Ramadan 2021

by
Student representatives of the Reading Islamic Society
Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors   

 

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan marks the month when the Holy Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH by Allah (God). This is observed by a month-long fast. 

Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink for 30 days, including water, during daylight hours (from dawn to dusk), as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith. 

Fasting at Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – the fundamental rules that all Muslims follow. Find out more about the five pillars of Islam in this video: Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars’. 

 

 

 

When is Ramadan?  

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar which consists of 12 months in a year of 354/55 days. In Arabic, this is called the Hijri Calendar and started with the migration of Prophet Muhammed PBUH to Madinah from Makkah 1442 years ago.

Due to the Islamic Calendar being based on the different phases of the moon, each of the months move back around 10 days each year. So, Ramadan could be in the middle of summer in 2015 and be in December by 2030This year, Ramadan begins on Monday 12th April, and will end on Wednesday 12th May. 

 

 

 

Who Takes Part in Fasting?  

Every Muslim should take part in Fasting, unless 

  • You’re too oldIf you have reached an age where abstaining from water or food is too difficult or impossible, then you do not and should not fast.  

 

  • You’re too young – Generally, children below the age of 14 do not fast, as it is too difficult physically but also because they do not fully understand the meaning and the spiritual importance of fasting.  

 

  • You’re traveling – Travelling is an excuse not to fast for the day/days you are fasting as it can be exhausting to travel and would therefore require food and water. However, the days you missed should be made up after Ramadan is over. The aim should be to have completed all 30 days of Ramadan fast before the next Ramadan.  

 

  • You’re sick – Whether you have a long-term or short-term illness, you are excused from fasting if fasting would make the illness worse or if it is simply impossible to abstain from food/water.  

If you have started the day fasting, but felt dizzy or sick, then you should immediately break your fast. Similarly, women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle are also exempt from fasting as the physical body is in a much weaker state and therefore requires nourishment.  

 

 

Top 10 Tips  

  • Plan Your Meals
    Eat fruits filled with water such as cucumber and watermelon to help with thirst during the day.
    Eat slow burning foods for suhoor such as porridge.
    Avoid fried foods!!! 

 

  • Plan your Study Schedule
    Some people prefer studying in the early afternoon, others prefer studying after Iftar when you’re no longer hungry and can focus much better. Find what works best for you and make a routine. 

 

  • Stay Consistent
    This is a month of reflection, so try to stay away from social media and TV which could distract you from your intentions of this month. 

 

  • Go on a Walk after Iftar!
    This will help digest the food better, make you feel energised and prepare you for 
    taraweeh 

 

  • Nap
    between 
    Duhr and Asr (if you don’t want to look like a zombie during iftar and it’s a beautiful Sunnah).

 

  • Keep Motivated
    Make a realistic Ramadan goal list and hang it up
    Make a list for the reasons for fasting to keep you motivated during the low-imaan Days
    Prepare a Ramadan playlist to listen to throughout Ramadan (Quran or lectures/podcasts) 

 

  • Learn/Implement New Habits
    that you can carry on after Ramadan – everyone has high imaan and the shaytan is locked up, a great excuse to implement small daily habits such as saying daily duas or giving a pound a day to charity or even improving our vocabulary.  

 

  • Evaluate and Reflect Throughout Ramadan
    Take time, even just 5 minutes, every night to check if you’re still on track to achieving yours goals, if not slightly amend them or work super hard the next daySince Ramadan is the month of the Quran, aim to read the Quran from beginning to end in this month, if you can, and reflect on the meanings. 

 

  • Plan to Spend as Much Time as Possible
    with 4 – your family, Allah, the Quran, yourself 

 

  • Enjoy Ramadan and Get Excited for Eid! 

 

 

 

 

How to Support Those who are Fasting  

If you do not observe the month of Ramadan, you can help Muslim family, friends, coursemates and colleagues by:

 

  • Trying not to schedule meetings around evening time (dusk) when the fast for the day ends, so they can eat on time.
  • Additionally, don’t schedule catch-ups over a lunch or dinner, as you will be the only one eating.
  • Don’t make a big deal about eating. Most Muslims don’t mind if you eat/drink near them so long as you’re not in their face about it.
  • Try not to get them involved in strenuous activities which could be tiring – otherwise it could make them feel even more weaker. 

 

  • Be understanding if they need more time in day-to-day activities, as time must be taken out for prayers. 

 

  • If you notice a Muslim peer not fasting for the day, don’t question it; they have their reasons for not doing so. 

 

  • Show your encouragement with kind gestures and words.    

 

  • Ask them how you could support them through this month e.g., any adjustments that may need to be made. Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s best to ask individually. 

