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Queen Mary’s First Magazine For Students Of Colour

Issue 1 October 2020

Welcome to Issue 1 The beginning of a journey

Breathing life into new ideas is an integral part of what we do here at Diaspora Speaks Magazine. A year ago, Diaspora Speaks didn’t even have a name: it was just an idea, a comment spoken into the night. One year later, and it has transformed into something tangible and very much real. With this image of birth and creation, we hope to empower our writers and our readers. We want Diaspora Speaks to be the medium through which students of colour can find power in self-expression. Being able to grow with your ideas from thought to published piece should help people to realise the control they have over their own destiny. Nobody gets to write your story, but you. That is why we have decided that our print edition theme for Black History Month is Writing History. In the celebration of Black history, we want to recall significant events, key figures, and major changes. However, we want to go further. We believe that change lies in the smallest acts of resistance, reclamation and revolution. Our writers have recalled these moments in their own lives, and we think that their experiences are just as worthy of acknowledging, as those that have been penned in the history books. Furthermore, we are looking ahead into the future at trailblazers who are paving the path for equality. The process of putting together this print edition has been an absolute whirlwind the past two months. October was just around the corner when we decided that launching our print edition for Black History Month, would be a perfect beginning for Diaspora Speaks Magazine. It has been such an exciting project from selecting which articles we wanted to include in this edition; the gorgeous illustrations that our graphic designer, Shazia Ismael created specifically for us; and most importantly, the compelling message that each and every writer for this print edition has conveyed through their writing. I want to say a huge thank you to this team, as well as our members for helping to make this dream a possibility. Our final message to all of you who are reading is to open your mind, get away from all distractions, and immerse yourself for a few minutes in the journey of reading this magazine.

Sawdah Bhaimiya and Sara Daud Omar Editors in Chief


Contents 4

The Editorial Team

Culture & Lifestyle

5 Inspiring Young Black People That You Need to Know About - Sagal Abdullahi


Food for Thought: How Cultural Foods are a Carrier of Tradition - Robyn Roach



Lawbreakers or Lawmakers? How Historical Black Figures Worked Outside 10 of the Law - Sawdah Bhaimiya “The Birds and Bees” vs “Please, I Can’t Breathe!” - Aleena Shahzad


Growing Up: The Effects of Eurocentric Beauty Standards - Nesa Depeza Njie


I Learnt How to Look After My Hair in Lockdown - Sara Daud Omar


Style & Beauty

Expression The Car Crash: An Odyssean Journey - Sage Stanescu


Rooh-Afza - Refresher of the Soul - Aishah Islam



Weapons of Empowerment: How the Marginalised are Altering the History 21 of the Media - Clera Rodriguez Cool Tape Vol. 3 Review: Jaden’s Visions are Reshaping the Youth - Jumana Taha


First Person 26

Strong Black Woman? - Abisola Bishi 3


Sawdah Bhaimiya Editor-in-Chief

Sage Stanescu Expressions Writer

Sara Daud Omar Editor-in-Chief

Nésa Thea Depejie Njie Style & Beauty Writer


Clera Rodrigues Media Editor

Jumana Taha Media Writer


Abisola Bishi First-Person Editor

Robyn Roach Culture & Lifestyle Writer

Aishah Islam Expressions Editor

Aleena Shahzad Features Writer


Sagal Abdullahi Culture & Lifestyle Editor

Shazia Ismael Graphic Designer

5 Inspiring Youn

That You Need

Growing up Black in the UK, and being on the receiving end of institutionalised racism and government policies that are designed to exacerbate wealth and educational inequalities, can break many. The increased policing of our communities, the lack of funding, and the educational attainment gap are just a few examples that highlight how this nation undervalues Black life. Despite this, there are some individuals who use the injustices around us, as fuel to inspire change and make a difference. From creating alternative spaces to cater to our community, or challenging discrimination head on by campaigning against the lack of representation, this list of wonderful young people have used their spirit to address and fight some of the issues we face.

Temi Mwale is the founder and director of The 4front Project, a member-led youth organisation established in 2012 to empower young people to be at the forefront for fighting against justice and affecting change. Providing a platform for young people most directly harmed by violence and the criminal justice system, Mwale and her team centre healing and transformative justice, to tackle the root causes of youth violence. “Black children and communities need more love, care and support, in response to their over-exposure to both community and state violence.� - Temi Mwale

Legally Black (20 - 21 years olds)

Image Source: Instagram

Temi Mwale, Age 24, The 4front Project

Image Source: Instagram

Legally Black was founded by Shiden Tekle - a recent Queen Mary graduate- , Liv Francis-Cornibert, Kofi Asante and Belmiro Matos da Costa. It is a youth-led advocacy organisation which aims to tackle underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Black people in the media. They were recently awarded with the MTV EMA Generation Change Award. The group is focused on recentering Black voices within film and TV, as well as addressing the invisibility of positive Black representation.


ng Black People

Sagal Abdullahi

d to Know About

A current student at Queen Mary University of London and founder of Asra Club - a Muslim women’s running group- Sahra-Isha is determined to provide a safe space for Muslim women to get fit. That is, without having to compromise their faith or being stereotyped as “breaking barriers”. Alongside being a writer, researcher, and Vice President of the Decolonise QMUL society, Sahra-Isha created Asra Club in 2019 to address the lack of adequate spaces for Muslim women to access sports. She is also the founder of Sai Noir, a womxn led music magazine which seeks to demystify roles within the music industry.

