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  • A Matter Of Appropriation

    image Kylie Jenner used the wheelchair to represent her limitations. Which is horrible. Because my wheelchair LIBERATES me. Bethany, Twitter Last month, 18-year old reality TV star Kylie Jenner caused a furore when she posed for a photo shoot in Interview magazine in a wheelchair. She wore fetish gear with sex-doll hair and makeup. She sat helplessly and sexually objectified, without expression, all in the name of 'fashion'. Emily Smith Beitiks, associate director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability in San Francisco spoke up to say It’s deeply disturbing,” on CNN. “People with disabilities are already seen as powerless, and this just reinforces that.” The context surrounding Ms Jenner's stunt isn't great; according to the English Federation of Disability and Sport, 38 per cent of people believe disabled people are a burden on society and one hundred and eighty disability hate crimes are committed every day in this country. 1.9% of the UK population uses a wheelchair. Why are we still seeing disability being exploited by the media instead of being celebrated? Gemma Flanagan, 32, from Liverpool was 'shocked' by Jenner's PVC clad wheelchair shoot. She raised an important point when she added, 'I couldn't believe the hypocrisy of it. We're always pushing for fashion houses to represent more disabled women, yet we're told that it isn't suitable.' I agreed with Gemma entirely. As an able bodied woman and a former model, I would never have dreamed of appropriating disability for fashion. No matter how big the pay cheque was. Living a life of scruples and principles is paramount to me. It is highly underestimated. In the cut-throat world we live in where 'Get Rich or Die Trying' is a way of life for many, some are willing to do literally anything in the pursuit of money. I believe treating people well, staying true to your principles and representing people fairly is the key to success. Appropriation is a form of exploitation, a way of drawing on the struggles, hardships, achievements and cultures of other people simply to 'Get Rich Quick'. Appropriate verb əˈprəʊprɪeɪt/ 1. Take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission. As the saying goes, controversy sells. I say, at what cost? Historically, people with disabilities have been denied fundamental human and civil rights. In modern societies, there is a huge stigma attached to physical and mental disability. As it stands, the representation of models with disabilities is particularly paltry in the UK. Appropriating disability to sell magazines is simply unacceptable. These approaches are certainly 'controversial' enough to cause a stir. Yet, I have always believed fashion to be an expression. A way of artistically wearing your personality. From daring colours to fabrics and tailoring; I have always been a fan of fashion. To now watch it becoming a platform that is set upon gaining attention by any means necessary is more than disappointing. It's an insult. I believe that unless we pave ways for everyone to be fairly represented by the media, the fashion industry, Hollywood, music, and in general daily life, perceptions of minorities will remain closed-minded. Some time ago, Beauty blogger Sarah Wilson was told by a stranger that she was "too pretty to be in a wheelchair". Is it any wonder there are such skewed views of disability and wheelchair users when it is still a taboo in the UK? The Paralympics was truly empowering. This is the representation of disability I would like to see more of. We must speak out and take a stand. Not just when these shameless acts of appropriation effect us directly; but whenever any industry seeks to exploit the plights of others to make more money. Inspirational figures such as Farida N. Bedwei (a celebrated software engineer with cerebral palsy) or wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan, are proof that 'Disability doesn't mean disadvantage'. These are the people I would like to see on magazine covers; examples of strength, endurance, skill and incredible talent. Please let's see an end to disability being used shamelessly simply because 'controversy sells'. In the long run, it simply isn't worth it. There are 9.4 million disabled people in England, which is more than 18 per cent of the population. The majority of those are women and We have so many positive routes to creating change at our disposal. Ways that promote understanding, positivity and a broader perspective of beauty. Let's utilise them and raise a new generation that is more clued up, open-minded and in touch with reality than ours is sadly proving to be.
    Sochi Winter Paralympics