 

  • Once Eid celebrations begin (which marks the end of Ramadan), wish your Muslim peers an Eid Mubarak, it means a lot! 

 

 

 

Further Resources 

 

 

  • Islam In Brief – An introduction to the teachings and history of Islam, from Harvard University

 

  • Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars – John Green teaches the history of Islam, including the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad PBUH, the five pillars of Islam, how the Islamic empire got its start, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and more

 

  • Anyone is welcome to join a collection of online events which are educational or in celebration of Ramadan by following the link to – Big Virtual Iftar

Faith or no faith, you’re all welcome to join us at the #bigvirtualiftar events via YouTube Live! Join the Muslim community in solidarity in this year’s month of #Ramadan during the ongoing #COVID19 crisis with people impacted by #lockdowns & #socialdistancing.We usually invite our non-Muslim friends from local communities to our Mosques to join us for the Big Iftar Dinner and we host them in a pleasant evening to talk about interfaith matters and to break bread with us. However, due to the current restrictions, so we would like to invite you to our virtual events which will consist of online live talks, a virtual tour of Britain’s biggest Mosque, National Fasting Challenge, personal stories of Muslims impacted by COVID-19, question & answer sessions and to watch people breaking a fast live.” 

 

  • The Muslim Council of Britain – This webpage shares guidelines, advice and signposting resources to help Muslims in Britain make the most of the blessed month, as well as friends, neighbours and colleagues of Muslims. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Influential BAME Psychologists

by Renée Lee, Second Year Psychology Student

 

More often than not, the world is Psychology is heavily dominated by western influences, ideologies, and psychologists. Therefore, this post is to provide information about BAME psychologists and the influence they have had worldwide.

 

Firstly, Kenneth Bancroft Clark a psychologist who was an essential part of the infamous Brown v. Board of Education case in America during the Civil Rights Movement. He conducted a study – now named the “Doll Study” – in which a sample of 200 black children were given the choice of dolls: white dolls or brown dolls. Although the children were no older than 3 years of age, Clark’s findings indicated that children had a strong preference for the while dolls over the black dolls. From this, he therefore concluded that segregation in America was causing strong psychological damage to the black youth. This study helped the Supreme Court make the final decision to outlaw de jure segregation. In addition to his monumental achievement via his study, he was also the first ever black president of the American Psychological Association (APA)!

 

Another inspiring figure is Robert Williams II who created the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity in order to counteract the controversial American IQ test. The test he created utilised the common African American dialect (Ebonics) and shared anecdotal personal experiences. The test managed to conclude and show that black people weren’t any less smart than white Americans and that that differences in vernacular can skew results. Soon after conducting this test, he also created the term “Ebonics” which is the name for the African American vernacular.

 

Finally, Reiko True is a Japanese female psychologist. She attended university in Tokyo and was the one of the 3 females in her class of nearly 100. Due to her passion for equality in the mental health sector, she managed to create the first mental health centre in California specifically to serve Asian Americans. As mentioned in our previous email, it can be important for the BAME community to have therapists who can help relate to their experiences on a deeper level. True lead this centre herself and she ensured that the staff employed there were culturally aware and trained in Asian languages so they could provide the best care possible.

 

 

 

 

Discrimination and Disparities in the World of Psychology

by Renée Lee, Second Year Psychology Student and Professor Patricia Riddell, Director of WIDE

 

Within the field of Psychology, multiple students wish to progress into the clinical roles. Therefore, it is important for them to know about how the BAME community is treated in the medical health field. There are myths about BAME individuals that are important to address since they can consciously or subconsciously affect the way healthcare professionals provide care.

 

You may or may not already be aware that there is discrimination within the mental health sector of our NHS. According to government statistics (“Treatment for mental or emotional problems”, 2017), black individuals tend to experience worse mental health than white people, however, the latter are more than twice as likely to receive treatment for these problems. In addition to this, when mental health treatment is provided healthcare, it is often implemented through the criminal justice system. Further to this, 40% of black people are given compulsory treatment and drug therapy rather than receiving psychological talking therapies which are more commonly provided to white people. Moreover, black people are four times more likely to be arrested under the Mental Health Act in comparison to white people. It can, therefore, be argued that black people are treated more harshly than white people even before receiving any therapy sessions (“Discrimination in mental health services”, 2019).

 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (2018) in the UK also acknowledged that Black British individuals have more mental health conditions. This is results from greater incidence of poverty, homelessness, poorer educational outcomes, higher unemployment and greater contact with the criminal justice system in BAME communities than White communities (National Institute for Mental Health in England, 2003). This increases stress and has a negative impact on mental health (Bhui, Nazroo, Francis et al (2018). These differences can also result in culturally inappropriate treatment of BAME patients by healthcare professionals.

