Taraki x Movember: Reflection 8

Taraki x Movember: Reflection 8
A Letter of Love For Men From Our Ends

Recently I travelled back to the UK, to east London the place I consider home after being away for 6 months because I live permanently in Lisbon, Portugal. For me, it’s always so grounding to travel back, stay with my parents and reconnect with my local ends (rough translation: hometown) where I grew up after we immigrated to the UK. My local ends which roughly span from Ilford, Chadwell Heath to Gants Hill, are areas where I have a deep and intimate history - from specific locations to the people that live there. As part of my routine while visiting my ends is to meet up with my best friends, the men with whom I’ve been best friends since year 7 in 2003. As always, it’s so beautiful to hang out with my best mates, we have a long history together and there is something deeply grounding about navigating life together with your chosen set of people.

On our evening out together, we ended up at Nando’s (because where else would a set of east Londoners go?) and there was so much joy in exploring our present while jotting in and out of conversations about the past - more specifically humourous points in our collection friendship. While the overall mood of the evening was of collective joy, laughter and love there’s always a heaviness which permeates our conversations.

This heaviness comes from the fact there will inadvertently come a point in our conversations where someone will ask:

‘remember x, whatever happened to him?’

It’s at this moment, that I personally feel a level of anxiety because deep down inside I know there are only 2 expected responses to this, these are:

  • ‘Yeah he’s fine, he works at x and he recently bought a property…’
  • Oh, him? Yeah urm so I saw him a little while back and mans lost his head and he was sectioned…’

(I recognise the language and phraseology of saying someone ‘has lost his head’ isn’t the most appropriate or respectful way of describing the situation but these are terminologies that are commonly used by people in ends. While there is work to be done in promoting more nuanced and respectful ways of describing mental difference, especially severe mental difference in these moments I simply allow a non-judgemental space for folks to speak).

On my recent trip, the majority of times a person’s name was brought up, most of whom were either Black men or men of colour, it was the second response that was answered - it was deeply heart-breaking. It’s so heart-breaking to learn that someone who was your mate, someone you remember as a naïve joyful kid has now been forced into a position of material precarity while their mental wellbeing is suffering. That not only have they been punished from a young age for being racialised men but now they have fallen through the wide gaps that are systematically placed in order to create a pipeline of severe mental difference to prison or being sectioned for prolonged periods of time without adequate support. Amidst all this, you can’t help but feel a level of guilt for not having spotted early signs of severe mental difference in these people as a kid yourself. Learning about the situations of these men is really hard, especially because of my close proximity.

For this month’s reflection, I guess I just really wanted a space to get my thoughts and emotions onto a page, to share the pain in the hope that it would be cathartic. Historically in these monthly reflections, my tone has been one of cheer and optimism, all of which exist due to the nature of our work. However, within this 2-year journey of the SCC project, I think it’s also really important to be open about the parts that are not glamorous and are ultimately challenging. The parts that tend to be forgotten, much like these men.

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