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At the age of 5, William Weeks was diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and was given just six months to live. Nevertheless, faith, hope and a burning desire to live has seen him not just endure, but thrive. Today William is a much sought after speaker, musician and trainer who uses his gifts to help other overcome life’s giants.

On this episode, William talks about how that diagnosis changed his life, the struggles he endured growing up and his mission to not be limited by his disability.

As a person with a disability, life has taught William how to “bounce back” from calamity and live a life full of purpose. Now William teaches other corporations of all sectors how to overcome their adversities and “bounce back” to the fast track of success!

Currently, William is the Disability, Mental Health Manager for the Eastern Shore Early Childhood Development Center (ESECDC) where he is responsible for the overall design, implementation and evaluation of the disabilities and mental health program for pre-school age children.

You can learn more about William on his website at: www.aboutweeks.com

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

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According to the Addictioncentre.com, an addiction is a “chronic, relapsing brain disease defined by a physical and psychological dependence on drugs, alcohol or a behavior. When an addictive disorder has formed, a person will pursue their toxic habits despite putting themselves or others in harm’s way.”

On this episode, I interview Kane Patterson about his experience growing up in foster care, being introduced to drugs by his mom at age 16 and his 11 year addiction. Through many setbacks and failures, Kane has managed to turn his life around and now runs a successful business in the health and wellbeing space?

If you are struggling with a drug of alcohol dependency and are keen to seek help, please speak to your local GP. Links have been included below to organisations which offer support to UK residents which may be in interest:

Drugsand.me – a social enterprise which provides drug education interventions.

NHS Choices Alcohol Support – for information on alcoholism, binge drinking and caring for someone with an alcohol problem.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

When I was 13, a classmate revealed to me that his parents were German and that he had spent several years growing up in Germany. In my surprise at discovering his heritage, I jokingly exclaimed, “oh, so you’re a Nazi!”

I had only been living in the UK for a few months at that point and in my ignorance of the new culture I now inhabited, I lacked the context to appreciate the seriousness in how my statement landed. Growing up with a lack of proximity to western European culture ensured that my only reference points for Nazis were old Sunday afternoon matinees on TV which focused on the indominable British spirit, and Allo’ Allo’.

Obviously, he did not find my statement funny and summarily informed the teacher.

It certainly was not my intention to cause offence, but I absolutely had caused offence. And I didn’t only offend my classmate, I offended an entire class of individuals who were born and raised in this country. Many of whom will have had grandparents and great grandparents who were directly affected by the war. My statement not only made light of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis and the solemnity of the countless memorials to the fallen erected all over Europe, but it also pointed the finger at my classmate as somehow being tainted by that history simply on account of his ancestry.

In response, I could have insisted that my words were not intended to cause offence, that I was not trying to be insensitive to race, and that freedom of speech ensured I had the right to voice my unfiltered thoughts as they popped into my head. Or, I could have listened as the victim of my ill-considered verbiage expressed his hurt, apologise unreservedly and set out to educate myself as to why my actions were wholly inappropriate.

I think you know which of those would be the correct option to choose…

This past week saw the release of Harry & Meghan’s ‘tell-all’ interview with Oprah Winfrey. And among the many revelations to come out of it was the allegation that when Meghan was pregnant with Archie, a senior member of the royal family expressed concern to Harry over what skin tone their unborn child would have. Visibly shocked and mouth agape, Oprah recoiled in horror at the assertion and after an unsuccessful attempt to unearth the identity of the person who said it, the interview continued.

In the aftermath of that interview, I have seen countless posts on social media, listened to and watched heated debates on radio and TV, and read numerous articles in the newspapers which sought to unpick the veracity of that comment as racist or not. They all had a common theme – was it “…blatant racism or dumb question?“, why didn’t Oprah push harder to get the “context” in which it was said, and the royal family “is very much not a racist family.”

*insert eye-roll here*

I am tired of seeing white commentators and journalists try to assert that remarks and actions which cast negative aspersions on people in connection with their race (however subtle, and especially when it targets black people), need context before we can even dare to consider it problematic. Why do we insist on all the mental gymnastics to ensure the bar is set so high that we can never actually achieve consensus on whether a thing was indeed racist?

We don’t do that with antisemitism…

According to ADL.org, a “leading anti-hate organisation” whose “mission is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people”, antisemitism could simply include “stereotyped views about Jews.”

Let that sink in. All it takes to be labelled antisemitic is the mere regurgitation of harmful stereotyped views. How many harmful stereotyped views of black people do we see get trafficked as the main narrative all the time? Single moms? Absent fathers? Excess criminality? Poverty-stricken African countries? Teenage delinquency and gang violence? Reliance on athleticism or musical ability for success? I could go on. We set the threshold for clearly identifying other forms of discrimination so low, and rightly so. But when it comes to black folk, we behave as though only videotaped evidence of someone using the n-word will suffice. And even then, we justify it by saying ‘black people get to say the n-word all the time’, so context, right?

