Articles

Autism Awareness Week Interview by Lauren McLane with Ash Jeffrey-Taylor

This year, March 28 to April 3 is World Autism Acceptance Week, which highlights and promotes topics around autism awareness. Ash Jeffrey-Taylor is a creative artist and activist who raises awareness about autism through her own stories. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Ash over the phone about her artwork, creative expression, and why she’s advocating for women and girls this Autism Awareness Week.

Currently, Ash creates commissions, comics, and drawings that often reflect her life experiences and identities. I asked Ash about when she began this journey as a creative. Please note, some of the transcripts have been edited for accuracy and precision.

A: To start off, I’ve been drawing since I was very, very young. And I didn’t take it seriously until my teens, once I hit secondary school.

L: Nice. Why do you think you started to take it a little more seriously or consider it as a career?

A: Well, at first, it felt like a hobby to me, and once I hit my late teens in college, I thought, “I think this should be my calling”. So I’ve been improving, experimenting with different art styles, and hand-picking which style I like the best to adapt as my own.

L: No totally, and it totally comes through in your work. I notice that you draw a lot of people which is cool, and a lot of your own identities… 

A: Yup.

L: What do you think art does for you – I know that for me it can be relaxing or a way to express myself – do you feel like that’s the same?

A: Yeah, it’s mostly to express my true self when I can’t talk properly (laughs).

L: Yeah, that’s cool. I also noticed [you draw] either personas or a lot of families, and I know you’re a black artist –

A: Yeah!

L: – with autism, and I was wondering: how do you think that’s shown in the work you like to make? How does your identity come into it, you think?

A: Well, it’s very useful to express my true self when I want to be honest with myself, or want to brighten up people’s day with what I’ve been through. Or, share my uncomfortable experiences and what’s happened to me in the most humorous way possible.

L: Definitely. Do you find that people relate to the things you put out?

A: Maybe a handful, yeah.

Ash chuckles modestly. I think it’s really cool that a lot of her artwork is about self-expression, and because some of her art outlines her own experiences, I can’t help but think that others, perhaps women with similar experiences, might relate to it, too. Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism, and Ash brings this to attention in her discussion and artwork. She spoke about her own experiences being diagnosed with autism relatively early – but still not until young adulthood – and how certain factors like gender may play a part.

L: I noticed on your Instagram that you mentioned you like to advocate for autism in women and girls specifically, and I was wondering where this comes from. Why is this an issue you’re passionate about?

A: Well, growing up, I had no idea that I’m autistic, since… I was diagnosed at a young age, which I’m grateful for. But I didn’t know that I’m actually austic until I was eighteen years old.

L: Oh wow. 

A: Yeah, it’s kinda … in other words, I was kinda clueless about what made me different until I hit the later age. 

L: Do you think it’s harder for women and girls in general to be diagnosed than boys?

A: Yeah, I think it’s just a little unfair, because people assume autistic girls are just attention seekers or attention deficit or dyslexic or whatever, but I feel like some parents with autistic girls don’t find the right professionals who are respectful and smart enough to do a proper diagnosis instead of just misdiagnosing them as something else.

L: What do you think some things that could be done to improve that are?

A: I say more research for children of mixed genders – not just little boys but mixed up with the girls as well, so they could pin down the main traits and specific discomforts autistic children are experiencing, so they won’t delay the diagnosis for all the older women, who may get diagnosed later in life.”

We discussed Autism Awareness Week coming up, and how Ash is bringing these issues to light for the week. She noted, “I think it’s just sharing my life experiences on the spectrum, or things that happened to me, or things that’s been said about girls on the spectrum – either positive or extremely messed up. So I have quite a few ideas. I’ve wanted to make my original story off it, and so far I’m in the middle of developing one story that I’d like to create someday.”

Her artwork, which is a combination of both hand-drawn and digital art, does just this. Ash is currently freelancing, which includes illustrating greeting cards, posting online, and creating commissions, from which she’s saving to start her own business. I asked if generally, there’s anything she wished more people understood about creatives, and particularly those with autism.