    Presenter Ade Adepitan

    Making money isn't hard in itself... What's hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one's life to. Carlos Ruiz Zafon #Diahannesdailyrants    
  • Christmas Light

    image Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou I was sat writing my Christmas cards this week and like many of you I like to impart a few words of inspiration to my loved ones. As I sat contemplating what to write this year a single word popped into my head: 'light'. I believe that all of us have light within us. I'm blessed enough to be surrounded by people who inspire, motivate, cheer me up and cheer me on with their inner light all the time. It is their greatest gift to me. Beyond that, I do truly believe that all of us have an inner light. Sometimes, the bumpy roads we travel in life have dimmed them. Sometimes our own lack of self-belief and negativity may have jaded our inner light. Yet, we are born with the natural ability to shine bright. Children will naturally move to centre stage, leaping around the front room or singing Frozen's 'Let It Go' at the top of their voice with their eyes closed! They are unafraid to shine bright and beam, filling our hearts with warmth on our worst days. For us, however, we have to remember to shine bright lest life should try to dampen our spirit. Your inner light is the core of your spirit. Stacy Aberle If you truly believe those words then you already have the Christmas Spirit within you. I believe Christmas is a time to look back and reflect on those moments in which we have truly shone. Not only that, but to seek to continue to do so. To thank those around us who have shone their light when we may have found ourselves in darkness, and the hope that they will continue to be a beacon in the year ahead. As you turn the Christmas tree lights on, sit by the fire or light a candle this Christmas; don't forget to put some work into your own brightness. Say aloud 'I will seek to illuminate my inner-light and shine it upon others. I will bask in the light of those around me and rejoice in it.' Believe it and it will be so. Thank you for so faithfully reading my rants, tributes, and articles this year. I hope they have inspired you in some way. Your light inspires me always. Thank you. And a very merry Christmas
  • Make A Social Change

    tax-deduction-charity-work.jpg With the rise of social networking and online news channels, we are (now more than ever) exposed and constantly reminded of the many  injustices in the world. It is little  wonder that more of us are feeling the need to promote social change. From charities, foundations and campaigns to outreach, community projects and volunteering; with focus, discipline and drive, it is possible to make a positive contribution to your community, or indeed society. I am a firm believer in The Acorn Principle. This is the idea that, If the right conditions and circumstances are provided, every tiny acorn will one day develop into a giant oak tree. Whilst you may have a great idea for a charity, knowing what to consider and expect can be tricky. Here are just a few of my tips: 1. Problem Solve. Identify the exact problem you want to address and why. Consider: what, who, where, when and how? Whilst there may, and more than likely is, a need for your project, do consider your approach. Pause and assess the timing of your project: is a fresh new approach required? Or, is there actually no need to reinvent the wheel? Thoroughly and realistically consider the scale you intend to effect change on be it local, national or global. Most importantly: know your stuff. Your finger should be firmly on the pulse of all the developments, statistics, existing efforts, and the grassroots experiences of the community you are seeking to assist. There is no such thing as too much research. 2. Passion and belief In my opinion, your cause should be something you believe in from the very core of you. Your project shouldn't be the latest trend or fad. It may not even be something you have first hand experience of (though this often helps), but it is essential that you feel a deep and authentic passion to create social change. This passion will drive you, sustain you and be enduring enough to keep you pushing past the inevitable challenges and obstacles you will meet along the way. 3. Patience and perseverance Success in all areas, particularly when it comes to philanthropy, is often a slow burner. It is likely to be many years after you begin that you will actually reap the benefits and see actual results within your specific demographic. Bureaucracy can be exhausting and, at times, de-motivating. Stick with it. If your project is well researched, deserving and authentic, time and hard work will bring about change. Remember, when it comes to helping others, it is very much 'quality not quantity'. When you have actively played a role in contributing positively to the world around you, impacting the life of just one person is enough. Persevere! 4. Planning is key Prepare, plan and plan some more. Map out your first year of activity. Then your first five years. And keep going! What steps will help you to achieve your goal? Establish a profile,  do your groundwork diligently and have a strong team in place. Be modest; the essence of social change is about joining hands. As the proverb says, 'many hands makes light work', be willing to learn from the pioneers, sit down with those who have been practitioners in the field a long time. find out key stake holders, assess your field. Gain insight, view those working to create positive change as your potential collaborators and teachers, not as your 'competitors'. All in all, be true to yourself and always summon into mind the reasons you got started. Hold onto that fervour, stay dynamic and believe that you can and will make a change.
    One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested. E.M. Forster
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Final Day Black History Month

