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Memories of Mandela

GREAT DEBATE: (l-r) Brenda Emmanus, Akala, Winnie Byanyima, Sabbiyah Pervez and Jasmine

TO END a week of diversity focused events, the BBC hosted Mandela Lectures, an event where three speakers with three different ideas discussed one famous quote.

Hosted by broadcaster Brenda Emmanus, the lecture saw executive director of Oxfam International Winnie Byanyima, philosopher and writer Sabbiyah Pervez and Hip Hop Shakespeare Company founder Akala discussing the Nelson Mandela quote: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Winnie was a calm yet empowering speaker. She made parallel comparisons between Mandela and her organisation Oxfam, highlighting that they both stand in solidarity with lone men and women.

“I have seen first hand that small weapons can inflict horror,” she said. “It took 10 years of hard campaigning of Oxfam supporters to build public support for what we knew what was right. Lives will be saved now because there's an international law and we can make change.”

She added: “Oxfam’s vision is a just world without poverty, where all are treated equally. This new world is within reach. Nelson Mandela taught us with willpower and mobilising to stand together, we can change the world”.

It was inspiring to hear about her personal journey as she revealed: “I fled Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda in the ‘60s. I found asylum here in the UK. A young African refugee like myself has been allowed to thrive – be part of the movement for social justice. That's what Nelson Mandela was saying to us: ‘It always seems impossible until it's done.’”

Sabbiyah was fast paced in her speech and her passion about Muslim identity was clear.

“The first generation of UK Muslims were told right from the beginning what they can and can't do,” she said.

“They can't let go of the old rules or they'll lose their identity – so we, the next generation have conflict.

“Asian women are brought up to feel inferior to their brothers. If you're constantly being told your only role is to serve as a mum and wife how can you grow as an individual?”

Finally, the ever-articulate Akala shared many deep facts and stats about black history around the globe. He spoke so fast that I barely had time to take in one fascinating fact before he hit us with another.

He noted that "Nelson Mandela was in prison for almost as long as I have lived. It’s easy to view Nelson Mandela’s story from cinema seats. However, not one single corporation after slavery ended was forced to pay out reparations.

“South African bank heads still kept their jobs after apartheid ended. To this day, whites still control most of the African land. The ending of political apartheid is to be celebrated.

“But apartheid did not end. It was altered but not shattered. Currently, the third world is literally paying with their lives for the super rich of the first world.”

In my opinion, Akala should be a regular on Question Time. Fantastic event with three great speakers.



DYNAMIC DOOR: Jas outside number 10 Downing Street

Number 10 Downing Street was one of my recent destinations after I received an invitation from the Prime Minster to join him in celebrating many of the UK’s most inspiring women.

It was an empowering evening at the iconic address, where we all eagerly took photos outside one of the most famous front doors in politics.

Attendees included Lorraine Pascal, Joan Collins, Carol Vorderman, Fiona Bruce, Erin O’Connor and many more.
David Cameron made a lovely welcome speech, thanking us all for being who we were, doing what we do and being inspirations to other women. He emphasised that as the UK was the only country to have fulfilled its foreign aid commitment to the rest of the world this past year, that in the next year we had a right and moral duty to lead on stopping female violence and discrimination globally. He firmly focused on female genital mutilation and violence towards women and we were all on board by the time he finished.

The UK has its issues socially and politically, but I think if we’re all brutally honest, no-one could say we don’t live in one of the greatest countries in the world, where women are allowed freedom of speech, education and many other rights that aren’t received by other women throughout the world.



FOOD MISSION: Giggs and Jas

I recently joined UK MC Giggs one afternoon for an extended lunch. We wandered around Whole Foods in London, as I assumed no-one would recognise and hassle him there and searched meticulously for foods appropriate for vegan his son.

Giggs spent ages walking through the round aisles, quizzing all the store assistants with intricate questions about the different foods.

It soon became clear that Giggs hadn’t gone unrecognised after all, as one the assistants later tweeted him, saying: “Hope the vegan cake goes down well bro!”

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