ON AWAKENING, ALLYSHIP AND PUTTING IN THE HARD WORK

ON AWAKENING, ALLYSHIP AND PUTTING IN THE HARD WORK

You can tell by the title, this is still not Business as Usual. Sorry, the summer dress post still does not feel right.

Today is George Floyd’s funeral in Huston. And it feels it’s a different world since his horrific murder on the 25th May in Minneapolis. We’ve had protest here in the UK, as well as all over the world. People were chanting his name, along with Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, who were also killed by police brutality. And since the last few weeks, but especially since Black Out Tuesday a week ago, it feels like a tipping point. A tipping point towards change, for the better, towards eradicating the pandemic of racism (to quote Raheem Sterling, of all people).

On a personal level, it’s been a rude awakening. And I am so grateful to the Black members of the sewing community that have so candidly shared their stories, their feelings and their hurt. Thank you!

I have awakened to the fact that it’s not enough to be a non-racist, but I have to actively be an anti-racist. To be an ally for all People of Colour.

I have awakened to the reality of my white privilege. Although I never thought I contributed personally to consolidating white supremacy, I benefited from it in many big and small ways almost every day. Ignorance is no excuse. Doing nothing is not an option anymore.

I have awakened to the fact that although I considered myself educated (history degree over here), liberal and open-minded, I know nowhere near enough about the deeply rooted history of racism, how entrenched, how systemic, how institutionalised it is. And that it’s not just an American problem. Britain and Europe are just as affected, maybe in different ways, but Black people suffer every day just as much here as across the ocean.

I have awakened, but there is still so much more to learn, so much more to unpick, to unlearn, so many biases to dismantle. And there is so much more to do.

I was writing in my previous post that I don’t like conflict and confrontation. It makes me feel uncomfortable. But if this week changed anything, it’s the realisation that my discomfort is the smallest price that needs to be paid to be a true ally. If I have nothing to lose, nothing to put on the line, then what is that saying about my commitment?

So here I am, another post on this topic, and I am here to promise that this is not the last time either. Because while I (and my other white readers) have the option as a white person, to take a break from thinking, doing, learning, talking about it, Black people do not.

My pledge

My pledge going forward is to use this small platform to share my learning. I won’t say educate necessarily, but I will share my journey bit by bit and invite you all to join in as much as you are willing to. If you think this blog is turning political, then you are wrong. This is not about politics, this is about what is right, it’s about inclusion, representation and human rights.

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It’s been a storm of information on social media these past few weeks, but after the news cycle has moved on, after the IG stories have disappeared, which allies will still be standing?

I want to make sure that I trickle the information I learn and the things that I do every time I share sewing content. I want to amplify POC voices much more than I did, on the blog and on my social media. I want to broaden my perspective, diversify who I am following and learn from them. I want to keep all the companies and brands that I patron accountable after the hashtags have died down.

This will keep me going and remind myself and my readers alike that the fight against racism is a marathon, not a sprint.

Anti-racism allyship resources

This week has really been overwhelming with both emotion and information. So I have loads to share, but I will try to distill it to the most important things I would like you to know.

Instagram has been my main source of information this week, especially for real people stories and point of view. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time with my phone in my hand. And that was not about looking at pretty dresses, for a change. So I’ve saved some of the things I shared in Stories in my highlights, there are some crackers there.

Here’s some more things that are easier to share here.

BTW, all this information is available on Google, so put the hard work yourself and do not expect to be ‘educated’ by members of the Black community.

READ – White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo

There are long reading lists out there, very easy to google and many people have also shared on Instagram. So I will only share what I am reading myself and my thoughts.

Out of all the possible choices, I thought that the best place for me to start would be White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, so I can better understand my own reactions and thoughts to the things that I have been reading and learning. Btw, I’m linking to the Wikipedia page of the book, not an online shop. I don’t read physical books anymore, so I had to get it on Kindle from Amazon, though I hate them. But if you can buy books, here is a great list of Black-owned bookshops in London, compiled by Time Out.

I’m about halfway through it and it’s really blowing my mind. As I said to my husband, I get so much of what she is talking about, but it’s bringing so much to the fore that I don’t know what to do with.

I’ve had about 10 long conversations with my husband this week (lockdown for you, captive audience) but I feel the need to expand the conversation. I saw a reading group that was forming to discuss the book, but I missed the boat to register.

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So if anyone reading this post is interested in getting a book club together in the UK (or similar time zone), drop me a line. Especially if you have already started it or are planning to.

WATCH – 13th

I had planned to watch this documentary by the acclaimed director of Selma and a Wrinkle in Time, Ava du Vernay, way before this week. But it so happened that it came into the rotation of my film club just last Sunday. It was so timely, and even more emotional and relevant in these times. It’s an important watch, but also a fantastic documentary. The film explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;”[it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. You can watch it for free on Netflix.

LISTEN – 1619 Podcast

C/o NY Times

I am a massive podcast fan anyway, but I have been running a lot in lockdown, so plenty of chance to listen. I binged this podcast in a few days and it’s fantastic. I like really highly produced podcast (not just interviews and people chatting), and this is wonderful. As a history graduate, I am really interested in the historical facts, and there is so much of that. But it’s also very raw, very emotional and a few times I actually found myself cursing out loud while running, I was so enraged.