    image Today is the last day of Black History Month. I say that with a heavy heart because I have always enjoyed having an entire month to immerse myself in black literature, icons, facts and events. Before I end my Daily Tributes, I'd like to leave you with a parting thought: in order for us to succeed and make progress as a global community, Black History Month must be more than just a month, it must be a lifestyle.image I believe if we fill our homes with literature (I was privileged to have a black literature bookshelf in my childhood home, its impact on my psyche was immeasurable), actively patronise and support exhibitions and plays we will see progress in our children's development. To be blunt, we must cease to complain about the lack of black history etc in the curriculum and fill the gaps ourselves. Balance out our children's formative influences with some of our own. image I am a true believer in Orwell's saying that "The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history." Via a concerted, conscious and creative effort to educate our children that we shall combat the low self-esteem that our children are often displaying as a result of being disconnected from their culture. I would like to close Black History Month with a short tribute to my mum who was, and still is my anchor. It was my mum who told me that my black skin and heritage made me beautiful despite what people told me. She instilled in me self-esteem, self-confidence and self-love; some of the greatest gifts a child can ever be bestowed. It was she who always taught me about my ancestors and legacy. When she passed away she showed me the true meaning of legacy through the great many people who attended her funeral and spoke about the positive impact she had on their lives. I am so very proud to stand on her shoulders. image On the topic of legacy I'd like to leave you with one of my own personal favourite quotes: image I believe the words of our wise have a real tangible effect on our perspectives. My advice is that when someone moves you with their words, note them down, absorb them and let them have actual applied meaning in your life. And also, please do send me some of your own as I am always seeking inspiration. Use the hashtag #blackhistorymatters to send me a few of your own (and any interesting facts or tributes) and let's keep the spirit of Black History Month alive all year round. #Rhineydailyshouts #blackhistorymatters #sendingtheelevatorbackdown #standingontheshouldersofgreatness image
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Day 30 Black History Month


    Definition of a Miracle

    I consider Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott-King and Michele Obama to be incredibly inspirational. However, this month I wanted to take time to pay tribute to our lesser known icons; our unsung heroes who have made strides just with Less publicity. I have had the pleasure of meeting this incredible young lady and I had to include before BHM is over. Her name is Farida Bedwei.
    Known as 'the teenager who defeated her disability through technology', Bedwei was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one  (Cerebral palsy is an incurable neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination but does not interfere with the ability to learn) and as an adult steadfastly refused to let her disability affect her career.
    Bedwei's most pioneering work is in the development of a cloud software platform that is being used by 130 micro-finance companies globally. These companies issue loans to their customers by sending a code to their mobile phones via text message. That code can then be exchanged for money at any branch, making small loans available immediately.
    Today, she is the co-founder and chief technical officer of software company Logiciel.
    She is considered one of the most powerful women in financial technology on the continent. In 2013, South Africa's CEO Magazine named Bedwei the most influential woman in business and government in Africa for the financial sector.
    Bedwei speaks publicly on the ways in which technology can transform lives and how she defied the odds to find success.
    She is an incredible example of success and achievement and whilst she is acknowledged as an inspiration in the cerebral palsy community, I believe her to be an inspiration to us all.
    She has penned a book 'Definition of a Miracle' about an eight -year-old girl named Zaara; a child with Cerebral Palsy who finds herself thrust into a society where her disability is misunderstood and stigmatised.
    Join me tomorrow for our final day in Black History Month!
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Day 29 Black History Month

    Living Inspirations
    With the end of BHM nearing, I'd like to dedicate more time to focus solely on some of our modern day rising stars.
    This is an area I cannot emphasise enough. It is all too easy to despair with statistics and news channels constantly churning out information on prison numbers, gang members and academic underachievement. These surveys and reports are fundamental to our progress; they offer guidance on where our young most need our support and guidance. However, we have so many bright young people who are doing amazing things in the world.
    The Imafidons are Britain’s smartest family and have become international models of academic achievement.They have been frequently dubbed 'Britain's smartest family' and yet we so rarely read about them. Dr. Chris Imafidon and Ann Imafidon arrived in London from Edo State in Nigeria, over 30 years ago and their children have broken national records in academia. Anne-Marie, 23 is multi-lingual. She speaks six languages and graduated from college at just 10. By aged-13, she was the youngest person to pass an A-level in computing. She  attended John Hopkins University in Baltimore and received an MA from Oxford University, all before she had even turned 20 years old. In 2009, twins Peter and Paula became the youngest students to enter secondary school at aged 6. Their elder sister, Christina, was 11 when she was accepted to study as an undergraduate.
     “Against all odds, I passed my A-Levels with flying colors, started my degree at the University of York at 15. I supported myself all through, working. I wrote my final medical examinations at 21, thus emerging the youngest medical doctor in England,” Ola Orekunrin.
    Determined to make a tangible difference in medical practice, Orekunrin decided to set up The Flying Doctors, which is the first air ambulance service in West Africa. The service provides critical care transportation solutions to both the private and public sector by selling yearly air ambulance cover plans to states, companies and individuals.ola1 Please let's continue to honour our young achievers. They are the future of our diaspora. Whilst they may not be recognised by mainstream media, through research we can make them household names in our own homes. This way, our children will never be short on role models to illuminate their paths and serve as their real life examples. Join me tomorrow for Day 30 of Diahanne's Daily Tributes #blackhistorymonth #rhineysdailyshouts
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Day 28 Black History Month…