A: Well, what I want personally is people who don’t just view autistic people as someone who is either immature in specific areas, or just like blunt or plain rude. We just see the world differently – some are expressive and loud, while others are just reserved and quiet. I’m kinda in the middle, depending on my mood. All I want for people is just… to get a basic understanding, not just for children on the spectrum, but adults on the spectrum, because it’s a lifelong condition – it’s not a condition that just disappears after childhood.”

L: You mentioned being able to see the world kind of in a different way or differently… Do you think the perspective that you have has kind of allowed you to be more creative or to be pursuing art in the way you want to?

A: Yeah, I do. I just find all kinds of creative arts really satisfying, whether it’s tailored to children of all ages or adults who just want a good escape.

We spoke about all the adults that escape and take refuge in the Tate Britain art gallery, where Ash currently volunteers and works as a visitor host. In terms of moving forward with her art, she notes that “that’s a good way to increase my art knowledge and passion there.” 

The pandemic delivered a massive blow to museums and galleries, but Ash says that they’re somewhat bounding back, and is optimistic for the future. She told me how “It’s nice to see people from all different walks of life – even those who are not from the UK. It’s nice to see visitors from other countries who just come to see a large but quiet gallery – just to see a specific artist or an artwork.

L: Do people really come from other countries just to see some of the work?

A: Yeah, honestly – some from the East Asian regions, some from France, parts of Europe, even America, so yeah!

I asked if there’s anything else she wanted to talk about, either with regards to the arts or autism awareness in general. She’s in the process of creating “a small comic for autism awareness/acceptance week that I’m planning to upload on Instagram soon.” It has to do with how most people react when Ash mentions her autism, which she says is often along the lines of “‘You’re autistic? But you don’t look it!’ That’s kinda harsh”, she says. “The thing is, I look like an average person, but I’m actually autistic. And I’ve learned why I look like an average person – it’s because of all the masking I’ve been doing! It all makes sense. That explains why I stress myself to the point of fitting in. It’s kind of exhausting.

L: Yeah, that sounds tiring! And I don’t think I’ve actually heard that term before – if you don’t mind me asking, what is masking?

A: You know when someone puts on a happy face to hide the fact that they’re depressed or in pain?

L: Ah, okay.

A: It’s basically that.

L: And you feel like you do that a lot of the time? 

A: I do. I do. I didn’t know I’ve been actually doing it until someone explained it to me about a year ago, and I thought, ‘No way, that’s what I’ve been doing all this time?’

L: That sounds exhausting, really tiring. That’s intense! Do you feel like art is a way to deal with that a bit?

A: I feel like some artists had to go around masking their true feelings, or until they make a drawing out of it – whether it’s something that happened to them recently or something just to please their commissioners.

Ash told me it’s “nice to draw by hand”, and I understand how doing so can be both a means of self-expression and self-care at the same time. When it comes to the functions of art, issues around autism awareness and identity, and self-expression, Ash is deeply reflective, and clearly the person in-the-know. I learned much more about ways to address autism awareness issues in talking with Ash, and I look forward to continuing to learn more through her future artwork and projects.

You can find Ash’s work on Instagram Ash (@artistrybyakmd), her website, https://ashjeftay91.wixsite.com/akmdportfolio, and her Youtube channel at Artistry by AKMD.

By Lauren McLane

What Makes Good Media Representation?

What are some markers of quality representation in TV and film?

If you’ve been online in recent years, involved in social justice discourse, or simply enjoy knowing about media and popular culture, you may have come across the hashtag or phrase “Representation Matters.” This slogan can refer to representation in any field and realm, but essentially, it expresses the significance and importance of genuine, positive presentations of human lives and experiences. There are many reasons as to why depictions of people, especially in film and TV, ought to be present, realistic, and reflective of reality. Good representation is important for many reasons, including: that it can be educational, that it affects how people are seen by others and how they feel seen themselves, and that it guides discourse about real people, places, and experiences. In the realm of culture, it subliminally dictates which issues are ‘important’ or ‘allowed’ into the mainstream, and which ones are excluded.