Sahra-Isha Muhammad-Jones, Age 20, Asra Running Club

Credit: Sahra-Isha Muhammad-Jones Tianna created Black Girl Camping Trip in response to the overwhelming interest she received after sending out a tweet which was liked by over 1.1k people. Created in 2018 and committed to breaking down barriers many Black people face in accessing the outdoors and nature, BGCT creates unique retreats for Black women and non-binary people in the UK as well as Tianna Johnson, Age 23, transwomen.

Black Girl Camping Trip Credit: Tianna Johnson

Tré Ventour, Age 24, Writer Credit: Tré Ventour

Part of The Guardian’s Young, Black and British interactive writers column entitled “The voices behind the UK’s antiracism protests”, Tré Ventour is a writer-poet and racial equality activist. His work involves decolonising education, anti-racism and Black history. He delivers numerous workshops, lectures, and facilitates discussion on race and identity. Passionate about supporting his community, his work has spanned across the educational, healthcare and criminal justice sectors.


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Food for Thought: How Cultural Foods are a Carrier of Tradition

Robyn Roach Illustrations by Shazia Ismael

The preparation, consumption and overall exposure to food is a significant part of any culture. To experience food is to experience culture and so to accept the traditional food of a particular place can be an incredible insight into the culture and lifestyles of others. In this new, global world, the migration of people outside of their native lands and the creation of the diaspora can sometimes have the unfortunate consequence of cultural ebb and even loss. However, the strong ties that immigrants hold to their countries of origin can often be maintained via the preparation of the foods from their homes. They bring these foods with them wherever they go, and cooking can be used as an expression of cultural identity. Traditional cuisine is often passed down from generation to generation, keeping culture alive in new lands by allowing members of the diaspora to engage via tastes, smells and feelings. It can be said that there is a certain level of emotion that comes with sharing and experiencing food. I, myself, have experienced the significance that food can bear on one’s cultural identity as a 3rd generation member of a family of immigrants from the Caribbean. My maternal grandmother (who I will affectionately refer to as Nan-nan for the duration of this article) was only 15 when she came to England in 1962. She could not even put into words the ache of homesickness she first experienced upon arrival to the UK when I interviewed her, but she could affectionately recall the foods that reminded her of St. Vincent - her native island in the Caribbean. She told me of dumplings, stewed beef, oxtail soup and a myriad of other dishes. It is now one of her greatest prides that she has been able to leave her daughters -and now granddaughters- with the ability to cook the food from “back home�. I like to think that I am extremely lucky, because each of my grandparents come from a different Caribbean island -Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and Montserrat respectively- thus I have been exposed to food from all four places. Although they are all Caribbean, I have been able to explore the variations of each and I find the diversities between them extremely interesting.


For example, the well-known dish “rice and peas”: when my paternal grandma would give me rice and peas I would get rice stewed with kidney beans, stained that reddishbrown colour that may be familiar to most. But my Nan-nan preferred to use pigeon peas. Cooked down with scallions and creamed coconut (and a lot of sugar) the result was decidedly a much sweeter version than what I was used to from my grandma. But rice and peas isn’t the only dish that holds significance in my heart. When I think of my Nan-nan I think of oxtail soup even on a hot summer’s day; hard food (boiled, starchy vegetables) with curry; of stewed fish: the first meal I ever learned to cook. I think of mojo, which is a seasoning usually made with garlic, onions, and scotch bonnet peppers among other things that me and my mother affectionately (albeit naïvely) just referred to as “green seasoning”. When I think of my grandma, I think of a hard day’s work being rewarded with curry mutton and rice and peas; I think of the smell of plantain frying; of patiently waiting for saltfish fritters to cool on the kitchen counter and I think of other fond memories- usually ones associated with food. On the other hand, my grandparents’ experience of food holds a different importance and experience to my own. From my vantage point of privilege, I have been able to enjoy food solely out of pleasure rather than need. It never occurred to me until I actually thought to ask that this would be any different for my grandparents. My Nan-nan told me that when she came to England, Black people were forced to wait for their cuts of meat after all the White customers had been served, often meaning they were left with the cast-offs. And that is why we cook with oxtail. Memories of large family pot roasts became tarnished with the view that my grandmother’s mother would cook big meals for her–and her 10 siblings- because cooking bulk meals like that can make food stretch in hard times. I have fond memories of my Nan-nan encouraging my brother to eat hard food, insisting it would make him grow up “strong”. This comment, so innocent at the time, I later found to be rooted in something much deeper because she used to say the same thing to my uncles. But for them it was a reminder that they needed to be strong as they had to work harder, better, faster than their white peers, in order to have a fair chance at an unjust life. It’s a tough pill to swallow that I have been so naïve in my enjoyment of this food, and so unaware of the complex origins of all my favourite dishes. Beyond a source of nutrients, food is a carrier of tradition, of memories, of identity and of culture; and so despite the pain that may lurk in the origins of these “traditional” dishes, it’s important that we continue to educate ourselves on our roots and the food that sustains our people and therefore our cultures. Not having come from the Caribbean, the links I have to my grandparents’ “home” can be strenuous at times. However, when I would visit my grandparents and I would watch them cook for me, I would feel a level of understanding of where they came from and what their life “back home” was like that didn’t require any words. My Nan-nan is proud that my sister and I know of the foods from “back home”, so despite the element of anguish hidden in some of my favourite dishes, I have decided that it’s the new memories that we make that will sustain.


