Is there religion in your Christmas?

By Rowan Watson, Chaplaincy Assistant, University of Reading  

A picture of three dolls depicting the nativity scene

Through working at the Chaplaincy, we experience a great variety of world views. Some students explain their strong belief in monarchy as the best form of government, others assure me that all life on Earth is evolving into crabs. One of our favourite topics of conversation is simply asking ‘What do you believe God is like?’. 

A popular answer is the description of a distant and uncaring being, living in the clouds. Occasionally God has been described to me as apathetic to our pain, watching His creations suffer and disdainfully refusing to do anything about it. It is no surprise that people with these views see Christianity as easily separated from the Santa Claus, Christmas Movies, Turkey and Roast potatoes parts of Christmas, but I don’t think this is entirely true. 

At Christmas, we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, who we consider to be God on Earth. The key part of this for me is that God did not choose to be a distant being in the clouds – He saw His creations suffering and refused to ignore it. 

Christmas is about the incarnation. This means part of the indescribable God-ness of God being funnelled into human form. Jesus was fully God whilst also being fully Man. In easier terms, the incarnation is about God taking a human shape and moving into our neighbourhood, right next door. God draws near to us.  

Over the centuries, this idea has morphed into traditions about being generous to one another, opening our homes to guests and giving them the best we have. God is a close friend and treats us better than we deserve, so let’s treat others that way too!  

This part of Christmas has something more to say to those who experience a less joyful Christmas. When the night draws in and the cold confines us to our houses, winter can leave some of us withdrawn from our social circles. International students can find this time particularly challenging because of their UK friends returning home and campus shutting shop for the holidays.

A stained glass window depicting an angel and the Star of Bethlehem

Those with difficult family relationships face a different sort of loneliness. Being estranged from those who are meant to support you unconditionally can cause a lot of pain at Christmas. In the UK our cultural focus is around families and generosity, but these are not a light in a dark time for everyone. 

Not to mention that ‘isolation’ has taken on a whole new meaning recently. As I write, it is uncertain to what extent this will be a feature of our collective Christmases. I personally experience some of these issues, albeit not as severely as some, and so Christmas time can bring about a feeling of loneliness.  

I find that Christmas, at its core, sets out to tackle issues like these. We believe that God is so fond of His Creations that He chose to walk among them, and that this love continues. When I find myself feeling isolated, afraid and pessimistic about the future, I remind myself of that God comforts me by sitting beside me. I am loved by the Creator of everything in existence.  

And it is not only through God that we can find this comfort. Many Christians take this time to reach out to those in the community who are struggling. Some members of our community are offering places at their Christmas table for the most important meal of the year in this spirit, details on how to take a place at a local person’s table, are below. 

Beyond that, participating in Christmas festivities can bring opportunities to meet a new side of the community. If family cannot be part of your Christmas celebrations, a ‘friends’ style family embodies the spirit of the season and is just as joyful and fulfilling. I find that online celebrations can feel distant, but when a loved one is the other side of the world, it can bring them into your living room and allow you to celebrate together. 

Check out the University Chaplaincy list of What’s On in Reading this season, and go and seek God while He is near, either through religious ceremony or through a bottle of mulled wine with a friend on Facetime. He’s in both places. 

 

 

What’s on this Christmas? 

Events collated by the University Chaplaincy and shared in good faith. For more events see: https://www.whatsonreading.com/ 

 

Market Yard 

When: 26th November – 23rd December  

Where: Reading Printhouse 

What: Market Yard is transforming into a unique space to socialise, eat and drink 

Cost: Free 

More information here: https://www.marketyard.co.uk/ 

 

Winter Wonderland 

When: 13th November – 3rd January 

Where: Hills Meadow by Reading Bridge 

What: An exciting Christmas adventure for people of all ages that includes ice skating, Santa’s grotto and a variety of food and drink 

Cost: From £12 

More information here: https://www.facebook.com/outdooricerink.co.uk/ 

Book tickets here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ice-skating 

 

The Invisible Dress Exhibition 

When: 28th November – 5th January  

Where: HUMOS, Caversham 

What: ‘The Invisible Dress’ refers to the scents that we use to complete our look. This exhibition combines fashion illustration, perfume and floral arrangements. 

