The first week of blogging was a busy one – just as well, as I am new to blogging and now have lots to write about!
The week started with the first session of the ‘Women for Peace’ course. The day was a promising start to what seemed to be a very interesting course. In a group of 14 enthusiastic and friendly women, we attempted to define five key aspects of our identity. Then we tried to narrow these down to three core identities. Mine were ‘healer’, ‘disabled’ and ‘spiritual being’. I let go of ‘activist’ and ‘researcher’ parts of my identity, reasoning that by keeping the ‘disabled’ identity, I can continue challenging, informing and learning about oppression without using the labels of ‘activist’ or ‘researcher’. Following this, we thought about how these aspects of our identity relate to our beliefs and value-systems, and then how these specific values affect our everyday behaviour and attitudes. I was surprised though that neither my Iranian nor Armenian identities came to mind when choosing the five identities, considering I am a proud Armenian Iranian. Through a number of role play examples, we played out different conflict scenarios, to find out how we resolve various conflicts in a range of relationship contexts. These were then linked with Thomas-Kilman’s conflict management styles diagram. Role plays generally make me very uncomfortable but I felt comfortable enough to opt out from this activity. The group was really supportive and I felt at ease with everyone. In the end of the session, I had offers of lifts for next week, which was very reassuring and meant a lot to me. Using a taxi would have presented problems in terms of walking to and from the taxi unassisted.
On the Wednesday, I attended the Disability Hub meeting organised and run by Leeds City Council. In the meeting a representative from the Royal British Legion gave a presentation about the scope of the charity and the wide range of support it offers to the service personnel, both past and present. Then the project manager of Stop Hate UK talked about an event to be held later on this year with the aim of bringing organisations and people working on hate crime in Leeds together for collaboration and learning. I expressed interest in getting involved and shared my contact details. After the presentations, members had chance to share their concerns. Listening to different discrimination people face in their daily lives made me sad, no matter how much I push away my own frustration with people’s negative attitude towards me, disabled people’s oppression and struggle continue to affect us all.
On Thursday I participated in the Equality Hub with another Disability Hub representative. We shared with the other members and council staff our discussions from the previous day and our hub activities. We listened to the issues raised by other hub members. I felt confident in this meeting to share with the Taxi Licensing representatives my personal difficulties I have experienced with taxi drivers, for example about intrusive questions they ask me like ‘Do you live on your own?’ or ‘What happened to you?’ referring to my impairments. He apologised on behalf of the company said that he would take my comments on board. We will see.
Friday was my first healing session of the year. I felt the change of venue from the Burley Lodge Centre to the Heart in Headingley had made a significant difference, the room was much lighter and bigger with better energy flowing all round. We even had a separate waiting room. The visitor numbers also showed a great improvement. I felt happy to be back in the healing centre, giving healing again. It felt right.
I spent the weekend completing and submitting an article to Journal of Higher Education Research & Development. Now that I have time and space, writing is becoming more effortless and I am feeling positive about all my writing commitments this year although I am concerned about balancing the writing with my other academic and non-academic responsibilities. I also watched a documentary on Netflix about the life of Nina Simone called ‘What Happened Miss Simone?’ The documentary revealed her personal traumas as well as featuring some of her more militant activism and of course her prodigious musical talent. Nina’s activism side and determination to fight against oppression, renewed my own commitment to fight against disablism. We also went to see ‘Darkest Hour’ directed by Joe Wright and starring Gary Oldman. The film portrayed Churchill’s character well and his emotional life when faced with dilemmas and making problematic decisions during the Second World War. This film brought home for me the difficulties of the choices we make and the importance of integrity and living from our principles.
All in all an encouraging, productive and educational week. More updates to follow.