Lawbreakers or Lawmakers?

How Historical Black Figures Worked Outside Of The Law Sawdah Bhaimiya Illustrations by Shazia

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed” - Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail Earlier this year protests were organised worldwide, as a united front against police brutality. It did not matter that globally we were in the midst of a pandemic, Black people were still being targeted and killed by the police. It was a stark reminder that even 50 years on from the civil rights movement, racial prejudices and inequalities are still rife. Not only were the footsteps and cries of protestors heard on the streets, but instead a powerful resistance swept across social media. In response, it wasn’t uncommon to see newspaper headlines relentlessly ask, “Has the Black Lives Matter movements gone too far?”, “Are BLM activists protesting the right way?” What is the right way? People’s refusal to bow to a racist society was framed by the media as “too extreme”. A glance back at history tells us that it was the people who were brave enough to work outside the law that made the world a less hostile place for Black people.

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) - A leading abolitionist and spy, Harriet Tubman was a civil rights activist who founded the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery, Tubman was no stranger to physical violence. Her most severe injury happened in a store where she came across a slave who had left the fields without permission. Tubman was asked to restrain the slave by his overseer. She refused and as a result was struck with a 2-pound weight that was thrown to her head. The scars were lasting.

Tubman first used the Underground Railroad when she tried to escape slavery in 1849, and she made her way to the free state of Pennsylvania. This freedom invigorated her Kirt Morris via Unsplash and encouraged her to help her family and other slaves to escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad. She embarked on many expeditions throughout her life such as the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. It was Tubman’s unflinching resolute to rescue slaves that left a mark on Black history.


Rosa Parks (1913-2005) - On December 5th 1955, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland

Avenue bus for home. After a long day of work as a seamstress, Parks took a seat in one of the first few rows that were for “coloured” passengers. The Montgomery City Code required all public transportation to be segregated. If the bus got too busy, Black passengers had to give up their seats. The bus started to fill up and Parks was asked to give up her seat but she remained seated. The driver demanded, “why don’t you stand up?” to which Parks replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand up”. The driver called the police and Parks was subsequently arrested. From December 5th 1955 - the day of Park’s trial - in protest of her arrest, people avoided using public transport. Most of the African American community avoided riding the bus. This came to be known as the Unseen Hostories via Unsplash Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted 381 days. The boycott was a success and it ended with segregation on public transport being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, Nelson Mandela, and former

president of South Africa made many sacrifices. In 1944, Mandela joined the African National Congress which fought for Black South Africans to have the same rights as Whites. In 1948, the apartheid (segregation) was enforced by the South African government to keep White and Black people apart. In 1960, Mandela became the leader of a secret army called, Umkhonto we Sizwe or “Spear of the Nation”. He was hunted by the police and was arrested and accused of plotting to overthrow the government. He was given a life sentence. After spending 18 years in prison in Robben Island, he was finally freed in 1990, by President FW de Clark. It was in 1994 that Mandela became South Africa’s first Black President - a powerful message to the people that had tried to repress him. John-Paul Henry via Unsplash

When Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery using the Underground Railroad, did she go too far? When Nelson Mandela got arrested for peaceful protesting, was he fighting the wrong way? They were painted as lawbreakers in their time, but we know now that these were the people who defined the laws that we know today.


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“The Birds an Ver “Please, I Can “Emmett Till would have turned 79 years old today. Black children in America are still criminalized and denied their innocence as children.” - Gwen Moore (US Representative) On 25th May 2020, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man was arrested and subsequently killed by a White police officer. The reason being that he was allegedly using a counterfeit 20 dollar bill at a grocery store. Officer, Derek Chauvin - who has now been charged for second-degree murder - knelt on Floyd’s neck for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he begged for air, desperately pleading that he ‘can’t breathe’. On 26th February 2012, 17 year old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot in the chest, after neighbour George Zimmerman said he seemed ‘suspicious’. Zimmerman pleaded self-defence and was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter. On 22nd November 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in a park for holding a toy gun. The FBI justified officer Loehmann and Garmback’s response to Tamir Rice’s shooting as a ‘reasonable’ one. The grand jury declined to indict both officers. Time and time again, we have seen the systematic oppression that ruins the lives of so many Black people. The unjust and numerous killings of unarmed Black men and youth has sparked outrage across the world and led to a series of powerful protests in many states throughout America. Racial hatred has affected some of the youngest members of our society, therefore it’s important to question the differences between a White childhood and a Black childhood. To grow up Black in the world we live in means being hyper-aware of your surroundings, to thinking about what you wear, how you speak, and how you do your hair. Black kids are taught to not give others the chance to find a fault because if they do, it might be the only thing remembered about them. On the other hand, most White children grow up and get a brief, hasty talk about ‘the birds and the bees’ and using protection, completely unbeknownst to them that this might be the most uncomfortable talk they get. Generally, White children will never have to doubt their potential because of the colour of their skin. We have seen how quick the media is to attack any Black victims despite the tragedy, while White terrorists are afforded the term ‘mentally ill’ and almost forgiven by major news outlets. After his death, news articles revealed how George Floyd was sentenced to five years in prison for armed robbery and a home invasion. The excuses for these violent killings don’t stop: Michael Brown stole cigarettes, Trayvon Martin was suspended from school, Tamir Rice was holding a toy pistol, Breonna Taylor was in bed.