    'Every day I saw the most dreadful scenes of misery and cruelty. My miserable companions were often cruelly lashed, and as it were cut to pieces. I saw a slave receive twenty four lashes of the whip for being seen in church on a Sunday instead of going to work.'
    As modern black Brits I believe it is hugely important to acknowledge those who worked to pave the way for us. Today I am paying tribute to an unsung hero of the abolition of slavery: Quobna Ottobah Cugoano.
    Born in Africa and stolen away by slave-traders as a child, he was The first African to demand total abolition; and he did so from London.
    Cugoano was born in 1757 in the village that is today is known as Ajumako in Ghana. At the age of 13, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. At one point he actually saw the exact cost of his life scrawled on paper: 'a gun, a piece of cloth, and some lead.'
    After several years of enslavement in the West Indies, his master brought him to England where he worked as a  servant in London.
    As the abolition of slavery gained momentum, he published a book (with the help of his friend Olaudah Equiano) in 1787 entitled: 'Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species'. This was one of the first pieces of writing by a black Briton about slavery, however unlike Oluadah Equiano and Mary Prince, Cugoano chose not to write about his own experience. Instead he focused on religious and philosophical argument. His writing style was incredibly bold at this time, as he was unafraid to attack the colonisation of America as well as slavery. The book was  widely read, with at least three printings in 1787 and a French translation. In 1791, Cugoano travelled to 'upwards of fifty places' in Britain to promote a revised and condensed edition, in which he added his voice and first-hand personal narrative to the campaign against the slave trade.The book was sent to King George III the Prince of Wales along with much of the royal family who remained opposed to abolition of the slave trade. It may well be the norm now but Cugoano was the first writer in English to argue that enslaved Africans had not only the moral right but also the moral duty to resist slavery. Nothing is known of Cugoano after the release of his book. Yet his contribution to the abolition of slavery and our lives in modern Britain is vast.
    "Is it not strange to think, that they who ought to be considered as the most learned and civilized people in the world, that they should carry on a traffic of the most barbarous cruelty and injustice, and that many think slavery, robbery and murder no crime?"
    Join me tomorrow for Day 29 of Diahanne's Daily Tributes #blackhistorymonth #rhineysdailyshouts
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Day 27 Black History Month

    “Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”    

    FILE: AIDS activist and sufferer Nkosi Johnson, speaks during the official opening of the 13th International Aids Conferrence in Durban, South Africa,  in this Saturday, July 9, 2000 file photo. Johnson died Friday June 1 2001. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe) I do not believe that inspiration lies solely in our historical figures. I believe we are surrounded by inspiration everyday and in a myriad of forms. In many cultures children are to be 'seen and not heard', but it is my belief that children can inspire us enormously. I have met many young people who have inspired me with their energy, determination and courage. Many of them have inspired me than most adults do!
    Nkosi Johnson is one of those children I would have loved to have met. In just 12 short years he impacted the world than most of us do in an entire lifetime. For at just 12, he died as a humanitarian icon.
    Born Xolani Nkosi, his mother Nonthlanthla Daphne Nkosi was HIV-infected. Nkosi was admitted to an AIDS care centre in Johannesburg in 1991. His volunteer worker Gail Johnson immediately formed a bond with him and with his mother's health quickly deteriorating, she agreed that Johnson's home would be the best place for her son.
    She died in 1997 and in the very same year a local primary school opposed Nkosi's admission because of his illness. He publicly spoke out against the discrimination caused by stigma and immediately he became a key figure in an ongoing South African AIDS awareness campaign. He was considered an AIDS activist and speaker despite his young age.
    In July 2000, he bravely stood up to address delegates from all over the world wearing a black suit and sneakers at the World AIDS Conference. His short speech reduced delegates to tears.
    He later chided President Thabo Mbeki in front of thousands at the 13th International Aids Conference, for the politician's ill handling of the epidemic.  Perhaps unable to cope with the raw honesty of this child, President Mbeki left the room half way through Nkosi's speech.
    He was posthumously awarded the International Children’s Peace Price in 2005. His legacy lives on through Nkosi’s Haven, a care centre in Johannesburg that houses and supports HIV-positive mothers and children. nkosi
    His legacy lives on. Let's work to keep it so.
    Join me tomorrow for Day 28 of Diahanne's Daily Tributes
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Day 26 Black History Month

