2020: THE RISE OF THE ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR

Featured image by André López via Instagram.

Reposted from Artefact Magazine

You wouldn’t think that starting a business in one of the UK’s worst economic recessions would be a good idea – but some business owners would beg to differ.

Despite the disruption it brought into our lives, the global pandemic, it seems, has sought to arouse our pioneering talents by inspiring a new wave of entrepreneurial innovation.

According to data released by multinational e-commerce company eBay, during the UK’s first lockdown there was a 256% increase in the number of registrations for new start-ups on its platform, compared to the same period last year.

Micro-businesses, enterprises that employ fewer than ten employees, currently make up over one fifth of the UK’s economy and account for more than 95% of the 5.9 million businesses currently active in Britain.

Antoinette John-Griffith, 25, started ‘Dancefitwithant’, an online dance class which is helping people to keep active whilst working from home.

Antoinette John-Griffith, founder of ‘Dancefitwithant’ [Antoinette John-Griffith]

In March, after completing her dance instructor training, Antoinette had planned to teach regular classes in schools and community groups but suddenly found she was unable to do so, thanks to the first lockdown. Determined not to be defeated, Antoinette decided to launch her business anyway to keep up her momentum.

“I started teaching classes [in person] in March so when lockdown happened, I had to cut everything off and that was very demotivating,” she told us.

“But I think the lockdown forced people to think differently and I soon realised that there were still many ways that I could keep going. I started to use Zoom as a way to get my business out there. It wasn’t easy though. When I first started, I didn’t have a foundation of people whereas, for older Zumba instructors, the transition was easier. For me, I had to promote as much as I could on social media, often getting my friends to share it too,” she said.

“It is a challenge, but running a business in lockdown is do-able. It depends on the mindset you have. If you’re lazy about it, then it might not be for you, but I do think running an online business will become the normal thing for some people and I’m definitely still going to continue,” she added.

It is a challenge but running a business in lockdown is doable. It depends on the mindset you have.

Antoinette John-Griffith

For other business owners, the establishment of their online ventures have followed pressing social issues amid the pandemic and a desire to address them.

In October, business partners Marvin Evans and Damel Lambert-Powell, launched Pro Black, an online company based in London which sells luxury male underwear at affordable prices.

Following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, Evans and Lambert-Powell started the venture with a vision to empower the Black community; creating a way to start building a ‘sustainable empire’ through ‘generational wealth’.

“I was seeing how young black people like ourselves were posting pictures all over social media in brands like Calvin Klein. And so, I questioned what we could do to have something that is uniquely ours,” Evans told Artefact.

‘Pro Black’ co-founder, Damel Lambert-Powell [Damel Lambert-Powell]

“I wanted to create something that promoted confidence and pride, to show that as Black people we could be better and promote our own brands,” Evans said.

“We both have this shared goal of generating generational wealth and building sustainable empires and this year provided an opportunity to do that,” said business partner, Damel Lambert-Powell.

“This is a stepping stone where we’re trying to build a brand and a product that we believe in, and that we think carries an important message. But it’s also a tool through which we can learn, so that we can build bigger and better businesses as well,” he told us.

In November, social media giant, Instagram launched its new ‘Shop tab’ feature, allowing businesses to promote and sell their products within a specified area on the social media app.

A screenshot of Instagram’s Shop tab feature
[Darnell Christie]

When discussing the ‘quick change’ that consumers were experiencing, Adam Mosseri, who is the Head of Instagram highlighted the need for the social network to adapt to the movements within the retail market which the coronavirus pandemic had spurred.

“This year, with the pandemic and much of the world sheltering in place, we’ve seen an incredible amount of shopping move online,” Mosseri said.

“With more and more people buying online and young people looking to their favourite creators for recommendations on what to buy, we’re making it easy to shop on Instagram, and support small businesses,” Mosseri said.