Aleena Shahzad Illustrations by Shazia

nd the Bees” rsus n’t Breathe!”

These are the stories Black parents have to tell their children in order to prepare them for the cruel world around them. In an interview with my Black friend Inès, she explains how when she was growing up, her parents never really gave her a serious talk about racism. However, as a family they would have long debates about movies with heavy topics such as slavery and prejudices. A few that spring to mind are Malcolm X, The Help, Mandela, and The Rosa Parks Story, among others. Inès tells me how her mother would try to promote Black leaders, and instead of having sit-down conversations she would take a more natural, informal route in discussions about race; she would try to uplift her kids and make them aware, rather than wary. For Inès, “this was life, and racism was just a part of it”. She discussed how her mom would prepare her for job interviews, reminding her to “be better because it's going to be harder” for her. She mentioned that during her first year at university she would try to sign up for as many events and programmes as she could, because she knew the same opportunities would not be afforded to her as her white counterparts. Similarly, another friend of mine shared how her parents got her a tutor and sent her to Saturday school in order to be a step ahead. This just goes to show how Black people need to go the extra mile just to be considered for the same positions as others. In the interview with my White friend Natasha, we discuss the classic ‘sex talk’ that I personally have never had, but she describes it as more of an ‘information dump’. She recalls that her mum bought a children’s book about puberty which helped her answer any questions she might have. While the talk might have produced feelings of discomfort, it is miles apart from the conversations Black parents are having with their children. “Anything wrong that you do, people will point it out”. Inès describes that when her brother has dreadlocks, her mom’s immediate reaction was negative. While most parents are known to disapprove of some outlandish hairstyles or piercings, the reasoning between White and Black parents differs. Inès’ mom, for example, stated that her brother might be viewed as a ‘criminal’ or a ‘delinquent’ because of his hairstyles. While George was struggling under the knee of his oppressor, he called for his ‘momma’. As he called her name in his final moments, we are brutally reminded of the injustices and life-threatening discrimination that Black people face in America. The natural innocence of a child is stripped away from Black children earlier, because from the moment they encounter society, they have to pick up the burdens of other people’s stereotypes and prejudices of them.



The Effects of Eurocen Nésa, 19, Mixed Picture taken by Nina Castro Sanchez Growing up with a mum who is White-passing with heritage from Wales, England, Barbados and France, and my dad with heritage from Gambia and Cape Verde, I faced some challenging experiences due to Eurocentric beauty standards in my own home. Such standards were enforced on me by my parents who grew up in a generation that idealised long straight hair, fair skin, and slim features. In July 2019, I asked my mum if I could cut my hair short, she agreed, but talked me out of cutting it to my shoulders. This summer, I put my foot down and made sure she understood that I wanted my hair cut short. When I went to remind her to book the hairdresser, she explained that in a photo sent to a photographer who was coming in a few weeks, my hair was long and ‘he might want it longer’. I was struck that she used someone else as an excuse to not cut my hair. When I retorted, ‘it's my hair on my head’, her silent reaction made it clear that she didn’t understand the impact of what she said. My sister with shorter 4b/c hair, was more affected by these beauty standards than I was. The difference in our hair is merely down to genetics but she has always complained about having short tight curls comparing it to 3c hair which has been overrepresented in the media and natural hair movements. Unusha, 19, Pakistani Photo taken by Saara Anwar Unusha explained her experience of how colourism has affected her family, ‘With Asians it has always been about skin, skin colour is everything... I've seen it myself with my dad, he’s a lot darker than me. When he married my mum - she is quite fair - everyone, without even talking to him would say, ‘he’s a bit dark.‘ ” I can hardly imagine hearing someone on my mum's side of the family describing my father as ‘dark’ in a negative tone, but as Unusha’s experience shows, it does happen. She mentions, ‘I do think it's getting better but it's really horrible in South Asia especially’ which shows that this is a clear problem that has emerged from the idealisation of fair skin and Caucasian features.

