Monday, 4 December 2017

Ubele - Day 5

Day 5 (Tuesday 5th December 2017)

Five British pounds  - the face value of the Royal Mint's 2017 commemorative
uncirculated Christmas coin (they are selling for £13). It has been designed
by Edwina Ellis. Last year, The Royal Mint struck the UK's first official Christmas coin, 
which was the Christmas Nativity Story £20 fine silver coin. Only 30,000 of these were issued; 
it was designed by Bishop Gregory Cameron, who created the design for the last 'round pound'.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC, the Lydians 
were the first people to have used gold and silver coinage, 
illustrated on only one side with a lion or other sacred animal. 
The days are pounding by - I don't know about you, but I seem already to be embedded in seasonal cheer and events. I know that I am fortunate to have so many  wonderful friends and contacts. However, I hope I make it to 2018.

Today's post is a treat. It has been written by the extraordinary polymath Hilary Gallo. A precocious and highly intelligent child/adolescent, Hilary commenced his career as a lawyer with a top global firm. He soon realised that for personal satisfaction he needed to do something more creative and so founded his own business - in a way this initial venture reflects his on-going passion for enabling individuals to stand out and shine. He returned to the law within a tech environment, solving problems (something his is good at) prior to stepping into the world of commerce and outsourcing, where he honed his negotiation skills, before jumping ship to become a consultant. Increasingly he found himself focussing on people-related matters. In 2011 he founded Consensum and spends his time on enabling people and helping encourage power without power. He holds retreats for executives looking to change the way they approach work and life, is a trained mediator and runs confidence-building workshops in schools. He is an exceptional writer, speaker and coach. He is a CEDR Accredited Mediator and a Meyler Campbell Executive Coach (accredited by WABC and the SRA) and a Realise2 Accredited Strengths Coach and is also Lumina Spark, Emotion and Leader Accredited. His detailed career history on LinkedIn is here

Hilary lives in North Hertfordshire in the UK with his family. He loves the outside and is often to be found on water (or helping people who are on it), or walking in the glorious countryside near his home. It is great to have him here as part of this community.


Sometimes it is OK not to know. Sometimes it can even be good to be confused and lost for a while. Times of not knowing, of feeling about in the dark, are a place we have to go through in order to find something new. 2017 has felt like this to me at many times and in the all too frequent dark moments I keep reminding myself of this; darkness is only an interim stage.

In the confusion, some events stand out. One happened this autumn as I opened our front door to Shelia. Shelia looked me in the eye resolutely with stiff backed purpose, as she always does, and said “I suppose you are going to be all difficult this year again?” Stunned and somewhat lost for words, I simply responded to my near neighbour in our quiet village, “Good morning Shelia”.

I’d seen her coming down the path for this yearly event and, as I’d learnt to do over the years, had gone upstairs to get a heavy supply of change from my bedside table. This meant at least that I was able to respond by dropping a decent weight of coins into her collecting box whilst I asked how she was; trying to avoid her tray of poppies.

The year before I had tried to explain to Shelia that I’d happily give money to the collection but that I’d rather not have any poppies. I told her that our family didn’t wear them any more as we weren’t so sure about the tradition of remembrance and its purpose in the modern world.

Knowing Shelia of old I’d trod carefully and we’d had, what I thought of, as an honest exchange of views. I’d hoped that she’d at least understood me as I had sought to understand her. Now, I knew that this wasn’t so. I’d upset her. Also, just like last year, I’d failed in another sense; I still came away from the encounter with the poppies I no longer wanted.

A few weeks later, on Remembrance Sunday itself, I was sitting with my daughter, Anna, who is 15 and we started to talk about how she understood the idea of remembrance and how it had been presented at school. Put simply she didn’t get it. I explained how I understood it and she was clear. “I get that” she said “But how is that helping us going forward?” she asked as we both went on to question the divisive behaviour and the rising levels of violence in the world that we’d seen in 2017.

With Anna’s question in mind my thoughts went back to another woman, equally as strong as Shelia but very different. I’d met Mama D when she’d stood up to lead an exercise at a gathering I’d attended in North London in the weeks after the Grenfell Tower disaster. The event had been a coming together of community groups seeking answers to change at the grass-roots level.

The group descended into the very talking we’d promised to get away from, and Mama D, bursting with energy, had suggested we get up, get moving and do something physical. Several of us got up with her and followed her instructions which were to close our eyes and to take ourselves back to the first dawn on a barren planet, stripped back of anything we knew.

Once we found ourselves fully in that space Mama D encouraged us to feel the first stirrings of the morning as the sun made the promise of impending light to us and, as the sun rose, to move physically into possibility of the new world that was dawning before us and of which we were a part. My whole body felt warmed through with fresh possibility as I reached forward to embrace the light of that first dawn.

When we all opened our eyes together all of us went through a surprised and startled moment when we realised that we were all making the basically the same shape. All of us had our hands up, outstretched with our fingers spread in the shape of a tree. Our bodies were open, stretching out for possibility, for light and for connection. This wasn’t just me feeling this; this was a thing we all shared.

I later learnt that Mama D works with a community organisation called “Ubele” which is derived from the Swahili for “The Future”. Ubele is a community-building organisation that seeks to increase the capacity of the African Diaspora community in the UK to lead and to create their own social initiatives from the ground up. Tired of waiting for the central or local government to help people, they are helping those same people to help themselves.

Moving forward into 2018 I don’t want to repeat my mistake of unnecessarily upsetting the Shelias of this world or of forgetting the lessons of the past, but I do think that the ways of seeing that we have, and the framing narratives we live by unquestioned, do have to be looked at and that not everyone will always agree. I say this because I don’t believe that fiddling with the answers we already have will solve the systemic problems the like of which we saw at Grenfell Tower.

As I gather my thoughts in this traditional period of Advent my feeling is to be mindful of tradition and of the past but to be fundamentally where I was with Mama D. on that day. I want to build things afresh, keen to embrace a new dawn of a new day. In an openly embraced new dawn we all have the opportunity to be feeling good.

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