Thus, when looking to create media, the question of what to show, whom to represent, and how to go about it are some of the first questions that must be considered. Not only will exploring these questions help writers to develop a better understanding of their creative characters and stories, but it will also contribute to the quality and accuracy of the work overall. It’s both important and useful to bear in mind some tips for representing all people accurately and respectfully in the media, but especially when representing people from minority and/or marginalized groups. Every person experiences the world differently and possesses similarities and differences with others – but everyone also deserves to feel visible and respected. They also deserve to have their perspectives reflected and affirmed in the media they watch.

Although ‘quality’ and ‘goodness’ are subjective topics, there do exist a few consistent standards and guidelines for the creation of ‘good’ representation. Grounded in my own experiences and understandings, as well as some research, here is a shortlist of strategies that tend to either promote or hinder high-quality representation in TV and film.

Indicators of poor-quality representation

  • Excessive suffering of minority characters
    • Stories based solely on tragedy or ‘trauma porn’ are inappropriate because they exploit suffering for non-group-member audiences’ entertainment, serve no function to those it’s trying to represent, and can even be triggering to those who’ve experienced these difficulties.
  • Stereotyping and generalizing
  • Misrepresentation
    • Claiming representation when it is not actually depicted, or, alternatively, claiming representative accuracy when the depiction is not reflective of people’s true experiences, is not ideal representation. This may result from a lack of knowledge or consideration on the part of creators.

Indicators of high-quality representation

  • Confirmation and relatability from group members
    • When a viewer sees a character or storyline and thinks, ‘That’s me/that’s exactly how I feel/that’s also what I’ve experienced!’, the representation is probably on the right track.
  • Realism 
    • Representing characters in a fair and accurate manner, backed by research and understanding, is key. Characterizations might portray any combination of positive and negative aspects of an identity, but should be created with realism and factuality in mind.
  • Representation of, by and for cultural group members
    • It’s great if members of a group being represented are thoroughly involved in the media, especially in the creation and portrayal of certain characters, so that marginalized voices and perspectives take the main stage and are not filtered through the lens of another.
  • Story Centrality
    • Good representation isn’t sandwiched into an otherwise non-representative story; marginalized characters and stories should be valuable, functional to the plot, and engaging in their own right. Such stories deserve to be centered, not portrayed as an afterthought.

While this list is by no means comprehensive, adhering to the points outlined could allow for the creation of better-quality, thoughtful, and accurate representation in stories, which in turn creates more space in the world for similar voices to be amplified and heard. The above points also outline ways for new creatives to begin to think about the characters they are crafting, and to reflect on how and why diversity is critical to storytelling. Ultimately, the final creative result can only be enhanced by thoughtful, high-quality representation.

A Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard Birthday


On March 10th of this year, I turned 21 years old. In Britain, where I’m currently studying and working abroad, this event typically wouldn’t be celebrated more than any other birthday. However, in the United States, a young person might expect to experience a few significant birthdays, around which a particularly big fuss must be made. Depending on the young American’s culture, preferences, and perhaps and their family’s enthusiasm to celebrate, they might have a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah at 12 or 13, a quinceñera at 15, or a ‘sweet sixteen’ – all of which in some way mark one’s entry into social ‘adulthood’. On an 18th birthday, Americans become legal adults and can vote, file taxes, enlist in the military, and more. Finally, on their 21st birthday, they can legally drink alcohol. I was personally relieved to have an excuse out of the American tradition of excessively over-drinking with one’s friends on the night of my 21st, having been able to drink reasonably, comfortably, and legally since arriving here in January.

