Category Archives: Opinions

#NaPoWriMo: New Poem: Microaggressions (part 1)

Microaggressions part 1
Microaggressions part 1

Today a new colleague asked me : “Where are you from?”
and she told me that I don’t look Indian.
She shrugged off my reply and said: “What about your parents then?”
I told her: “From Bradford, second generation.”

An old colleague confuses me with the last Asian face
I replaced.
Alma’s been on maternity leave for nearly a year and my name is too hard to remember.
When I correct him he struggles to say Selina
and jokes that my name could be easier.


Poem of the day: The interchange #NaPoWriMo

Wolves made out of Sheep's fur The divide multiplies: The interchange
The divide multiplies: The interchange

Am I a threat or threatened?

Even the walls have eyes and ears.
I walk through the interchange with fear of being feared.

What’s that I hear?
Grunts as they speak about me.
Can I believe what I see?
Parents grabbing hands, distinctly removing loved ones from me.
From my path.

Is it paranoia?
What is it that I possess?
You judge me from the way I dress.
From the beige in my face.

What a fall from grace.

If you look me up you’ll find I always lived by the book.
Suddenly my mind is over-conscious – I used to blend in, now do I even fit in?

Noone’s winning,
Just dividing.

Faith lost in pretenders.

Objective becomes selective.
Now more people look beyond a lens and a self-fulfilling agenda.
Amid soul searching and scrolling,
petitioning and polling.

The divide multiplies.

I walk through the interchange intolerable.
Eyes closed, music on.

Poem – Daily prompt for #NaPoWriMo: Write a lune

Yesterday’s challenge from  was to write a lune – a take on the Japenese haiku.

The Scream by Edvard Munch-art
Judged for facing their realities: The Scream by Edvard Munch


His smile pleases
Hers arouses suspicion and anger
Ignorance is dangerous.

They enforce fear
She must live a lie
Ignorance is intolerance.

She cuts her
It is never spoken about
ignorance is destined.

He bloodies him
He calls him a deviant
Ignorance drives hate.

They are labelled
Judged for facing their realities
Ignorance is prejudice.

She speaks up
Nobody knows how to help
Ignorance kills lives.

Poetry: Immigrant #NaPoWriMo

The bottom line - to cap it all
The bottom line – to cap it all

Forgive me –I broke the law,
But if you had walked in my shoes and saw what I saw,
You’d know my motives,
So my children can live,
a better life, and too, their kids.

A Mexican working hard in the US to support families,
left behind,
south of the border, with no peace of mind – whether she’s been shot, by an Arizona ranger – whether he’s been jailed, by Operation Gatekeeper.

Lost across the Imperial Desert or over the mountains north of Tecate.
Mexicans  drown in canals and rivers. While the army militarize the border…

A 30 hour coach journey, in the faith of living better.
Only to die of dehydration, hypothermia or xenophobia.

Busloads of Polish people, skilled in many trades,
make the journey from Warsaw to the land of opportunity, the UK.

Better healthcare, better pay, this is the European Union
Only to find themselves taken advantage of and spit upon for taking the jobs natives can’t or refuse to work in.

Was this the freedom envisaged?
Working 7 days a week, paid cheap for their keep.

Laws let goods and money freely cross borders, yet impose a form of class warfare against when it comes to workers.

Not free to move with changing economic conditions in the same manner that businesses can move their capital.

And that’s the bottom line, to cap it all.

The wonderful work of @thetopeproject : Sharing Christmas day with care leavers @ruthstivey

A change in UK law announced this week will allow foster children to stay with their carers until they’re 21.

Over forty charities successfully pushed the government for the amendment to the current system, which forces foster children into independence around 16 or 17 years of age. Once left to cope on their own, care leavers can become isolated.

Some local councils have the funds for children to stay in foster care until they are 18. Now the Department for Education is imposing a legal duty on all councils to provide financial support for foster families who wish to stay together longer.

The government has pledged £40m over the next three years to fund the plan and the act will be introduced into the House of Lords at the third reading of the Children and Families Bill next year.

The news comes in time for Christmas, a special day on which most care-leavers spend alone.

