Sitting At My Elder's Feet
I’ve been thinking a lot about inheritance and ‘elders’ ; nurtured by several moments over the last few weeks. I recently found an audio recording from nearly two years ago when dozens of my family gathered in Zambia for my brother’s wedding. As with many Zambian gatherings, it was a wonderfully chaotic time of meals, conversations and matriarchs gathering together to noisily delegate and argue over meal ingredients, outfits and how your child should be raised - normally pre-empted with ‘why can’t your son speak to me in his mother tongue ?…” I had been snugly cushioned between several aunts and my dear, dear, quietly contemplative Gogo (Grandmother) with her piercing, knowing eyes. I am a grown woman and I still find myself frantically auditing my naughty-moment-meter when she looks at me that deeply (did Gogo notice that third glass of wine I sneakily poured myself ?..yeaa that twinkle in her eyes is a definite 'yes child, I did'). But I digress. I had reached for my recording device, watching in fascination as my young, feisty cousin took on several aunties and elders, challenging their opinions on several issues. The fire that fed her was like an invisible circle that animated all of them. Even though they all got a little more self conscious and subdued once I started recording, the conversations that afternoon were long, noisy, opinionated. I adored every moment of that afternoon. When I found the audio recording, I had to pause a moment and reach for my phone to look at the last text conversation between my Aunty Esther and I. Gentle, generous Esther, with her larger than life laugh had just died and hearing her voice again was an absolute gift. I’ve captured some of these conversations on our Inspirational Women of Portsmouth Podcast series.
I also recently had the privilege of working with the Fabulous Josh on their ‘Wearing Mums Make Up’ creative project that included an opportunity to mentor several women in capturing their stories for a short podcast series. My podcast story reflected on how I often found myself both frustrated and overwhelmed trying to achieve several things on any given moment. I reflected on how my ancestors, my spirit mothers would have watched the mother of my mother’s mother having similar moments of being both frustrated and overwhelmed. She may have done that agitated finger bite I inherited from my Mother as she sat in her frustrated moment. But those spirit mothers would have danced and laughed and spoken life to my name, and all the quirks that would make me me. I am grateful for them.
My Gogo looks at me with the same joy and laughter in her eyes. We have deep-spirit conversations with each other without saying a word. Our conversations normally end with a gentle tap of my shoulder, or with her weathered, frail fingers gently skimming over mine, like she’s passing something on to me that I can’t quite see but feel in my deep exhale. She connects me to what my ancestors saw when they sang about me.
Running the inspirational women of Portsmouth Awards also had me thinking about inheritance, and whether we recognise and celebrate elders in our community, whatever the context. The concept of celebrating and actively learning from ‘elders’ in our youth obsessed culture has been lost, some might say for the good. I think I can safely say that for a lot of us, when asked what a significant elder or mother might have passed on to us, there’s more likely to be a ‘hold my drink’ moment comparing notes on the not so constructive character trait/trauma/ humiliation/ resentment that’s been handed down to us. And yet, I wonder about the role of elders in community. I came across a fantastic saying through an inspirational Zambian Queen Sibongile Tasila Phiri (yes, she is that fabulous!). She recently shared a quote from @Xavier.Dagba : “As you focus on clearing your generational trauma, do not forget to claim your generational strength. Your ancestors gave you more than just wounds”.
We can learn a lot from a safe, life-affirming elder. And these can be ‘elders’ in the symbolic sense. So I am going to continue to promote this concept through the Awards event, even if some people may not entirely understand why. This conviction has been compounded by the recent passing of Anita Godson from Covid-19 Anita founded Lilly & Lime; a Portsmouth-based social enterprise, enabling, supporting and training young people with learning disabilities into sustainable pathways of employment . https://www.facebook.com/lilyandlimeld Although I’ve never met her, I think I would have liked to sit at her feet awhile and listen. Learn. Be challenged. So. Who inspires you? Is there an elder you can learn from ?
Nominate who inspires you by following this link. Deadline Friday 5 February.
Photo Credit @Juciara Awo
By Kelly-Marie Baker
Behind every great woman, there are many other great women! Female empowerment is a movement. Movements don’t happen with just one person, and the same goes for the majority of achievements. At Pamodzi, we recognise that when a woman is celebrated for her outstanding service, business prowess, inspiring bravery, or general fabulousness, she has a tribe behind her. A mighty group of humans who continuously offer support and encouragement and propel her to greatness.
The women of her tribe might not even be with her this present day. They can be a combination of voices throughout her life offering guidance and encouragement. Voices that she still hears today, each one most likely assigned to the situation that calls for that specific wisdom.
Her tribe have lifted her up when she’s down, advised when she’s lost and listened when she’s desperate. They know her worth, sometimes more than she does. They can envision her goal even when she’s lost sight. And they can give her the words she needs at that very moment to kick her butt back onto action!
Tribe Members Each tribe member has a role to ensure our lady’s success:
Whilst all the tribe members are offering their support and guidance, there’s the addition of our lady’s internal compass. These are those voices from her past and present. They could be from family members, podcasts, books or quotes she has read. Her special mind will bring the appropriate audio she needs to move forward with her life and goals.
Award Recipients The inspirational ladies that are nominated and, of course who receive an award at our Inspirational Women of Portsmouth Awards are representing her tribe of incredible women who are part of her journey. We recognise all who play a part of our award recipient’s life and hope that our celebration of them encourage more women to nurture each other to reach their goals and dreams in life.
Who inspires you? You can nominate the women that inspires you most here
Empowerment; Trend or Movement?
By Gràinne Thompson
Empowerment. What a massive and effective word.
