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Break down the walls

Every Tuesday we #PasstheMic to those with enriching perspectives to share their views and goals. Today, Sef Kwawukume - our Senior Account Director, shares her lived experiences and learnings with us.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been forced into thinking about things I’ve dealt with for years by building walls.
Imagine all your life thinking that somehow your feelings are not as worthy because of the colour of your skin, your heritage, and collective history as a race.
Imagine always second-guessing yourself or feeling that your identity is not something to be celebrated. It makes others uncomfortable because it’s taboo, something to be taken advantage of and profit from. It’s for someone else to enjoy but never fully respect.

Sadly, this is how I have felt so many times in my life with varying levels of shame, anger, sadness, hopelessness, and frustration. But this is me talking as one individual in the midst of so many who may look like me BUT are their own person. 

My own parents and family have always tried to push me that little step further ahead than them. However well-intentioned their actions, they sadly didn’t manage to quite shield me or eliminate the ideas of ‘west or white is best’. I understood that success = being accepted by western society and white society. This meant I grew up believing I wasn’t smart enough because I’m black, or not pretty because I’m black…. the list goes on.

My recent struggle has been finding the right words to express how I feel, and the short version of that is “I don’t know”.  So many people have asked me that question and reached out because they want to know more. I simply don’t have the answers.
I’ve spent so long repressing hurt and complex feelings, disappointments, and microaggressions I just don’t know how to respond. The bottom line is it seems like an infinite abyss which is scary, and very overwhelming to think about.

I’m not an educator or specialist by any stretch of the imagination. However, it’s everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves if they truly care and want to make change in any sense or any scale. All I can share are my own experiences and thoughts.
Even as I write this I worry about how many people I may have alienated, how many future opportunities (work or otherwise) I may miss out on. I always want to challenge myself to go further, break down some of my walls, and thrive in areas I thought I couldn’t. I wrote this for myself but hope some of what I’ve written resonates and gives someone the will to break down one of their own walls.

I ask for everyone to have empathy, not sympathy, and humility in these times. Respect my individuality and our humanity. We all deserve love, success, happiness, and respect but surely the time has come for black people – whatever their gender identity, sexuality, economic background, religion, or any other walk of life – to feel the same.

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