Cost: Free 

More information here:
https://whatsonreading.com/venues/humos/whats-on/invisible-dress 

 

Twilight Trail: Biscuit Town 

When: 3rd – 31st December 

Where: Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens 

What: An accessible open-air light trail experience 

Cost: From £8 

Book tickets here: https://web.livingreading.co.uk/twilight-trail-2021 

 

The Snow Queen 

When: 3rd – 24th December 

Where: South Street Arts Centre 

What: A new play, based on the original story by Hans Christian Anderson about two best friends and a dangerous journey across Scandinavia  

Cost: From £12 

Book tickets here: https://whatsonreading.com/snow-queen 

 

A Christmas Carol 

When: 3rd – 31st December 

Where: Reading Rep Theatre 

What: A live performance of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, performed by Reading Rep Theatre 

Cost: From £14 

Book tickets here: https://www.readingrep.com/a-christmas-carol/ 

 

Forgetful Elf Trail 

When:4th – 23rd December 

Where: Reading Museum 

What: Help the Elf find his lost belongings around the museum. Includes writing letter to Santa and Christmas craft pack 

Cost: £3 per pack 

More information here: https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/holiday-fun-reading-museum 

 

Beauty and the Beast 

When: 4th December – 3rd January 

Where: The Hexagon 

What: An exciting pantomime featuring Justin Fletcher, also known as Mr Tumble 

Cost: From £15 

Book tickets here: https://whatsonreading.com/beauty-and-beast 

 

Student Christmas Day Lunch 

When: 25th December, 1-2.30pm 

Where: Our Lady of Peace church hall 

What: Turkey lunch hosted by Chaplain, Sister Vivian (10 spaces). Booking essential: email with food allergy details before Friday 17th December 5pm to: v.onyeneho@reading.ac.uk 

Cost: Free 

 

For times of (free) Christmas and Carol services, Google your nearest church. 

 

General

Reading Museum 

What: Archaeology, Art, History and Natural History. Café and shop. 

Cost: Free 

Opening times and more information here: https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/ 

 

Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) 

What: History of English farming and country life. Garden, café, and shop 

Cost: Free 

Opening times and more information here: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/ 

 

Want to be hosted for a meal or receive hospitality from a local family during the break? 

Friends International connects international students with local hosts. Download the App: https://www.friendsinternational.uk/international-student-app/ click on “Local Link”. 

 

Celebrating Diwali!

Our staff and students at UoR have shared their Diwali celebrations with us in this blog! 

 

NHSF Reading 

Diwali is a very important festival for me. This allows me and my family to be together and celebrate. Last year, for Diwali we put Diyas around the house and got some sparkles to play with in the garden. Additionally, at university we had a Diwali ball during my first year which made me realise that this festival allows people to unite and have fun. It was full of dancing and taking loads of pictures. 

– Saumya(Co-president) 

 

Diwali is a time where all of my extended family get together. We play games and eats lots of freshly prepared Indian snacks and sweets. 

– Raj(Co-president) 

 

Diwali for me is about spending time with my family eating Indian food, playing games and watching the fireworks.  Growing up in Leicester I was surrounded by the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India, I am so grateful to have celebrated and still celebrate in such a huge manner. 

– Bhavani(Sewa and Sanskaar) 
 

For me Diwali is about spending time with family and friends. Me and my family celebrate it by lighting Diyas(candles) outside our house and eating plenty of Indian Sweets. During this time, we also do fireworks and make rangoli which is a special type of art using different colours of powders to make beautiful designs. 

– Priyan(secretary and media) 

 

 

This Diwali, light a candle for hope 

Santosh Sinha (Staff Engagement Manager; Co-Chair of BAME Staff Network) 

 

What a difference a year makes! 

Diwali (the Hindu festival of lights) feels much brighter this year. Earlier this week, I was taking my son for his taekwondo class when the sky lit up with colours and sounds of fireworks.  

I am sure that the private school, which put on this display, was either celebrating Guy Fawkes Night a bit early or trying to cheer up its pupils. However, for me – and to some extent, my son – fireworks at this time of the year mean that other are joining in, in the celebration of Diwali (though some Indian friends suspect that this year it might also be English and Pakistani cricket fans celebrating yet another disappointing performance by India at the T20 Cricket World Cup). 