One of the largest internet domain registrars in the world, GoDaddy, reported earlier this year that 20% of UK micro-businesses had set up an online presence for the first time, with nearly half of them improving their use of digital tools such as social media.

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, a small business support network based in London, believes that many small firms will continue trading ‘both online and offline’, but she also spoke of the growth benefits that an online transition had to offer in light of the pandemic.

“By going online, many have found that opening an e-commerce shop means learning new skills like digital marketing [and] social media. It means in many cases their market has gone from hyper-local, to nationwide,” Jones said.

“It makes sense for firms to be able to get a broad exposure to customers, and that means experimenting by selling on a number of different platforms. [It] makes sense to try out selling on Amazon, Etsy or Uber Eats for restaurants, as they offer access to a vast customer network and revenue stream,” she said.

For some though, the idea of having a business is not so much centred on profit but more on providing services to help connect and uplift people in this time of uncertainty.

Founder of ‘Jams Food Co’, Jamarah Irish, prepares cupcakes for one of her customers [Jamarah Irish]

In September, Jamarah Irish, a primary school teacher from west London started ‘Jams Food Co’, an online food delivery business.

In launching the new service, Irish aspired to use her love for food to bring a sense of joy to others affected by the pandemic, as she believed that there were still many who were “not coping very well” with the changing times.

“In running a business, it’s not so much about the money side for me, obviously it is a business, but I think the making money part comes second. It’s nice to know that I am generating an extra income for financial stability sake, but it’s nicer to know that I’m making someone’s day,” Irish told us.

“It’s not necessarily the case where I have to sell every single week. When I want to sell then I’ll promote myself, and when I want to have a quiet week then I will. More than the money aspect, it’s being able to have something that I’m passionate about,” she said.

“Using a business solely to generate more income can be discouraging if it doesn’t go well, especially now. If you want to start a business, I recommend doing something that you already love. You can always adapt things so that your business can go on to generate more in the long run, the money will come in time.”

Battling homelessness in lockdown

A person sits on a bag, observing a busy city street
Featured image by Evstyle via Unsplash.

In recent years, homelessness has consistently been highlighted as an area of rising concern throughout the UK. In a year that has seen unprecedented changes to social interaction, the presence of Covid-19 continues to pose a serious challenge in combating homelessness.

After the announcement of a second national lockdown in England, many homeless charities now believe that rough sleepers are even more vulnerable.

Cold winter weather coupled with a reduction of homeless support services, due to dwindling budgets and new government restrictions on social gatherings, mean that this winter could be the toughest yet for thousands of rough sleepers.

Josh, a young person from south-west London, had been sleeping on the streets for a while before he was eventually linked with New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre helping to support homeless young people in central London.

Because he was not deemed to be a ‘statutory homeless’ person – a homelessness status in which that person is owed a duty of care by a local authority – Josh was unable to get the help he needed from his council and continued rough sleeping as a consequence.

Since New Horizon’s youth-specific outreach team found him, Josh has been receiving support from the charity throughout the coronavirus pandemic but is still looking for somewhere to stay due to a lack of available housing.

“I was made to leave the place I was staying in sad circumstances,” Josh told Artefact Magazine. “During lockdown, I was working as a carer, but I was sleeping on the streets. It’s been a fight to keep that going. At night you wait and wait for someone from outreach who say they come to see you and then they don’t. You’re just stuck and unsafe.”

Between July and September this year, homeless outreach teams recorded 1,901 people sleeping rough for the first time in London alone, according to a report by the Greater London Authority released in October. The largest distribution of rough sleepers was noted in key boroughs of central London, including Westminster, City of London and Camden.

This map of London shows the distribution of recorded rough sleepers from July to September 2020 [Chain Quarterly Report]

Phil Kerry,  the CEO of New Horizon told Artefact that hundreds of young Londoners are already “slipping through the cracks or being put in serious danger” this year, citing the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of youth-specific resources as a contributing factor to an already deteriorating situation for young homeless people across the capital.