ing Up

Nésa Depeza Njie Illustrations by Shazia

ntric Beauty Standards Ruqayyah, 19, Mixed Picture taken by Ruqayyah Bilal Ruqayyah talked about how her view of hair length has been affected by images of ‘long hair, straight down to your ass and my hair doesn’t grow like that, I always like my hair short but then it just felt boyish all the time’. With curly/coily hair, it can feel like your hair doesn’t grow as fast as straight hair, but it’s just more difficult to see the length as it all doesn’t fall straight down. Being surrounded by long hair in the media makes short curls feel ‘boyish’ because images of males with short hair are more normalised than females with short hair. She also relays her experience with straightening her hair during secondary school, ‘The day you straighten your hair, you get a lot of compliments because everyone is like OMG, you should do it more. Then they keep asking, ‘Ruqayyah when was the last time you straightened your hair? Just switch it up, just switch it up’ but I find it so damaging”. Nairah, 20, Afro-Arab Picture taken by Nairah Makamé Nairah grew up in a mixed household surrounded by differing curl types. ‘You start to notice which compliments are directed at your curl type’ she mentions, referring to her type 4 curls compared to her older sister’s type 3 curls. She also mentioned that in her community, type 3 hair would’ve been classed as ‘good hair’, but her own hair isn’t. ‘Even if you had just one strand of curly hair’ it would’ve been relaxed. As Nairah went on to describe her experience with Glow & Lovely - formerly known as Fair & Lovely- , an Indian skin lightening product, I realised that colourism is a large problem in communities of colour. ‘They use it like a normal cleanser, just like how we use Neutrogena, that’s literally their Neutrogena back home’ she explained. “Growing up, you even had aunties giving the kids Fair & Lovely”. “In secondary I went to this girls’ house and she said one of her aunts said ‘ohh you shouldn’t be marrying someone who’s a bit too dark, we don’t want the kid coming out maka’, maka is like charcoal.’ Eurocentric beauty standards is an issue that has affected our parents’ generation, which has then trickled down to our generation. It’s all around us and we need the representation or even conversations like these to start changing attitudes, and reinforcing positive messages concerning our natural, beautiful features. Read full article:

I Learnt How to Look After my Hair During Lockdown Sara Daud Omar Illustrations by Shazia

Like many of you reading this, I grew up being bombarded with the image of a perfect woman. You know the type with blue eyes, blonde hair, and a skinny body. Whilst attending primary school in the UK, my friends and I would chat about dieting, bleaching our hair, and straightening it. I, unlike the other girls in the conversation, couldn’t just straighten my hair with a ghd or BaByliss hair straightener. My hair grew up and out into an afro, one that my mum put in braids or cornrows to make sure I did minimal damage to it at school. Despite my mum’s efforts, instead of seeing my hair as a symbol of beauty, I saw it as something to be hidden, a flaw. I was 12 when I had my first relaxer treatment. It is a hair treatment that is used to chemically straighten coily hair. My coarse, type 4 hair became straight after the treatment. It did the job and I had achieved the previously unachievable; my hair looked less like an afro. For the first time in my life, I didn’t hate my hair, although I did hate having to get the treatment done. My siblings all had looser curls that were much easier to manage, but getting relaxer treatment meant I didn’t have to worry about my hair anymore. For four years, I would get my hair relaxed every few months. However, with every treatment, my hair became thinner and thinner. Over time, my formerly healthy hair became damaged beyond repair. At 16, I decided to stop relaxing my hair. I forgot why I ever started because the end result was so bad. It was around the same time that I became acutely aware of how the hatred I had for my own hair, was due to my exposure to a standard of beauty that didn’t include me. The capitalist society that we live in tells us that petite, feminine White women are the pinnacle of beauty and that all women should aspire to look that same way. This is what caused my insecurities. Being Black and having Afro hair did not fit into such a narrow definition of beauty. Many writers have explored how capitalism feeds on women’s insecurities about their bodies in order to sell them products; this couldn’t be more true for Black girls growing up with European beauty standards.


To combat this problem head-on I decided to grow out my natural hair in an effort to embrace my body. Naively, I thought stopping the treatment would be enough to grow back my old hair. For years, I would just brush my hair every day without ever making much of an effort to restore and maintain it. Moisturise, brush, tie-up. This resulted in my natural hair growing back, but although it was much healthier than before, it was nowhere near what I had wanted. It was January 2020 when I made a promise to myself that I would take care of my hair, but properly this time. Having said that, old habits die hard and I fell into the trap of being complacent with my haircare. March came around quickly, and due to the national lockdown, for the first time in my life, I had nowhere to go. As a hijabi, I had always aimed for the smooth flat hijab look that was very difficult to achieve with braids, or anything other than a ponytail. Now that I was spending so much time at home, I could finally put my hair in Bantu knots. The self-reflection that came from self-isolating and quarantine, made me reflect on why I never took much time out of my day to care for my hair. I realised it stemmed from a fear of ‘ruining’ my hair again so instead I just let it live, but this inadvertently made my hair less healthy. My journey really began when I started to use conditioners that were meant for my hair, ones that didn’t try and ‘tame frizz’. I learnt how to put my hair in protective styles: Bantu knots, braids, etc. There is no one-size that fits all when it comes to taking care of your natural hair. I will, however, give you a little guide based on what I did: 1. Do not overwash your hair - it can be difficult to unlearn washing your hair every day, but this dries out your hair leaving it with no natural oils. To avoid dry hair, try to leave a few days between washes. 2. Condition, condition, condition - deep-conditioning is so important when it comes to allowing your hair to grow, and maintaining the hair that is already there. 3. Try not to style your hair too much, and try protective styling instead - over-styling your hair can do a lot of damage, especially if it involves heat! So, put your hair in one protective style (preferably braids or twists) and keep it for a while. My natural hair journey hasn’t been straightforward and I still have a lot to learn, but it has been so liberating. This journey has shown me the importance of having positive representation in the media. It is so important that young Black girls see natural hair in a positive light. Although I made it to the other end without any permanent damage, many girls don’t, and the lasting effects of relaxing your hair can be worse than anything.