 

There is evidence that the BAME community, and particularly black men, do not always want to seek professional help partly as a result of cultural mistrust and clinician bias (Hankerson, Suite and Bailey (2015); Memon, Taylor, Mohebati et al, 2016). This is sometimes a result of stigma, lack of knowledge of resources available, or a lack of sensitivity of healthcare professionals to cultural sensitivities. One further reason that this mistrust exists is that, in some parts of the world, healthcare professionals have chosen to experiment on particular racial groups (for example, in the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Male Negro”). This practice is still in evidence today, for example, when French doctors insisted that COVID-19 trials and testing should take place in Africa due to the lower number of cases there. This led to outrage among the black community who pointed out that they are “not human guinea pigs” (“Coronavirus: France racism row over doctors’ Africa testing comments”, 2020).

 

Moreover, there are biases that relate specifically to the Black community that may affect the care that healthcare professionals provide. A common example is that clinicians have sometimes been found to underestimate the cognitive abilities of Black people as a result of stereotyping (Hankerson et al, 2015). Another example involves the idea of the “strong, independent black woman”. If healthcare professionals view black women as strong all of the time, then there is a possibility that they will be incorrectly diagnosed correctly and/or provided with inappropriate treatment.

 

Overall, this information provides evidence of the ways in which black people are discriminated against in the mental health sector. Whether it be access to treatment, diagnoses or the treatment prescribed, the BAME community are not always treated the same as the white community. The future generation of healthcare professionals need to realise how important it is to dispel biases both individually and as a community in order to provide effective treatment for all. No-one should be denied the best and most appropriate access to healthcare on the basis of their race or the colour of their skin.

 

 

 

 

Links to read more about the topics discussed above

 

 

References

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2021 – A challenged world is an alert world 

Why do we celebrate international Women’s day? 

Celebrated on 8th March annually, International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women globally. It is also a day to recognise steps taken towards gender equality and address action still needing to be taken.  
 

This year the theme of International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge. At the University of Reading, we have a long history of challenging the status quo of gender roles. Edith Morley was the first woman appointed to a chair at a British university-level institution, after becoming English professor at University College Reading (now the University of Reading). In her autobiography, she described the appointment as: 

 

my contribution to the battle for fair dealing for women in public and professional life” 

 

Our annual lecture in her name celebrates her contribution and provides a platform for us to amplify the voices of women today who are choosing to challenge the status quo.  This year, this special event featured writer, activist, podcaster and journalist, Scarlett Curtis. You can watch the event here again via this link. 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2021 at UoR  

 

We have asked our staff and students to tell us what the theme of #ChoosetoChallenge means to them. Here’s how they responded… 

 

 

Asaiel Alohaly 

PhD student in the corporate governance of Aramco 

 

I am a tree rooted home 

I am a summer breeze 

Flying everywhere 

I am diversity 

I am what I am 

 

By: Asaiel Alohaly 

 

 

 

Claire Collins  

Co-chair of the Women@Reading Network

 

Courage – this is my new mantra.  I don’t have much of it.  I am like the lion in The Wizard of Oz. 

If we don’t have courage, we will never be seen or heard. Our voices will be mute, our deeds and achievements will go unrecognised.  When other voices are loud and deep, we need to raise ourselves up and speak, with confidence and conviction. Other voices don’t wait to be absolutely true to facts when they speak, but they do so anyway.  We hold back, until we’re absolutely 100% sure that we are correct.  And while we wait, the world, and the opportunity has passed us by. 

Speak up with courage.  Do your deeds with courage. Be a human being on this planet with the courage that you are as good as any other and have the same rights as any other to be heard and seen.   

Rise up Women – and fill yourselves with Courage!!! 

 

 

 

Dr Bolanle Adebola 

Associate Professor of Law
Co-Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, School of Law
Co-Lead, UoR Staff BAME Network
Convener, Commercial Law Research Network Nigeria (CLRNN) 

 

I #Choose to Challenge (the Notion that Women are not Effective Leaders

The year 2020 was remarkable globally, as well as personally. It was the year of the pandemic which saw women disproportionately affected by the recession it precipitated. It was also the year in which female heads of government were applauded for their decisive leadership that averted the high death toll experienced in counterparts with male heads of government. The year of Kamala Harris – the first female and Minority Ethnic Vice President of the United States. Despite these strides, the Reykjavík Index for Leadership shows that women are still not considered equally able to lead as men.  