“Going forward, the Mayor must make proportionate budget allocations to match the 11% of rough sleepers who are young people,” Kerry said. “So far City Hall has not ring-fenced any funds for street homeless people under 25; given the continuing trend, we must make sure that rough sleeping strategies now start to include young people’s experiences and needs. Although less immediately visible, young people are very present amongst rough sleepers and they must be no longer ignored.”

New Horizon have partnered with Centrepoint – another youth homeless charity – and together they are calling for the government to make age-appropriate provisions for young Londoners sleeping rough.

With winter approaching, the charities say that priority to Covid-safe emergency accommodation should be given to 18-25-year-olds who are street homeless.

Currently, the British government has promised more than £150 million to fund the delivery of more than 3,300 new long-term homes for rough sleepers across England by the end of March 2021. The funding comes in addition to the government’s initial sum of £91.5 million which had been allocated to 274 councils in September, to help fund local plans for rough sleepers over the winter as well as short-term and interim accommodation for vulnerable people.

However, the charities warn that the measures don’t go far enough, linking a potential rise in the number of rough sleepers this winter to a drastic reduction to homeless services due to social distancing, and late implementation of the government’s new furlough scheme which has seen many lose their jobs.

A day centre in west London supporting people facing homelessness is working to reduce the impact. The Barons Court Project, an award-winning charity based in Hammersmith, started a social enterprise during the coronavirus pandemic which is using art to help those experiencing homelessness to create an additional income, whilst raising funds to enable the continuation of the charity’s work.

The charity’s initiative, ‘Home(less) Made’ runs weekly art workshops that teach participants how to design, draw and paint, and to sell their work on.

So far, the project has attracted art buyers from as far as the United States and made more than  £1,500 since its launch in May, with 50% of the profit going back to the artists themselves.

Guan Chow, 57, a Home(less) Made participant who has been couch surfing throughout the pandemic, felt the initiative had improved his mindfulness in recent months: “Without this project, I don’t think I’d be able to do [anything] productive. For [a] moment in time, I am able to concentrate, and put all my focus into my painting,” he said.

“One night we had a fundraising event at Hammersmith Town Hall, and my painting raised £140. I never thought people would pay that kind of money for my painting. I was so chuffed and taken by it, and from then on, I thought, oh my God, people really admire and appreciate my work.”

Guan Chow experiments with abstract design as he paints on a canvas [Barons Court Project]

Michael Angus, Director of the Barons Court Project, emphasised the success of the programme, which he described as a more ‘sustainable’ approach to managing the delivery of homeless care services throughout the pandemic. Starting the group as a way to use the talent of the guests at his day centre, Michael didn’t imagine the project would become so successful given the challenging circumstances.

“We’ve seen the benefits that this sort of project has on the level of confidence it can give our guests, which helps them prepare for an independent life. When Guan saw his designs being posted around the UK and beyond, he appreciated how much his work was admired,” Angus told us.

“The key to this project is really to help empower our guests by giving them the chance to express themselves creatively and realise their talent. They can then go back into society with a sense of pride and purpose,” Angus said.

The Barons Court project plans to expand its range of products in the coming year with the main goal of keeping the issue of homelessness within the public eye.

Given that the national lockdown in England ceases on December 2, the group aims to launch stalls at several public locations in west London, where they will sell artisan Christmas cards to continue raising funds. The locations of the stalls are yet to be confirmed.

With government support and continued efforts put in by charities across London, there is anticipation that rates of rough sleeping will decrease – but without a guarantee of vital resources for support services throughout the pandemic, there are still real concerns about what the state of homelessness could look like going into the New Year.

What next for the #EndSARS movement?

Demonstrators pictured resting at protest site in Nigeria (Picture taken from Twitter, @_SavvyRinu_)

The Nigerian President has called for protesters to stop their peaceful demonstrations in his address to the nation on Thursday but avoided the mention of the lethal shootings that took place earlier this week.