Even though I had been in London and participating in British culture for the last few months, I knew I still wanted to do something that honoured the American cultural significance of a 21st birthday, especially since my last two birthdays came and went uneventfully under the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period of lockdown in the U.S., I was able to dive further into my own world of music; figuring out more earnestly what I liked, practising my own writing and singing, and discovering new bands and artists whom I would come to love. One such band, which popped up in my Spotify algorithm, caught my attention in the winter of 2020 with two singles in particular. “Double Denim Hop” and “Stockholm City Rock” made me feel alive, creatively engaged, and excited at the prospect that I might someday again be able to go out, experience live music in a public venue, and have a great time with other concert-goers. On March 10, to celebrate my twenty-first birthday, these wishful thoughts were actualized when I attended Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s live show at the Scala, London.

After acquiring two tickets online for twelve pounds each, my roommate and I arrived at the somewhat intimate venue an hour before the show began. Only a few hours later, I left feeling energised, grateful, and satisfied that I had celebrated my birthday doing something I really wanted to do – and in a way, fulfilling my younger self’s fantasies of attending a concert for the first time in years. The experience was as much a gift to my past self as it was to myself now.

Despite the band’s often nonsensical and cheekily-cynical lyrics, the joy and sense of chaotic fun that Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard provides audiences is guaranteed. The group has quite a lot to offer someone who loves classic rock, but who has felt unsatisfied with the small selection of modern rock she’d heard in recent years. The pandemic did no favours to glamorous, silly, fun music either; the situation was too serious to engage in art and music that didn’t appropriately embody the same sombreity. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, however, follows in the musical and aesthetic footsteps of glam rock, alternative movements, and blues-based folk rock; the drums are powerful, the hooks are catchy, the vocals and harmonies are prominent, and of course, the band’s hair is long and unkempt. At one point, the frontman addressed the audience in between songs to admit that he was tearing up at the sight of everyone singing along to lyrics we all knew. I understood his sentimentality – it was a small venue, and the community feeling that came from experiencing the show alongside other dedicated fans made it intimately special for everyone involved. It was as if the private, insular experience of listening to this music and enjoying it alone in separate bedrooms was completely validated when we all came together in a public setting, dancing among others who had likely also wished to be back with ‘each other’ – with strangers – for years. To participate in live music is to participate in a collective coming-together of fandom and support between audience members and each other, as well as between the band and the audience. That night, we all felt the electrifying results of that unity.

Leaving the Scala, I realised I understood what people mean when they talk about the ‘healing power of music’ and arts. It was incredibly cathartic to scream and jump around with a group of people who, I’m sure, have also wanted to do nothing but scream and jump around for the past two years (and maybe still do). Although the global pandemic has not yet ‘ended’ (and we should be cautious in treating it as though it has), attending this Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard concert nonetheless ignited in me a heightened sense of hope and optimism. Perhaps this comes from the positive messages within the music itself, or maybe in the way that the experience validated my hopes that if people can now attend a concert again somewhere in the world, then maybe globally, all forms of arts will once again be available, providing the best that human creativity has to offer. I’m optimistic that similar experiences can and will be enjoyed by everyone who feels they missed out on or lost something during the pandemic. Whatever kind of loss that may be, concerts have the potential to give something back to artists and audiences alike, and restore a bit of joy. They remind audiences that there are reasons to be optimistic for the future – an important thought to bear in mind on one’s birthday. At the very least, my experience seeing Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard in concert has certainly given me reason to think that my optimism and hope will come to fruition.

Observations on Class in Britain and the United States

After being in Britain for a few months, I already feel that I’ve learned so much about British life, both from my classes and daily interactions and experiences. I have been most interested in what I’ve learned about class and the socioeconomic distinctions in modern and historical British life, especially in comparison to the US. A course reading from last week discussed how class in Britain is a deeply-ingrained, historically-derived social norm, and I was especially struck by how the text labeled the ‘upper’, ‘middle’, and ‘working class’ in the UK – these categories have entirely different meanings than what I had anticipated. I especially assumed that class distinctions would be similar in the UK and in the US, but it is clear to me that either the UK simply has a higher average standard of living and higher average wealth per person than in America, or the language and categorization labels used to make class distinctions are different and do not mean the same thing in both places. In the US, the ‘working class’ looks more like Britain’s underclass than its working class, which describes blue-collar jobs and incomes closer to what Americans today would call solidly ‘middle class’, which to Americans, would probably be upper-middle class. Is it simply more expensive to live in the US? Is the country too young to have distinct socioeconomic classes in which most of its citizens are still food secure and housed? It was interesting to see, however, that class distinctions are growing in both countries – I knew that the wealth gap in the United States has been growing rapidly in recent years, but I learned that this trend is the same in Britain, though I was also interested to learn from the text that class distinctions shrank when the economy boomed in the 50’s and 60’s. I wonder how dramatically different the two countries’ economies are in terms of the divisions of wealth among the general population – increasingly, American wealth is concentrated at the top and inequitably distributed between the middle and working classes.