‘The Car Crash, I built this ship, to take me far, Away from home, closer to hope I travel seas, wine-dark, and in my desperate search gulped them all down, but for what? The promise of a better, Greener land – The emerald isles, home to my soul, So many lives spent here. Who knew in this one I would crash upon the shore, much like Icarus, reaching for something he could never own? Honey, I built this ship and for what? To wreck, to wreck, oh, to wreck… For what? To bring a terror from the east, sailing west… Why? It creeped in through the ship’s holes, now it’s bringing it down, sinking, sinking… I am going down with this ship Suffocating… Drowning… Dreaming. It is all a dream within a dream within a car-ride. The streets are blue, and I am blue, and the night is young, the journey is long, my vision blurs, I cannot steerI car-crash. And then slowly, I emerge, out of the fire, in my red suit, as something different than before. I gulped down the sea, and for what? To be thirstier than before. After everything, the water gave me this? The explosion scorches on, but I kind of like how it’s burning my face-


An Odyssean Journey’ Catapulted again in the waking world I realise I can no longer be myself I have to fight with myself As though my old self is the mighty beast Leviathan. In order to come out on top I must unlearn myself, In my desperate struggle, swallow myself up and spit it back out something other, broken-boned from the journey into the unknown. Is it too late to turn back now after turning my back on everything I’ve ever known or loved? I must find it again, here. Is this not everything I ever dreamed of? I came here, conquered the seas, braved the tumultuous storms, and for what? This is not like my other lives, when the isles were my home. The oracle did not lie, this journey would not be easy. Now I am a foreigner. Outlander. Outsider. Out, ill thoughts! Now ask me again. You came here, and for what? This is my home. Now say it in your mother tongue. How do you say home? You came here, and forForgot.


Sage Stanescu Illustrations by Shazia

This poem reads as a recipe for the popular South Asian drink Rooh Afza, but as a whole, the language stands as imperatives. Orders, which symbolise what was done to my ancestors and their cultures. The effect was that anything desirable was pocketed and indulged in – the best put on display. Boil 4 cups of water, 1kg of sugar and a teaspoon of citric acid They pick and mix in a free-for-all Remove any floating scum Taint us, change us, now what even is us? Add a teaspoon of: red food colouring, rose essence and cardamom essence Names like ours shouldn’t be on their tongues Sieve any remaining impurities But their mouths drip with it, like syrup Use immediately or store in an air-tight container And they can’t get enough of the taste. Serve chilled with ice in glass jars.

Rooh Afza Refresher of the Soul 20

Aishah Islam Ilustrations by Aishah

Weapons of Empowerment: How the Marginalised are Altering the History of Media Clera Rodriguez

Mohammad Metri via Unsplash

Ever since mass media was popularised by the newspaper four centuries ago, media outlets and governments held most of the control. Print dominated; the media produced; the public consumed; and censorship prevailed. Recently, however, constraints and censorship have been rapidly declining. The birth of the World Wide Web carried the media into its new online dimension, opening up a stream of easily accessible resources to many. Gradually, free outlets for creative expression popped up. For far too long, People of Colour struggled to be heard due to a lack of access; yet now, tech and its easily accessible resources have allowed them to weaponise the media in calling for change. The advent of technology simultaneously introduced new avenues for social change. New forms of media such as film, radio, and podcasts, began in the late 19th and early 21st centuries, whilst traditionally printed forms of writing started to go digital. However, it was the normalisation of the internet within common households during the 2000s that provoked a rapid change. Social media platforms — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram — started to rise, encouraging users to post content, share their lives, and vocalise their thoughts. 21

2020 proved such platforms as being incredibly powerful mediums in battling racism at the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. Twitter especially served as a platform to share opinions, “cancel” or expose others, bolstering one’s sense of freedom of speech. Over time, more and more websites that enabled users to create free content emerged; the average person is now able to express themself and create artworks through a multitude of effortlessly accessible online outlets — such as we, here at Diaspora Speaks, do. Those previously relegated to the status of a consumer, now possess the ability to be creators. Creating a blog or digital magazine and hosting an entire website costs littleto-no money at all. WordPress is a prime example of a service offering free content hosting: in fact, 38% of the web is built on WordPress. So what does this all mean exactly? Amaliah (co-founded by Nafisa Bakkar and Selina Bakkar) is a media platform dedicated to personal aesthetic content creation by and for Muslim women. Likewise, gal-dem (founded by Liv Little) is an independent magazine produced by Women of Colour and non-binary People of Colour for anyone interested in diverse topics. Marginalised communities have in their hands a tool to promote change. Those previously relegated to the status of a consumer, now possess the ability to be creators.