Saying that the youths’ “voice have been heard”, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged the five demands made by young Nigerians who have been protesting the excessive use of police force over the past two weeks but did not agree to an investigation into the killings.

The demonstrations emerged as young Nigerians challenged SARS, the country’s ex-Special Anti-Robbery Squad which was established in 1992 as a police unit to tackle rising violent crime.

After years of attempted reform and numerous reports highlighting allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings directed towards citizens, the President’s office announced the disbandment of the unit in mid-October this year.

Despite the disbandment of the force, many Nigerians do not believe that the actions go far enough and are demanding further systemic reform.

On Tuesday, protesters were peacefully demonstrating at Lekki toll gate and Alausa in the country’s southern capital, Lagos despite the imposition of a 24-hour curfew. Protesters were subsequently shot at by Nigerian security forces, resulting in the death of 12 people according to a report by Amnesty International.  

The Nigerian army have denied this allegation.

Members of the international community including the UN Secretary General, António Guterres and British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab have denounced the actions and are calling for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

#EndSARS has been hijacked

Since the incident, Nigerian news sources claim that “hoodlums” have now taken advantage of the unrest in the country’s capital in what some have deemed “a hijacking” of the #ENDSARS campaign.

A Nigerian journalist who has asked to remain anonymous for his safety described the development as a move “from protest to anarchy” after the “hooligans” were seen on social media looting private property, damaging infrastructure and setting fire to shops and vehicles.

The counter-protesters whom he said were “imported” to cities from neighbouring states, have been paid by politicians and transported around the country by the State Security Service to incept and terrorize anti-SARS protesters, with some wielding knives and firearms, he said.

“The counter – protesters have been misinformed and told that anti-SARS demonstrators are trying to overthrow the President. Some of them have not even heard of SARS or know what it stands for”, the journalist said.

The State Security Service were not immediately available for comment on these claims.

International Support

The protest movement has extended to other nations including Germany, Canada and the U.S. with several more demonstrations expected across the UK this weekend.

Protests in Birmingham, Luton and Southampton will be held on Saturday (October 24) with additional movements planned in Reading and Glasgow on Sunday (October 25) according to the EndSars UK Instagram Instagram account.

Anti-lockdown protests: A global fight for liberty or a menagerie of ill-informed activism? Whatever it is, it’s not all about Miss Rona.

Demonstrators at Open New Jersey Protest, photo provided by Ayla Wolf

“Personally, I see the correlation to Nazi Germany with this thing and it scares the living heck out of me. The reason Government feels that it has to take care of the people and has to order them to do things is because they believe we’re too stupid to do it ourselves. The idea that citizens can’t protect themselves is the problem there.”

From his home in Illinois, Josh Ellis, local business owner and founder of the online campaign group, American Revolution 2.0, vents his frustration about the U.S. government’s “unconstitutional” response to managing the Covid-19 crisis. He is calling on state leaders to end the lockdown and has created various groups to help realise this goal. Before it was unexpectedly shut down by Facebook, Ellis claims that his American Revolution 2.0 Facebook page attracted thousands of followers within days. “The Facebook shutdown actually doubled or tripled our numbers across the board”, says Ellis. “It gave us extra time to grow.”

Is this a fight for liberty…?

Beyond the concerns of economic insecurity, are those who are calling for a repeal of lockdown conditions based on a desire to uphold the law and have civil liberties respected.

In the U.S., Ellis decries the actions of state officials and expresses a strong condemnation for the “powerful” Democrat governors who have imposed lockdown measures with various executive ‘stay-at-home’ orders. Angered, Ellis emphasises that “you don’t want centralised power; you want the power in the hands of the people. They are supposed to be the most powerful.” 

The ‘Reopen America’ movement is rapidly gaining traction among its sympathisers. There is a burgeoning online presence from the movement, which is receiving endorsements, from various notable right-wing political figures including political commentator, Candace Owens, congressional candidate for California, DeAnna Lorraine and of course, the President himself. “Liberate Michigan, liberate Minnesota, liberate Virginia and save your great 2ndAmendment. It is under siege!”. Trump tweeted in mid-April.  