For me, 2020 was the year in which I stepped into visible leadership roles to challenge barriers, inequity and exclusionary practices. A negative experience in November 2019 led me to investigate the racial experiences of other colleagues at the University. The answers I found were heartrending. So, I chose to challenge by co-founding a network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff in January 2020. Through the UoR Staff BAME Network, we raise awareness and challenge the experiences on which we once were silent, with the aim of influencing change. The University responded by commissioning the Race Equality Review co-led by one of its Minority Ethnic female Professors and deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Parveen Yaqoob.

I was also concerned for students from these Minority Ethnic communities. I became Co-Lead for Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Law, and through this role, investigated the possibility of an awarding gap for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.  I found a gap, which averaged 10.3% across the group over the 3 years of data that we had. I disaggregated the data to ensure that we obtained an accurate picture of the gap for each Ethnicity. The picture was much starker for Black and non-Chinese Asian students. I chose to challenge the situation by engaging colleagues in conversations. In collaboration with a committee of staff and students, I embarked on awareness raising and solution seeking conversations. I am happy that several colleagues of all races and across functions are contributing to the change that is underway.  

As a leader, I have initiated and participated in several important but uncomfortable conversations in various spaces within my School and the wider University. It is not easy leading the charge but I #Choose to Challenge barriers, inequity and exclusionary practices.  

  

 

Poppy Lindsey 

RUSU Women’s Officer

 

#choosetochallenge non-intersectional feminism 

This International Women’s Day, I’m choosing to challenge non-intersectional feminism. I first of all want to highlight the fact I am a straight, white, able-bodied woman, and so there are many struggles faced by women globally that I can never understand. The main crux of intersectional feminism is that we, as feminists, should not and cannot focus solely on issues which only affect people reflective of ourselves. It is not effective to the women’s rights movement to view certain issues as ‘them’ problems – as feminists we must fight for the liberation of every woman, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, ability, and so on. One of the most important women’s rights activists in promoting intersectionality was Fannie Lou Hamer, who said: 

 “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” 

 I’m often hit with the criticism: ‘We don’t need feminism! Women are equal in this country!’. The thing these people need to hear is that every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18, and that there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. Should we not fight for these girls with no voice, just because it will most likely never affect us? As women, we cannot consider ourselves free when these shocking statistics still exist, and when female lives are being compromised to such an extent. This is why intersectionality is so important, and that racism has no place in the feminist movement.  

 

 

 

Dr Eileen Hyder 
PFHEA
Manager of FLAIR CPD Scheme 

 

#choosetochallenge injustice 

 Chain of solidarity and love – Women in Moscow took part in a ‘Chain of Solidarity and Love’ on Valentine’s Day in support of both Yulia Navalnaya (the wife of the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny) and also women prosecuted for political reasons. The event’s organiser said, ‘Come with flowers, with red clothing items and with paper hearts attached to your clothes, on which you can write the names of the women with whom you want to express solidarity. We want to remind ourselves that love is stronger than fear’. I find it powerful and inspiring when women choose to challenge injustice in ways that show strength and gentleness simultaneously.   

 

 

 

Dr Ellen McManus-Fry  

Chair of the Parent and Family Network
Prospect Research Officer 


About this time, 3 years ago, I came back to work following maternity leave. My daughter was only 4 months old, due to how my husband and I had divided up our shared parental leave and was still exclusively breastfed. This meant that I needed to be able to express and store milk during the working day that my husband could then feed to our baby at home.  

Breastfeeding wasn’t something which had been mentioned at all in the maternity policy or in any other information I’d been given by the University, and I only knew that I could request to be provided with a suitable space to pump thanks to a colleague and friend, Nicola Hall, who had recently been through the same thing herself. I had great support and help from my manager and from Estates, who identified and adapted a room for me to use – installing a lock and blocking out the door window, albeit a week after I returned to work.  

However, I was surprised that there were no facilities already in place and there was a sense that I was the first woman to ever make a request like this, which I knew could not be the case. It didn’t feel right that the onus was on me, amid all the other challenges of returning to work after having a baby, to seek out and arrange these facilities; facilities which were vital to enable me to return to work whilst continuing to feed my child in the way I had chosen to.  

 Together with Nikki, I decided to investigate how other women had managed returning to work whilst breastfeeding and sent out an email asking for colleagues to share their experiences. I was shocked at some of the responses I got. Women had pumped in their cars; in the toilets; in managers’ offices, temporarily vacated; they had stopped breastfeeding sooner than they wanted to because they didn’t think it would be possible after they returned to work; they had to manage their schedule so that they could work from home during times when their child needed feeding. 