There is something about the fireworks that cheers you up. Over the years, we have toned down our use of fireworks. As parents, a sparkler seems to be the safest device your child can handle and the rest has to be done in moderation to be a good neighbour. 

Unlike last year, when the celebration were non-existent, this year’s celebrations started over the weekend for us. We had invited some families for dinner and Diwali celebrations with us. With COVID19 continuing to cast a shadow, we had to go for a much smaller gathering that we are used to.  

It did feel like Diwali. We had sweets. We had terracotta lamps. We had firecrackers. But most importantly, we had friends to celebrate the day with – friends who understand how important Diwali is and how it brings people together. 

It was nearly two in the morning by the time we wrapped up, but the clocks were changing that night and we were able to gain an extra hour of sleep. Definitely my best Diwali gift ever! 

Tonight we will be setting out to be with our friends, who we have celebrated Diwali with every single year that we have known them. The children look forward to it every year, and we enjoy spending Diwali with friends who are almost family to us. 

My wife and I have been able to see our mothers after almost three years – she had to visit India to see hers and mine is visiting us at the moment.  

As I wrote last year, most of us were hoping to meet up “soon” while being acutely aware that “soon” may be months away. Increased vaccination and the easing travel restrictions mean that the hope is now a reality. 

So let’s light a candle tonight to hope that the next year is an even better year than this one! 

 

Happy Diwali!

Prof Vimal Karani S (Professor of Nutrigenetics & Nutrigenomics) 

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/diversereading/files/2021/11/Diwali-2_Trim2_1-Prof-Vimal-Karani.mov 

 

 

 

Diwali – Celebrating The Light Within 

Shweta Band (Lecturer and PhD Candidate, School of Law) 

 

The fragrance of sandalwood incense sticks and listening to the song ‘Uthi uthi Gopala’ in the blissful voice of Pandit Kumar Gandharva ji, the doyen of Indian classical vocal music- this is my earliest memory of a Diwali morning growing up in India. It was a decades-old family ritual and something that I miss every year celebrating Diwali away from home. As immigrants from India, I always find myself making eager attempts to relive and recreate all cultural traditions and rituals as an experience-legacy for my children. But there’s something magical in celebrating Diwali back home- surrounded by family and amidst the millions of lights and colours everywhere!  

I’m sure you all know Diwali as portrayed by social media, but if you’ve ever wondered how an actual Diwali day in India looks like- join in this visual journey- from my Diwali trip to India in 2019 (something I had managed after eight long years).  

As we celebrate Diwali away from home every year, we try and live the beautiful spirit of the festival- of the value of celebrating with family and friends, of the joy of gifting, of being thankful to the wealth (in whatever form!) that life has given us and of the eternal hope that good triumphs over evil and light over darkness. Diwali isn’t just about the light from the sparkles of the diya-lamps, or the lanterns or from the firecrackers. On a spiritual level, Diwali is all about being enlightened by the light within! It’s a beautiful reminder that one whose heart is filled with light, will brighten all lives around! This is what I love about my favourite festival.  

So here’s the Diwali wish I leave you with –  

Roshan karo, roshan raho!  

May you spread the light. May you be the light!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Diwali

What is Diwali?  

Diwa, also known as Divali or Deepawali, is a festival celebrated by people of different faiths including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and some Buddhists across the globe. 

Diwali originates from the Sanskrit word ‘deepavali’, which means ‘rows of lights’. 

Diwali is often referred to as the festival of lights. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness, marking the start of the Hindu New Year. As one of the prominent festivals of India, celebrations take place together with family and friends, whilst new and old relationships are kindled through Indian sweets, delicacies and laughter.

 

When is Diwali?  

Diwali takes place over 5 days. The main festival day falls on a different date in the autumn each year, in line with the Hindu lunar calendar, in the Hindu lunar month Kartika. Usually, Diwali falls in October or November in the Gregorian calendar. This year, Diwali is on Thursday 04 November 2021. 

 

How is Diwali celebrated?  

Diwali is a five-day festival, with the height of the festival being celebrated on the third day, which is Thursday 04 November 2021. 

