News & Events

Human Rights Empower

Mr Flower rounded up Pride Month with a thoughtful presentation to Amnesty members last week, noting that the right to equality (including LGBTI equality) is at the forefront of human rights (Article 1, UDHR: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights). Shockingly, 73 countries have laws that prohibit homosexuality, or punish it – some countries by death (e.g. Iran and Saudi Arabia).  He highlighted Amnesty’s current campaign in support of Elzbieta Podlesna of Poland, who could face two years in prison after being accused of owning a poster of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo. It is empowering to know that a small action, like sending an email to Poland’s Interior Minister to demand that this uncalled for investigation be stopped, can have an impact.

Mr Flower brought things close to home when he asked what it means to be BAME and LGBTQI+ in the UK today. He cited Stonewall research which indicates that 51% of BAME LGBT people reported having experienced racism in the LGBT+ community. This number rises to 61% for black LGBT people. Sharan Dhaliwal, writing for the Guardian, notes that while racism isn’t just an issue in the LGBTQ+ community, “we can be at the forefront of challenging it… holding people accountable for their actions and words”.

Sharna Piercy, Head Girl in 2017-18, took up the baton on Tuesday afternoon when she agreed to facilitate the Amnesty BAME discussion group, which is a forum in which to listen to BAME voices and educate ourselves. She tackled three difficult issues: the disproportionate effect of the Corona Virus on the BAME community; Intersectional Feminism; Racist Humour. She approached these themes with grace, giving our students space to express their own feelings and responses. Needless to say, we ran way over time! We are grateful to her for giving up her time and wish her well as she continues her studies in French and Spanish at the University of Surrey. Sharna writes:

“It was a pleasure to join the girls in discussing these current and important topics, I am proud of them for opening up about their experiences and sharing their views and grateful to Mrs Abrams and Mr Flower for providing a space for students to openly discuss BAME matters and for their voices to be heard. I hope that the girls are able to continue with these open conversations with confidence in and outside of school.“

Much of the human rights agenda is directed at bridging prejudicial attitudes based on race, sexual orientation, gender, age, nationality, culture and identity. Aleeya (Year 12) believes that Art can help to overcome those barriers. On Tuesday during our Amnesty lunchtime session we focused on World Refugee Day, celebrated on 20 June. Aleeya shared the work she prepared for her Mock Art Exam, which explores how Syrian refugees are represented in the media. She writes:

“When we look at the news, these individuals are just numbers/dead bodies on screens. Whereas within my piece I’ve created a sense of individualism along with their name, age, which part of the country they are from, and what they aspire to. Beside it, in contrast, is what the media portrays; I’ve woven different images together, drawn them as caricatures in black and white, to show how the media sees ‘refugees’ as this group of people who are all the same. It’s not aesthetically pleasing; I was influenced by German philosopher Theodor Adorno who asked how we can create lyrical poetry or beautiful art after Auschwitz. I displayed my work in the street to emphasize how the stories are exploited publicly; people were able to just come and look or skim past. I chose charcoal as my medium because it’s such a harsh material that relates to war because of the burning of people and homes.”

Aleeya talked us through her project on ‘Shoe Semiotics’ which allows us, for a few moments, to step into the shoes of another. Aleeya compares two sets of shoes; those of her family’s, depicted on the left, on the rich green AstroTurf, which have been chosen for reasons of aesthetics, whereas the shoes on the right, belonging to refugees from South Sudan who have fled because of violent conflict, are the only ones they own, and purely for the practical purpose of walking. Aleeya believes that the captions beneath the images “are an important part of narrating the stories… if you choose to use another person’s story you should tell it through their words rather than your own. I chose to research topics like this to educate myself and to be able to have an understanding of how privileged I am to be a Pakistani Woman living in London and going to a private school and how this would not be the case if it was not for my grandparents and great- grandparents migrating in the 1950s-60s from Kashmir and Lahore. My situation could be very different and it is important not to forget that and appreciate every day you have as people just like you on the other side of the world lead a very different life.”

Aleeya has illustrated the human right to create art, critique it, admire it, challenge it and respond to it; this is a good segue into Arts Week next week when the whole school comes together to celebrate culture, diversity, inclusion and creativity.

Mrs Karen Abrams

LRC Manager

 

Captions (left to right, top row; then left to right, bottom row)

Rayaan Lone walks in these shoes everywhere when he goes outside. He is 12 years old.

Neena Lone walks in these shoes to job interviews, parties. She is in her 40s.

Gasim Issa walked 20 days from Igor. He is in his 50s.

Hamjima Absama walked from Igor. She is 13 years old.

Aleeya Lone walks in these shoes when going to meet friends. She is 17 years old.

Naveed Lone has never worn these shoes and is planning to return them. He is in his 40s.

Saddam Omar walked 8 days from Pi. He is 25 years old.

Muhammed Hajana walked 30 days from Tiful. He is in his 30s.

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