 Around that time the Staff Forum had put out a call for ideas for staff welfare projects and Nikki and I submitted a proposal to establish dedicated breastfeeding facilities on campus. We were successful, and although it has taken longer than expected, we will be ready to launch and promote our ‘parent-friendly rooms’ once the campus reopens. There will be three rooms (for now!): one in Meteorology at Earley Gate, one at London Road and one in the Library on Whiteknights, and they are intended to be comfortable, private spaces where colleagues can pump and store breastmilk or breastfeed privately, if the child is on campus with them. 

 The other, larger, thing which came out of this initial project was the establishment of the Parent and Family Network, which began in summer 2019 with Nikki and I as Co-Chairs. It has since grown to an active online community of over 300 colleagues, and I have a lot of plans for the Network in the future. I think there is great power and great value in colleagues connecting with each other to share their experiences, identifying where things could be improved and working together to make that improvement happen. 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all the contributors to this blog post! 

 

 

 

 

 

The Barriers and Facilitators to University Entry in Disadvantaged Students by Ethnicity

by Dr Ciara McCabe, Director of Outreach and the Reading Scholars Programme in Psychology at the University of Reading.

 

University graduates on average earn more money over their lifetime, spend less time in unemployment and even live longer than their non-university educated peers [1-3]. Therefore the Office for students states that ‘All students, from all backgrounds, with the ability and desire to undertake higher education, should be supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education’ [4]. Data taken from the 2020 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS a UK-based organisation that operates the application process for British universities) reports that those with low socio-economic backgrounds, with a disability, mature students, care leavers and ethnic minorities, are all underrepresented at UK universities [5].

Outreach and widening participation work aims to close this gap by increasing applications from those considered most disadvantaged in society. In line with this, the University of Reading has outlined in its 5-year plan (2020/21 to 2024/5) that access for full-time first-degree entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds is their main focus.

 

 

Previous studies have tried to explain the student experience in those that are underrepresented in higher education but this has been mostly at the undergraduate and postgraduate level[6-10]. Less studies have focused on access to university for those in disadvantaged groups. One large survey ran by UCAS in 2016 on 16,000 UK domiciled applicants found that many students worry about financial implications of attending university and that advantaged students worried more about “fitting in”. Also disadvantaged students worried more about practical things like transport and accommodation [11]. The study also found that more advantaged than disadvantaged applicants said that ‘nowadays, almost everyone goes to university’. Applicants also reported limited access to widening participation programmes in general. There is much less qualitative data on the views of disadvantaged young people about university and even less, about how this might differ between ethnicities.

 

Therefore, we set out to examine views on access through the Reading Scholars Programme, a Widening participation programme for year 12 students at the University of Reading[12]. The programme aims to increase the number of university applications from disadvantaged students (Read the full selection criteria for the programme). As part of a scholars Psychology research project, we asked students about their views on university access and examined if this differed by ethnicity.

We found that Black, Asian, ethnic minorities (BAME) and White adolescents reported similar barriers (financial worries) and facilitators (getting a good qualification) to applying to University. However, there were some differences for example BAME participants stated that ‘having no choice’ was a reason they would apply to university while White participants did not mention this. When asked about studying close by or far away ~60% of BAME students said they would prefer to study close by, compared to 46% of White participants. Plus, only BAME students mentioned studying close by because of financial reasons.

 

This work extends previous studies by reporting the differences between disadvantaged students by ethnicity. Knowing how underrepresented groups differ in their views on the barriers and facilitators to university entry can help us to develop more targeted outreach and widening participation activities.

 

 

 

This blog refers to:
McCabe C, Keast, K and Kaya, SM. Barriers and Facilitators to University Access in Disadvantaged UK Adolescents by Ethnicity: A Qualitative study. Under Review.
Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Whiteknights campus, Global Recruitment and Admissions Advancement Group, London Road Campus, University of Reading, Reading.

 

