Homelessness, Art Therapy & The Power To Change Your World

ART, WORKSHOPS
Y.M.C.A. NOTTINGHAM, UK, DECEMBER 2021

Art therapy can help the homeless “re-paint” the current canvas of their lives by exploring feelings, reconciling emotions, managing addictions, developing social skills, reducing anxiety and, thereby, increasing self-esteem.

– Frank Marangos, Arts Therapy For The Homeless

The Situation and Task:

In late 2021, was asked by Streetwise Opera Nottingham to produce a collaborative mural on a wall at the YMCA Nottingham with people who are experiencing homelessness. The task was to create a large, tall mural that would embody the participants/ fellow muralists wanted it to and to find out what that was. The participants hailed from YMCA Nottingham were from many diverse backgrounds, Iranian, Somali, Czech, Afghanistani, Polish, Tanzanian, Gambian as well as from all over the UK. Many had a myriad of professions before coming to be at the YMCA eg. teachers, labourers, engineers, and nursing and some were sufferers of depression, and injuries and needed a break. Lots of creative talent was found amongst the budding muralists, singers, artists and poets. The room where the mural would be was ‘mix-usage’, a common room, where people chill, there was a mini market with vegetables and fruit, tables to sit and dine at and write out forms or use a laptop on. I asked everyone how they would like to feel in the room where the mural was going to be, and they said words like… ‘zesty, bold, bright, and something positive that promotes wellbeing to wake us up in the morning’. Markedly different to how it looked, like a magnolia waiting room (with a tall ceiling) of a clinic.

“Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change – it can not only move us, it makes us move.”

Jeanne Noble, Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of My Black Sisters

Action:

One of the first things we did as a group was to research and explore the YMCA Nottingham building itself, to see if it would spark some inspiration. We had fun exploring the building, taking photos, making vids and generally playfully interacting with the YMCA buliding. We noted the primary coloured gyms, climbing ropes, tall elegant ceilings painted in bright yellow, purple, grass green, red and royal blue, the art deco spiral stairwells, bold blue and red doors with porthole windows, large futuristic-looking air vents, fluorescent lighting, with a few woodchipped magnolia walls and grey carpets.

We researched the designer of the YMCA Nottingham building, a striking, regal grade II listed art deco building, designed by Cecil Howitt. The building is clad in black Vitralite, an opaque structural mirror-like glass of which is now unavailable and extremely rare. We researched the art deco period. I asked the participant to create collages out of all of our findings using photos, magazines, slogans, coloured card, stencils, shiny collage materials that represent visually how they want the space to feel.

I then created a design of what I thought the piece should be but then scrapped that because I was reminded that I needed to decentre my own natural inclination to strive for perfection when making my own art. This project was much more about the process and the therapeutic effects of artmaking. It was more about the confidence that the participants would gain rather than the emphasis being the finished project. We played a playlist of music that incorporated songs from the cultures represented at the YMCA Nottingham. We discussed at length what should be depicted, there was a Czech participant that spoke limited English and he had a translator app on his iPad that allowed us to communicate. Common themes came up; ‘reaching for the stars’, ‘climbing up out of a bad situation’, we bought paint (black blackboard paint, gold, black, silver, red, yellow, orange, royal blue and green), we bought (little mirrors, glue, markers, scissors, stencils).

I worked out that due to time restrictions it would be best to do the piece in layers, inspired by the themes, colours, and shapes that kept recurring when we gathered everyone’s ideas via collage. Each week the piece took shape and each one of us. We decided on the image of people climbing ropes, trying to get to the top of the piece, surrounded by the sun, stars, colourful sky and planets with a silhouette of Nottingham beneath it.

The Result:

Without community, there is no liberation…but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

Audre Lorde

After weeks of work, the participants and I created a huge vibrant instinctual mural that I hope helps to promote a readiness to live and enjoy life. I hope that this mural acts as a catalyst to inspire action, climbing towards better days. I hope that this piece gives permission to aspire to dreams, I hope it helps towards dissolving stress and gives a sense of community, togetherness and joy.

BEFORE & AFTER

I would ask you what you think of the piece but I think a better question would be…

Q. What are you doing to change your world?

Why Black People Do Not ‘Escape To The British Countryside’ & How Art Can Help Change That

WORKSHOPS

“Estrangement from our natural environment is the cultural contest wherein violence against the earth is accepted and normalized. If we do not see earth as a guide to divine spirit, then we cannot see that the human spirit is violated, diminshed when humans violate and destroy the natural environment.”

― Bell Hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place

No, I dont get warm fuzzy feelings when I try to walk into a traditional English country pub or down a country road or even through the woods in the countryside, its quite the opposite. I’m too intersectional to feel comfy, I navigate the world as a Black woman and a big one at that. The looks, the ignorance, the fear, even the microaggressive over-politeness but have you ever thought to yourself ‘Why is this? and why are there almost no Black people living or visiting the British Countryside? pause that thought for a moment. The team behind @HockleyHustle and @YoungHustlers brought their brand new, free *Green Hustle Festival* to Sneinton Market Avenues and the surrounding area. The Green Hustle Festival aims to bring diversity, positivity and accessibility to environmental issues; making it fun and engaging for everybody’. It consisted of Activities/Workshops/Presentations/Talks/ Stalls/Independent sellers and performance centring the environment. It was fantastic to be asked to create a creative interactive experience and have my own stall at the fest.

Event: Black Flowers Blossom Artmaking Workshop
ig: @greenhustlefest
Location: #sneintonmarket, Nottingham, UK
Date/Time: Saturday, 5/6/21 10am-4pm 🌞

#blackflowersblossom artmaking workshop was born, named after a line from the song ‘Teardrops‘ by British Trip Hop band Massive Attack, the song conveys ‘the fragility and the power of such an ethereal concept as love’.

