Yesterday, I was sat in Starbucks at 2.30pm nursing a red-wine hangover with a cup of black coffee. I was thinking about everything that had gone on in the world recently, especially in the UK with the three recent terror attacks – I thought about what I could do to help. I also thought about what I could do for myself, to help me believe that there is always more good than bad, however dark the world may get at times.
I thought about the way that Manchester rallied around itself in the aftermath of the awful attacks on the 22nd May. Yes, there is always an outpouring of sympathy and empathy in those circumstances but it seemed to happen on an even grander scale than usual that night. The taxi drivers who offered free lifts all night without pausing for a break, the ex-military homeless men who rushed to the scene to help the wounded children, the man who went to give blood the next morning and got turned away due to full capacity and told the BBC that he was going to walk around town and smile at people, to try and get them to smile back at him because that’s what he thought Manchester needed. And more than that, the sheer outpouring of love for the diversity of their community. So many Mancunians went on record after that attack to say that they would not place any of the blame upon Islam as they knew that true Muslims decry any and all acts of terrorism. They stood fast and told the world that they would not turn against their multi-cultured community.
And I believe that and respect that so much.
I’ve heard anti-Muslim slurs from my own family in the past few months. Sentences along the lines that all of them are culpable when it comes to terrorism. Alluding to the wish for mass deportations. I hope I don’t need to tell you that every one of these sentences made me so incredibly mad and that my personal beliefs could not be further from these disgusting remarks. But it’s made me see just how widespread this type of prejudice is, and it made me appreciate Manchester’s response all the more.
So my tattoo is a Manchester Worker Bee, which traditionally symbolises the hard-working spirit of the city of Manchester, and has been a symbol of the city since the 1800s. Since, the terror attack, other people, like myself, have adopted it as a symbol to show solidarity with the Mancunian population. To pay our respects to this most strong and sincere of cities.
My friend told me yesterday, with a mixture of curiosity and disdain that he didn’t understand why I’d gotten this tattoo. In his opinion, he thought he was seeing a whole new side to me, and that I’d ‘never really expressed any inclination towards a social movement like this before’.
(I think he meant well, but he did then follow up a question asking me where I’d gotten the tattoo (my forearm) with: ‘oh wow, okay that’s prominent then. But still, good for you.’)
See, this got me thinking that perhaps I never had aired my beliefs on equality in public enough. Perhaps I’ve been worried about being labelled or argued with. But now that there’s a mark on my skin declaring that hope and love and equality and multi-culturalism is basically the base foundation of my belief system, perhaps now is as good a time as any to get a little loud-mouthed.
I have this tattoo on my fore-arm as a symbol to you, you see.
Should you need my help for anything at all, whatever your religion, ethnicity, class, gender or education, I am here for you.
I want you to look at me on the street, and know for a fact, a solid bonafide fact that I stand for you, with you, next to you.
And I got this inked onto my skin, to be there until the day I die, so that I can remember the strength and the dignity that that amazing community showed the world during those horrible events on that night, and afterwards too.
And perhaps a little bit to remind myself that we are never defined by what happens to us, but rather in how we remember, afterwards, to love and cherish and uphold everything that is dear to us. How we rise from the ashes and begin again.
I always will.