Preparations for the festival involve people cleaning and decorating their homes in the lead-up to the festival.  

Diwali is celebrated with joy, sweets, and also fireworks, string lights and candles. Many towns celebrate as a community by throwing parties. Traditional celebrations include lighting diyas (oil lamps) in workplaces and homes. Diyas are a guidance for Goddess Lakshmi to find her way home. They also act as a spiritual reminder that inner light can protect homes from spiritual darkness.  

Each day of Diwali has it’s own significance:  

Day 1, Dhanteras – Cleaning homes and shopping  

Day 2, Chhoti Diwali / Naraka Chaturdasi / Kali Chaudas  – Decorating homes with lamps and creating design patterns called rangoli using coloured powders or sand.  

Day 3, Diwali / Deepawali / Lakshmi Puja – The main day of the festival! Families and friends gather for prayers to Goddess Lakshmi, often followed by feasts and festivities – sometimes fireworks!  

Day 4, Govardhan Puja / Padva – The first day of the new year. Friends and families often visit each other with gifts and best wishes for the season.  

Day 5, Bhai Dooj / Yama Dwitiva – A day for brothers and sisters to honour one another. Siblings often pray for one another and participate in a ceremony called tilak. Often also followed by feats and festivities!  

  • Diwali Ball  

Date/Time: 25th November, 7pm-11pm
Location: 3sixty, Reading University Students’ Union 
Find out more by contacting NHSF Reading at nhsfreading@gmail.com  

 

 

Further Resources:  

Diwali.org – https://www.diwalifestival.org/ 

25 Facts About Diwali – https://parade.com/1116817/marynliles/diwali-facts/  

17 Indian Street Food Recipes – https://parade.com/843981/manuzangara/17-indian-street-food-recipes/ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proud to be: Celebrating Black History Month

 

October is Black History Month and this year’s theme is Proud To Be. The campaign is aiming to make Black History Month 2021 unique and personal to individuals, families and communities. In addition to this aim, this theme also focuses on the achievements and contributions of Black people throughout history.  

 At the University of Reading, we are proud to be celebrating Black History Month and continuing conversations around race beyond just the month of October. In this blog piece, we’ve compiled a list of resources in various formats that encourage thinking and discussions on race for more than just a month.  

 

 

Books

on Black British History: 

on Anti-Racism: 

  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge  
  • So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo 
  • The Good Ally – Novara Reid 

On Race:  

  • Afropean: Notes from Black Europe – Johnny Pitts
  • Biracial Britain: A Different Way of Looking at Race – Remi Adekoya
  • Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging – Afua Hirsh
  • In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System – Alexandra Wilson
  • Mixed/Other: Explorations of Multiraciality in Modern Britain – Natalie Morris

 

 

Podcasts 

American Podcasts: 

 

 

Videos about Black British History: 

 

 

Videos about Anti-Racism: 

 

 

Resources & events:


 

Other resources: 

 

 

 

 

 

Bi Visibility Day is 23 Years Old!

Trigger warning: This article contains references to self-harm and domestic violence.  

 

Bi Visibility Day is marking it’s 23rd Year and we are excited to acknowledge and celebrate our Bi colleagues and students and remind our Ally colleagues and students that even after 23 years of marking this day, there are still challenges to overcome for this community within the LGBT+ community.  

As it falls on the 23rd of September, we thought we could go through 23 things to remember this Bi Visibility day:

 

23 Things to Remember on Bi Visibility Day:
 

  • No more erasure! 

Bi Erasure is a pervasive issue where the legitimacy and/or existence of bi identities is denied. Here are some ideas to help your bi friends fight invisibility and erasure. 

 

  • Avoid assumptions 

Avoid making assumptions based on someone’s previous or current partner. Follow their lead on language they use to define their relationship or identity and be aware that this could be fluid and subject to change.  

 

  • ‘Bi’ is an umbrella term   

Bi is a word we can use to describe several identities, attractions, and orientations.  According to bi.org: 

“Terms that fall under the bi umbrella include pansexual (attraction to all genders, with a political emphasis on nonbinary gender identities), polysexual (attraction to multiple sexes), omnisexual (attraction to all sexes), and multisexual (attraction to multiple sexes). Some people prefer the term fluid meaning that their attractions are not fixed and include people of more than one sex over time. “  

 

  • Be an Ally! 