Rural & Structural Racism in Britain:

To explain the relevance of the workshop I’ll have to go back to explain why Black people are not in the British countryside and do not perceive it as being somewhere to escape to. After WW2, when many African Caribbean people (that term never sits right with me but I get what its trying to say ‘Black Caribbean’ basically) were invited by the British government to come to Britain to help repair it. Due to racist anti-black policies, such as cancelling everyone’s education down to aged 11. The British government did this despite…

  • The British owning the British speaking Caribbean countries
  • The British controlling their education systems
  • Brainwashing Caribbeans to have an unquestionable reverence for the Queen, the Motherland (England), British Colonial Christian values and British History
  • Black Caribbeans were classified as British citizens by law

This law instantly disenfranchised the new Black Caribbean arrivals, instantly making them a poverty-stricken population. Due to racism and not having recognised qualifications, most Black people in Britain couldn’t fulfil their career aspirations. Black people were forced to live in the ‘ghettos’ of Britain, due to governmental white fears surrounding racism, miscegenation and Black male sexuality. The British government neatly used their erasure of Black Caribbean qualifications and Caribbean class structures to segregate the white elite from the rest of the population by using classism, racism and urban planning. No need for any in your face American style or South African style segregation tactics.

Even pre-European colonisation, Black people were often depicted negatively. The concept of being ‘urban’, poverty-stricken, criminal and being an underclass became a racist stereotype and associated with blackness in Britain. Further compounded by the constant depiction of the criminalisation of Black people in the media ever since the Ronald Reagan/ Margaret Thatcher era and the planned influx of drugs and guns into American inner cities during the late 70s and early 80s, thus criminalisation of blackness.

The Green Hustle Festival: Black Flowers Blossom Art-making Workshop

The workshop I created acts towards reconnecting Black people with nature🌴🌳🥑🌊🌻🍃, making it ‘ok’ for Black people to appreciate British countryside too (instead of being greeted with racial hostility, microaggressive behaviour (such as impromptu hair and skin touching or people singing the South African National anthem at you and your 2 Black girlfriends whilst you’re walking around Corby (that actually happened).

“For the first time this year, a lot of people realised the countryside and nature are really important for our health and mental wellbeing,” said Black history writer ​​​Louisa Adj​oa Parker, 48, who lives in rural southwest England.


“I think that has also raised questions around who has access to the countryside, who belongs there, who’s accepted there,” said Parker, who is also a British-Ghanaian diversity consultant.

– As COVID-hit Brits escape to the country, minorities face rural racism by @linnytayls | Thomson Reuters Foundation

The workshop acts to intellectually disassociate the ridiculously antiquated early 2000’s term ‘urban’ from blackness, via collage, collaboration and mixed media. All of the participants were asked to use this as a theme for their work ‘nature and black people’, humanising the representation of Blackness at ‘grass level’. The workshop sparked conversations about being Black or Mixed Race in the countryside or being a white person in the countryside being exposed to anti-black racist rhetoric as normalcy.

Collage is one of those art forms that people often feel able to set themselves free of any overcritical voice and just literally get stuck in, cutting, glueing, you’re actively encouraged to make a beautiful mess whilst discussing the topic at hand. Needless to say they got in the zone, our group was diverse in age, race, gender, physical ability. We discussed the topic at hand on many different levels of which resulted in the creation of some stunning pieces as you can see🔥

I want to thank everyone who came to the event and all who made this event possible.

How To Get Paid to Make Murals in Paradise

ART

Imagine life Pre-Covid, flashback to 2019, its winter in Nottingham UK, feeling under pressure to apply for literally hundreds of graphic design/ creative roles and usually being interviewed in blisteringly white offices by dozens of middle-class white guys with beards who look at you like they have never met a big black woman before let alone thought about working with one. Enduring their polite mildly disgusted smiles as they read through your impressive fully qualified cv, whilst you confidently slay the interview even though you both know that they’ll never employ you, but at least they can tick a diversity box at the interview stage, right? but that’s another blog post.

There has to be a better way to spend my time on earth?

I was yearning to travel and get some kind of break, in terms of my creativity. One day, multiple people tagged me into an ad by the British Council, the job ad was titled ‘Paint Up Yuh Space’, the ad was looking for a Mural Artist and Workshop Facilitator to work in Kingston, Jamaica in honour of the Windrush generation (The Windrush Generation are the Caribbeans invited by the UK as British citizens to help repair Britain after #WorldWarII in the years 1948-1972) for the British Council and Jamaica’s Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and Studio 174 Kingston. The ad was looking for muralists of Jamaican descent worldwide, the deadline for the application was the next day! on a Wednesday but managed to get it all in on time and to my surprise they chose me! on the Friday!!!?! I’d be flying out within 10days!

Needless to say MINDBLOWN!!!!?!!!!!?!?!??!:”!”@!£!@$!

When I found out I was completely overwhelmed!
‘I’m going to be paid to work as something that comes as natural to me as breathing in paradise for 7days!?!!
Jamaica here I come! mi ready fi yuh!’

DAY 1:

There was a delay of a few weeks before I was given all of the details for travel and the hotel etc, for a moment I did not think that things were going ahead and did not announce that I was going to Jamaica until everything was finalised. I borrowed money to buy some plus sized summer clothes at the speed of light! (of which was a task all by itself) After the journey from leaving out in a uber to go to…

  1. Nottingham Train Station UK
  2. Then Piccadilly Train Station, Manchester, UK
  3. Then Manchester Airport, UK
  4. Then to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA
  5. Then to Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston, Jamaica
  6. Then a taxi finally to Courtleigh Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica


Needless to say I was completely knackered, it was the night when I arrived, I found my driver after a good long while being in Norman Manley Airport. The airport looked part retro, part postmodern, organised and well used, busy with Black people. We drove through the cool night to get to Courtleigh Hotel next to the beautifully ominous black sea swelling and glimmering in the city lights. I walked like a zombie into the shower and I barely had a chance to clock the beautiful hotel I would be staying in.

MEETING EVERYONE:

The morning came, I was exhausted but at the same time excited and trying to believe that I was in JA! I was picked up by my driver (yeah I had a driver) and on the journey snapshots of highly saturated colour slapped me in the face, the salty sea breeze, spiced soul food of home, bold sounds and the heat of Jamaica all hit me as I rushed around in the car sent to collect me. It’s as if someone had turned the lights on. I had been to Jamaica as a 12year old but never as an adult, though I remember it vividly,

the feeling of being the global majority in a place dominated by Black culture, my heritage feels energising like electricity going through your veins, you feel powerful, this must be how white people feel every day in Britain as normalcy?