New Jersey mum and avid online activist, Ayla Wolf was charged with disorderly conduct after attending an Open New Jersey protest in May. She was served with a summons and is now facing six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. 

“I have two sons; I have a daughter and I don’t want them to grow up in a world where our freedoms have been taken and that’s the new normal for them. Our governors are trying to prolong the lockdown as long as possible. They’re ruling with tyranny. People aren’t allowed to go out and work. Their businesses are closed and they’re not receiving the money or the aid that’s being given. A lot of people in New Jersey are 14 weeks out without a pay cheque and yet legally they’re not allowed to work. So, they’re going to foodbanks. People are losing businesses that they spent decades building. The banks are just going to scoop them up and they can no longer open even when the shutdown is over. So, I see the suffering.” 

Ms Wolf as she speaks at protest, photo provided by Ayla Wolf

Wolf later explained that in spite of the resistance she would not stop fighting for her beliefs. She says that although she has been charged criminally for organising protests and continually harassed by the police, it only strengthens her resolve to fight harder. “I’m not out there spreading Covid-19, I’m out there spreading courage and courage is contagious”, says Wolf. 

In Britain on the other hand, reactions have been somewhat muted. However, more rebellious actions have been emerging. Just recently there were anti-lockdown protests which saw Piers Corbyn –brother of ex-Labour leader, Jeremey Corbyn – arrested in Hyde Park this month after refusing to leave the protest or give his personal details.

The protests in the UK are reported to have been coordinated by the group, UK Freedom Movement who are planning similar events in Leicester, Manchester and Southampton. But despite that, over here things seem to have taken up a slightly less belligerent tone overall compared to the U.S. According to Psychologist Stephen Reicher, it’s to do with ideological factors. Reicher says that the two countries’ attitudes (referring to the USA and UK) toward the state differ greatly. “The US was born in a revolution against the central state –it was born out of a suspicion of state power and it was organised very strongly to avoid too much centralised power.” He says, “Britain does not have an anti-state revolutionary tradition in the way that […] countries born out of anti-colonial revolutions have […] In Europe (including the UK), the state on the whole is seen as reasonably progressive and redistributive. In the States it’s seen as tyrannical.”

Protesters in Hyde Park, Photo from Sky News.com

It should be mentioned however, that despite the copious amount of media coverage in the United States, protests are actually only being undertaken by a minority of citizens. According to a survey released by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press – NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research, only 31% of Americans actually approve of anti-quarantine protests. Of that percentage, the majority are Republican Party voters. But perhaps contrary to what one would think, a large proportion of the Republican electorate are also dubious about the demonstrations, with 51% of Republican voters disapproving of the protests. 67% of Democrat voters think the same way. Polarity within parties is a clear conclusion.

In spite of this, protests are set to continue with new movements being organised from state to state on a daily basis. However, counteraction is also being taken up, particularly by those healthcare workers whom themselves are against the Open America movement. A viral video of two uniformed nurses silently standing to obstruct an autocade at an anti-lockdown rally in Denver, Colorado, became an internet sensation a month ago.  “It really feels like a slap in the face to medical workers” said Alexis, one Colorado-based nurse who opposes the anti-lockdown movement. 

…or is it a conspiracy?

But then, what would the coronavirus be without the C-word attached to it? Coronavirus conspiracy; even the words themselves complement each other. The proliferation of insanely outlandish conspiracy theories has truly made its mark in this crisis.

A study by the University of Oxford released on 23rd of May, showed that more than a fifth of people in England believe that the coronavirus is a hoax.  

Varying theories have emerged. From Bill Gates being behind a plan for global implementation of micro-chipping vaccines to the beliefs that Covid-19 was a bioweapon developed by China to destroy the West; the speculative hypotheses are numerous and wide-ranging. 