You can join the LGBT+ Staff Network as an Ally, as well as signing up to our Bi inclusion training and learn about ways to support your bi colleagues. You can also pick up an UoR LGBT+/LGBT+ Ally lanyard and pronoun badge when you’re on campus to be a visible Ally! These are free to pick up at various places across campus including Whiteknights House reception and the Students’ Union reception. 

You can also check out this ‘10 Ways You Can Step Up as an Ally to Bi People‘ article over on the Stonewall website.

 

  • One in two 18-24 year olds in the UK do not identify as 100% straight 

study by YouGov, using the Kinsey scale, allows people to place themselves along a sexuality scale. Taken as a whole, 23% of the British public do not identify as straight.   

 

  • Bi people make up nearly half of the LGBT+ community 

According to a 2013 Pew research centre survey, bi people make up 44% of the LGBT+ community. MyUmbrella, who champion inclusion within the LGBT+ community in Reading, made this podcast last year talking about why we still need Bi Visibility day. 

 

  • Recognise and challenge biphobia 

If you witness biphobia or bi erasure, and you feel safe to do so, challenge this behaviour. You can use the University’s method for calling out (or calling in) detrimental behaviour, the UHT method – Getting involved – call out bad behaviour. 

You can also report this behaviour using the University’s reporting procedures – Harassment reporting and support.  

 

  • Uplift and support marginalised bi people 

This can be done by everyone within the bi community, as well as all allies.  

BAME bi people are further marginalised and discriminated against within the bi community,  Ace bi people are erased and excluded, bi men face stigma from the LGBT+ community and  so on. Intersectionality within the bi community often leads to further inequality. You can  help fight this by seeking out and supporting bi groups who explicitly support those people  who identify as having multiple, or intersecting, protected characteristics.  

Bi’s of colour, an organisation created “cos bisexuality isn’t just for white folks” sadly shut down operations this year, but you can read Bi’s of Colour History report in 2015.   

 

  • Bi people have always been here 

Being bi isn’t a new way to identify, nor is it a phase or a trend. Take a look through some of the iconic bi people throughout history – Historical figures who are bi icons  

 

  • Use inclusive language 

Be aware of, and curious about, the language you use. Do you use the word ‘gay’ as a catch-all term? Could this be inadvertently erasing someone’s bi identify? Remember that asking lots of questions so that you are clear on someone’s identity can be harmful, so keep an open, empathic mind. The Stonewall Glossary of terms is a useful resource.   

 

  • Bi people face unique mental health challenges 

In a review of depression and anxiety among bi people, meta-analysis of approximately 52 eligible studies, found that: 

“consistent pattern of lowest rates of depression/anxiety among heterosexual people, while bisexual people exhibit higher or equivalent rates in comparison to lesbian/gay people.” 

 

  • Bi people face unique parenting challenges  

Bi people are almost twice as likely to be parents than gay or lesbian people, and some may find it tricky to know how or when to ‘come out’ to their children. You can read about some of the lived experiences of bi parents in this article How Do Bi Parents Come Out to Their Kids?   

The parent and family network recently held an event in conjunction with the LGBT+ staff network, focused on LGBT+ parenting.   

 

  • The majority of people of all generations in the UK now accept the idea that sexual orientation exists along a continuum rather than a binary choice  

YouGov states that overall 60% of straight people support this idea, and 73% of those who identify as LGBT+. 

 

  • Young bi people and self-injury

According to University of Manchester researchers, young bi people are up to six times more likely to engage in non-suicidal self-injury. Further research is being done into this issue, you can find out about the study here Self-Injury in young Bisexual people: A Longitudinal investigation (SIBL)  

 

  • Bi people face high levels of discrimination at work  

Stonewall report on bi people in the workplace, found: 

“Bisexual staff are, they felt, subjected to assumptions that they may find demeaning or inappropriate.” 

 

  • Make LGBT+ spaces inclusive 

It is important that LGBT+ spaces review their inclusivity and recognise any challenges. We introduced a position of ‘Bi role model’ into our LGBT+ staff Network  

 

  • 61% of bi women and 37% of bi men experience intimate partner violence.  

