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January 2020
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Reading: A Window To The Soul

Reading is a window to the soul. Writing is the room where the bird hidden away in your spirit and soul comes out to fly and flap its wings.

I saw the story of Still Waters In A Storm a few days ago on the BBC News Channel and I was moved because I understand how writing can become a route of escape. Maybe I could relate because throughout the year, books and reading became my closest companions. I take one with me everywhere I go and I have a little notebook to note down my ideas when they come to me. Sometimes, I looked like a crazy joker scribbling away on the tube or bus. I also understand how reading and writing helps you tap into that, which gives you hope. Writing becomes your lover and reading, the best escapism life can offer into arenas you may not be able to withstand physically. They say fiction mimics life, I don’t think they are far off the mark.

Every story has been told and every book written, what makes yours or that of the writers you admire different is the fact that they bring something of theirs, which is organic to the table.  I remember reading The Long Song by Andrea Levy and being exceptionally grateful that I didn’t live through slavery. I read on Black Sisters’ Street and was grateful for my father who gave me a good start in life and saw the other side of the story, it could be worse and regardless of his faults and shortcomings, he did his best no matter how much harder I felt he could have done in other areas. I read The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna and was filled with gratitude that I had never lived through war…currently reading Leah Chichugi’s A Long Way To Paradise, along side Dinaw Mengiste’s How To Read The Air, and I have this new depth of gratitude that I have never witnessed genocide or have the memories many carry around. With Mengiste’s new offering, I know what it means to be a migrant, experiencing a whole new culture and the need to adjust which can at first be very daunting but with time, you learn to make your own place in your new environment and home, though there will always be something about your birth place that you long for, at least, I know I do.

So, I understand the power of reading and the power of writing. It makes a world of difference when you know how to read and write. For the teenagers and young people, Still Waters In A Storm is transforming their lives, one day at time.

Summer 2009 from Still Waters in a Storm on Vimeo.

Link to BBC Story: Literature Transforms Lives in Poor NY Neighbourhood

Stephen Haff is one in a million. How I wish there were more like him. Some people might laugh and snigger and ask, how he can have a Masters degree from Yale University and live on food stamps? But you will be amazed to know his life is more fulfilling than that of a few people living in a walled mansion, yet miserable as hell because no one is being touched by their existence. The children who come to his flat are learning to write and some, to read as well. You would be surprised to find out how much his interest in their lives means to them. For someone to care enough about your future and so something about it, that’s a pretty big deal. This is one of the best grassroots movement I have ever come across. In my opinion, it beats the Tea Party and every other self serving movement, hands down. This is more meaningful and focused as far as I am concerned..

Still Water in A Storm is described as ‘A voluntary one-room schoolhouse. Neighbours as family. Thinking as pleasure. Expression as survival. We write, read, speak and listen. We practice compassion.’ The information on their website goes on to say, ‘We began as a grassroots alliance of Bushwick residents who needed an opportunity for safe self-expression.’ An opportunity for expression…hmm, remember how you felt when there was something you wanted to say but didn’t have the words to say it or knew what you wanted to say but was not given the platform to do so or you started and someone shut you up. Here, these kids and young people get to do just that…nothing and no one is trying to hold them back. It is so important to take interest in other people, not to control or manipulate them but to lend a hand when they need it and when they decide no more, you let them go. So to opportunities that will calm the storms and bring the stillness we desire. To open doors that will bring the right people to help us shape our lives and dreams and make us a force to be reckoned with.

To find out more visit: Still Water in A Storm


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