– Honey Williams

I had to be ready in the morning to meet Jherane Patmore from the British Council in Jamaica, who accompanied me along with Connie Aitcheson from the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport to meet Asif Anwar Ahmad, the British High Commissioner, where he showed me around the grounds and talked about what would be expected of me as a Muralist. I tried to take as many pics as I could on my little old iphone.

I then met Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick the Country Director at the British council and we talked about art and our backgrounds and how she cried when she saw my work! ?!!? we talked for ages about our respective experiences in art and I wanted

Then on from there, I went to meet the amazing and formidable Rozi Chung Art Therapist and Educator and Owner of Studio174 in Kingston.

‘Mi spirit just tek arr’ as Jamaicans would say

and the other talented Artists; Sheldon Blake, Kirk Cockburn and Tiana Anglin who were truly lovely and we all got along well. I saw where I would be creating 2 8ft by 4ft murals on a new hurricane-proof material called ultracem.

I also met some people who live and work next to Studio 174 and generally fitted in and really enjoyed meeting everyone.

DAY 2 – 4:

For a while, I stared at the blank 8ft by 4ft wall, melting in the heat, trying to acclimatise and concentrate on the task at hand. I deliberately did not plan the work I was going to create, I just thought that I would let my experience of Jamaica inform what I did. I was enjoying the sensory overload of Bashment playing at full blast with no Karens to tell them to (be quiet or I’ll call the police), the churches, the children as neat as summer coloured envelops sending themselves school and markets heaving with people, full of fruit and veg that cant grow in England. I saw wealthy light-skinned people driving around in mercs, beautiful yet crumbling downtown Kingston poised for gentrification and stray dogs that act like old gangsters hard on their luck. I saw suffering and poverty so harsh it would break your heart one second and the most gorgeous exotic array of flowers billowing out of luxury hotels and palatial peach mansions. I was driven back and forth from the hotel to the studio in the morning and the night, I didn’t really get much of a chance to fully soak Jamaica in as much as I’d liked.

THE MURALS:

I started to add colour to my first piece, didn’t want to rush anything but wasn’t sure how I was going to fit 2 big pieces into such a short time frame and be happy with it? I was at the studio painting from about 10am till 8pm most days. Effectively I had 5days to make 2 murals and 2days to travel to Jamaica and back to the UK, it’s a challenge! I was determined🔥 and stayed hydrated with a ton of bottles of water 💦 and fuelled up with delicious Jamaican cuisine. Rozi and I talked with ease as did Jherane (British Council Jamaica) they both took me to see a few sights and meet people, Devon House, Blue Mountain Festival, and Architect Kamau Kambui, who designed the stunning Emancipation Park, a park full of details from Jamaica’s history, Afro-centric designs and West African Adinkra symbols (I have to go back and explore it).

DAY 4-7:

I chose to base my pieces on the descendants of the Windrush generation, I had wanted to do 3 pieces but I only had 7 days. I was basically a live artist, local people would pass by and pop in and chat and ask you about what you are doing, which I quite liked because I didn’t have the time to go and see much of Jamaica so I tried put their energy in into the pieces too.

DAY 8-10:

Gyal Daughter 1 by Honey Williams (8ft x 4)
Spray paint, acrylic, emulsion, photocopies on Ultracem
gyal daughter 2

I managed to complete them both but was given a 3-day extension, so Rozi took me for a micro exploration of Kingston. I value my time working in Jamaica and I can’t quite believe that I was paid to be there! I would love to go back and do some more work out there, something that centres Black women at its core would be amazing. I think that it is telling that the first place that gave me a chance to officially created murals was in place of my parent’s birth, what an honour, Jamaica.

An Open Letter By Honey Williams: In Response To The Nottingham Project’s Apology

Uncategorized

Mural Design of Eric Irons OBE

by Honey Williams

For context, please see this Nottingham Post article and listen to Honey on Black Womans Hour.

To The Nottingham Project (Management Team: Simon Bristow, Greg Nugent, and Lee Walker),

By definition, a ‘miscommunication’ is a failure to communicate clearly. With no communication at all since July 2021, I find it, quite frankly, unbelievable for you to try and pass off your error as such.

Apologising is about fully understanding the impact of your actions on others regardless of your intent.

Your “apology” suggests that you don’t understand the magnitude of the damage you have caused. I called the meeting at City Arts to understand the reasons as to why you didn’t invite me to the unveiling of my unfinished mural of Eric Irons OBE on 4/10/21 and how this failure happened, but instead this was overshadowed by your pain and remorse whilst making yourself the victim by weaponising your tears to silence the conversation.

Though this may not have been your intention, you failed to acknowledge the impact that your prior actions had, and are still having, on me. This includes, but is not limited to, anger, distress, embarrassment, and erasure.

When I am satisfied and you have demonstrated that, to not only me but the public, your understanding of the mistakes and damage caused is satisfactory, this is what I require to move things forward positively:

  1. The Nottingham Project recruits someone as part of their management team to represent the Black community correctly and with understanding. This person will have a genuine interest in the communities they are trying to serve. Leading by example by utilising someone who is not middle class, white, cis gendered, male, and not a token, would help to reflect this.
  2. Something in Nottingham that publicly and permanently celebrates Black people and their contributions to the city, including the greatness of Black British women and their achievements. I would like a date to set for this to happen before the end of this financial year.
  3. A goodwill gesture for all the embarrassment, sleepless nights, stress, headaches and inconvenience this episode has caused me.
  4. Invitations to prominent Black people to the unveiling of the finished mural in addition to The Irons Family e.g., Panya Banjoko, Saziso Phiri, SheAfriq, Cllr Leslie Ayoola, Sheriff Merlita Bryan, A.C.N.A. Centre, Pitman Brown, Ioney Smallhorne, Sonia Long, Norma Gregory, Jackie P, Pastor Clive Foster and others who have all contributed greatly to the Black Community of Nottingham.
  5. I want the mural to be finished to my satisfaction, the time frame needs to be discussed with me, then confirmed.