Encompassing so much power and strength whilst having many simple and easily understandable definitions, such as “the authority or power given to someone to do something” or “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights”. Although these are both similar in sentiment, they differ slightly in quite a significant way. Both are about power, strength, and control essentially but the main difference is whether to be empowered we need to be “given” the power by someone or if we can do that for ourselves.
Empowerment is a word that has been used since the 19th century, but it feels like we are hearing it, talking about it, and most importantly embodying it more and more over the past few years. And although the act of empowerment and being empowered has been an entity all through time, maybe like me, you have been unaware of its place of importance in society before its most recent popularity and “moment” within mainstream media and marketing.
Looking back on my memories of being or feeling empowered, there are some subtle and some vivid experiences dotted throughout my life, stemming all the way back to my childhood and right up to my life now. Although I have only consciously been aware of the Empowerment movement and its importance over the past 5 years or so, I am fully aware that my journey and experiences unknowingly started a long time before that. Thinking back, and with my interpretation of what empowerment looks like to me now, my first memorable experience of being empowered was most definitely as a young child probably of primary school age. Of course, in my younger years, I had not even heard of empowerment, let alone be aware that that was what I was experiencing. And on the other side, the people who were empowering me were probably none the wiser either. They were just encouraging and supporting me, a young girl, at a time in my life when their belief, influence, and guidance were very much needed and appreciated.
I remember when I was little being told that “I could be whatever I wanted to be when I grew up” on more than one occasion. Albeit a pretty standard statement to make to a child, these people who I loved and admired; my Mam, my favourite teachers, the people I looked up to, planted a seed of belief and encouragement in me that I, unbeknownst to myself, carried with me. This is one of the many advantages of a young mind; the unwavering belief that anything is possible. And to have that notion reiterated by someone else sparked a light and a belief in myself that stayed with me for a long time and continued to grow more with the further nourishment and guidance that I received. As I grew up, like most people, my confidence and self-belief dipped at times, mainly through my teenage and early adult years. And even though it felt like everything I did at this time was nerve-wracking and panic-inducing; like trying to be myself without standing out too much either, it was a statement that I would constantly refer back to and repeat to myself the many, many times I needed to. This was not authority or power being given to me as such, but it was the feeling of support and encouragement, and being given the space to grow stronger and more confident in my own beliefs and abilities.
Like all societal and economical movements, empowerment has evolved and changed through the years, with various people and organisations stating what their ideologies of it are. And although at its essence it is a positive, uplifting, and warranted movement it is not without its problems or discrepancies. All it takes is a quick google search to see that there are many discussions happening around a myriad of topics that one side deems to be empowering and a celebration of women, while the other side says they are actually disempowering and damaging to the cause. Differing opinions on whether certain types of music, clothing, job roles, and even our sexuality are empowering or demeaning. The list is expansive and never-ending as are the arguments surrounding them. A lot comes back to the differing definitions mentioned at the start, on whether or not we should have to wait to be “given the power and authority first” or if we as women should be shown and encouraged to use the power we already possess, which in turn leads to us becoming empowered. It's hard to not get confused and bewildered by all the noise and talk around it all, especially now with so many companies and industries jumping on the “Empowerment” bandwagon and using it as a buzzword and as a sales tactic for their marketing. Maybe all of this combined is why there is so much confusion around empowerment and what it actually means and stands for? Because unfortunately as the understandings and explanations become muddied, and numerous differing opinions get added to the mix, it may end up actually diluting the overall message and effect.
The conversation around what is and isn’t empowerment could go on all day, and although some may feel the confusion and debates are detrimental to the overall cause I think that having the conversation, either way, is too important to be seen as negative. These conversations lead people to think. Think about what they define empowerment as and what it means to them. It leads to peers discussing what it feels like to them and the effects it has on their lives. It also leads to people standing up for what they deem to be true when they feel the message is becoming misconstrued. The conversations are good and needed. It keeps the heart of the cause beating and growing to more people and communities, which continues the push for change.
For me, my understanding and what it means to me is quite basic. It is about creating and providing spaces and environments where women feel safe, heard, confident, and important. Spaces where we are elevated to a point that we feel supported enough to be able to stand up for what we believe in. Where our rights, feelings, and opinions matter, and if we don’t deem this to be true, that we can use our voices to work towards changing it. It allows us to have power over our own lives, the choices we make and the paths we follow. There is an element of entitlement that we can and should be able to make decisions for ourselves because we know what we feel is right and worthy for us.
Like a domino effect, the individuals who supported and allowed me to feel empowered initially (and many who still do now) enabled me to now do the same for people in my life, who in turn, do the same for others in theirs. I know of mothers who tell their children daily that they can achieve anything they want to in life. Friends who constantly remind each other of their value and worth, regardless of what they may think of themselves at that moment. And teachers who inspire little minds in their classrooms to dream big and aim high no matter what their circumstances are right now. These can seem like small and trivial things but through my life all of the small acts combined, allowed me to truly believe in myself and my abilities when I may not of otherwise, which gave me the power to set out to do the same for others when I can. Empowerment is not necessarily measurable by the size or scale of an act or the feelings it evokes, as even the smallest of ripples can cause the biggest of waves.
So tell me, what does empowerment look like to you?
Lead Author : Kelly Marie Baker
Kelly-Marie is a tree loving, free spirited mum of two. Based in Southsea, she leads her family on a Home Education journey, learning from life and the world around them. Over the years her creative soul has been fed with the likes of poetry, dance, choreography and, more recently, writing. Her writing is predominantly focused on personal growth and development with a special interest in using the platform to challenge social norms and provoke deep thought. Kelly believes that The Arts are an immensely important tool to communicate complex and delicate issues and is proud to be collaborating with Pamodzi Creatives. Kelly’s favourites are nature, travel, personal development and coffee…all the coffee!