When people in the UK hear my American accent, they usually seem to think it’s cool – especially upon learning that I’m from California. They ask about why I left and whether I’m staying in a nice area here in London. In the UK, accents and living areas seem to give clues about class and social positioning, which people are very keen to discuss and learn about. It doesn’t seem as taboo to talk openly about class and wealth here as it is in the US. I’m interested in how class here operates in relation to the more widespread public-funding nature of the UK, versus the more privatized capitalism of the US. Here, in part thanks to the NAtional Lottery, it seems that even lower classes can usually go to museums, find government housing, or use good public transportation regardless of class status, so I’m intrigued to see how my experiences here compare to my observations once I go back to the States.

Review of Get Up, Stand Up: The Bob Marley Musical

This past month I had the pleasure of viewing “Get Up, Stand Up: The Bob Marley Musical” in the West End, which followed the biography of singer-songwriter Bob Marley. As I reminisce on the production, the words “engaging, vibrant and emotive” instantly come to mind, reflecting my positive thoughts towards the show. To best describe my experience, I want to outline aspects of the show that I found particularly enjoyable and exceptional. 

The first notable aspect of the show was the music. Unsurprisingly, majority of Bob Marley’s most recognised songs such as “Get up, stand up” and “Three Little Birds’ ‘ were performed, however, music from his early career was also given attention. Interestingly, the show also featured music from Rita Marley. I enjoyed the variety of songs that were chosen as it showed the progression and versatility of his music. Though Marley is largely known as a reggae artist, the content of his music is so vast and diverse, and it was great to see this communicated within the play. In regards to music, credit must be given to the casting team of this production, as the performers’ voices were simply breathtaking and often left me speechless. Additionally, I also liked how the show cleverly tied Marley’s music to his life events and showed differences in receptivity to the reggae sound in the various nations that Marley travelled to. 

Another remarkable aspect of  “Get Up, Stand up: The Bob Marley Musical” was its cultural richness. Being that Bob Marley was known to be incredibly proud of his Jamaican heritage, I appreciated how the production had such a focus on Jamaican culture, not just through music but also through the visuals of the set and language. Patois was spoken consistently throughout the play alongside Jamaican colloquialisms and satire; this was key in adding lightheartedness and relatability to the show. 

Although there are endless features of this musical that can be celebrated, to bring this review to a close, I believe it is salient that I mention the atmosphere within the theatre and the strong connection between the actors and the audience. Earlier, I described the play as “emotive”, this is because it did a fantastic job of allowing audiences to feel the emotions as  the characters in the play. When characters expressed happiness or cheer that was felt throughout the audience; when “Get up stand up” played and characters expressed great excitement people were moved to their feet instantly. Similarly in moments where the characters felt reflective, audiences showed similar emotions. Notably, there was a scene where Marley’s character spoke emotively about redemption and hope, and audiences responded with statements such as “Yes, Amen.” This demonstrates how connected audiences were throughout the production and how the depiction of Marley’s life events felt real to them 

In summary, I would rate this show 4.5/5, I would highly recommend it and would gladly watch it again. Accolades to the director, writers, casting team and everybody involved as it was a brilliant production. 