According to a study, bi people experienced the highest rates of violence by an 

intimate partner. In Reading there are several organisations you can reach out to including Trust HouseAlana House, and Berkshire Women’s Aid 

 

  • Support bi organisations and campaigns 

Find national and local organisations that you can support, such as:

Bi Pride UK  

The Unicorn project  

BiCon 

 

  • Make sure your workplace, university or school is inclusive 

At the University of Reading, some of the ways you can support bi people are joining the LGBT+ Staff Network, taking Bi inclusion training, joining RUSU LGBT+ society. 

In Reading town, SupportU are and LGBT+ organisation who can offer a professional consultancy and tailor training for local businesses and organisations. 

Stonewall are a larger organisation who share best practice and toolkits, provide training and a benchmarking tool. The University of Reading continues to be among Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers, according to the 2020 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. 

 

  • The Bi Pay Gap  

‘INVISIBLE MAJORITY’ a US report on the disparities facing bi people, shows that 48% percent of bi respondents report a lower annual family income compared to 28% of all adults in the United States.  

 

  • Support bi people to live full and complex lives, like everyone else! 

Bi people can be further stigmatised if they are seen to ‘fit’ into stereotypes. Bi people can live every bit as complex and nuanced lives as those who do not identify as bi. Affirm your friends, colleagues and family members identities and relationships and remember the harm that can be caused by stereotyping.  

 

  • Positive Bi representation in the media  

Representation is so important because of the link between societal attitudes towards bi  people, and their portrayal in mainstream media.  GLAAD’s ‘Where we are on TV’ report.  

 

  • Celebrate bi people! 

Amplify the voices and experiences of bi people. Celebrate days like Bi Visibility Day. Search social media for bi content creators, learn and share their content.  

 

 

 

 

Further Resources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Reading at Reading Pride Love Unites Festival 2021

Saturday 4th September 2021, King’s Meadow, Reading 

 

An article written with collaborative input from, and with special thanks to: 

Abi Flach, Al Laville, Aleiah Potter, Alice Mpofu Coles, Amrit Saggu, Amy Sheffield, Becky Kite, Carol Fuller, Clare Hallcup, Eva van Herel, Florian Roithmayr, Gordon Short, Hatty Taylor, Javier Amezcua, Jessica Tyers, Jude Brindley, Kat Bicknell, Lucy Guest, Mark McClemont, Martina Mabale De Burgos, Mathew Haine, Susan Thornton, Nozomi Tolworthy, Parveen Yaqoob, Peter Scarfe, Rachel Helsby, Ruvi Ziegler, Sadie Bartholomew, Saif Maher, Sinead O Flynn and Sheldon Allen. 

 

Love Unites!

We were so excited to hear that Reading Pride – Love Unites Festival was back on in person this year and it did not disappoint! We had our usual stand in the festival’s marketplace where we could engage with the community.  

We talked about life on campus, working at the University, the student experience at the University. We also talked about inclusive recruitment, and ways one could join the University, as staff or prospective students. We celebrated the current and ever-expanding support for LGBT+ students and staff at the University, including RUSU’s LGBT+ student society, the LGBT+ Staff Network and much more!  

The University's Stand at the Love Unites festival set up, waiting for guests to arrive; A 6 metre by 3 metre Gazebo with a hot pink covering. Two large tables are under the gazebo, covered by the University of Reading tablecloths, in our signature red colour. A large rainbow flag hangs from the back of the Gazebo Three large signs are standing on easels in front of the stand, showing the Lord Wolfenden and the cover of his report. There is text explaining the Wolfenden legacy, and another image in modern day, showing University of Reading. The text describes the modern-day impact of the Wolfenden report on staff, students, and the wider community.

 Professor Kat Bicknell, Head of the Department of Pharmacy, Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and Professor Carol Fuller stand under the gazebo at the University of Reading stall. They are standing in front of a table which has a red University of Reading table cloth and is covered with rainbow lanyards, postcards and pronoun badges.

 

Free Handouts for All!

We engaged the crowds with our handouts; rainbow lanyards, progress flag/UoR stickers. A particular favourite was the pronoun badges we were giving out. In 2019 we launched four styles of pronoun badges: He/Him, She/Her, They/Them, and a badge with a blank box for custom pronouns. These were a huge, and unique hit at the festival and were very welcome amongst the attendees.  