The Tope Project: giving care leavers a ChristmasThe Topé Project , set up last year to give care leavers a happy Christmas, was named in memory of Topé, a 23-year-old care leaver who sadly took his own life. Last year, the charity gave over 70 young people an amazing Christmas time – meeting each other, playing games, eating, getting presents, sharing pain and promoting positivity.

There is a massive need for this event, just check out the response to their work on their Just Giving page where you can of course donate for this year’s Christmas day for care leavers.

Tope’s friend, Jerome Harvey Agyei, told Ruth Stivey in an  article for the Guardian last year:

As well as our pioneering and fun Christmas Day event – which aims to bring together care leavers, create positive memories and inspire them – we want Topé’s legacy to be promoting more emotional support for children in care and care leavers.

It was reported last year by the Young Minds charity that 60% of care leavers have mental health problems and suicide rates for care-leavers are almost five times higher than for their peers.

The concerns for those in care

The news of the proposed £40m budget over the next three years has fuelled a lot of questions.
Will councils have to make cuts from other vital services to fulfill their new legal duty and will the new law apply to foster children in England or the entire United Kingdom?

Surely, all children should be treated equally, which is why these questions must be addressed.
Plus there are concerns about supporting children in residential homes as well as foster care under this amendment.

Children’s charities have always asserted it is a moral obligation that the children of the state, who are taken away out of bad environments, should flourish in their substitute situation.

These children need more than a place of shelter. They need emotional security, even when they leave their foster home. It can be deemed unethical for carers to keep in touch with the children they fostered.

This is why the change in the law is important. Most parents don’t throw their children out when they turn 16, they nurture them until they are secure enough for independence.

Nor do they cut ties once their children leave home. If foster parents can keep in touch with children they cared for, it would mean care leavers have the emotional building blocks of a family to return to and a place to call home.

Follow The Topé’ Project:

Just Giving Donation Page

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Exploring Lisa LeftEye Lopes’ Legacy after VH1’s CrazySexyCool – plus TLC’s song about Pebbles on BBC Radio (1995) #demtlcguls

Like countless others; watching VH1’s CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story transported me way back into the 90s.

Lisa LeftEye Lopes in Touch magazine
Lisa LeftEye Lopes in touch magazine

While watching the bio-pic, although it was made well and with love, I don’t think you could do all three ladies justice.  Their stories and characters are worthy of one film each!  My only criticism is that LeftEye was made out to be the crazy caricature that she strived to not be.  All three ladies were crazy, sexy and cool.  Anybody who dug past the media headlines, or has seen her speak in her own words in her documentary could see that there was a lot more humanity, creativity and depth to LeftEye.

She didn’t burn the house down because she was crazy, she was a victim of domestic abuse.  She didn’t wear tape on her mouth (in Creep) because she was stubborn or selfish for her solo career, she disagreed with the message of cheating on your partner.

The film reminded me just how strong my respect for LeftEye still stands  eleven years after her death. Her desire to help others express themselves through the arts is still evident in the groups she was nurturing at the time. Her rap on the DARP remix of Creep still gives me goosebumps and I admired that her aspirations were worth more to her than the money thrown her way.

One of the most memorable performances by female rappers.

When LeftEye spoke about her influence on TLC (the sign language in UnPretty, her Waterfalls contribution, their look in videos, the reason behind FanMail and its cover) or any decisions she made in her life; she came across really sweet, reasonable and understandable, which is why I hope the new fans discovering TLC learn more about her following the success of CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story.

As I reflect back on what I use and abuse And detect that I need some clues to get through. To those that accuse me of never being true I lose if I play into this game and never know the rules. So how do I bring out the me nobody sees?
– Lisa LeftEye Lopes, UnPretty (Don’t Look Any Further remix)
Drew Sidora (T-Boz), Keke Palmer (Chilli), Niatia ‘Lil Mama’ Kirkland (LeftEye) and the real TLC
Drew Sidora (T-Boz), Keke Palmer (Chilli), Niatia ‘Lil Mama’ Kirkland (LeftEye) and the real TLC

The TLC Story was emotional to sit through, knowing certain things that were going to happen to them. The first time I heard the name Pebbles in connection with their career, was one Friday afternoon after school during the Diggin’ On You promotion; LeftEye and Chilli were being interviewed on the radio. What I recorded was hilarious:

So, the  fact that TLC were deprived of their earnings by Pebbles is not a big reveal, but it has caused the most uproar.