As background, this is part of a NY Times project that explored 400 years of slavery in the United States in 2019. Therefore the name, 1619, referring to the year where the first African slaves were brought to the American continent. You can listen to the podcast here.

THINK – White priviledge

Probably the one concept I had to get my brain around the most this week was that of white privilege. It really brings a visceral reaction to a lot of white people, myself included (yes I am white, but I grew up in Communist Romania, having to queue for everything, etc, etc) who associate the word privilege with having money shoved into their pockets. White Fragility, the book I mentioned, talks a lot about it and it helped my understanding. But I also found this article really helpful to express things bite-sized.

How To Explain White Privilege Exists: 7 Common Arguments, Debunked

FEEL – Renee from Miss Celie’s Pants post about being ‘the black friend’

I read a lot of stories from Black people sharing their experiences this week. But none of them hit me as hard as Renee’s from Miss Celie’s pants. She is a veteran blogger that I had discovered years and years ago because she sews a lot of Burda patterns, as I do I. And she is otherwise all-round awesome. Please read this, as also read the hundreds of comments. It really gave me perspective, especially re white privilege.

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Miss Celie’s Pants – Your Black Friend

DO – Spend your money right

What can I do is one of the questions that plagued me recently. I’ve taken my cue from Black people I follow. Here are some of the things that I did.

DONATE – Many opportunities to donate, and depending on where you are, you might choose to support local causes or some in the US. I setup a standing order for the Runnymede Trust, UK’s leading independent race equality think tank. They generate intelligence to challenge racial inequality in Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement. I also donated to BLAM, a local charity in London that organises Black history lessons for kids with online resources and summer schools in Brixton, London.

I also asked some friends that I made face coverings for to also donate to the above charities. I think that’s a good way to support if you can’t spare the cash yourself, but have some fabric scraps that you can reuse.

Other popular causes to support are Bail funds in the US, to help bail out people who take part in Black Lives Matter protests. Read this article on why this matters. List of bail funds by state here.

SPEND & SUPPORT – Jacinta from Pink Mimosa spent insane amounts of time compiling a list of Black and ally owned business that she vetted to ensure are worth spending money with. Read all about it in this Sewcialists post. You can follow her on Instagram.

FOLLOW – Awesome Black sewing accounts

Michelle Sews

View this post on Instagram

Like many black sewists I have acquired a raft of new followers over the last 48 hours or so. Hi and welcome!👋🏾 . I’ll be honest, it’s usually just a lot of sewing on this account! I’m very much an introvert, and prior to this week I never would have posted so many personal thoughts and experiences. But I have, because this feels like a “do or die” moment to try to win hearts and influence minds to become more consciously anti-racist. . I’m going to assume that if you bothered to click “Follow”, that you have a genuine interest in seeing my sewing posts going forward – in which case, welcome! My usual sewing content will resume very shortly (although now that the emotional floodgates have opened, I may be a little bit more vocal about “real life” stuff from time to time too). . To introduce myself briefly, I’m a 30-something hobbyist sewer and born and bred Londoner of Ghanaian heritage. Wife and mum, two young kids, corporate law day job (part time). Fun fact, I originally studied computer science and worked in electronic trading technology for just over a decade before training as a lawyer (pretty much at the same time as having my kids – don’t ask!) and switching careers. So I’m very old for a junior lawyer. . My sewing has always been focused on workwear because historically the office is where I’ve spent the majority of each week, and in corporate environments, and RTW just didn’t always fit the way I wanted it to. So I developed a few sewing patterns, initially for myself and then later released them (they’re on the blog, link in bio!). I’m still really kicking myself for not having thought sufficiently about the size range when I first instructed the pattern graders for the first collection, and I am slowly working my way through extending the size range to be more inclusive. So far I have updated my personal favourite and the most popular of my patterns, the Agnes Skirt, and I have a release in the pipeline in the new range. So, slow but steady progress towards more size inclusivity for my patterns. But I digress. . Anyway that’s about it, I think! Oh, and please be anti-racist thanks. Michelle ❤️

A post shared by michelle (@michelle.a.sews) on

I discovered a lot of Black sewing accounts (and not sewing) this week. I have been wondering where have they all been all my IG life, but that’s a soul-searching conversation for another time…

I also though the same thing when I discovered Michelle A, whose words, wisdom and style particularly spoke to me as soon as I stalked her grid. She also designs sewing patterns which will be awesome for the office wardrobe, whenever we’ll get to go back… Check out Michelle Sews Patterns and her blog.

Black Makers Matter

This is a new movement by a group of remarkable Black sewers that is looking to drive change in the sewing community. They already have managed to get a meeting with the CEO of the corporate owner or McCalls and Simplicity in less than a week AND get to over 20k followers in less than a week. Follow them here. If you want to put a question to the McCalls CEO, they have a survey to submit it.


Thank you for making it to the end. There is so much more to say and, more importantly so much more to do. Please do share anything you have learned or thought, discovered or had an epiphany about this week and going forward.

I hope you are with me on this journey.

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2 Comments

  1. Cindy
    11 June 2020 / 2:26 AM

    Great, great post. Thank you!

  2. 12 June 2020 / 7:18 PM

    Thank you Alex for sharing my post, your comments and doing the work.

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