#beautifullyflawed #breakthesilence #pentoprint
The day could not come any faster after the night before. I slept well and had dreamed an event packed with people having fun. I’m not sure how you could have fun with a serious subject to discuss though. I was determined it would be a celebration of triumphing, overcoming not just for me but for my co- speakers.
You see we had planned ahead that it was time to share the stories of some much overlooked people in the community, only in this case Komal and Caroline happened to be close friends of mine. They had also suffered previously and had a passion to stop others experiencing same. Delightful and beautiful Asian models in their own right, over the last month, we met with each other to discuss how best to present their stories. You can imagine they individually had their own share of experiences they had to go through and how nerve-wracking it would be to have to sit or stand in front of a forgiving audience, some of whom might glare or stare at them all the while.
We were all excited and I think the social media channels had been blasted with words like ‘coming soon’ #beautifullyflawed #breakthesilence #pentoprint, photos and videos and much more. There were retweets, shares, comments, posts, Instagram hashtags and you name it, we found ways including roll up banners, to share word that domestic violence matters was coming to the agenda in the community of Barking and Dagenham.
Riddled with but not labelled, one of the boroughs with the highest recorded incidences of domestic violence, it seemed fitting that a community-oriented platform to address the matter was apt and timely.
The delicious nature of Lisa R of the #pentoprint team made the planning of the event much easier and manageable. We had a few emails and meet ups to organise the items and speakers for the day.
We approached our main client-focused provider of support for their involvement and input but when that failed we sought support from the commissioning division of the council. That turned out to be the best approach in the end because not only did they welcome the opportunity but were willing to bring along resources to facilitate follow-on support. It’s one thing to suffer and it’s another to actively seek help and act on it, I fully understand.
So making allowances for people who may not speak about their situation, the agenda and speeches were amended slightly to accommodate our more quiet sufferers. Phew!
I have to say that this was one of the easiest events to plan, more because you could clearly see God’s hand was on it. Not only was the suggestion to hold a book launch offered by the library, they also created a platform to execute it.
There are so many things happening in our library group here – Barking and Dagenham!
Being somewhat the centre of attention as it was my book being launched, I had to take extra measures to secure help with my hair which included getting a haircut 💇♀️ and make up session on the day. The only condition I gave the beautiful Hannah was, I would still like to look like myself and easily recognisable as I was determined to welcome my guests.
6:45am was the registered time on my phone when Sis Abi called me to say on the day that she had wanted to write but thought it was better to call. She cried with emotion as she thanked God on the phone about how she had witnessed my life turn around from a “dowdy” somewhat repressed and depressed looking state, “pushing babies in a pram,” looking rather unkempt to a self-confident, entrepreneur who is advocating for change to many of society’s problems. I was moved to crying too, and I think that conversation set a different tone of gratitude for the day even though I did not get much sleep after.
So after meeting with cool Lisa in the morning to finalise the presentation slides and their running order, music playlist and sequence, refreshments with guest gifts I went back home to retrieve the event box which had been collecting items over the last week. I had only sat down to drink my usual hot water when I noticed there was a missed call already. So what I thought was plenty of time to get ready turned into a few minutes when I returned Audrey’s call to her confirmation that she was parked outside my home, ready to take me to the event town, Barking.
Barking is a highly connected fast expanding small town in East London quickly attracting investment from the Chinese with the promise of a Barking – China metro underground connection in the works. Watch that space as our current council leader has recently, been excitedly sharing his plans for turning the town into a mini-Manhattan.
Arriving in Barking, I dropped off the tools for the night and ran back to the barbers to touch up my already short hair. He was quite amused and thought he was framing my bushes for a celebrity so he might as well make it look the best. That done and confirming that Mala next door was joining us later, I started walk-running to catch up with beautiful Hannah who was a little unsure as to why I was about 5 minutes late for my make up session for the night. So graceful and elegantly dressed as usual, even though it was 2 hours ahead of the main event, she softly reminded me she did not waste time. Makes sense. Or else how do you manage a business, three active kids, speaking engagements, empowering workshops and “wifery?” Message received. She offered me some chips 🍟 and suggested I go put my dress 👗 on so we could get started. Due to the extreme generosity of the Barking Library, we were “gifted” a pod: new generation meeting space to carry on our “get-ready” proceedings for the book launch. Trying to settle down so I did not develop a sweat, Hannah confidently made strokes across my face in circular motions after applying a primer to create a flawless look. We were soon joined by Dammy who was quite amused at the procedure and asked a few beauty questions to be greeted by auntie Hannah’s, “it’s all about technique” when she burst some of Dammy’s myths around eye pencils and their ridiculous shop-pricing!