We initially wrote about the importance of pronouns in our blog piece back in February 2019 – Pronoun Badges at the University of Reading. We want our trans and non-binary colleagues, students and members of the wider community to know, as well as our cisgender colleagues, students, and members of the wider community that we not only support but encourage their expression of their gender identity. We want to recognise and respect the entire spectrum of gender and do all that we can to represent and celebrate the diverse community of identities that we have at Reading. You can read more about the importance of pronouns here 

 

Digital Takeover

Martina Mabale De Burgos, Student Outcomes Coordinator and University of Reading Community Champion and Sheldon Allen, Law Student and UoR Community Champion, did an awesome job of taking over the University of Reading’s social media channelsStarting at the parade, they made their way through the town with the hundreds of others in the Parade. They made sure everyone who couldn’t be there felt included in the day by sharing photographs and posts throughout the day. We used the University’s iconic social media frame, which is being modelled in the image above by Parveen Yaqoob, who is the LGBT+ champion on the University’s Executive Board, and Sheldon.   

 

Celebrating the Wolfenden Legacy

We had placards printed which told the story of Lord Wolfenden. In 1957, John Wolfenden released a report which proposed that ‘homosexual intercourse between consenting adults should be decriminalized’. The uproar it produced in politics, the press and public discourse eventually helped pave the way for LGBT+ rights in the UK.  

Lord Wolfenden was Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading between 1950–1964 and future Director of the British Museum, was chosen to head the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution in 1954.

We mark this important moment in history annually with the Wolfenden Lecture.  

This year the Wolfenden Lecture was presented by special guest, Hafsa Qureshi, Stonewall Bi Role Model of the Year 2019. 

The event this year was named ‘Why We Are Not All Equal’; 

As a modern society, we treat the problem of inequality as a thing of the past. This lecture aimed to dispel the notion that equality has been achieved. We looked at the ways society has adapted the way we discriminate against one another, and what we can do to oppose this. 

 

 

Pride as a Protest

We were very happy this year to see the traditional roots of LGBT+ Pride were given consideration, with a ‘grassroots protest’ art instillation at the Main entrance to the festival. LGBT+ Pride is well known as a celebration of the diverse identities and people within the LGBT+ community, but it is also a protest.

The Pride celebrations that we know and love all over the world today were born in New York City. Following the Stonewall riots, (also known as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) which were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBT+ community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn.  

The first Pride March, on 28th June 1970 was called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March (which is the name of the road the Stonewall Inn is on) and the event had both an element of celebration and protest. 

 

We had a truly brilliant time at the Love Unites festival. We are also aware we can always improve. Some of the ideas we have had for next year already include things such as: 

  • A UoR flag flying high from the stall, so people can find us easily from a distance,  
  • Changing or adapting our hand-outs so that they are environmentally friendly,  
  • A ‘photo booth’ with our amazing frame (as modelled by Ruvi in the image above) including the famous disco ball from the Art Department.  

 

 

If you have any comments, feedback or any exciting ideas for next year, we would love to hear from you. Please send us an email at diversity@reading.ac.uk with your comments.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Lesbian Visibility Week 2021

by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors 

 

This year Lesbian Visibility Week runs from Monday 26 April – Sunday 2 May. The aim of this week, according to the organisers is 

 

“Both to celebrate lesbians and show solidarity with all LGBTQI women and non binary people in our community. We believe in unity, and lifting up those who are most marginalised.” 

 

Lesbians are a marginalised community within the marginalised community that is LGBTQ+. Lesbian visibility week is important because lesbians have been erased, ignored, and misunderstood, so many times throughout history. When homosexuality was illegal, lesbians were not criminalised which could be considered as leniency, though it would be naïve not to consider that this might have been erasure or incomprehension of lawmakers at the time.  

Fast forward to present day, and lesbian representation in mainstream media and entertainment still has a long way to go. Too often, characters are at best engaged in the likes of coming of age drama or straight-woman-turned-lesbian tragedy, and at worst fetishized for the male gaze.  

 

Even representation falters when interpretation can lead to erasure.