Referen­­­ces:
  1. Hummer, R.A. and E.M. Hernandez, The Effect of Educational Attainment on Adult Mortality in the United States. Popul Bull, 2013. 68(1): p. 1-16.
  2. Krueger, P.M., I.A. Dehry, and V.W. Chang, The Economic Value of Education for Longer Lives and Reduced Disability. Milbank Q, 2019. 97(1): p. 48-73.
  3. Pfeffer, F.T., Growing Wealth Gaps in Education. Demography, 2018. 55(3): p. 1033-1068.
  4. Office for Students (OFS), Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England. 2018.
  5. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), 15th January Deadline Analysis. 2020.
  6. Morrison, N., M. Machado, and C. Blackburn, Student perspectives on barriers to performance for black and minority ethnic graduate-entry medical students: a qualitative study in a West Midlands medical school. BMJ open, 2019. 9(11).
  7. Stegers‐Jager, K.M., et al., Ethnic disparities in undergraduate pre‐clinical and clinical performance. Medical education, 2012. 46(6): p. 575-585.
  8. Lynam, S., et al., The experiences of postgraduate research students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic background: an exploratory study. 2019.
  9. Woolf, K., et al., Perceived causes of differential attainment in UK postgraduate medical training: a national qualitative study. BMJ open, 2016. 6(11).
  10. Woolf, K., et al., The mediators of minority ethnic underperformance in final medical school examinations. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2013. 83(1): p. 135-159.
  11. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, Through the lens of students: how perceptions of higher education influence applicants’ choices. 2016.
  12. University of Reading, The Reading Scholars Programme, in https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/ta/Reading_Scholars_Yr12_Brochure_2021.pdf. 2020.
Images sourced from:
https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/advantages-disadvantages-remote-jobs/
https://www.rawpixel.com/image/140559/premium-photo-image-college-students-group-study-academic

 

 

 

 

Happy Year of the Ox!

by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望 and Hatty Taylor, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading 

(This post includes Chinese traditional characters and phrases with Cantonese 粵拼 jyutping and Mandarin 拼音 pinyin pronunciations respectively)

 

(Image sourced from: https://www.vecteezy.com/vector-art/1222770-chinese-new-year-2021-banner-with-front-view-of-ox)

 

Lunar New Year / 農曆新年 (nung lik san nin / nóng lì xīn nián) is on Friday 12th February this year. This is the Year of the Ox.

 

Why is it the Year of the Ox?

Each year is represented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals. The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other Zodiacs. For instance, those born in the Year of the Ox are said to often be decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking.

The order the animals come in are:

rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ )
ox (牛 – ngau / niú)
tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ)
rabbit (兔 – tou / tù)
dragon (龍 – lung / lóng)
snake (蛇 – se / shé)
horse (馬 – maa / mǎ)
goat (羊 – yeung / yáng)
monkey (猴 – hau / hóu)
rooster (雞 – gai / jī)
dog (狗 – gau / gǒu)
pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

 

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

 

You can find out more about the Chinese Zodiac on this TED talk: The Chinese Zodiac, Explained – ShaoLan and on this Ted’Ed video: The Myth Behind the Chinese Zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

 

 

Celebrations and Decorations

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world! Many Asian countries, including Hong Kong SAR, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and China celebrate Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Lunar New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

 

Before celebrations begin, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean.

Decorations for Lunar New Year are predominantly red – the colour represents happiness and good fortune. People often decorate by hanging up art and calligraphy illustrating certain words and phrases. The most common is 福 (fuk / fú) – meaning happiness and good fortune. It can be written with calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper like in the image below. 福 (fuk / fú) is commonly put up on doors, windows and walls around homes, offices, schools, and stores.

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

If you have studied or worked at the University of Reading for a little while, you may remember seeing or even picking up one of the 福 (fuk / fú) badges that were created in celebration of the Year of the Pig in 2019.

 

 

Online Activities and Events
Lunar New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

Although, this year many will not be able to see each other in person, there is no doubt celebrations will be taking to online platforms instead. See below for some of the online events we have come across!

 

Online Activities and Events
Date & Time Event Organiser Register
From 3rd Feb through to 19th February Several organisations in NYC offering a range of online events for those of all ages Various NYC organisers (Event times based on NYC time) Virtual events from NYC
Saturday 13th Feb 15:00 GMT

 

Enjoy streamed video performances and demonstrations of traditional Chinese crafts and Lunar New Year traditions. Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Chinese Cultural Institute, and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America. Free lunar new year celebrations
Sunday 14th Feb all day Join London’s Lunar New Year celebrations online. The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) Head to the LCCA’s YouTube channel to tune in on the day and find more info on the LCCA’s website.
Thursday 18th Feb 12:00 – 13:30 GMT Free Lunar New Year themed art workshop for children SEIDs – Social Innovation and Enterprise Hub Free online craft workshop for children
Wednesday 24th Feb

17:45 – 19:15 GMT

Lunar New Year Origami class

(£8 Public; £6 MEAA Friends & Students)

The Museum of East Asian Art https://meaa.org.uk/event/lunar-new-year-origami/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Women of Colour…

Dear Women of Colour…

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

 

Dear Colour,

It took a while for me to notice you
Though I would stand in a room with a sea of individuals with faces that looked nothing like mine
They were always kind
Hence I was always blind to you
Until year two.
When I came in with a little fro and lo and behold I was…
different.
My nose was
wider, My lips
were larger, My hair was
coarser
And I never knew until she pointed it out at school.
Running to the bathroom with
tears streaming down my face, then all I
wanted was my mother.
Looking in the mirror
I contemplated her abrasive statements
Was she right?