    Seeds Of Thought
    As a publicist, you might have guessed already that I love a good marketing campaign. Why? Marketing and advertising campaigns are powerful tools. When they are used to raise awareness and effect change, I am in awe of the creativity that goes into making them viral. I have two examples today that are in keeping with the spirit of BHM.
    The first is a campaign I came across recently. This year, during American BHM (which is in February)  photographer Marc Bushelle and his wife Janine Harper came up with an idea to teach their daughter about iconic black women of the past and present.
    They set about taking photographs of their five-year-old daughter Lily posed as their African American heroines. They had fun playing dress-up, but used the opportunity to educate Lily about each of the women she was paying homage to. Speaking to NPR.org, Harper said: 'We hope that by making these associations early, we will instill a strong pride in her that will fortify her against any discrimination she may face in the future." Lily1 It was a brilliantly conceived idea and its success continued way beyond BHM as the photos went viral and they started to accept requests from parents wanting similar pictures of their own children. View their photography campaign  here:
    I recently spoke at Leeds university about the issue of inequality in universities. It was a vital event with a huge amount of ground to cover. One of the areas I focused on was my belief that a progressive academic environ should be an absolute reflection of young modern Britain: diverse, accepting, bicultural and  inclusive. It is perhaps the 'tick-box' approach to achieving equality, that leads to failures by some universities when it comes to equality. The Americans, I noted, are a few steps ahead of us on this. Matsuda-Lawrence and other members of the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College, cooked up an idea to raise awareness about university equality. I-Too-Am-Harvard-18
    As part of the campaign, Harvard sophomore Carol Powell, photographed 63 black students holding boards with 'micro-aggressions' and racist comments  they have heard on campus. Some opted  to write messages to their peers.
    Matsuda-Lawrence said that "I, Too, Am Harvard" is a collective black community project that doesn't yet reflect that experience of all students of colour.' The #ItooamHarvard campaign went viral and its impact went from strength to strength with the students writing a play entitled I, Too, Am Harvard. 
    Let's continue to work on creative and impacting ways to develop and voice our community concerns and hopes. After all, all it takes is one 'lightbulb moment'...
    Join me tomorrow for Day 27 of Diahanne's Daily Tributes #blackhistorymonth
  • Diahanne’s Daily Tributes: Day 25 Black History Month…

    "So I believe that dreams - day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing - are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilisation." L. Frank Baum
    Continuing on from yesterday's list of inventors, I'd like to share a few more with you.

    1. Dr. Patricia Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor and esteemed academic.  patDr. Bath earned a doctorate from Howard University College of Medicine and was the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention. In 1981, she received a patent for the Laserphaco Probe, which is used to treat cataracts. Dr. Bath’s laser probe made cataract surgery faster, more accurate, and she is credited with saving thousands of people from losing their sight.


    2. This one is little-known but brilliant: Lonnie Johnson, inventor of The Super Soaker.lonnie
    Lonnie George Johnson  is an African American inventor and engineer who holds more than 80 patents. Johnson is most known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun, which has ranked within the world's top 20 best-selling toys every year since it was released. The Super Soaker is a child’s toy, but it is a fine example of an invention with a multimillion-dollar impact. The Super Soaker has so far generated $200 million in annual retail sales. Johnson now uses his fortune to develop energy technology.
    3. I'd like to End this weekend with a modern star. Introducing: modern day inventor, Ludwick Marishaneludwick
    At age 21 Ludwick Marishane developed a formula that is used to cleanse without water. DryBath is the same as an antibacterial cleanser, but it’s odourless and forms a biodegradable layer that both cleanses and moisturizes the skin. Because 'DryBath' cleanses cheaply and easily it is vital to the billions of people who lack proper access to water and sanitation. Today, DryBath is available to purchase on the market. Marishane was named the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 by the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Join me tomorrow for Day 26 of Diahanne's Daily Tributes #blackhistorymonth #rhineysdailyshouts