Inspirational AF: Akala

I went to see Akala speak about two weeks ago, having long admired him from afar. He spoke and answered questions on ‘Is Britain Having an Identity Crisis?’ for two hours with an mind-boggling level of eloquence and thoughtfulness, at the same time as being incredibly relatable and human.

You don’t need to watch all the above, but watch at least a little to get a sense of Akala’s level of knowledge – and to learn something new about Britain’s history and politics.

Also, a bonus vid below – Akala is also a legend because he loves Shakespeare. See below for his amazing rap paying tribute to the Bard. I always love a Shakespeare-lover.

Inspirational AF: ‘It’s Just a Preference’

As Pride month ends in the US, and London Pride rolls around this weekend, I thought I’d include this amazing speech by Almeida Young Leader Darren Siah. It explores the issue of internalised prejudice in the LGBTQ* community with thought and eloquence and passion.

A side note: I think Love Island has shown this kind of prejudice is rife in the heterosexual community too, and there’s a brief article on racism within the show’s ‘preferences’ here.

Inspirational AF: Monthly Me-Time

 

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This tweet (link here) caught my eye this week. I love a plan or a list of some sort, and this seems like a near-perfect way to improve your state-of-mind. I try to create resolutions like these every new year, and, although I definitely do not complete them all every time, there’s something nice about having resolutions that make your life or you feel better, rather than being about losing or stopping something.

If you need some more, here a few suggestions:

Every Day:
– Read the news
– Make your bed
– Read 10 pages of a book
– Have a 5min solo dance session

Every Week:
– Message your parents
– Listen to a podcast
– Go for a walk
– Do a good deed

Every Fortnight:
– Call or email your grandparents
– Cook a 2 course meal

Every Month:
– Try something new
– Ask someone out for coffee (not a date necessarily, maybe just someone from work/a club you want to get to know better)

Comment below with any of your own suggestions!

Inspirational AF: Failure is Good for Other People

One of the great things about becoming a teacher (apart from the long holidays, 4pm finishes, and hilariously stupid responses from children) is that you start to lose the fear of being bad at something – or at least the fear of starting.

I’ve feel like I naturally stick to the things I know and love. Singing. Theatre. Books. The Leggera Padana at Pizza Express (it’s obviously the best – fight me). I love trying new things… as long as they’re already within my comfort zone.

Like any classic milennial/gen z – I fall sort of in-between generations – this is partly from a fear of failure. The British education system also encourages us to specialise, and to avoid what we’re not good at as soon as possible. This worked pretty well for me, as a freakish child who knew what they wanted to do from the outset, but with people who want to be doctors but also fancy a spot of art on the side it’s not so easy. A levels, and the way universities treat them, encourage specialism. STEM scholars in particular suffer here. A humanities student has a certain level of freedom in their choices outside of their degree subject, whereas parents and institutions often encourage STEM students to choose within only that small field. To paraphrase Paris is Burning, they demand “STEMs across the board.” And with all this specialism, this dedication to only a certain type of subject, trying new things and starting from nothing can feel pretty scary. Also no one likes being a failure, let’s be honest.

But! Working at a school has encouraged me to push past this pessimism. If an eleven year old can start learning something with so much enthusiasm, why shouldn’t I? Also, and here’s the best bit: of I fail, I’m simply being a relatable role model for the kids. There’s nothing more comforting than seeing an older person mess something up. Phew. Pressure’s off. Now they can feel better about themselves – I’ve done a good deed simply by being really quite shit at poetry writing/rounders/the floss. Give yourself a pat on the back and a gold star.

So yesterday I went bouldering, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I was pretty rubbish, I can’t lie (the video is my talented friend, not me. Hopefully some people didn’t read down to here and think that I’m that skilled.) But thanks to some rather determined friends I made it up six or seven routes. They were the easiest ones and I was terrified every time my feet left the ground but still. I also learnt that a lot of bouldering is sitting on the floor chatting and watching other, extremely ripped people do all the work – so it was much more enjoyable than anticipated.

To sum up: If you fail, you are doing your good deed for the day and everyone thanks you for it. Also bouldering is fun.

Inspirational AF: Pablo Neruda

I love Pablo Neruda. His language is gorgeous. Having read an amazing, but deeply upsetting book last week, this is what I’d turn to to cheer myself up and remind myself that beauty and love exists in the world too. 

I don’t have time enough to celebrate your hair.
One by one I should detail your hairs and praise them.
Other lovers want to live with particular eyes;
I only want to be your stylist.

In Italy the call you Medusa,
because of the high bristling light of your hair.
I call you curly, my tangler;
my heart knows the doorways of your hair.

When you lose your way through your own hair,
do not forget me, remember that I love you.
Don’t let me wander lost—without your hair–

through the dark world, webbed by empty
roads with their shadows, their roving sorrows,
till the sun rises, lighting the high tower of your hair.

Love Sonnet XIV 

In Spanish:

Me falta tiempo para celebrar tus cabellos.
Uno por uno debo contarlos y abarlos:
ortros amantes quieren vivir con ciertos ojos,
yo sólo quiero ser tu peluquero.

En Italia te bautizaron Medusa
por la encrespada y alta luz de tu cabellera.
Yo te llamo chascona mía y enmarañada:
mi corazón conoce las puertas de tu pelo.