I am a sought-after award-winning artist and I want to concentrate on my creativity whilst being treated with respect. I hope you as an organisation learn from your mistakes and take my recommendations on board to prevent a repeat of this next Black History Month. After all, the best apology is changed behaviour.

Regards,

Honey Williams

@thehoneyeffect

Re-imagining Masculinity Via Art Therapy in The National Justice Museum

WORKSHOPS

“Fulfilment of masculinity is often sold on the strength of peak experiences: winning battles, pulling women, pure adrenaline, moments of ecstasy. But life ain’t like that. We rarely, if ever, take our car (masculinity) on to a racetrack, so maybe we need a version that works doing the everyday things. We need a masculinity that’s easy to park, with a big boot, child seats and low fuel consumption. Men need to learn to equip themselves for peace.”

― Grayson Perry, The Descent of Man

The Un-Masculinity Workshop took place on 10/9/21 at @justicemuseum Nottingham, UK. Big thanks to Chiara Delerba @dellerbachiara for inviting me to the National Justice Museum in order to deliver the art making workshop titled #unmasculinity. Unmasculinity is a word that I coined specifically for the workshop which means… ‘The art of unpacking the concept of masculinity’.

To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply being.”

– bell hooks

We were looking at how masculinity, imprisonment and freedom intersect using collage art. The National Justice Museum is largely Victorian but the site dates back to 1449, many executions took place there. Poignant conversations where had, inspired collage pieces were created and new faces were met in such an architecturally beautiful and cavernous yet foreboding setting.

Rather than tell you exactly what happened on the day, the tear filled stories, rather than unpack what masculinity means to the west, to me or to others. Rather than discuss the indoctrination of the combustable nature of numbing emotion and the entitlement of men, the masculine and male identified people. Caging masculinity and the ways masculinity is shaped by this ‘pretend rehabilitation’. I have written a poetic response to the experience of the topics raised by the workshop and museum itself.

Amusement Parks of Incarcerated Male Existence by Honey Williams

Iron made from industrial revolution, slaver investment, hellfire and silent prayers
Contorted into ornate Victorian sorrow and stern bars
You can feel the blood in the muscular structure of bricks,
A warm foreboding sense of your own mortality
A warped cobbled floor where the accused, judged,
tortured and lawfully murdered stood

Men have chiselled their names into time, women are the dust
Respectable Caribbean grandsons of enslaved West African survivors,
bit their tongues, became tribe-less, duppies, zombies blinded by light and won the game allegedly
Local impoverished rebels, who lived up 14th century jitteh’s,
scattered to the other side of the earth for the coercive act of apple stealing
or the Sheriff leads the condemned onto the gallows
forever banishing them from their mothers calls

Robust in trauma, tragically feudal, for sadistic pleasure
Veiled in sandstone regality
What will burst the levy of tears inside?
Men staunchly adhere to the laws of manhood
Created officially by the wealthy powdered wigged judiciary
Black lacquered doors stand guard, vaulting the evidence of that human pain
Giant keys to past painted over locks now lost

Jaspal picks me up in his red uber
Now comes an urban renewal, a redress,
a new shape, new form, a shift in power,
a relief, a lessening of masked guilt,
an empathy, an acquittal, a reality-based history,
A recognition of the size, tone and beauty of authentic collaged experiences
a birthing of sons and their brand new inner architecture
and the art of burning down amusement parks of incarcerated male existence.

How To Be A Highly Intersectional Woman & A DJ with No Hair

ART, IMAGE ACTIVISM, MUSIC

“Our beliefs about bodies disproportionately impact those whose race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and age deviate from our default notions. The further from the default, the greater the impact. We are all affected – but not equally.”

― Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

So I made my debut as a DJ this weekend at @the___carousel at #queerphoria in Nottingham, UK & it was fire🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥! I was so nervous! But luckily I had gotten a DJing lesson using Serato DJ Pro on the day of the gig!!@#%! from Mr @joebuhdha (world renowned DJ/ Producer) He calmly guided me through the basics, gave me some tips all of which helped put me at ease.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CSJsgpOiCDP/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

The Intersection Between DJing, Fatness, Misogyny & The Racist White Supremacist Beauty Ideal:

“…the current anti-fat bias in the United States and in much of the West was not born in the medical field. Racial scientific literature since at least the eighteenth century has claimed that fatness was ‘savage’ and ‘black.”

― Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia

I’ve secretly wanted to try DJing for the longest, I didnt ever really even admit that to myself right up until recently. I had no idea on how to go about it, what equipment would I really need and who would want me to DJ a gig for them?

Here are several reasons why I was apprehensive…

1. Representation – Anti-Blackness, Fatphobia & Misogyny: Much like singing… I have asked myself Q. Can a fat Black woman DJ be sexy and or beautiful? Why does a woman DJ need to be deemed ‘sexy’ or ‘beautiful’? when men OBVIOUSLY dont need to be. When it comes to representation I have never seen a big Black Woman DJ before in my life. Traditionally when going out to DJ led gigs and events typically the number of big or fat women in attendance are few and far between. Many are scared to go to events like these in fear of the ridicule and abuse they often receive. I expect the abuse and I am unafraid to deal with it but I do fear how draining it can be to have to work on repairing my sense of self worth the next day. Lookism is rooted in the long lasting effects of eugenics and phrenology see here

2. Lack of Access To Nepotism: Normally when you see women DJs they have often started because they had a DJ boyfriend and or because they have a cool ‘model-like’ look and its usually one of those things that have brought them into the mix. How do you start DJing but bypass the DJ boyfriend part? Now youtube exists now but back in the day knowledge surrounding DJing seemed mysterious, lowkey airtight, something that only men were allowed to do.

3. Having No Hair: I had recently had to do a #bigchop on my hair because it fell out after being ICU with covid. My fears around hairlessness are connected to not feeling as feminine and beautiful anymore and I hadn’t learned to accept the way I looked as a fat Black woman with hair.

