the past decade and has worked tirelessly to help improve the lives of young Somalis and their parents. BYA’s activities include supplementary schooling for GCSE and ‘A’ Level students, English lessons, football coaching every weekend, gym and swimming sessions for children, as well as advice sessions and IT classes for adults. BYA takes groups of local children on an annual field trip to East Sussex and this summer is taking a group of young Somalis to Gothenburg, Sweden on the first leg of a youth exchange programme. The children have raised the money for the trip themselves.
BYA focuses on the twin goals of education and integration, helping young people to improve their grades and therefore their economic and social prospects. BYA also forms part of the Somali Network in Kensington and Chelsea, bringing together Somali organisations of all sizes to organise events and support each other’s work. The network held a successful joint conference on education in March.
This work, carried out mainly by volunteers, is set against a backdrop of hardship for the community. But, it needn’t be like that, according to Abdullahi Ali: “We provide role models for the younger generation through our mentoring scheme. We also help boost academic performance. But, we are also interested in pursing other ways forward, like supporting young people to undertake internships and scholarships”.
One of Baraka’s schemes is to facilitate Somalis taking up gardening in allotments; “Why not grow and sell our own fruit and veg?” says Abdullahi. “People will see Somalis in a positive light if we engage with them in business”.
When visiting supplementary classes and football coaching sessions, or visiting its office on Ladbroke Grove, the most striking thing about the Baraka Youth Association is that it is always looking outwards, striving to engage positively and encouraging its community to give to society in order to get more back.
For more on the Baraka Youth Association, visit it’s website here
For information on Baraka’s supplementary schools and free sports activities, contact Abdullahi Ali on 07949 727322.
Who would have thought that drop in toddlers could be so exhilarating?
In the middle of the summer of 2011, July to be exact, Justine Che decided that her years of experience working with children was steady ground to give back and fulfill a need in her community. Tots and play originally began with Justine and Munaza both qualified early year’s practitioners with 15 years experience in the childcare sector. They also both worked at the local community nursery Hopscotch under Fives for 12 years and were one of the first nurseries in the whole of Brent to receive an “Outstanding “recognition in Queens Park. Also having worked for one of the well known early year’s pioneer organizations “Thomas Coram” in North London, the mission was set.
The ever-emerging Queens Park is full of entrepreneurial grand ambitions and zero time. At least such is the case for some of the faithful attendees of the Go Go Pop Tots drop-in centre in Kensal green which is a stone throw away from Justine’s home. The group started out as Tots and Play, for children aged 0 – 5 years old. ‘This was especially to aid families who did not get to see and spend quality time with their children during the week and especially as there was nothing local of this nature it was a win-win situation’ says Justine. Go Go Pop Tots is a stay and play with a difference, Interestingly enough it draws a majority of fathers who need a trustworthy, friendly play spot for their bundles of joy. It’s a little like a neighbour you can trust. The name Go Go Pop Tots was thought up by those same fathers who attend the group whose love for the group led them to participate as deeply as creating the leaflets for the group.
The activities for the Tots are fun things such as Read and Play, Dance around the world, Cook and taste, Messy play, lots of amazing stories and more. If that’s not enough the educational program, based upon early Years Foundation Stage, is carefully designed to capture children’s creativity and imagination towards the early learning goal.
Go Go Pop Tots open Saturdays from 9.30-11.30pm. So on a Saturday for a couple of hours you can have peace of mind knowing your Tots are safe playing and learning while you go fit in that desperately needed exhale. I’ll certainly drop my kids even if they are a little over 20 years old.
Go Go Pop Tots has been running since July 2011 and is based in The Community Centre, Hazel Road, Kensal Green, NW10 5PP
For more information contact Justine on 07950 119 103.