Cuando tú te extravíes en tus propios cabellos,
no me olvides, acuérdate que te amo,
no me dejes perdido ir sin tu cabellera

por el mundo sombrío de todos los caminos
que sólo tiene sombra, transitorios dolores,
hasta que el sol sube a la torre de tu pelo.

Inspirational AF: Dancing with a Tea Cup

How do they do it?! This is taken from DV8‘s Can We Talk About This?, a physical theatre production looking at freedom of speech, multiculturalism, and Islam, using verbatim interviews and elements of dance and mime. The physical strength of the performers, and the mental strength of this interviewee, Ann Cryer (the first politician to raise issues of forced marriage in the Houses of Parliament) are both inspirational AF. 

Check out more of DV8’s amazing, political, exciting work here.

#tbt: Dorothy Gibson

An ex-Nazi sympathiser who survived the Titanic, made a film about it, was arrested in Italy as an anti-Fascist agitator, and who was also a pioneering silent movie actress, Dorothy Gibson was the definition of living your best life.

Born today in 1889, in New Jersey, by the age of 20 she began modelling for Harrison Fisher, a famous commercial artist. 220px-Dorothy_by_fisherDorothy soon became Fisher’s favourite muse, and her image was seen regularly on postcards, merchandising products and even on the covers of magazines like Cosmopolitan.

As early as 1911, Dorothy began appearing in movies, starting out as an extra but soon taking the leading roles in a series of films by Éclair Studios. Praised for her natural acting style and comedic flair, she was a huge hit – and arguably the first actress to be promoted as a star in her own right.With contemporary Mary Pickford, Dorothy was the highest paid movie actress in the world at the time of her premature retirement in May 1912, from which time on she focused on her choral career.

The thing she’s most known for today, however, is nothing to do with her talents. On her way back from a holiday with her mother (Pauline) in Italy, Gibson became part of one the most famous events of the twentieth century. As Dorothy and Pauline played bridge in the lounge, their ship, the Titanic, crashed into an iceberg. Along with two of their game partners, they escaped into the first lifeboat launched (Lifeboat #7). After arriving back in New York, Dorothy’s manager persuaded her to appear in a film based on the scenario: the first ever film based on the disaster. Saved From the Titanic came out just one month later. Dorothy starred as herself, and also wrote the scenario, appearing in the same clothes she had actually been wearing on the night of the sinking.

Although Saved From the Titanic was a tremendous success in America, Britain, and France the only known prints were destroyed in a 1914 fire at the Eclair Studios in New Jersey. The loss of the motion picture is considered by film historians to be one of the greatest of the silent era.

But that’s not all…

Like any great actress of that era, naturally Dorothy had her share of salacious backstory, aside from any ship-based disasters. Between 1911-17, Dorothy embarked on a love affair with the married movie tycoon Jules Brulatour (co-founder of Universal Pictures). Brulatour was an advisor and producer for Dorothy’s main film company, Eclair, and backed several of her films, including Saved From the Titanic.

In 1913, while driving in New York, Dorothy struck and killed a pedestrian. So far, so irrelevant, right? But Dorothy was driving Brulatour’s car at the time (serious Great Gatsby vibes). In the court case that followed, then, it was revealed in the press that she was his mistress. Brulatour was actually already separated from his wife. Nonetheless, the humiliation of the scandal made her sue him for divorce, finalised in 1915. Dorothy and Brulatour then married, in 1917,  his fame and political power forcing him into legitimizing his relationship with Dorothy.

Two years later, the marriage’s legal status was challenged, and eventually dissolved as an invalid contract. Dorothy then left NYC for Paris to escape gossip and start a new life.

Fighting Fascism

By the time WW2 started, Dorothy and her mother were in Florence. The reasons for them staying there are hazy… Dorothy claimed it was because they were scared of the journey back to America after the whole Titanic incident. Others claim they stayed there willingly because they were Nazi sympathisers, and potentially even Fascist intelligence operatives!

However, by 1944 Dorothy had renounced her involvement, and was even arrested as an anti-Fascist agitator and jailed in a Nazi prison! She was sent to the Milan prison of San Vittore, from which she then escaped with two other prisoners, journalist Indro Montanelli and General Bartolo Zambon. The trio was aided through the intervention of Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, and by a young chaplain of the Milanese resistance group Fiamme Verdi, Father Giovanni Barbareschi.

Living in France, in 1946, Dorothy died of a heart attack in her apartment at the Hôtel Ritz Paris at the age of 56. Gibson’s estate was divided between her lover, with the spectacularly Latin name of Emilio Antonio Ramos, and her mother.

In the fifteen years between the death of Dorothy and herself, Pauline grew increasingly vocal about her criticism of the Allies and her support for the Nazis – we’re still unsure whether Dorothy echoed or challenged these sympathies.

So: Model Muse, Silent Movie Star, Titanic Survivor, Mogul Mistress, Nazi Spy, Anti-Fascist Agitator, Prison Camp Escapee. Dorothy Gibbons’s life was legendary.

 

Sources:

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/dorothy-gibson-the-woman-who-survived-the-sinking-of-the-titanic-and-a-nazi-prison/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Gibson

 

Inspirational AF: Love After Love

This poem is filled with beautiful images. The last line, in particular, is one of my absolute favourites; I want it on my wall. The perfect poem to give you a little boost.

Love After Love

Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.