4. Lack of Technical Know How: Ive literally just taken up Serato DJ Pro and Im considering getting a controller…. I’ll have to figure that all out asap

5. Toxic Positivity & Fear of Failure: The pressure of the fear of not having everything figured out can be debilitating. I have been blessed with quite a few talents, so I am good at many things but this can make embarking on adding yet another string to my bow is always lowkey daunting but only for the reason you would expect. Being talented and or smart as a big black woman often has adverse effects, you become more unappealing paradoxically, less employable etc. Seeing brilliant Black BBW’s winning (however incremental) can often mess with peoples minds as many view us as being lazy, stupid, ugly, incompetent, undesirable and unworthy….having those negative stereotype debunked can make some people angry. Plus trying something new is scary innit!

I am aware that sometimes I let my own and others feelings surrounding my body from myself over ride my desire to realise dreams. However, I have such great support from my friends that were there to help stop the tailspin into a black hole of insecurity and internalised anti-black, misogynistic, fatphobia the day before the gig. I was literally sat outside a an Asian owned Black Hair Shop out of desperation, to avoid being a bald BBW DJ, overwhelmed by every option of ‘femininity’ it contained. I decided that I was enough as I am and DJed with short hair and a fat black woman body anyway. Its funny because on the day dressed in my pastel pink floral chiffon dress, Dr Martens, lady danger coloured lips and fenty ‘trophy wife’ highlighter, I felt so good and I looked hot btw but even if i didnt look hot I should feel able to take up space regardless even if I was a mediocre DJ with next to no music knowledge…like so many DJ’s Ive heard play.

“I’m more of an artist and a songwriter than I am a DJ. That word seems a little bit – well, it doesn’t really describe what I do.”

-Kaskade

I knew that that the knowledge I had accumulated through my years as a singer songwriter, teaching singing as a lecturer and directing an alt choir @goachoir & even being a visual artist have meant that I’ve been prepping me for DJing my entire life. Maybe theres space for a fat black woman DJ to take up space and not just the lighter, whiter, exotical, longer haired, thinner more eurocentric ideal of beauty type women DJ’s.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta say YES and try learning something new!

If you would’ve told me wks ago that I’d be rocking a fresh #twa #bigchop and being a DJ in 2 wks id’ve laughed, yet here I am. Big up all involved in making that event Queerphoria Friday 30th July 2021 the success it was @christosgkenoud @y.a.y_m.a.r.i.a w/ @franxfranklin – @betamaxdrag @daeldbx – @witchoteast (DJ)
They loved my set was so much that I’ve been booked for my *2nd gig* at #PRIDE, September 11th in Nottingham. Can you believe that? Lol IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!

Available for bookings: thehoneyeffect@yahoo.com

How To Capture the Rise & Rise of Akala With A Pencil When Asked by The BBC

ART

‘I often look at the world and just think fuck it, why bother, but I know that’s how we are supposed to feel, that’s why the corruption is so naked and freely visible – to wear down people who have the conviction that things could be better’

– Natives, Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Kingslee ‘Akala’ Daley

It was at some point in May, contemplating the prospect of living life without lockdown and where my next creative project was coming from..

Link to purchase book: https://pigeonbooks.co.uk/products/natives-akala

BBC Radio 4 – approached me (I dunno how???? I think I was headhunted on instagram but dont quote me on that!) in order to commission me to illustrate portraiture and design for a new audiobook/ podcast series (an abridged production of Akala’s “Natives – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire bestselling book). I’ve always thought that Akala seems like a cool guy and we share a couple friends so I agreed to do it.

Who is Akala?

‘Akala aka Kingslee James McLean Daley (born 1 December 1983),[1] better known by his stage name Akala, is a British rapper, journalist, author, activist and poet from Kentish TownLondon. In 2006, he was voted the Best Hip Hop Act at the MOBO Awards[2] and has been included on the annual Powerlist of the 100 most influential Black British people in the UK, most recently making the 2021 edition’ …well thats what wikipedia said. I will let him introduce himself… check out this youtube clip: HUNGER x Akala.

The illustration/ design had to be reminiscent of the book art design but not the same. Akala’s book, is a personal memoir slash historical political essay covering themes such as heritage, mixed race identity, anti-black racism, education and the concept of nationhood, combined with a real sense of Akala’s humble yet culturally wealthy, gritty upbringing, its a good read. I had a very short time in which to produce something that I could be truly happy with, so I had to be decisive in direction I chose to take.

I started with a photo of him and developed it, I created a pencil and ink drawing then transformed it withinto digital wizardry. I was not happy at first but persevered until I was finally satisfied. Then I let the BBC team see it, possibly Akala saw it and okayed it, I have no idea.

I blared out his music (notably the second part of ‘Fire In The Booth – Part 4‘ from 12:56mins onwards is particularly stunning) on youtube, his lectures on Black Masculinity and couple other beats in order to get myself in an Akala mode….lol lets go with that for now. I tried my best to encompass all of those elements and the essence of him within the way I created the mood of podcast art. I used stratches and imperfection to convey the street element of his persona and I had to give him a wisdom filled intense gaze with that cheeky ‘di gyal dem sugar’ look in his eyes to make him become real in a covert and impactful way.

Illustration and Design by Honey Williams @thehoneyeffect

The BBC loved it, hopefully he likes it? but then again who cares… I like it and thats the be all and end all with any commission that comes my way. Akala’s podcast ‘Natives, Class & Race: In The Ruins of Empire‘ was launched in Monday 31/5/21, you can see my illustration there.

What To Do When ‘The Mother Country’ Wants To Send You Back On The Windrush: Navigating The Hostile Environment of Brexit Britain

ART

‘In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” ― Enoch Powell, River’s of Blood’ Speech, Birmingham 1968

I don’t normally like explaining my art process, as it can differ according to my mood and the topic of my work. I prefer to leave it open to interpretation but I’ll attempt to just this once. I was asked by Nottingham based magazine Leftlion to create a front cover and middle page poster for their June 2018 Issue. For a while I was wondering what imagery should I create for this cover? I needed to embark on a journey in search of fresh inspiration.