What is concerning in the minds of many, is that those who believe in such theories are in fact less likely to adhere to Covid-19 measures. 

“Our study indicates that coronavirus conspiracy beliefs matter.” Said Daniel Freeman, consultant clinical psychologist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation. 

“Those who believe in conspiracy theories are less likely to follow government guidance, for example, staying at home, not meeting with people outside their household, or staying two metres apart from other people when outside. Those who believe in conspiracy theories also say that they are less likely to accept a vaccination, take a diagnostic test, or wear a face mask.”

Dr Gordon Pennycook, Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Regina explains why some people are “just better” at untangling the fact from fiction. As pointed out in Pennycook’s co-authored paper, ‘Predictors of attitudes of misperceptions about Covid-19 in Canada, the UK and the USA’, it comes down to something called ‘cognitive sophistication’ which is basically the quality of a person’s reasoning.  

One of the measures contributing to people’s level of cognitive sophistication is something called, “bullshit receptivity” and yes, you read it correctly. Pennycook explains how people’s receptivity to “pseudo-profound bullshit” is an even stronger indicator than political ideology saying that “not all reasoning is politically motivated.”

He outlines one of his investigative studies and demonstrates how cognitive sophistication is taken into account when looking at people’s likeliness to have misconceptions and thus believe in conspiracy theories.  

“We take, abstract buzzwords and put them together randomly into a sentence. The sentence would be something like, ‘hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty’. The sentence has a syntactic structure, so it sounds like it means something, but really, it’s just a random sentence. We asked people to rate how profound the sentences were. We found that the more profound participants thought the sentences were, the more receptive they were to bullshit. The correlations of the study showed that people who are more sophisticated cognitively have lower misconceptions.”

It’s not just the cranky Karens and tinfoil hat Toms

Among the average protestors, lies an insidious undercurrent of far-right advocacy that is taking place rather opportunistically. Right-wing groups like the AfD and COMPACT in Germany for example, are using the protests for their own benefits and in many cases are calling for the number of protests to expand.  

“They’re looking for ways to latch on to any kind of mainstream elements that can help further their narratives about racism, xenophobia and immigration. The anti-lockdown protests are a magnet because they represent so many different things that dovetail so nicely with the pre-existing trends of right-wing and white supremacist extremism”, says Peter Simi, professor sociology at Chapman University. 

Dr Lamprini Rori, lecturer in politics at the University of Exeter also points out however, that the pandemic has in fact marginalised the far-right. On the whole, public opinion has been to respect the rules of confinement and lockdown. Given the closure of borders and various limits to “cross-border circulation”, Rori explains that to some degree national governments have in a sense “hijacked” the far-right narrative and consequently caused populists to lose support.

As a reaction, Rori says that far-right groups have “mobilised conspiracy theories in order to deconstruct the consensus over the management of the pandemic” and presented the pandemics “as an excuse to shrink freedoms and impose obedience.” In this way, the far-right try to (and always have) “capitalize from discontent linked to crises” with an aim of canalising “insecure voters towards the far-right narrative.” 

Moreover, Dr Rori also makes a point of reminding people that every party and “political actor is trying to gain leverage within the context of the pandemic”; not just the far-right. The current crisis proves “a big opportunity for mainstream political actors, like the EU, to revive their legitimacy and popularity” as well.

That which can be gathered from all of this anti-lockdown action, is that the feelings and motivations involved are certainly not all about the coronavirus or lockdown itself. With various facets and explanations behind the protests, it is clear that Covid-19 has in fact brought about a desire and drive to highlight the societal issues and concerns afflicting so many. However long these protests last, what can be deduced is that the matters that they have raised, will continue to remain a point of contention even after the pandemic has passed and will perhaps even become that more prominent with time.

The Story of an Essential Worker amid the Covid-19 Crisis

This is Shirley.

Shirley Wiggins is a security officer working in central London. Before the coronavirus pandemic, she didn’t necessarily see her job as ‘essential’ but in progressing through the Covid-19 crisis, she has learned to see her work and that of others in a different way.

