“If you want to see how the poor die, come to Grenfell Tower”

No truer words spoken in this time of mourning where almost a hundred people have died in Grenfell Tower. Each passing day fuels me with anger and sorrow for the Grenfell victims. This didn’t need to happen.

This shocking incident highlights the injustice and negligence practiced by those in high positions, those who seek to cut corners in order to fill their pockets, and do so at the expense of innocent lives. The government and Theresa May’s reaction has been nothing short of useless and beyond disappointing, a “failure” as quoted from the Prime Minster herself. If that building was a multimillion pound luxury apartment full of wealthy people, the fire would have been put out in a blink of an eye. In fact, there would have been fire extinguishers on every floor, sprinklers fitted, fire alarms up-to-date and working, adequate fire escapes and there certainly would’t be flammable cladding on the exterior of the building.

These people like you and I, died long before they actually met their horrific deaths, they were dead to the council and the government, it only just manifested itself on the 14th June 2017. They died the moment their pleads for safety were ignored.

The events that lead up to this incident, during and after plays into the idea many of us have held onto for some time now. London is undergoing a social cleansing, this has been the agenda of the Tories since coming into power, profits over people is their motto. Evidence unfolding from this tragic event only prove this once a speculative idea, to be in fact true. Day by day more incriminating details emerge, from the constant complaints and worries voiced by the tenants ignored by the authorities, the use of cheap flammable materials to make the exterior look less of an eye sore to its wealthy neighbours, today we found out that many of the victims were poisoned by cyanide, a toxic gas given off by the burning insulation, the same lethal substance used during Nazi Germany’s gas chambers. In the words of MP David Lammy “this was criminal”, an accident waiting to happen, arrests need to be made and quick. We need justice.

What pains me is that these were ordinary people and could have easily been anyone. Many on the brink of a breakthrough like the talented artist Khadija Saye, 24, who lived on the 20th floor with her mother. Her beautiful work is on show at the Venice Biennale. Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, 23, was studying civil engineering at the university of West London, lived on the 14th floor of the block. His brother Omar, 25, managed to escape from the fire after becoming separated from Mohammad, who was unable to get to safety. They fled from one tragedy just to meet another. Many untapped talents, if given the opportunity to reach their potentials could have easily been able to move out of Grenfell and into one of the million pound houses that the tower overlooks. Now we will never know.

“In this age of austerity, the poor die for other’s prosperity” – Ben Okri 

#JusticeforGrenfell

 

#SpeakOut: Yes, ‘Big boys’ do and should cry.

For all who tuned in to watch last nights BBC One programme ‘Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad’ it was no doubt highly emotional. Rio took us all on a journey to finding solace as opposed to pain in remembering his wife Rebecca who at the age of 34 passed away in 2015 due to cancer. His honesty in admitting his struggle with coming to terms with her sudden death and adjusting to now being a single parent to three young children, who are also coming to terms with the loss of their mother all came to light.

Using his status and own personal experience Rio has sparked a long overdue conversation about men, emotions and how they deal with hard realities of life. Towards the end of the programme we witness a shift in his approach and outlook as a result of seeking advice from other men who were widowed and the children who lost their mothers at a young age.

This idea that boys don’t cry is so ingrained in society that when boys become men they become emotionally unavailable, end up not knowing how to grieve and deal with the realities of life. Being told to “man up” at the slightest hint of human emotion. Suppressing feelings can be detrimental to society on the whole, for many these issues can be traced back to childhood upbringings where children have been brought up in homes where they are never shown affection from male role models, their fathers. It then becomes a cycle as shown in the scene where Rio visits his childhood estate with his father and recalls his father never really being there for emotional support, that’s probably the reason why Rio finds it difficult to speak about his problems. Having to suppress emotions and not talk about traumatic events can not only take a toll on ones mental health but can also be physically damaging. With a life time full of so much pent up anger, sadness, grief and guilt, perhaps this is why men generally die earlier than women?

We should not stop boys and men from expressing their emotions and talking about their feelings.  The myth that you are less of a man if you show and speak about feelings continues to be debunked and challenged in our society. With role models like Rio Ferdinand being open about the long healing process we can hope that society overcomes gender stereotypes and allows men to be humans.

The programme only touched on a few aspects of the past and was overall very much forward focused. I have so much respect for Rio and the people who shared their stories. By doing so I’m sure they have helped so many people in similar situations by letting them know they are not alone and encouraging them to seek help as help is available. I wish nothing but the best for Rio and his family, although they have suffered such a great loss and the memory of Rebecca will live on they can be assured that better days are coming ahead.