Leftlion Editor, Bridie Squires, sent over a list of some of the featured articles, notably black British poetry legend and activist Benjamin Zephaniah, an article on Female Genital Mutilation featuring Valentine Nkoyo, a feature on artist Jasmin Issaka, Human Rights Lawyer Usha Sood, activist and Jamaican WW2 veteran Oswald George Powe and a play by a local Nottingham playwright Mufaro Makubika called ‘Shebeen‘ about the 1958 race-riots in Nottingham. All of which made for a very culturally important edition of Leftlion. Now, I see myself as being relatively deep, I knew that I wanted to say something colossal and powerful with my art… but what?

Then the news of the Windrush Scandal hit, basically the UK government have been steadily kicking out Caribbean’s who immigrated to the UK in 1948-1971 (of whom were deemed them British Citizens according to the Nationality act of 1948). For more info on the Windrush see link What is the Windrush scandal? How the Windrush generation got their name and why many fear deportation by Ann Stenhouse

My blood boiled after seeing Prime Minister Theresa May and Former MP Amber Rudd’s faces in Parliament drowning over facts, figures, tepid apologies, and pathetic last minute attempts to save political careers. David Lammy MP delivered a brilliantly emotive, soulful, parliament shaking speech and after hearing a tsunami of stories of deportation being reported in the national press and not only in black newspapers such as The Voice, Gleaner or as merely word of mouth amongst PoC communities. I decided that I was going to channel the nauseous concoction of pride and disgust I was feeling into creating a collection of pieces of illustration inspired by the Windrush Scandal.

 

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The Windrush Generation, Navigating Britain, How to Convey Them Visually

Excited fearfulness, queasy vulnerability, disappointedly chilly, a seasick loneliness, a war torn run down realisation, relieved to be safely on dry land, eyes searching for familiar faces. I have gathered info from the Windrush generation, those that I know personally and have researched in interviews. Above are a few of the emotions that would have been running through the youthful minds of people first stepping foot off the ship Empire Windrush in England, ‘fresh off the boat’.

I decided to base my illustration on a freeze frame taken from footage shot by the BBC of the literal moment that a young black Jamaican man had first laid eyes on England (see slideshow above). He’s a young dark skinned black man, smartly dressed in a trilby, pinstripe suit and bowtie. Though in slight wonderment you can see that he is hopeful.

My parents are a part of the Windrush generation, they came from middle class backgrounds in Jamaica, my dad arrived in 1958, as a detective in Jamaica he was only able to be a Traffic Warden and Bus Driver in the uk. Likewise my mother arrived in 1962 as a teacher and had to start off working in a factory, but why?

Which brings me to what has to be one of the single most cruel plot twists for Caribbean British citizen’s in post WW2 British legislation. My parents had always drilled into me that ‘Education is key’ and that I have to work at least twice as hard as my white counterparts. I later learned why they were so adamant. The British government ran Jamaica’s education system but even so; Britain disallowed by law all the qualifications of Caribbean British citizens (down to age 11). The effect was that it acted to ghettoize; you cannot have access to higher paid jobs, which would afford you better places to live. Even though on average middle-class and many working class Caribbean’s knew a lot more about stuff like… ‘the Queen, Buckingham palace, William the Conqueror, Shakespeare, Sheffield Steel, Clive of India, The Brontës, David Livingstone and how he ‘civilised the savage’ in Africa, industrial revolution’ etc more than your average white working class Brit. To convey this element in my art, I created conflict within each image in terms of their mood. The imagery I created is deliberately jam-packed with contradictory information that my parents and other Caribbean’s had to navigate and survive under.

 

“White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.” 
― Reni Eddo-LodgeWhy I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

 

Channelling The Caribbean Perception of Post War Working Class White Britain & My Feelings on The Windrush Scandal

 

‘We were taught that the streets were paved with gold and that most white people were rich ’. Caribbean’s were generally taught whitewashed version of history, religion and a blind allegiance to British nationalism. All of this was a effective tool to insure that many Caribbean’s would

  • well behaved
  • subscribe to conservatism, meritocracy, respectability politics
  • aspire to be like white people

Be non-critical thinking servants at Britain’s beck and call, that would be compelled to come running just like the ‘good old days of Empire and slavery’. Then could be disposed off as the Britain Government and white ruling class saw fit. Though many did not adhere to all of the above and fought against the indoctrination by re-educating, decolonising and rebelling in a myriad of ways. I conveyed the clashing views of the Black British Caribbean self under the narcissistic paternal rule of Britain by using dissonant imagery, such as religious iconography, 19th century etchings of the torture of slaves calling for abolition, photography of Caribbean’s toiling in plantations, Caribbean war veterans both men and women, BlackLivesMatter protests of Nottingham, Nottingham Riots of 1958, interracial couples, the permanent influence of Jamaican culture on popular British culture and the English language, Caribbean nurses, Brexit scaremongering and racist signs.
 

I incorporated the beauty of paradise, sunsets, palm trees, houses with red tin roofs into my art. I wanted it to represent rose tinted memories of belonging, innocence, the memory of being a part of an ethnic majority and the confidence in ones stride that brings. A saturated use of colour was used to convey paradise and to appear diametrically opposite to the overcast aesthetics of Britain. I tried to convey that Caribbean people comment that they were shocked to find that in reality they found Britain to be smoky grey, old, dirty, dank, shoddy, ignorant, unhygienic, depressing and hostile.
Caribbean’s and notably Jamaicans were instantly deemed as troublemakers, criminal, smelly, ugly, noisy and inferior in every way. ‘No, Blacks’ was a regular sign that would be seen in most accommodation available for rent and in places of employment. Most white churches would ask Caribbean’s not to return in a most polite and very British fashion. Many Caribbean people would have to defend themselves from attackers, which helped fuel riots and protests for basic human rights in Britain. I chose to represent these elements by incorporating real newspaper headlines and riot photography slashed into the imagery.

 

Black British Caribbean women have arguably been the anchor of the Black British families and community, a much needed ‘big up’, acknowledgement and appreciation of the beauty and strength of those women. Hence my depiction of the black caribbean woman as queen, plus I wanted to convey the 2 figures as ‘the Adam & Eve’ of the biggest influx of Black people in Britain since its creation.