Did I look just
like
poo?
Was I ugly for being different?
Was I still that sweet, precious girl that my family said I was or was I now
Disposable?
Being the only non-white child in school had never been so apparent until this pivotal moment
Suddenly,
I saw you.
You brought with you a divide,
A fight with self to discover the wealth that my colour brought
To find the light we hold inside
To manipulate perceptions, yet stay true to who I am
I can’t say much good has come from knowing you
But I’m aware
And though I’m not sure how to deal with you yet
I still walk on. I still stand strong.
To Colour, I say Hello…

 

 

Dear Woman,

Did God curse just you
Or he cursed man too?
Though sometimes you are seen as less than
You’ve been shown that you still can
Be the queen of the home
Of the road
Of the show
Though we speak of girl power
Is it a myth that really exists
Or do we aim to empower one another?
Woman, he says to you
Mother, Sister, Girlfriend, Wife
At times these terms connote strife
From the time the period arrives
Expectation is created,
Though you knew not
Because you were silently elated.
Long nails
Tight curls

Rouged lips
Thick hips
Shaved legs
Full edges
Are supposedly what make you, you.
Yet to you there is no structure
Too varied, intricate and positively complex to categorise
Men are mesmerised by your diversity.
Dear woman, to you I say
When in doubt
Question a world without your touch.

 

 

Dear Women of Colour,

We salute you
We salute that you tore your enemies in two
Because some of us in your shoes
Wouldn’t be able to do the things you do
Downtrodden by society
Their men, our men

The beauty of your boldness always stand strong
In a world where sometimes it’s hard to belong
Dear woman of colour
This appears to be wrong
Oprah, Archie,
Michelle, Mum
When you stop to think of what you’ve become
An inspiration, a ray of sun
Though you are of colour
Though you are a woman
Though anyone who beholds you can clearly see this
May you not be purely defined by the beauty of your physique
Or subject to pre-conceived ideas about who and what you should be
May your spirit be seen
Your heart keen
To illuminate generations to come along
Show us that we can do,
Be, Anything.
That one day, we won’t have to work thrice as hard to get where we need to
And will only depend on our man if we want to

Break free from any chains that will ever seek to bind you
Mental rains should fail to surround you
Fear cease to drown you
Dear women of colour, bright as day
I proudly say,
You are the future.

 

 

 

Anti.

Anti.

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

This fight has been happening for centuries.
The fight to be equal
Equally free
Equally paid
Equally perceived
Equally likely to stay alive.

The police have been crushing the bones and skulls of victims for years
Shooting the bodies of our peers
Then being promoted after this,
Whilst the testimonies of the dead
Fall on deaf ears.
The courts have ignored
Industries have soared
Churches have adored Jesus…but not the ones he came to save
Society has scored
On the backs of those who roared
And never stopped shouting.

But you
The worst of all
The one who makes up these institutions
Individuals
Beings
Humankind
Have bathed in apathy
Have laid in passivity
Have sprayed the cologne of accidie
So why ​now have you joined the fight?
Has lockdown given you a reason to think of others
Outside of yourself?
Outside of your circle?
Outside of anything that affects your existence?
Why is it that ​now
You have seen the light?
Who can blame you?
It’s in our nature…

Well done though

Clap for yourself
Honestly, go-ahead!
Congratulations for getting up and out of your complacent bed!
Splendid job
For climbing of
out the pit of
torpor
And posting a
picture on the trendy
bandwagon of “#blackouttuesday” because
Everybody’s doing it, so
why not you?
Take 2 minutes out of your
day to show you’re down with the culture
When this has never even crossed your mind!
It’s something I struggle to get behind
Because there’ll never be true equality
If mindsets stay sleeping
So why did it take George Floyd to make you see that there’s a problem?
Why now?


This is for all those who died at the hands of brutal force just for the colour of their skin, including George Floyd…

What Matters Most

by Rory Williams-Burrell, Trainee Technician, School of Archaeology, Geography, and Environmental Science (SAGES) 

 

The Year 2020 has been a challenging one for our staff and students here at the University. Significant changes had to be made regarding the way we work and the way that we live. The world stage has not only highlighted the stresses surrounding Covid-19, but also that deep change is needed in our thinking around ‘race and gender’. This need for change was clearly highlighted in May this year due to the abhorrent behaviour and murderous act that led to the death of George Floyd. This act of racial hatred sparked rallies and marches across the world to show how racism is still prevalent today and that it needs to stop.

