On Winning

Someone mentioned loss.
I tried to get my head around it.
Here we were, at a historic moment for the Westway Trust. 
The moment where five members of a community campaign dedicated to achieving real change in the organisation, were now sitting on its board. 
The moment where, as one of those campaign members, I was about to step into the role of Chair (I write here as the campaign member, not the Chair).
It was a moment where the local community could genuinely say it had achieved legitimate control of the 23 acres.

Five years after the promise had been made, the board had been rebalanced.

But, someone mentioned loss and I struggled to move beyond that word.

Life is loss. If you don't get over that you will suffer endlessly. The tighter you hold onto things, the harsher the pain is when they slip from your grasp.
I have suffered my share of loss. I know how hard you can hold onto things and what that does to you.
As we perhaps ought to know by now, attempting to fit ourselves into a hierarchy of loss in Ladbroke Grove, Latimer, Dalgarno, Colville or Golborne is an exercise in foolishness.
North Kensington is a community of loss. People who have lost loved ones, lost countries, lost community spaces,  lost careers, lost memories, lost health, lost homes..... People who have lost control.
It seems like a mad proposition that such a community exists in the richest and wealthiest borough in one of the richest and wealthiest countries in the world. Or in a borough that contains so much traditional institutional power.
But, sometimes things are so mad that they must be true. Especially in a world built on madness, as history tells us this one clearly is.
So, what does regaining some control within our context even mean?

In these weeks of all weeks, the success of our community's hard fought and hard won campaign has been held firmly in its context. The Second Phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry is the daily spotlit reality that sits in opposition to our lesser seen victories. It is a detailed examination of the losses we suffer, in which people who have lost so much risk losing once again.
That is what I was trying to get my head around.
I needed to understand and communicate the apparent fact that our loss is the basis for so many of our wins.
There is such a sadness to that.
However, I also see - and feel with all of my senses - a very deep and endlessly powerful strength. Something that goes to the heart of our humanity. The neverending cycle and ability of people to sustain loss, identify loss, grapple with loss, overcome loss and - in some cases over many lifetimes - be victorious in achieving progress, understanding, and justice.
That is not sad. That is the absolute beauty of life, from plant to person and everything in between and beyond our boundaries of understanding.

I am a believer in the power of trauma over our lives and the need to address and regain that power. In many instances that can be achieved through facing up to the things that have occurred in the past in ways that allow the mind to come to terms with the loss or let go of it. Denial is rampant in our society but, not a sensible course for true healing.
Every campaign or community space or activity in North Kensington provides an opportunity for this healing cycle of life. We must recognise that our community produces so many spaces in which we can talk frankly and openly about loss, or where we can connect - sometimes in silence, sometimes in creativity - safely with our loss and with others.
Recognise it. Draw strength from it.

Having become Chair Elect at the end of 2019, I will now take on the role of Chair of the Westway Trust ahead of the publication of the Tutu Foundation Review into Institutional Racism at the Westway Trust (The Review).
This is not something I have done lightly. As someone who called for The Review and submitted testimony to it, I would rather have been in a position to take up the role following publication, so that a clear line could be drawn. However, there have been delays in the process. The Review is not the only aspect of the Trust that requires hard work and leadership and we need to begin that work. I look ahead to receiving the final publication and acting upon its findings.

Denial will not be a tenable way of moving forward. We have spent nearly five years looking closely at the Westway Trust, to build an informed view of why it has become what it has. We will now attempt to build new ways informed by a solid understanding of the old.

The Westway Trust has made a commitment to transform itself. A new Chair and a new board, unlike any seen before, is the beginning of that transformation. It is a transformation in itself and one which has taken nearly five years. It is one that has been lifted up by the souls of at least 72 of our community's loved ones.
We continue to honour that loss as best we can, as we carry the transformation through and acknowledge that transformation in many ways, never ends.

We are now in a position of being community and campaign members in positions of authority. Our responsibility is to implement change, with all the rules and regulations that come with that.
There will be learning to do and (if I know us well enough by now) boundaries to be pushed. 
No doubt some people will think we've gone too far. Others not far enough.
We can only do so much with our part of the bigger picture but, either way, for good or bad, as a matter of fact, the community is now in charge of the 23 acres.
Let's try to get our heads around that.

Tags: #23acresofchange