 

Scandal is the word for this malicious act of the British government effectively wanting to get rid of the Windrush Generation now they 50+ and their children and in some cases grandchildren, after all of our great sacrifice, great contributions to Britain I wanted this art to be a visual smack in the face, machete chops and cuss words in visual patois, a beautiful explosion of consciousness.

‘If you are the a big tree, we are the small axe, sharpened to cut you down, ready to cut you down’ – Bob Marley & The Wailers

 

As big black women of Jamaican descent taking up room in the uk in any sense can be treacherous, often greeted with backlash; be it via my art on the cover of a magazine, singing self penned songs, navigating unemployment, voicing my opinion or merely walking down the street. I have personally have never felt a part of Britain and the recent scandal comes as no surprise to me, is it any wonder why? Most black Caribbean’s seldom talk about the moment they encountered England for the first time. I hope my art can act as a mouthpiece for their feelings, mine and for those no longer with us

The beautiful struggle continues…

If you are interested in buying any of my work please click on this link https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/THEHONEYEFFECT . Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think and thank you for reading my blog.

Windrush Poster (LEFTLION) FINAL (540mm x 370mm)

Middle page poster of the June 2018 Issue of Leftlion Magazine

Windrush god save the queen Poster (LEFTLION) FINAL (540mm x 370mm)

Middle page poster of the June 2018 Issue of Leftlion Magazine

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Front cover of the June 2018 Issue of Leftlion Magazine

 

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‘The Art of Afrotherapy’: Decolonising Beauty via Black Girl Magic at University

ART, IMAGE ACTIVISM, WORKSHOPS

“You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”― Nina Simone

The Psychology department of Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham U.K. were looking for a creative that they could collaborate with on the topic of black women and their black hair to produce an event. One of the reasons that I was recommended to them because of this…

Contemporary Natural Hair by the Pickyheads:

CNHG 1 LOG2 PICKYHEADS
Contemporary Natural Hair by the Pickyheads is a facebook group/blog that I initially created in order to counteract the sheer lack of contemporary representation of  black beauty. Another reason why I created the group is that I wanted to re-brainwash myself into loving myself aesthetically eg. my natural afro hair texture and skin tone. Very quickly as I started to unearth more information about history, race theory, black feminism, visual sociology and ethnography and injected this into the group. I started to garner attention from people of African descent throughout the world. Im not saying Im famous by any stretch of the imagination but a friend of mine that lived in Belgium was told about my group by a Black Dutch woman who was gushing about it and my friend soon realised

‘but thats my friend Honey!!!?!!!’

I realised that the group could be used as a tool to

‘Dismantle racism, white supremacy, colourism and misogynoir, using all forms of artistic expression within contemporary culture. All with the emphasis of bigging up skin tones, hair textures, hairstyles of african heritage in order to decolonise beauty’

The Event: The Exhibition

I was asked by psychology department of Trent University and Esther Akanya Educational Developer (Success For All- Social Sciences) Centre for Academic Development & Quality at Nottingham Trent University to come up with an idea for an event that would link psychology to black hair. So I came up with the idea of creating an exhibition and a workshop called ‘The Art of Afrotherapy’: Decolonising beauty through art afro textured discussion.

AFROTHERAPY FLYER

Creating artwork with 0 funds is tricky especially when you’re covering a topic that is arguably a part of the reason why you have 0 funds #irony – but that is another blog post. I have used my years of experiencing the slow poison of the intersectionality between anti-black misogyny, fatphobia and hair texture discrimination and how that effects every facet of life eg. employment, relationships, social media.  I also wanted to enthuse a sense of self care practised through creating art, music and also through facebook blogging, providing a space for a small part of a huge community of beautiful black women and images and links that centre our us, a reconnection with nature and black culture into my art.

I wanted a part of the exhibition to be immersive and so I invited the university to write their thoughts about black women, black women’s hair, the exhibition, and here are some of my favourite comments and images from the exhibition:

  • ‘Our rich and saturated melanin! it indeed pops severely and they be MADD!’
  • ‘Colourism is colonisation’
  • ‘Dont Touch My Hair’
  • ‘Black = beauty’
  • ‘People who complain about my hair in their face while dancing, Bitch you just been blessed :-)’

I started with creating my art and in a short space of time I had created a collection of pieces that were about decolonising beauty plus the colonising minds and express. Started with creating some new pieces of art on a shoestring and collecting older pieces that tied in with the theme of the exhibition.

I wanted my work to feature womanity of african descent, the different skin tones and natural hair textures, I wanted to communicate a sense of vulnerability, endurance and the beauty within that.

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 21.52.50

The Event: The Workshop

In the U.K. and throughout the western world we are forced to conform to ideals of beauty and femininity that are racist white supremacist, patriarchal and anti-black.So in turn the afro textured natural hair that naturally grows from black people’s heads is often deemed unkempt, dirty, un-marriable, undateable, unemployable, rebellious, masculine and ugly. As opposed to men, it is still largely socially unacceptable for women not to have hair I’ve often wondered what effect this is having on women of African descent as it is seldom measured, analysed, unpacked and discussed not even nearly enough in the UK, especially outside London. Coupled with the fact that many black women are often culturally socialised to be self sacrificial and are often expected to hold families, churches and communities together often resulting in a degree self neglect but this level of self sacrifice it is not reciprocated. I have often wondered what effect does this have on the psyche and wellbeing of women of african descent in the uk?

presentation Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 21.51.52

There is a sizable population of women of African Caribbean descent that were born in Nottingham (largely of Jamaican descent and West African descent). Nottingham’s boasts 2 prestigious University’s both Nottingham University and of course Nottingham Trent University, both attract students from all over the globe. I wanted to to provide a space  within Nottingham Trent University that would act as a place for black women and others to vent their views on the topic of black hair, beauty and how it feels to be a black woman in the uk as there is catharsis in airing this topic usually hidden in plain sight.