The extent to which racism and sexism is present in our everyday lives needs to be addressed, as well as the detrimental effect discrimination can have on our wellbeing. The term ‘race’ is often misunderstood. It derives from France and Italy in the 15th century, and the meaning behind the term translates as kind, breed, and lineage. This also incorporates the physical characteristics of skin colour, eye colour and facial form. This crosses over when we look at ‘gender’ which can be defined as having three aspects, each with an association spectrum. These three aspects are ‘gender identity’, which is how a person identifies themselves, ‘gender expression’, which relates to their behaviour, dress and how others perceive their gender, and ‘biological sex’, which depends on a person’s mostly physical characteristics, for example, these include a person’s genitalia, body shape, body shape, voice, body / facial hair, hormone balance etc.

Deep change is also needed in the ‘disability’ sector, surrounding physical and mental health. One definition could be that being disabled takes away the elements from you that make you able. For example, this could relate to a wheelchair user who requires more space for social distancing purposes than others. In another instance someone may not be able to wear a mask due to asthma and therefore keeping more than two meters away is important for their health and well-being.

 

I am a member of the Well-being Peer Support team here at the University of Reading. Our members consist of staff volunteers (not counsellors or mental-health advisors) who are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, whatever the cause, and can guide you to the right support. The Well-being Peer Support network is primarily geared towards staff members where we provide a space for listening and conversation with strict confidentiality in place. You can contact the network through: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/policies-and-procedures/health-and-wellbeing/wellbeing-peer-support#. Through the link above you will be able to see a list of our volunteers and be able to choose who to approach and speak to.

If you are a student at the university, there is a wide range of support and guidance available for you including being able to access links to professional counsellors and mental health advisors who can be reached 24/7: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/Support-And-Wellbeing

There is also an excellent Wellbeing Toolkit produced by Student Services, with lots of useful advice and helpful links: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/-/media/essentials/files/wellbeing-toolkit-nov.pdf

A particularly helpful resource presents five steps to well-being and shows how making small changes in our daily lives can result in a range of positive outcomes: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/working-at-reading/health-and-wellbeing/5-steps-to-wellbeing

 

There are of course many more steps to maintaining one’s wellbeing, particularly at this challenging time, and I have tried to focus my attention on implementing changes in my own life. Over the years I have been researching and finding ways to help myself through episodes of depression that started during childhood. When I was a toddler, I suffered a head injury when I was hit by a car and I was placed in intensive care for over three months. I was lucky to survive and I am forever grateful to have had the support over the years that have got me to where I am today. I would never have imagined that I would get through, school, college and then a university degree. So, I urge you, please, not suffer in silence but to seek support when needed. It is important that our University looks out for everyone, especially at this time of uncertainty.

 

There is a great podcast I recommend hosted by a British physician, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, entitled ‘Feel better live more’. Dr. Chatterjee talks of four pillars of health; these pillars are nutrition, exercise, sleep, and meditation. I have tried and am still trying to create habits surrounding these four pillars. These actions have helped me reflect and change my perspective and outlook on life and I hope that they will be able to help others too.

Is That You? A Bystander, Walking By Racism…

Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education

 

Calling out racist behaviour, especially to strangers in public, take courage because you never know how others would react. Understandably, you might be concerned about your own safety. You might even doubt and question your judgement. Was that really racism? Or just a misunderstanding? Or just banters between friends? If you interfere, the situation could go out of hand, or even violent. In the end, you decided it is probably best to carry on walking, minding your own business.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unprepared, with little options but to walk. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

With your family, friends and colleagues, you witnessed another episode of racist behaviour. This time, it was more implicit, nuanced and subtle. It was racial microaggression. You were unsure if it was intentional. It was a short comment in a conversation, which was flowing and before long, moved onto another topic. You did not think it was necessary to interrupt the conversation to revisit an earlier remark. So, you decided it is probably best to carry on listening.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unsure and no one else seemed troubled by it, so it was probably nothing. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

Being a bystander may be our default position on issues we feel unfamiliar, unprepared and unsure, but we must not get too comfortable in this role. If silence is complicity, then we must actively retrain our passive mindsets. We have activists who are challenging the inequalities of the status quo, but we need more, a lot more. Are you ready?

 

P.S. We can easily substitute racist behaviour and racism with other social inequalities, such as sexist behaviour and sexism, or more broadly, just unacceptable behaviours.

 

 

 

Inspired by our recent article: Wong, B., ElMorally, R., Copsey-Blake, M., Highwood, E., & Singarayer, J. (2020). Is race still relevant? Student perceptions and experiences of racism in higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2020.1831441