Spotlight On Our Founders: Natasha Blank

 

Natasha
Natasha Blank

 

Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Hello, I’m Natasha. I’m a marketing professional and freelance writer covering cultural and religious identity, politics, disability and interfaith dialogue.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, when you’re not busy being a social activist?
I really enjoy cooking, crotchet, playing guitar (badly but enthusiastically), yoga, and lying on the sofa in my mermaid blanket and reading my kindle 🙂

What do you think we need more of in Britain?
I think we need more social cohesion and understanding. One of the saddest things from the incidents reported in our Facebook group, is when those who do offend with their actions and behaviours, are completely unwilling to understand why and how they have impacted another person, rather, they berate the victim and try to dismantle their right to be offended in the first place. We need more education in this area. We need more support on a regional and community level to get to work in our local areas and start to debunk some of the bitter tensions that are dividing us, the same bitter tensions that prevent us from treating one another with basic human decency. Otherwise, I fear, we’re just reaching an impasse and there really is nowhere productive to go from there.

What do you think we need more of globally?
Personally, I think we need to make a serious commitment to sustainable energy and a movement away from fossil fuels. We need to respect one another and the planet we share together. In terms of politically, I think we need to stop blaming religion and nationality and start realising that what we are fighting is hate. Radicalisation and extremism exist in every society and people have been hiding behind both religious and political ideologies to commit atrocities since the beginning of civilisation. We need to focus on eradicating hate and hateful behaviour and to stop blaming each other. More Tea Less Hate, I say.

What’s your favourite dessert?
Make me a deep chocolate torte with black forest fruit compote and a splash of cream and I’m yours forever.

You are holding a dinner party, you can invite 5 people, fictional or non-fictional and from any period in history. Who’s coming to dinner and why?

  1. J K Rowling because I respect her commitment to charity and the way she speaks out against injustice.
  2. Iago from Othello. He destroyed everyone’s lives around him and gave no earthly reason why. Basically, he was sociopath in pantaloons and I find him utterly fascinating.
  3. Justin Trudeau because he always reminds me that we can do better.
  4. Metella from the Cambridge Latin books because I think she could do with a day out, don’t you? Also, as a woman in ancient Rome, she had a successful husband, a nice house and servants, but no real legal rights or privileges of her own. I’d love to hear her story.
  5. Ellen Ripley because she’ll keep the dastardly Iago in check. Also, she can kick a** should any aliens invade and try to ruin our evening.

What is your favourite thing about being involved with the Worrying Signs project?
Since this whirlwind began and we formed the group, one of my favourite things has been witnessing the kindness and goodness of strangers, up close. The way in which our community rallies around one another really gives me hope. Our More Tea Less Hate campaign in August was particularly moving, we saw people from all over the country stand together and celebrate Britain’s diversity in the face of all this senseless fear and violence. It was incredibly humbling to see one small idea blossom into such a bold display of love and acceptance all over Britain and Europe.
Being able to see this side of people, and our collective capacity for compassion and kindness, makes it all worthwhile. There is so much good in the world, our group members show us that every day. I hope we can all keep coming together, supporting one another, and standing up to hate wherever we find it.

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight On Our Founders: Yasmin Weaver

 

Yasmin
Yasmin Weaver

 

Who are you and what do you do for a living?
I’m Yasmin and, by day, I am a full-time mum and project manager at counter extremism organisation Inspire

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, when you’re not busy being a social activist?
Haha- what spare time? I enjoy good food and eating out, searching Cat videos on you tube and horror movies- not slasher films but the chilling atmospheric supernatural variety.

What do you think we need more of in Britain?
Tim Horton’s. We need Tim Horton’s and in particular Timbit in the UK. People have been half joking quite a lot recently about moving to Canada and Timbits are quite a compelling reason to do so on their own.

What do you think we need more of globally?
On a serious note- I would like to see more sharing globally. Wealth, resources, food, knowledge, land, medicine, energy, love, justice and kindness.  We have plenty in this world- so much of it goes to waste because its all concentrated in a few places and it’s not accessible to everyone, particularly the people that need it the most. If we got better at sharing around the world rather than trying to find a way of having one over each other all the time, a lot of our problems would disappear.

What’s your favourite dessert?
Chocolate fondant

You are holding a dinner party, you can invite 5 people, fictional or non-fictional and from any period in history. Who’s coming to dinner and why?