Sustainability in London

During my last class on British life and culture, my peers and I were assigned group ‘walks’ through various areas of London. We were instructed to research the area, take an hour-walk through its streets, and note what we saw and learned with regards to sustainability efforts there. I was interested to learn about sustainability in London more thoroughly through this walk and our subsequent class presentations. I was intrigued by the extent to which many different areas in London are intentionally operating in ways that are highly conscious of the environment, but I also came to better understand the ways in which climate awareness and action relating to this issue can be improved upon.

During my and my partner’s own sustainability walk through the areas between Hammersmith and Fulham stations, combined with research from online sources and government website information, we learned that the area boasts award-winning green spaces which are publicly accessible. Ravenscourt Park won the Green Flag Award for 2020/2021, recognizing its status among other  “…well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world”. We became aware that the use of climate-friendly transportation in this area is on track with goals set by the city and its governments, and operating successfully: 83 percent of commuters walk, bike, or take public transit rather than driving polluting cars (Near me | Friends of the Earth). However, it also became clear after our research that there are less-visible sustainability issues as well; the housing in general is very poorly insulated, and very little recyclable and compostable items are actually composted or recycled, according to Friends of the Earth. This all went to show that, like many communities in London and around the globe, sustainability efforts are being practised and implemented, though they are not necessarily on track to meet the set targets and goals.

Still, as an American living in London, I continue to be impressed by the general awareness of Londoners regarding the climate, and even their general acceptance that climate change is real and has tangible effects on the planet. It is refreshing to see legislative action being taken towards global sustainability, and reassuring to consider all the possible practices that, implemented over time, could contribute to a healthier planet. The extent to which people generally seem to want to take action against climate change motivates me to become more involved in climate justice in the US, which at times feels like too big a challenge to tackle.

In the United States, the situation can sometimes feel particularly dire; climate anxiety may be worsened by the feeling that ‘nothing is being done’; as of 2019, a majority of Americans (around 67%) reported that they felt the federal government is not doing enough to protect the environment and to reduce the effects of climate change (US Public Views on Climate and Energy | Pew Research Center). Still, there is much work to be done, and living in London, it is becoming clearer to me that collective efforts are the way to do it.

‘Red Pitch’ at Bush Theatre Gets to the Heart of Football and Friendship

Red Pitch, playing at the Bush Theatre until March 26, is a uniquely special, must-see play. It’s not often that one gets the chance to experience a well-crafted show so hilarious, touching, authentic and highly relevant all at once. Directed by Daniel Bailey and created and written by Tyrell Williams, the play stars Kedar Williams-Stirling, Emeka Sesay and Francis Lovehall, who comprise the full (and phenomenal) cast. Set in present-day London, it’s a thoroughly entertaining and heartwarming piece of realistic fiction, which runs cohesively for 90 minutes as what feels like part sports drama, part comedy, and part coming-of-age story. It follows a few key weeks in the lives of three friends, bonded by their dreams of football stardom as they work to actualize their goals, while they and the places of their childhood – including their beloved Red Pitch – face impending change and uncertainty. This show delves into themes of identity, personal relationships, culture and religion as the characters learn about themselves and each other.

The cast, playing Bilal, Omz, and Joey, make the show as wonderful as it is; the dialogue and performances from the young actors had me in stitches and in tears throughout. From the first few minutes’ opening banter as they pass the ball back and forth, the characters are instantly likeable. Between Joey’s unifying sweetness and forward-thinking realism, Omz’s pride in and commitment to his community, and Bilal’s support of his friends and endless dedication to his footballing career, audiences are instantly pulled into their world and on to their side. The actors themselves, clearly all as talented footballers and athletes as they are performers, bring so much heart to the show that I left feeling as if the characters were my own friends. While the collective charisma and banter between the three boys creates a fun, fast-paced, and casual-feeling energy in the theatre, each actor also shines individually, showcasing immense emotion, perfectly-timed humour, and of course, some impressive ball-control skills. They are particularly skilled at utilising the inventive blocking and staging to transform the stage space into a huge pitch, and the cosy theatre into a backyard, a vast park, or a massive football stadium. 