Consider the incident of famous actor and lesbian, Samira Wiley, whose wedding photo went viral after a fan requested pictures of her and her wife’s ‘husbands. Assumptions of bffs’, galpal relationships, ‘special friendships’ and various other euphemistic language serves only to minimise, erase and extinguish the validity, nuance, and depth of lesbian relationships 

 

Like many marginalised groups right now, the community is also challenged by a period in time where opinions within it are polarised. Lesbians are being pressured to take opposing sides and energy is being drawn away from unity against the oppression, to infighting amongst the community. While the subjects dividing opinion are no doubt important, one has to question whether the division of a marginalised group is helpful for any of it’s members, and who this division ultimately benefits. The message of this year’s lesbian visibility week is one of unitand carries a loud and clear call for solidarity among all LGBTQ+ women and non binary people in the community.

 

Year-Round Visibility  

Below you can find some inspirational LGBTQ+ women, media outlets and organisations who are keeping lesbians visible every day of the year and represent the multifaceted lesbian experience.  

First published in 1994, the world’s best-selling magazine for LGBTQI women, DIVA magazine  who are sponsors of Lesbian Visibility Week, produce content which does not fit within the narrow lines often prescribed to the lesbian experience.  

Tanya Compass, an award-winning youth worker, community organiser and founder of Queer Black Christmas. After working in the charity sector for 6 years delivering programming and supporting vulnerable young people, Tanya realised that there was no better time than now to finally set up Exist Loudly, an official organisation and create programming for Queer Black Young People in London.  

Hannah Gadsby, comedian, writer and actress shares her experiences both as a lesbian and as a neurodiverse person. Her beautifully honest stand up is both heart-breaking and hilarious. Watch Nanette on Netflix (have tissues ready!) 

 

 

Organisations Around Reading – Learn More, Get Support 

SupportU provide awareness raising events and support to the entire LGBTQ+ community in the Berkshire area. SupportU are currently producing an online series in collaboration with Club F.O.D, a charity dedicated to combatting LGBTQ+ social isolation, titled ‘Sofa TalksThe series covers a wide range of issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.  

 

Reading Culture Live have been showcasing a series of events, ‘Under the Brolly’ in collaboration with local organisation myumbrella LGBT+and they are exploring marginalised identities within the LGBTQ+ community, including this video, covering Lesbian Visibility Week and World Autism Day. This is a really wonderful series, raising awareness and celebrating lesser known identities within the community. 

 

 

Events  

Lesbian Visibility Week events are FREE and will be live streamed through Facebook and YouTube unless otherwise stated.  

View all events taking place from Monday 26 April to Saturday 01 May 2021 over on the Lesbian Visibility Week Events Webpage. Here’s a peek at what’s going on!  

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holi 2021

by UoR Hindu Society 

 

Holi is a Hindu festival that is known as the ‘festival of colours’. It is a festival that celebrates positivity, whether that be the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring or love.

 

What is Holi and Why is it Celebrated?

Holi gets its name from Holika, the sister of demon king Hiranyakashyap.

The story of Holi begins when King Hiranyakashyap received a boon from Lord Vishnu that made him invincible. King Hiranyakashyap though these powers made him worthy of worship and decided everyone should worship him over God. However, the King’s son Prahlad refused and continued to worship Lord Vishnu. The King was angered and tried to kill Prahlad with the help of his sister Holika. Holika convinced Prahlad to sit on a pyre with her as she had a special shawl to protect her from getting burnt. However, the shawl flew off Holika and protected Prahlad instead and he remained unharmed while Holika burned.

This story illustrates the triumph of good over evil.

 

How do we Celebrate?

Every year, a Holika bonfire is lit in order to remind us of this victory of good over evil. The next day people come together, throwing colours at each other, singing and dancing.

 

Events This Year 

Every year, the Hindu Society here at UoR hosts a Holi event for everyone to take part in. It includes music, dancing and lots of colour! Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, this year will be a bit different. The Hindu Society will be hosting a (virtual) Holi dance social on Tuesday 30th of March. It is open to everyone and more information can be found on our social media.

Get in touch through any of the below!

Instagram: @nhsfreading

Facebook: @ReadingHinduSociety

Email: nhsfreading@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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.