Last night my wife asked me if a black person had made the comment about having concerns about an unborn child’s skin tone, would it still be racist? I answered, “absolutely.” And here is the sad reality… This is a conversation black people have ALL THE TIME. We talk about not wanting our children to be too dark-skinned, or we look at the tips of new-borns’ ears so we can judge what their ‘final colour’ might be. Some people even select partners specifically because of their hair texture or skin-tone so they can pass on the favourable genetic traits and weed out the African ones. There is a whole flipping hashtag fetishizing bi-racial children and swirl relationships on Instagram! And at the other extreme of the spectrum, we have the hyper-sexualisation of dark-skinned women as though buxom lips and mind-bending hip-to-waist ratios offer the perfect response to colourism and an affirmation of their beauty.

The heart-breaking truth of the matter is that people of all races perpetuate white supremacy, and this is a conversation that black people are thoroughly familiar with. Colourism is one of the ways in which the legacy of white supremacy manifests within black communities. Oprah didn’t need to ask any further questions for context, because like myself and many other black people, she already knew the context intimately.

So, I cringed when I read some of the idiotic things written defending the British monarchy against claims of institutional racism. Leaving aside the history of empire and colonialism for a moment, I think people believe we are fixated on imagining the Queen shuffling around Windsor Castle with a cuppa mumbling to herself, ‘bloody immigrants!’ Nevermind the now banned video of the Queen calling the US Ambassador a Gorilla, is it completely out of the realms of possibility to believe that a historically white, elite ruling class may have some deep-seated prejudicial attitudes?

Racism does not always look like vein-bulging skinheads shouting the n-word in the street, it can look like ignorance too. It can look exactly like when I linked my classmate’s intrinsic identity to the worst parts of Germany’s history without taking the time to learn more about his actual heritage. It can look like rallying to the defence of the person who said or did the racially insensitive thing, while minimising the experience of the person who endured the trauma of having it hurled at them. And most insidious of all, it can look like the rabid insistence on painting racism as isolated incidents carried out by lone individuals on the fringes of society, and a refusal to consider that it could be evidence of a wider systemic cancer.

It is this cancer which leads an entire society into reacting defensively and unleashing its venom on anyone who dares to try and call out the issue of racism. You don’t need to look any further than the comments section of a Daily Mail article for evidence of exactly this kind of vitriol.

Earlier, I asked, why do people dismiss allegations of racism against black people so easily? It is because we would need to honestly confront Britain’s leading role in taking a benign concept such as the variations in skin colour across the human race, refining false narratives on how it either diminishes or enhances an individual’s intrinsic humanity and then using it to justify the destruction of entire civilisations. We are happy to support the fight against things like antisemitism because we largely see ourselves as having been on the right side of history in that conflict. But daring to challenge the virtue of the empire, colonialism and the industrial revolution, all aspects of British history many people retain a certain level of nostalgia about, is a direct assault on their heritage. Nobody wants to hear they are the bad guy in the story.

So, we sweep the scandalous parts of the story under the rug where we don’t have to deal with it. It’s a bit like when you ignore your slightly dementing nan who makes the odd racist joke at Christmas because she’s had a drink or two. Or when you laugh off the uncomfortable stories your uncle tells every now and then about how different things used to be back in his day.

And herein lies the issue… we are all affected by this blight and carry with us internally held prejudices about certain groups of people. Some of us are more significantly impacted by these prejudices than others, and the sooner we can acknowledge that is the sooner we can start having real conversations about what to do about it.

I have been so disappointed by the discourse that has taken place in the embers of what came out of Harry & Meghan’s appearance with Oprah. We have spurned every opportunity to have the genuine and necessary conversations about the issues raised. Instead, we reduced it to a debate on whether the Sussexes are lying, the appropriateness of the timing of their interview and whether the revelations were led by motivations to kickstart post-royal careers in the media.

Is it completely unfathomable that maybe we are not actually a post-racial​ utopia, and that deep-rooted issues on discrimination​ in society never actually went away but simply became less overt while we got better at justifying their existence?

I’ll leave you to answer that one on your own.

Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr on Unsplash

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PART 2 – (listen to Part 1 here)

Nanny of the Maroons was a legendary warrior and is one of Jamaica’s national heroes. She led a community of formerly enslaved Africans in the early 18th century and fought a guerrilla war over the course of a decade against British authorities who had colonised Jamaica.