Ali Hunter’s lighting design is phenomenal as well, contributing to the creation of the boys’ environment and deftly bringing together each setting, scene and situation with clarity and creativity. The fact that the show is essentially just three actors, one football, and great sound and lighting design makes it all the more impressive. Red Pitch makes creative use of the Bush Theatre space; it feels intimately important in an up-close-and-personal way.

I appreciated the show’s authenticity and realism as well – the well-written and passionately performed dialogue didn’t feel scripted, and I even learned some British colloquialisms. In a show revolving around teenaged characters, whom I sometimes fear being written by those who are no longer teenagers, it’s the language and phrasing, which were authentic to these characters, that made the story believable and personal. In the friendly smack-talk and shared passion for the sport, I was reminded nostalgically of the closeness of school sports teams, and of playing sand volleyball late into the night with other young people in Northern California. I again felt that hint of creeping fear and apprehension that accompanies the sense that something fun and familiar is coming to an end, especially when you don’t know what will come after. This show expertly captures the uniquely youthful realisation that you might drift apart from your childhood friends and the familiarity of home, and the experience of coming to terms with this. Red Pitch expertly captures the fun, lightheartedness, expressions of individuality, and näivety of being a teenager – as well as the doubt, conflict, confusion, anger, and fear which presents itself when you’re trying to pursue your dreams and go about daily life while the world around you is rapidly changing. The play masterfully taps into the difficulties of navigating identity as a young person amongst others who are doing the same, and the interpersonal closeness and conflicts which may result. Even more special, it highlights the friendship, perseverance, and joy shared between three young black men in a snapshot of a pivotal time in their lives. It successfully balances the emotionality of these characters’ individual stories and identities against the broader backdrop of gentrification, religion, masculinities, and rapid change in London. In doing so, Red Pitch will tap into the most thoughtful parts of your mind and most tender parts of your heart, leaving you with sentiments you’ll be happy to have experienced.

By Lauren McLane

International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Tyarna Agyekum

In 1992, the United Nations declared the 3rd of December as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Since then, the day has served the purpose of promoting disability rights and reflecting on the social, cultural, economic and political lived experience of persons with disabilities. 

Furthermore, the acknowledgement of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) is beneficial in improving the lives of people with disabilities, as it is a catalyst for conversations around the ways that society can make change to better the lives of people with disabilities at work, school, home and in social spaces. 

An observance such as this one is majorly relevant because it considers the complexity of disability, without a focus on a particular disability, it considers those who’s impairment may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical and/or sensory. 

Here at You Press, we understand the salience of IDPWD, as we pride ourselves on being a diverse and inclusive organisation, in terms of our staff, projects and practices. 

Most recently, we have partnered with Aliya Ahmed, a developmental therapist who founded senhomelearning, which is an organisation that focuses on educating parents of children with disabilities on practices they can implement in their homes to aid their child’s cognitive development. 

In the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aliya was conscious of the potential difficulties parents of children with disabilities were faced with. To be of help, she used her social media platforms to promote different methods, techniques and routines parents could use with their children to get through lockdown. 

Notably, You Press are in continued support of organisations such as senhomelearning, as we recognise how impactful they can be in the lives of those with disabilities. 

Each year, IDPWD has a particular theme. This year (2021) the theme is: ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID 19 world’. This theme was selected to call attention to the complications that COVID-19 brought to people with disabilities. For example, many faced difficulties accessing their routine check ups, support facilities and accessibility services. 

As we transition to a post COVID-19 world, it is important to review the barriers that persons with disabilities may still face, such as less access to in-person support and limited services. Additionally, we must examine ways to lessen the detriment of a pandemic on the lives of persons with disabilities in the future. 

We encourage our readers to join us as we acknowledge International Day of Persons with Disabilities and participate in helping improve the lives of persons with disabilities. 