Sam McGhee via Unsplash

Film, as a newly-innovated medium, was not only built with technology but also developed with it. Movies and series in the film industry have traditionally been dominated by Hollywood and other blockbusters. The video streaming platform YouTube, however, changed it all. From lousy phone clips and fun music covers (that I may or may not have dabbled in myself) to beauty vloggers exposing racist fashion apps, it’s a platform with endless possibilities. Relatively cheap modern cameras and fairly easy processes of filming, editing and uploading mean that many first worlders are able to partake. Take New Age Creators: they were a diaspora of young international film-makers who began a YouTube collaboration channel together, posting on a regular schedule. Most of them are still continuing their film careers. Many YouTubers of Colour have made successful careers for themselves on the site, such as Liza Koshy or “IISuperwomanII” Lilly Singh. One can create and showcase artistic content, for entertainment purposes, for free or for a commission, whilst simultaneously launching their careers. Podcasts are the last and latest stop on this list to promote advancement. Having originated in 2004, podcasting is credited to Dave Winer and Adam Curry according to Wired. Podcasting is fun, easy, cheap and requires much less equipment than films do. You get to blabber on about whatever you want for as long as you want — granted people will listen to you, of course. People of Colour all around the world have started to take advantage of this feat. For instance, Black, Brown & Wingin' it is a podcast show hosted by 2 young Women of Colour. They explore heavy issues such as university, identity, and multiculturalism. These young women are utilising podcasts to speak towards a larger socio-political agenda, educating as well as entertaining their listeners in the process. Media outlets such as the ones aforementioned prove to be extremely important in today’s world. Despite massive progress in the past century, several issues still persist: racism; misogyny; homophobia; Islamophobia and so on. The dawn of free and easy technology allows People of Colour to create their own platforms to voice themselves. Taking the stage — after what has been a literal eternity of discrimination — allows the marginalised to influence future generations to develop independent, unstifled, uncensored thought. The future of the media is finally being reshaped and we, People of Colour, make spaces for ourselves, rather than waiting for the White people in power to do what they will not. Read full article: 23

Cool Tape Vol. 3 Review: Jaden’s Visions are Reshaping the Youth Jumana Taha Illustration by Shazia

With summer ending, Jaden Smith tied-dyed all his latest projects as he encouraged Black listeners to “own a rainbow”. From releasing a 1960’s inspired mixtape and apparel, launching a sustainable sneakers collection and an informative Snapchat series on complex issues, quarantine was anything but unproductive for the young artist. Every action was carefully calculated to inspire the youth to spread love and organise a revolution with CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3 set as their soundtrack. The final Cool Tape predates Smith’s albums that followed a storyline of losing a lover and grieving their absence. Simultaneously, he musically travels back in time to use a surprisingly new sound for him. The Beatles-influenced tunes premiered with ‘Cabin Fever’ to portray the loneliness of solitude during a pandemic. Matching the song’s psychedelic features, Smith’s following single ‘Rainbow Bap’ paints adventures around the globe. Although the first 4 minutes feature rap, the outro switches breathtakingly to make space for vulnerability. The line, “my pillow seen me cry all night” is delivered delicately with strings that tug at the heart. With the implementation of Smith’s soft aesthetics into his latest visualizers and MSFTSrep apparel, he breaks down centuries-old gender and racial stereotypes to empower the Black youth. Thus, there’s freedom to escape distorted representations portraying Black men as threatening, uneducated and uncivilized. The remaining 15 tracks were also crafted to emphasize the importance of reclaiming power and identity. With the implementation of Smith’s soft aesthetics into his latest visualizers and MSFTSrep apparel, he breaks down major centuries-old gender and racial stereotypes to empower the Black youth’s freedom of self-expression. Opening the new era with ‘Circa 2015’, anticipation is built for a story ready to be told in its entirety. Listeners are transferred to the CTV3 universe by harps and strings that are dreamlike. Featuring Justin Bieber on the next song, ‘Falling For You’ resembles Frankie Valli’s iconic ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ with desperation for reciprocated feelings. You could imagine Heath Ledger singing it romantically on the field of ‘10 Things I Hate About You’, if only CTV3 came out decades ago. Classic-pop vibes continue with ‘LUCY!’ and ‘Everything’ referencing The Beatles’ 1967 ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ as Smith falls deeper into love. However, this changes with the haunting feel ‘In The Hills’ possesses, depicting an incoming downfall and a long torturous road through expressing “trippy summer never ends”. Surely enough, transitioning smoothly to ‘Bad Connection’ and ‘Muted Sunrise’ reveals the close end to summer and inevitable expiration of a relationship Smith has tried hard to save.


In an Apple Music interview, the actor-turned-rapper singer-songwriter states he aims to “light the fire and fan the flame of inspiration within the youth to create rebellion of something new but a movement fueled by love”. This is apparent in ‘Young In Love’ calling to continue fighting for freedom, supporting science and advocating against American school systems that ultimately prepare Black children for prisons. Smith didn't simply preach these messages, but has also acted upon his desires to see a change. At an early age, the activist founded an eco-friendly water company named Just Water, to make water easily accessible to underfunded communities. Furthermore, he introduced pop-up food trucks to serve free meals to the homeless. Consequently, Smith is an example of Black youth being able to create social change. A switch to the CTV3 world’s atmosphere allows a ballad to unfold and reveal it being possibly the greatest track off the album. ‘Photograph’ represents Smith’s lyricism as he delivers heart-wrenching lines such as, “if I can’t love you, I guess I’ll just drown”. With actress and singer Odessa Adlon’s angelic vocals, guards are down to motivate an open and direct vibe just like the ‘Rainbow Bap’s outro. At this point, audiences receive the hint that the relationship has ended. A confirmation is then announced by the next track, ‘Drops of Sun’, as Smith reminisces the good times. Moods are then raised with three following tracks, beginning with the cool inaudible intro of ‘Sunburnt’. Smith raps once more about oppressive prison systems and deeply flawed educational systems that intentionally leave out Black history. Communication in the modern era is also tackled in ‘Deep End’ as he yearns to be loved by his lover like a cell phone. Including previously mentioned accomplishments by Smith, he still believes there’s more to strive for as he sings, “if you want to fly, there’s a lake on the moon” — redefining the familiar idiom, “the sky’s the limit”. However, this lasts until he comes back down to earth to pay homage to previous Cool Tapes on track 15 with singer and rapper, Raury. Before the mixtape wraps up, the last minute addition of the anthem ‘Boys and Girls’ shows he’s been moved by the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. It holds a powerful note to march on fighting against racism. Additionally, the 1960’s instruments from horns, drums, violins and strings create a hopeful and happy ending to reassure that all will be okay. Overall, Smith proves through CTV3 that he's an innovator. He’s willing to do all it takes to stimulate the youth to push for a better world for all of mankind. Smith's dedicated to using his platform to support and form organisations to battle climate change, homelessness, racism and other significant matters. CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3 is available to stream on all platforms.


Read full article:


Abisola Bishi

For the longest time, it felt as though the greatest compliment a Black woman could recieve was to be seen as the archetypal “strong Black woman”. To be seen as a pillar of unflinching power. After decades of only being portrayed as maids, jezebels, or sassy best friends, we were gradually gifted with impossibly strong black female characters on our screens - the Foxy Browns, the Cookie Lyons and the Annelise Keatings. As a Black woman who is constantly navigating both racism and sexism in my everyday life, these figures provided much-needed respite and inspiration. I looked to these characters as role models and sought to emulate their strength in my own life. However, for many characters like these, absolute strength seemed to be the only thing that I could see. In trying to hold myself up to this exceptional standard, I found myself experiencing an unexpected struggle. On the surface, it felt only natural to embody this superhuman persona in my own life. After feeling othered and neglected at different points, I felt that playing the role of the “strong Black woman” was the only way to be in my blackness. 26

Not only did I see that kind of woman in the media, but I was also surrounded by examples in my own life. Powerful women, like my mother and aunts, laid a path for me that I was proud to follow. So I channeled that strength for myself. In some ways, the choice empowered me. I felt able to command a room or blaze a trail. But, at the time, I failed to see the potential hindrance for myself and my mental health. The unique experience of misogynoir -the intersection of both racism and sexism directed at black women- has required us to summon incredible bouts of strength. However, what happens when those reserves run dry? The danger that I found myself in was conflating strength with an unnatural sense of invulnerability. I had convinced myself that I was not allowed to falter and instead had to maintain an unrealistic level of invulnerability. The facade I created was one of perfected stoicism, wanting to appear as the girl who had it all together. However, internally, cracks began to show. My moments of weakness and distress were pushed aside, as I felt pressured to continue projecting an unbreakable image to the world. Rather than make me stronger, this only led to a lower sense of self-esteem and a feeling that I could never measure up. This inner conflict between strength and invulnerability is not unique to me. There are other Black women struggling with increased levels of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, our society at large has been informed by these narrow images of the powerful Black woman portrayed in the media. Superficial depictions of Black women have real world impacts on our lives. A study from PNAS, showed that half of a sample of White medical students believed that Black people had thicker skin than White people and less sensitive nerve endings. When these images of Black people begin to have a direct impact in our lives and medical care, we all need to take a step back and really examine their effects. Black women, and Black people in general, should not have to be a monolith of perfection in order to be celebrated. I’ve seen in my own life that Black women have the capacity for incredible strength. However, this power and resilience can also allow for some human vulnerability. Embracing both the highs and lows, our triumphs and our pitfalls, is when our strength is really able to shine. Yes, Black women can be superheroes. But, we also deserve to hang up our capes every now and then. 27

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Cover Image: Nathan Dumlao Back Cover: Annie Spratt

Profile for Diaspora Speaks

Issue 1  

The October 2020 print edition for QMSU's Diaspora Speaks Magazine Issue 1 Editors in Chief: Sawdah Bhaimiya & Sara Omar

Issue 1  

The October 2020 print edition for QMSU's Diaspora Speaks Magazine Issue 1 Editors in Chief: Sawdah Bhaimiya & Sara Omar


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