For Gentlemen only

I started a new journal this morning.  

Approximately every five months this ending and beginning is a ritual turning point. Seeing the need coming, on my last ever shopping trip back in March, I determined to stock up. (I didn’t think journals would be classed as a basic necessity by retail during Covid – though I beg to differ)

So today, I had a choice. The one I’d picked up hurriedly before lockdown, pale turquoise textile with gold block printed image ‘I Am Busy Every Day’? Or, the understated, elegant black leather cover embossed ‘for Gentlemen Only’.

Phil had bought it as a gift for me when we were dating, commenting on the flyleaf “saw this and thought it a bit sexist not to do a Ladies’ version”. It didn’t get used as I prefer blank to lined pages.

I stroke this new black journal soberly and think.

Within a homework assignment in an English Language exercise book, around the age of 13, I wrote “I think I would even marry a black man”. That was racism right there, buried within an argument for equality.

Today, my overdue selection of this next dairy may be a timely, nod of acknowledgement to the international rage expressed in the Black Lives Matter movement, gathering lightning momentum in the week after the tragic and casual murder of George Floyd. Although I hesitate to say this – it seems such a paltry gesture – at least the next five months or so I will be more conscious of these tensions. Far from being the first newsworthy victim of hate-race crime, Floyd’s death could yet become the flashpoint for a united resolve in rooting out of racism from societies everywhere.

Now, suddenly, everyone is reflecting. It is painful, healthy and somehow, refreshing.

My smooth black book will be a steady reminder over this next space of time. Provoking me to pray for grace. What this world needs is tenderness and solidarity in grief. An author, mentor friend of mine said this about the significant change of business strategy inevitably required of him amidst the deep uncertainty of these days,

‘Grief is the loss of our future. So, go and create a new future’

And I think there is a significant space between those two statements.

This is the transition between a raging, crying and letting go before the emerging vision of a braver future. We cannot build in the bitterness, we must first be drained of pain and consoled in the waiting for a fresh reality.

I feel conscious of the delicacy of wanting to register my disgust or compassion with a blog like this or a status post. I will do both – yet feel constrained by a lack of credibility in having any right to do so. I cannot and should not want to be anything other than what and who I am. That is fundamental to my accepting of what and who you are too.

Perhaps the best thing coming out of this is a realisation. Many enjoy privilege by nature of their colour. Recognising what the absence of this head start might mean for others, from a different part of the skin spectrum is a breakthrough insight.

I’d love to think we can arrive at a place where we are not merely sympathising with or endorsing Black Pride but rather, joining in a grand celebration of Human Potential. Saying that, I was happy to see my own son of mixed Afro-Caribbean and English descent owning his identity as a black ‘bruva’ on Instagram this week. I Iove that he is moved to own this, that he is touched deeply enough to ‘come out’. Not because he was previously ashamed of his heritage but, to my knowledge he had never overtly referred to himself as a black man before. This intrigued me.

The time will come to argue that #AllLivesMatter. Because the pendulum is where it is, I will join the peaceful BLM protest in Doncaster on Sunday. It is the first time I will have physically protested other than by writing out my pain. It is time to visibly stand, to console and apologise.  

For 9 minutes – for 5 Months –  for a lifetime of consciousness.

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