Firstly, you can begin by reviewing the points raised in this article about disability rights, lived experiences, complications of COVID-19 for persons with disabilities and transitioning into a post COVID-19 world. Moreover, you could attempt to complete some of the following actions:

  • Make a social media post acknowledging International Day of Person’s of Disabilities; 
  • Ask a person you know with a disability how you can be of help to them;
  • Donate, volunteer and support disability charities, organisation and clubs, such as senhomelearning;
  • Follow social media pages that discuss disability;
  • Educate others on the importance of supporting persons with disabilities.

Written by Tyarna Agyekum

A GROWTH MINDSET READ

I pride myself in being mostly focused on fiction as a reader. I adore big castles, dramatic battles and a good character arc, however I’m not averse to non-fiction. Throughout the years I’ve delved into a few non-fiction pages that truly changed my life, or at the very least gave me a new perspective. Here are some of my top pics:

How win friends and influence people

This book by Dale Carnegie was written in 1936, but don’t let the date fool you. It’s an intricate detailing of the best ways to make an impression and get people to like you. Whilst we should all accept that not everybody will be our cup of tea, Dale Carnegie explains how to network and excel with people both in your personal and professional life. It also includes many stories to make the lessons truly sink in. It’s one of those books that you actually should read every year, because the lessons transcend time but we also forget them quickly. Get a copy now and never let it go.

Sapiens

Possibly my favourite book, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is a true game changer. It gives a complete history of humans, our evolution, our behaviour, and so many other interesting points. If you’ve ever felt at a loss for the future of humans, read this book and its sequel, Home Deus, for a true perspective on the intricacies of how we operate. It might give you peace knowing that some parts of human behaviour have been consistent for millennia – it might also sadden you to know we’re not likely to change any time soon. If you want perspective, history and philosophy, I can 100% recommend.

The 5am Club

If you’ve ever wished a non-fiction book could be written like a story, the 5am club is for you. It details the story of 3 strangers who meet a conference, and one of them turns out to be super successful all because of his morning routine. He invites the other 2 to join his “5am Club” and takes the characters and the readers of a journey to establish a morning routine for champions. His advice is really good (although I myself struggle to get up at 5am) and when applied it can no doubt change your life.

If you’ve read these books, don’t let that stop you from continuing on your non-fiction journey! Non-fiction is built for those who want to grow, learn and understand. Where fiction can subtly teach us about the world, non-fiction can make these lessons blatant and easy to understand. Pick up non-fiction every now and then, especially when the real world feels difficult. You might just learn something. 

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee

THE UNIVERSITY ESSENTIALS

As an international student, I’ve learned what’s needed at university the hard way. When I needed something urgently and I didn’t have money, I couldn’t easily run to my parents and ask for some quick cash. Throughout my semester at the University of Pennsylvania this happened a lot of times – a truly embarrassing amount.

So here’s a complete list of things I forgot about to help save you from making the same mistakes.

Clothing for all weather

This might seem obvious, but I come from a country where temperature outside = temperature inside. I assumed it would be the same at university. I was going during the winter, therefore I only needed winter clothes. As it turned out buildings feel like summertime indoors, and winter clothes would never work for days spent indoors. Pack for all occasions, even if you don’t think they’ll happen. Bonus Tip: If you come from a place where it doesn’t snow, buy snow shoes. You will fall without them.

Use your dining hall

I spent an embarrassing amount of money on groceries like salt, honey and fruits until I realised that I could go to an (already paid for) dining hall and grab a few things from there. You might have to sneakily grab some things depending on your university’s policies, but it’s worth it. Save your money. Being a student is hard enough without being completely broke.

Food from home

Adjusting to a new place is already tough. Make your life easier by packing in a few things that remind you of home. Personally, I packed Rooibos Tea and a few of my favourite spices that are only made at home – I can recommend Flippen Lekker for all of my South African friends. This means that every now and then you can indulge in something that’s familiar and comfortable as well as give your friends a chance to try. If you can’t take food, try taking recipes if you have facilities to cook.

If you focus on these three things, you’ll definitely not have the struggles that I did. Make no mistake – you’ll experience your own obstacles! However, that’s all part of the fun of learning independence and self-sufficiency. Take it in your stride.

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee