Afropean Voices during Covid-19: The Gold in the Shadows


Simone BolshawSimone Bolshaw is a Deputy Director at the Department for Education, UK Government. She has over a decade’s experience as a civil servant and consultant developing innovative policy solutions and leading large scale, complex projects. Simone was born and bred in the UK, her mother’s side of the family is from Jamaica and her father’s side from Italy.

The past few years for me have been a re-membering, a putting together of pieces that I had lost (or never quite found). Fragments of myself forgotten in the messy end of a decade-long relationship; in the restraints of my corporate career; in contortions with my family. Truths hinted at in the process of falling in love again and becoming a mother; treasures excavated from my mind’s shadowlands.

And what had I forgotten? That feminine unformed, unspoken, intuitive knowing is sacred, and generally discarded in our present day culture. I’ve been struck recently by how much #SuccessfulModernWoman™ is resembling #ToxicMasculinity: Be the boss, assert your position, take a stand, ‘lean in’, get on the ‘30 under 30’ list, grab that promotion, show them your balls…Sound familiar? I admit I was a fully signed up member of the Overachievers Club – President of this, Representative of that, Youngest Ever blahblahblah….

Well I’m here to share that my current sense has taken a different turn, I’m waving the flag for Radical Quietness! As I’m discovering how multi-faceted my own internal world is, I’ve grown ever more suspicious of the strongly asserted statements filling our public forums, of endless reams of conjecture stated as fact. And even as I relinquish unshakeable conviction – my own as well as others’ – I have also become more comfortable with the paradox of wisdom – knowing less, and learning more…or is it the other way around?

My sincere hope for us all is that we move in the direction of less outward certainty and more inward inquiry. I hope that the openness, curiosity and self-exploration of that space ricochets throughout our cultural discourse, because it’s so desperately needed. I hope that we recognise ourselves as fractals of an equally valid expression, as jewels in Indra’s Net. So when you’re next invited to have an opinion, take a side or denounce ‘the other’, I invite you to pause for a moment and reflect on what part of you – what part of us – you might be relegating to the shadows, and what gold you might find there.

This perspective is included in the upcoming Collateral Benefits Perspective Paper IV: Voices of the African Diaspora, a collaboration between Collateral Benefits , Fundación Manos Visibles and Afrøpean.

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