In April 1740, and after suffering great losses, the British signed a peace treaty with Nanny to end the hostilities. The treaty provided for state sanctioned freedom for the Maroons and granted 500 acres of land to Nanny and her followers. Despite leading over a thousand slaves to freedom during her war with the British, a condition of the peace treaty demanded that Nanny and her forces would be called upon by the British to help capture and return runaway slaves to the plantations on the island.

And so, adversaries became collaborators.

This crucial element of slavery and colonialism ensured its success and leaves a legacy of disunity between people of African descent which they continue to reckon with 400 years later.

Slavery was maintained by more than just brutality, pain and torture. It employed a systematic destruction of any individual identity of worth, disabused you of any shared sense of community you might have otherwise harboured and enforced structures of hierarchy within disenfranchised peoples. It disincentivised unity within its systems of subjugation by ensuring there were some who were granted just enough privilege to feel as though they had something to lose through rebellion and set them at odds with those who had no privilege at all.

In May 2018, US rapper Kanye West, made some controversial comments suggesting that enslaved Africans made a ‘choice’ to remain enslaved. While his words speak to a hidden truth, his articulation of it caused a great deal of hurt and furore. It was a clumsy and inaccurate attempt to elucidate how these structures of slavery and colonialism could have remained intact for so long. It is something this article does a much better job in describing – https://aeon.co/ideas/how-did-slaveholders-in-the-caribbean-maintain-control

While the article focuses primarily on the era of chattle slavery, it also describes in less overt ways how white supremacy persists in the minds of many who are of African descent. It rationalises the enduring nature of self-hatred, the aspiration for ideals rooted in whiteness, the disunity among the diaspora and the rejection of our African heritage as expressions of our shared trauma.

Reflecting on the BLM protests which took place last year where people across the globe mobilised en masse, we now ask the question, “what next?” Clearly mobilising, while a powerful statement of intent, on its own is not enough to effect real and lasting change. Conversations still rage on as to whether or not racism, white privilege and systemic issues actually exist.

On this episode, I continue my conversation with Lewis as we talk about what the zenith of this sort of activism needs to look like. The answer can be summed up in a single word… Organisation. Its the dismantling of white supremacy in our minds and a concerted effort to build a sustainable legacy of black empowerment.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

References:

Why it’s so hard to talk about the N-word | Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor: https://youtu.be/CVPl8jRaAqM

When The British Built Concentration Camps in Kenya: https://medium.com/all-history-and-no-play/when-the-british-built-concentration-camps-in-kenya-5a92bb7336f0

Jane Elliott Classroom Lecture Experiment Being Black: https://youtu.be/XYp5xkqTUjQ

Black Boys Viewed as Older, Less Innocent Than Whites: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/03/black-boys-older

Doll Test: https://youtu.be/tkpUyB2xgTM

Photo by Matthew Lancaster on Unsplash

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THIS IS PART 1 OF A TWO-PART SERIES… (click here for part 2)

I recently took a DNA test.

While I have always been extremely proud of my Jamaican heritage, there is a whole other part of my history that was stolen from me and erased. I am in diaspora; part of a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale. While I have always been aware of the fact my ancestors were trafficked from Africa and forced to labour under brutal conditions entirely for the benefit of the British Empire, who they were and where they came from has always been completely unknown to me. I, like so many other individuals of African descent, suffer from a disconnected sense of identity.

The DNA test was as much about finding out where my ancestors came from as it was an attempt to reclaim a connection to the hidden parts of my identity that were stolen away long before I was ever born.

Lewis Persaud recently penned an article titled, “Griots: The importance of documentation” (click here), where he writes about the crucial role they played in preserving the history of many West African societies. He argues that it was this very connection to their rich history which helped to maintain these ancient cultures, and as people of African descent, it is through “retaining a sense of self in a world designed to strip you of it…” that we begin the process of building a strong and stable community.

Lewis and I recorded this episode at the end of last summer in the wake of the global outrage which erupted following the death of George Floyd. Several other extrajudicial killings of black people and racially charged incidents prior had stoked the flames of discontent for many and kickstarted a wave of Black Lives Matter protests all over the world. One of those incidents was the slaying of Ahmaud Marquez Arbery who was hunted down and executed in the street of a suburban Georgia neighbourhood by three white men. It took 74 days for his killers’ arrest, and only after the video of his killing went viral.

It is now exactly one week shy of a year since Ahmaud was killed, and his family continue their wait for justice.

It also currently happens to be Black History Month in the United States. And with the recent news of one Utah school originally agreeing to parents’ demand to exempt their children from taking part in Black History Month learning before backtracking after a backlash on social media, the question I ask is, what happens now that the protests have ended? What do we need to do as a people to move this fight forward?

I think the beginnings of an answer lies in first grounding ourselves in a strong sense of identity, because as Marcus Garvey once exclaimed and as illustrated so beautifully by Lewis in his article, a “people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”.