I created a presentation that aided the discussion, culminating in sharing examples of black girl magic enthused artistic expressions of self care such as recording artists: Solange’s song ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, Jamila Wood’s ‘Holy’, Soul II Souls’s ‘Back to Life’ and powerful imagery of intoxicatingly beautiful natural haired fashionistas from the Afropunk Festival based in Brooklyn NY but now worldwide. Resulting in a brilliantly  nourishing, amusing, intimate and enlightening conversation. The changes that I would make to the workshop are that Id make it much more art based as I feel that there is a toxic amount of subliminal emotion tightly compacted and stored away within the intersectionality between British politeness, patriarchy and misogynoir… still to be unpacked.

Staying Woke & Unpacking Misogynoir: Interrupting The Blissful Sleep of Young Black British & Mixed Race Men

IMAGE ACTIVISM, WORKSHOPS

‘Sleep: A condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.’ -Definition of ‘sleep’ by the Oxford Dictionary

‘To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.’

-James A. Baldwin
GROUP1 - black boy2

The word was out that someone was on the look out for a “a strong black woman” to be invited to act as a role model and explore topics such as positive relationships with women, managing stereotypes and lead a discussion for an initiative called black on track UK. Despite the tired trope of ‘Strong Black Woman’ it sounded exciting and agreed to do it.

Black on Track UK:

Black on Track UK is a unique cultural group for young Black males at the then South Nottingham College now Central College Nottingham, supported by the School of Education at Nottingham Trent University in 2012.

Dr Sheine Peart pic1
Dr Sheine Peart

The launch of the group followed a 15 month research project by Nottingham Trent University’s Sheine Peart, course leader for the Masters in Education at the School of Education, which was carried out at South Nottingham College and the former Broxtowe College.

Along with Dr Sheine Peart, South Nottingham College learner achievement coach, Claudius Dyer and Lecturer Norris Stewart have also been instrumental in establishing the group, with support from its deputy principal, John Gray.

[Read More About Black On Track Here]

Enlightenment, Where to Start?

‘There can be no freedom for black men as long as they advocate the subjugation of black women.’-bell hooks

The topic of the discussion was ‘Black Mens Attitudes Towards Black Women’ as at the South Nottingham College had noticed that Black male students increasingly wanted nothing to do with black women. Though excited by the prospect of possibly being involved in enlightening some young black men with regard to black women and the issues we face. Needless to say I was daunted at the prospect, what would I discuss  with them? Where do I start? Because misogynoir against black women in the UK is particularly tarte and it hasn’t gone unnoticed to me or any other black women I know.

It would be a task for me to eradicate all known misogynoir from the UK but perhaps I could attempt to remove the sleep from a few young black men’s eyes and minds and enlighten them to the fact that black women are not as derogatory a concept as some of young black british males have been hypnotised by western society to believe…. infact #blackgirlmagic is real.

Waking Up To Decolonising Beauty Ideals

The group of young men were made up of 6 black men and 1 mixed race man, all of the students were aged between 16 and 18. They all looked slightly nervous as we introduced ourselves to each other. One of the first things we did to ease us into the topic watch a YouTube vid, A Girl like Me  is a 2005 Award winning short documentary by a then 16-year-old filmmaker Kiri Davis. The 7 min documentary examines such things as the importance of colour, hair and facial features for young African American women.

Most of the students said that they felt bad and angry for the girls in the documentary. The reenactment of the Doll Test from the Brown vs. Board of Education case in Civil Rights era America stood out for them and we also discussed how racism effects black girls and black women in uniquely different ways to black males.

and I googled the words ‘beautiful woman’ and they were shocked at the results…Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 01.52.58

it goes on like this for pages…

Now we scrolled for about 16pages and then we started to see pics of Beyonce and couple images of Oriental women speckled through the results. All the young men looked like they had just a dose of smelling salts in response to the results. We all agreed that it was telling that we had to scroll past hundreds of images of caucasian women who were not famous and the first WoC, black woman to be deemed beautiful enough to show up in the results had to be as famous, successful as a european appearing as Beyonce…in order to be deemed beautiful as a black woman? They began to empathise with black women and see how manipulative the media can be.

Then we discussed what their ideas of beauty were….

I asked them who their top 3 most attractive famous women were…
Names such as Emma Stone, Cheryl Cole, Jennifer Lopez, Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johanssen, Alicia Keys, Emma Watson, Kate Winslet and Kelly Rowland came up… no real surprises. Only one of them singer Kelly Rowland was a black woman all of the rest of the women are white or racially ambigious /mixed race. I pointed out that isn’t it interesting that the people that they found attractive reflected the results of the doll test in the documentary, they agreed.

Being Conscious of Racist Stereotypes Applied to Black Women

By the time we got to this point they were quite comfortable talking to me and each other. I asked them what do you think of White women, Black women, Mixed Race women?….it was my turn to be a little startled…

Black Women: Queens, Dominant, attitude, dont take any shit, facesty, some are too loud, wear weaves alot, they stick up for you, Mothers, they are providers, big lips, they dont like their hair, rude, argumentative, some are sexy, harder to chat up, big bums aka ‘back off’, get high marks.

White Women: Liars, bitches, not to be trusted, easy, agreeable, they do what you say, pretty, nice long hair, dumb, bimbos, easy to trick, they’ve got alot of freedom because their parents let them do whatever they want, flat bums, wild, up for doing new things.

Mixed Race Women: Stuck up, pretty, bit facesty, always got their hair slicked back, confused, curls, light skin, some lean more to their white side and some lean more to their black side, lost, think that they are too nice, more trouble than its worth.

I was startled because the one who said that black women were queens and that white women were ‘liars, bitches and not to be trusted’ was the young Mixed Race man, it made me want to know more about his story? what had happened in his young life that had made him come to such conclusions? We discussed where the stereotypes came from, we talked about the fact that if they all were the female versions of themselves that based on all the women that they said they were attracted to they probably wouldn’t find themselves attractive.

In summary I had learned that those students were open to hearing about black women’s lives. The students said that they enjoyed discussion and thought that it met their needs much better than school. It spoke to their experience more than just the academic side and there is no formal cultural or emotional support for them, an issue which is replicated in Further Education across the country. I’m glad that I could play a part in at least presenting a new perspective that they possibly hadn’t considered in depth before, perhaps ignorance isn’t so blissful afterall..