Shirley talks about the importance of thinking differently after Covid and explains from her perspective, the changes that the world needs to make for a sustainable future. This is her story.

See her story below:

Darnell Responds Podcast Launch – 21st Feb 2020

This is Darnell Responds, the new podcast hosted by me, Darnell Christie. 

Discussing and digging into the latest stories from around the world surrounding news and other topical debate with my own personal take.

 With episodes released every two weeks there’ll surely be something for everyone. 

Don’t forget to tune in from 21st of February to be sure not to miss the debut episode.  See you there!

Listen on:

Buzzsprout (My Podcast host site):

https://www.buzzsprout.com/883435

Spotify:

Darnell Responds Available on Spotify

Empowering communities through climate action Darnell Responds

In this episode, we speak to climate justice activist, Suzanne Dhaliwal, looking at the importance of decolonisation within the climate movement. Then, founder of Kenyan NGO, Agnes Leina talks on the empowerment of women to address drought. And young Ugandan activist, Mulindwa Moses demonstrates the power of youth in the climate battle.
  1. Empowering communities through climate action
  2. Racism and goals for the advancement of the Black community
  3. What has COVID-19 taught us about tackling climate change?

Venezuelan Migrant Crisis: How is Colombia managing?

Amid the Venezuelan migrant crisis, millions of people continue to leave Venezuela in search of a better life with more opportunities abroad. The numbers of Venezuelans leaving the country is continuing to grow. But how is the abundant flow of migrants affecting the countries to which they arrive?

Darnell Christie travels to Colombia – Venezuela’s closest neighbour – to find out how the country is managing with the shear amount of migrants entering the country and the affect the crisis is having on both Venezuelan and Colombian citizens alike. 

Darnell interviewing Venezuelan migrants in Medellín, Colombia

See the short video report to find out more (Link below)

Video Report on Venezuelan Migrant Crisis


Fires in the Amazon continue to rage –and did you even realise?

Picture taken from CNN.com

For the past three weeks large forest fires have been raging throughout the Amazon rainforest in South America and yet, there are still many who don’t even know what’s happening.

More than 2,500 fires are currently active and devastating thousands of hectors of age-old rainforest. Many of the fires are naturally occurring, though the intensity of the blazes have been perpetuated by the increasing rate of deforestation caused by illegal logging, land clearing and the intentional slashing and burning of the land for cattle ranching and agriculture.

So far not much has been done. Until a couple days ago, a lacking media coverage and government intervention stunned those aware of the unfolding events. Some claimed that powers at be were allowing the world’s largest rainforest, “the lungs of the Earth” to continue to burn itself alive for invested economic interests.

Across social media, individuals are outraged by the lack of thought being put to resolving the issue. Many have compared the events to the burning of the Parisian cathedral, Notre Dam earlier this year stating that, “when the Notre Dame was burning, the world’s media covered every moment of it and billionaires rushed to restore it. Right now the Amazon is burning…No media coverage. No billionaires.” An emerging international outcry is beginning with the continual circulation of the hashtag #prayforamazonia as people begin to realise the devastation currently unfolding in the region.

“An international crisis” said the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Until earlier today, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro had claimed that non-governmental organisations had started the fires to make him look bad, although he later admitted to having no evidence for his claim. He also added that the media reports on the events were ‘exaggerating’ and that the spreading of disinformation has led to a misunderstanding of the intensity of the fires in the region. He has said, “forest fires exist in the whole world and this cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions.”

However, with the forest fire smoke being made visible from space, it’s hard to believe that the extent of the burning is merely an ‘exaggeration’.

Picture taken from Seeker.com

Indigenous community throughout the many regions of the Amazon have had their ways of life and livelihoods decimated. A short video circulating on social media from Russia Today pictures a tribal woman emphatically pleading as she explains how corporations having been intentionally burning parts of the forest in order to clear the land for farming. The woman cries as she explains how the Indigenous community have been trying to nurture the area despite the disruption received from the corporations.