I forgot to mention that God was up to more than good again when after collecting cake no 2 from Karen of BEC, I was greeted with another missed call notification which to my surprise was from another lady confirming that there was yet another cake! Cake? Did she say cake? I looked up and muttered “Daddy God, you’re at it again. You’re so good lord.” Or similar words.
Things were happening so quickly. People were turning up to design the venue, set up the refreshments, speakers were arriving to get slides ready, chairs were being arranged and I was getting dressed downstairs. Isn’t it funny that what we thought was going to be a problem, the non-availability of the venue for early access, changed in a matter of minutes and there was buzzing and walking, talking and positioning of people, props and p’s.
I was so curious about what could be going on upstairs that I decided to go see and was so touched, overwhelmed as the library staff battled with the public address system, slides and microphones, Caroline with her well-behaved kids and Komal were arranging the decor, food and cake tables, books and photos; Sola, Oyin and her team were styling the food table, Joseph and the filming team were positioning camera equipment and Dammy was setting up a payment system, beautifully coloured stage chairs, people were chatting and so much more. My God I felt so much at home that I almost forgot to go back to Hannah to complete my dressing up routine for the night. Eventually I did. Finished off with a few touches of lip gloss, photo shots and thanked Aaron our photographer for the night for coming when he joined us in the pod.
“Thank you so much everyone” I heard myself say as I went round to the guests, team and sauntered into the kitchen to watch the kids playing.
It was a sight to watch the library team: Andzelika, Vince, Heather, Lisa all crowding around the lectern to fix the troublesome pc who was refusing to play music 🎶 . I don’t know how we could have managed without them!
Running a little later than scheduled and no MC in sight yet, a glance at the clock revealed it was that time. I thanked everyone for coming and invited them to taste the array of fruits laid out at the back of the room. In between this was the request to me for a USB Stick as a backup plan to load our presentation slides in case there was IT / internet failure.
Refreshments serving on the way, we played soft music in the background to uplift the mood of the room. More guests arrived. And more guests came. And even more showed up, from far and near. I would have to hold up on the tears of gratitude as I know so many people came from far away! It would take some at least 3 hours to get back home! I was so humbled and touched to see the unexpected faces who showed up for me.
The first book buyer on the night was Cllr Josie whom I do not believe I have ever spoken to, closely before. Wow.
One thing led to another and soon we were ready to start the post-food section of the launch programme.
Our lovely, confident MC did her thing. She introduced the programme after the usual health and safety warnings, called the Asian beauties, Komal and Caroline forward and me to support them and we were finally officially “online” with Facebook live recordings. The girls read notes and talked, from the heart about their own experiences with domestic violence. A few tears and acknowledgements from the audience ensued as various “aha” moments happened for a few people. People were still coming and going…buying, sitting, standing as expected since we were sold out of tickets about three times prior! I think we must have had over 100 people that night.
Next it was my interview and book-reading and I shed a few tears at remembering where I was, used to be, struggling to make it work with 3 children… I also recounted how a letter from the DWP arrived on the day asking me to write off unpaid child maintenance debt. Who needs that now when the children are so grown and semi-self-sufficient? We have come so far. I belted a few tunes from the Sound of Music and Diana Ross’s “reach out and touch somebody’s hand” classics to the interviewer, Lisa’s amusement. She remarked that she had never had an author who sang their answers to her questions before. Well that’s the way with me I guess. We even mentioned the words “jigi” though I do not now, know how I arrived there. I was so thankful for an opportunity to talk about purpose, women empowerment and the roles men also play.
I forgot to mention that my invitation to the stage was preceded by inviting the audience to dancing and singing with me, to the tune of Pharrel’s “happy”.
Then we had the panel of speakers with council officers: Cllr Lynda Rice as chair, Cllr Maureen Worby and Hazel North Stephens taking centre stage along with the girls and me, forgetting that we had missed out the doctoral researcher from the University of Westminster from London. Slotting her in just before the vote of thanks was a rush as time was far spent and people were beginning to leave without the cake. Oh dear.
Finally my bestie, Madam Mayor Sanchia Alasia was quick to announce that her vote of thanks came with a long list of names which she read. And that was it. She announced the book pricing at £10 followed by book signing and photography too.
So the evening was nearly over. I was so thankful, happy and fulfilled. Another mission quite complete. A voice for the voiceless sufferers, overlooked-victims, born.
#Beautifullyflawed is the name of the book. A project documenting my real life story, marriage and divorce following a turbulent relationship – Domestic Violence. I want to be a voice for victims, black and white, man and woman in every language and time.
Together let’s #breakthesilence and say wrong is wrong.
Thanks to #pentoprint for the global opportunity to say #DomesticViolence is not OK.
The book #beautifullyflawed is available worldwide on #amazon, #lulu #iBooks and #Okada bookstores for the whole #African audience. Any of these links will get you to the book.