Seeing Rochelle Aytes  as Pebbles was like watching  the evil twin of Suzanne de Passe (Vanessa Williams portrayed her in The Jacksons: An American Dream). I did like the casting, the actors were terrific and Evan Ross playing Dallas Austin was very complimentary, but, Dalvin (of Jodeci) wasn’t as lucky. One last note about the characters –  I am still racking my brain trying to figure out who was depicted bad-mouthing LeftEye at the Grammys – because I am certain I remember seeing that dress on someone that night. Has the internet figured it out yet?

TLC had the technical ability, the sisterly bond and evident drive in their performances that created magic on stage. I couldn’t have been less prepared for how good Niatia ‘Lil Mama’ Kirkland (LeftEye), Drew Sidora (T-Boz) and Keke Palmer (Chilli) could perform together as TLC and that was the highlight for me because I cannot separate the music from TLC’s performances.

Memorable: TLC at the Nickelodeon awards
Memorable: TLC at the Nickelodeon awards

Discovering TLC one school morning is one of the most memorable moments of 1995 for me. I didn’t have MTV at the time (my excuse for discovering them late), but seeing a snippet of Creep on a US Billboard chart feature blew me away so much, that I don’t remember anybody else who was in the top five with them.

I had to know more about these girls, their look – sexy tomboys; their dancing – natural and in sync; their sound – unique voices over a cool fusion of hip hop, soul and funk, all encapsulated in a clip which probably lasted only five seconds. I scoured HMV in search of their music and from then on I studied their album booklets, recorded their music videos (No Youtube back then), kept up with their interviews and really wanted to see them live – sadly my parents weren’t too keen on that after catching the Diggin’ on You video.

So as I watched the film, it was like the  DeLorean took me back and I was eleven again, enraptured with excitement ready to watch TLC’s live performance at the VMAS in 1995. That night they accepted multiple awards in unique style,  reading their thanks from a roll of toilet paper, including a sarcastic thank-you to  Pebbles.

The only two memorable people that night were TLC and Michael Jackson, so, from the same radio interview, here’s a snippet of them talking about Chilli’s Michael Jackson experience!

Bhangracise, a class to rival Zumba via @hemajohar @deevarestaurant

It’s been a big year for Bollywood in Yorkshire.

Bollywood dances usually follow or are choreog...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The region celebrated the centenary of the phenomenal film industry with the live television opera extravaganza Bollywood Carmen and now Farsley village has a Bollywood dance class to rival Zumba!

Hema Johar, 25, is a professional Bollywood dancer. She breaks down famous routines step-by-step at family restaurant Deeva restaurant in Town Street.

As the word-of mouth about Bhangracise spreads, I visited an early session with a class of ten, who were rehearsing a routine to perform live in front of an audience.

They group together above the restaurant in a private space.  Joy Good, in her early 50s has come since the first session said: “I like the intimacy of these classes, it’s really good fun. You get some endorphins released and  I love the music”.

Accessories such as jingly bangles and sparkly scarves are incorporated into the routines for the glitzy Bollywood effect and it is a new experience for all of the ladies.

Sangeeta Champaneri, a regular attendee said: “I’ve come because I’m not a natural dancer and thought I had no coordination but Hema’s  very patient and she adds an element of fun into it and before you know an hour has gone so quickly and it’s just a fun way to keep fit.”

The troupe’s second live performance is expected at Deeva on a New Year’s Eve dinner and dance evening planned. Hema said: ” It’s a nice relaxed vibe and I’m so proud of my ladies. They’ve come so far. When everyone’s doing the routine synchronised it looks awesome.”

Sangeeta added: “It’s nice to meet  people of all different backgrounds and mixed , not everyone’s an experienced dancer  but it’s fun and everyone’s willing to have a go”.

Bhangracise is held at Deeva Restaurant, 58 Town Street, Farsley, Leeds, LS28 5LD

Contact Hema Johar here to enquire about her teaching services and buy tickets.