  1. Bhikaji Cama – An Indian woman ahead of her time a prominent figure within the British suffrage movement, ardent campaigner for women’s right and a free India.
  2. Lyra Belacqua- move over Harry Potter, this girl takes on “The Authority” and wins.
  3. Albert Einstein- Without him, this world and everything in it would make even less sense
  4. Hugh Glass- Because he puts Chuck Norris to shame
  5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer- because she has some great moves she could teach us ( although not Hugh to be fair)

What is your favourite thing about being involved with Worrying Signs?
The hope. Seeing so many people unite and willing to take a stand against the hatred and bigotry that appears to be rising every day. It’s a constant reminder that there is still so much goodness and decency out there. Proud of all you guys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

CBC Vancouver Interview

 

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On Monday 14th November 2016, I was invited by CBC radio Vancouver’s Early Edition to discuss the parallels between the spike in hate crimes following the Brexit vote in the UK and Trump’s win in the US.

Having opened up our Facebook group to the US, it was immediately apparent that many people were experiencing the same anxieties and concerns that we did here following an incredibly divisive campaign and the lasting harm it could lead to post results-day.
Here in the UK, our research in conjunction with PostRefRacism and iStreetwatch showed that following the 23rd of June 2016, 51% of incidents of abuse in the UK directly referenced the EU referendum with phrases such as, “it’s time to go home”or “we voted you out” so here, at least, we can trace a direct link. Given the xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hateful and often violent language favoured by Trump campaign, we in the UK were not surprised to see similar consequences in the US.

It’s the normalising and rationalising of what we saw during the EU referendum campaign and even more during Trump’s campaign that is, to my mind, the most worrying sign. We have now seen two major political campaigns that have been successful despite their best attempts to dehumanise, demonise and scapegoat other groups of human beings. To pretend that this is not empowering racist and hate groups in the UK, US and indeed across the world is incredibly foolish. I have always maintained, and continue to do so, that not everyone who voted Brexit or Trump are racist or xenophobic; but the type of hateful rhetoric that has been deployed has become so normal that people are able to dismiss or minimise it’s importance when evaluating who or what to vote for.

So what now? It’s time politicians and people of influence, no matter how they or their party voted, unite in a clear coalition against hate. On matters such as immigration, it’s important our politicians listen to concerns of the electorate, not shut down debate, or seek to shift responsibility and offer positive, constructive solutions. It’s time we stopped allowing hateful opportunists to seize upon people’s discontents and fears and lead the debate. It’s also key for civil society to unite at grassroots level and apply pressure through campaigns, lobbying politicians and community initiatives to combat bigotry and prejudice and show it’s not welcome in the places we live.

In short, we need to see an end to the complacency that has led to the normalisation and rationalisation of bigotry and prejudice at every level of our society. What has been demonstrated in both our countries is that despite living in a western liberal democracy, we are not immune from hateful intolerant forces that seek to divide us and turn us against one another. Above all, we need to start working harder to ensure these forces do not grow stronger. We can no longer take for granted that everything will be ok.
You can listen to me make some of these points here:

 

 

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-Yasmin Weaver (Co-founder, Worrying Signs project)

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US Presidential Elections 2016

 

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Since the US presidential election result last week, we have been seeing reports on social media of incidents of racism, hate and xenophobia across America. The parallels between the current state of social unrest in the US and our own experiences of hate and violence post referendum are difficult to miss.

We therefore decided to open up the Worrying Signs project to include incidents of post-election hate and xenophobia in the US. We did discuss creating a separate Facebook Group for US incidents but, ultimately, decided against this. What we are seeing in both countries is symptomatic of the same problem, we are both suffering a bitter backlash to two very divisive political campaigns. We are also aware that this phenomena is still happening and will continue to happen unless we call it out.

We feel that now, more than ever, we need to stick together as an international community and stand up to hate, hate mongering, and hateful behaviour in all its forms, whichever country it’s in. The founders of the Worrying Signs project believe that the only way to fight this damaging rhetoric is by unifying and viewing this problem as a whole.

We hope our American members can find some comfort and support in our Facebook group. We see you. We hear you. And you are not alone.

-Natasha Blank (Co-founder, Worrying Signs project)