On this episode, Lewis and I talk about reclaiming our identities, the true nature of racism and what is required in dismantling the structures it has built.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

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There is an ancient story from the Bible about two men, David and Johnathan, who formed a friendship so deep their connection is described as though their souls were knit together. Though their friendships ended tragically with Jonathan being killed in battle, the story of David and Jonathan’s friendship helps makes a case for strong personal and intimate friendships between men.

Most people would agree that verbal and physical expressions of love are not exclusively or even primarily sexual in nature. Friends often embrace, kiss and touch each other in affectionate ways, but do men feel that these expressions of platonic love with their male friends threaten to convey unintended sexual connotations?

Even when there is no threat of these expressions of love being perceived in a sexual capacity, there often remains an awkwardness present as a result of the infrequency of which of these expressions are made, and so we shy away from them even more.

On this episode, Jamie, Donald, Kwame and RJ discuss the case for bromance and we as men can build better quality friendships with each other.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

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In the midst of a wave of Black Lives Matter protests that swept the globe in 2020, last August marked the second annual Black Pound Day; its aim being to encourage support from people to buy from Black-owned companies (both local to them and online).The power of black and other ethnic consumers represents a significant proportion of the marketplace with an estimated spending power of £300 billion per year in the UK.

While black people are avid consumers, we generate and hold very little wealth comparatively speaking. A recent report by the Runnymede Trust titled, The Colour of Money: How racial inequalities obstruct a fair and resilient economy, highlighted this fact.

Kenroy Malcolm is an aspiring property investor and runs a YouTube channel where he provides tips and tricks to help his viewers save money as well as charting his own wealth-building journey. He is part of a small minority of black content creators in the personal finance space online who are keen to inspire and encourage others

On this episode, Kenroy and I talk about why wealth-building is not just important, but an essential part of creating economic freedom. We also talk about his own personal finance journey and his inspiration for YouTube.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

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For the last year, we’ve been gripped by a global pandemic. Figures in the UK currently stand at more than 2 and half million confirmed cases and 75,000 deaths. Despite having endured two previous national lockdowns and the shifting goalposts of localised restrictions updated almost weekly, we’re now entering a third national lockdown with no end in sight. Some of us have been held hostage to fear of the virus, many have lost friends and loved ones, but all of us have suffered severe disruption to our lives and plans.

On this episode I interview Chukwudi Ugbomah and we talk about what it was like trying to plan a wedding during a lockdown and crossing the threshold into marriage.

Chukwudi and his then fiancé did not live together prior to getting married, and so had to practice social distancing for much of the first half of 2020 and the period leading up to their wedding. The transition from bachelor to husband was a particularly profound, and so we discuss what that journey has been like for him.

Chukwudi was one of the very first men I interviewed back in season 1 of the podcast where we talked about his preparations for marriage. You can listen to it here: Ep. #2 – Legacy, Money and Managing Conflict. Back then, reports of the Coronavirus had only just begun to emerge out of Wuhan, China and we couldn’t have imagined just how much our lives would have been affected by it in just a few short weeks afterwards.

While for many of us, it may seem as though our lives remain in a state of perpetual limbo, Chukwudi’s story encourages me to believe we can still hope for new beginnings and I hope it does the same for you too.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

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Comparatively speaking, sporting careers are short and somewhat fleeting. It is not uncommon for professional athletes to feel a sense of loss of identity when retiring from a career in sport. Identity helps us to connect with others as well as to our sense of self. For may of us, our identities are rooted in our relationships as well as the activities we take part in.

On this episode, I interview Mark Richardson, a former world class 400m runner and Olympic silver medalist. During his athletics career, Mark experienced some amazing highs but also some incredible lows. And while his exploits on the track remain firmly affixed to the pinnacle of Great Britain’s track and field Olympics history, athletics is just one part of his story.

Mark’s specialism, the relay, is an appropriate metaphor for life itself. Most of us are in a state of constant growth and development, our sense of self undergoing several metamorphoses throughout our lives.

Change isn’t inherently bad, but it can be destabilising, especially when you’re not prepared for it. While Mark’s transition out of professional sport was a challenging one, it wasn’t debilitating.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

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We live in a world saturated with images of unrealistic and unattainably perfect bodies. While its impact on women has been documented at length, there is very little social commentary on the effect this has on men.

Men have historically been taught to suppress certain feelings and emotions and so we often lack the emotional vocabulary to communicate the deep inadequacies that challenge the very nature of our perceived manhood. We we do possess the vocabulary, we often are not afforded the spaces to express these vulnerabilities.

Body image is a broad term which encompasses a whole range of ideologies. In this conversation, Jamie, Daray, Nate and Dan explore some of these concepts as well as our sexuality as it informs our identities as men, and whether size really does matter.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.