This isn’t a new threat to the Amazon however, constant deforestation and threats against indigenous communities regarding land rights have been an ongoing occurrence over the past decade as large multination companies seek to use land and extract more resources from the Amazon. Today, the leader of the indigenous Mura community, Raimundo Mura said that this is “white man’s goal to finish off the Amazon.”

International pressure continues to build

As the blazes continue be left unchecked, pressure from the international community is being but on President Bolsonaro and other international leaders to take steps to mitigate the problem. In Rio de Janeiro, protesters marched against the Brazilian Government in response to the current apathetic approach being taken to resolve the crisis. President of France, Emmanuel Macron also released a tweet saying, “our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis.” The president urges an emergency debate ahead of the G7 meetings scheduled in a couple days.

He has also threatened to block an EU trade deal with Brazil and its neighbouring countries which accounted for 20.1% of exports in 2018 and has done so in response to their handing of the forest fires by governments in the region. Macron said that Bolsonaro had lied to him at the Osaka summit earlier in June about his stance on climate change. However, Bolsonaro insists that Macron is taking this action solely for political gain.

In spite of this, Bolsonaro has been forced to reconsider his approach and as of today the Brazilian president has planned to deploy army troops to record and tackle the impact of the fires for the next month.

DELETED from the system and happier

 The documentary bringing truth to Britain’s shameful homeless situation

The short documentary film, Deleted, directed by Stephan Pierre Mitchell documents the last five hours of Ahmed Sadiqqi Hussein before he is evicted from his home in north-west London and provides an insightful perspective into the life of the many homeless people in the UK. The documentary also follows the life  of Hussein as he lived on the streets of London. The 59-Year-old, said to have contracted cancer and pneumonia whilst homeless, had been living on the streets for over a year while the film was shot, before he tragically passed away in May earlier this year. 

The documentary points to a failing bureaucratic governmental system being the reason for the mass number of evictions and homelessness experienced in the United Kingdom annually.

According to the Office for National Statistics, “597 homeless people were found dead in 2018.”  

“An ever-more bureaucratic and computerised system is making it harder for British people to access the information and support that they need in order to keep a roof over their head”, says Mitchell.   

The film addresses the homeless situation in a sensitive yet constructive way. As an audience member you find yourself continually warming up to Ahmed as you begin to understand his story and sympathise with his situation. The cinematic imagery captured by the Director of Photography, Aaran Green is clearly well thought out by the director and helps to embody specific elements of Ahmed’s personality and hidden suffering. It is achieved in an intelligent form that is neither forceful nor condescending to the audience or Ahmed himself. Unconventional shots in the film capture elements of Ahmed that perhaps would otherwise be lost. Extreme closeups and unusual imagery provide a vivid insight into the life of Ahmed and what he experiences everyday while on the street. As an audience member you enter into his mind with far greater certainty than what would be expected from the standard confessional interview. 

Supporting the imagery is the subtle and lush-sounding music score by composer, Mathew Slater. Though simple in its orchestration, Slater’s music powerfully adds to the uncovering of this story. In a similar fashion, the music gently adds to the unfolding and understanding of the emotions of Ahmed rather than ‘pulling at the heartstrings’ as it were. Stunningly executed and perfectly placed, the music is an even more lucid guide through Ahmed’s world. Even as Ahmed opens up about specific elements in his story that are seldom expected or unthought  of, the music continually finds a way to reflect the themes and emotions onscreen throughout. 

Having already won runner-up at Sunderland Shorts Film Festival and received a special commendation at the British Independent Film Festival, the film is already making strides and is set to continue its success premiering at both national and international film festivals.  

Director: Stephan Pierre Mitchell

“Late payments by the Department for Work and Pensions causes over 92,000 claimants each year” and the situation is not improving.  

As the film reiterates, it is not just Ahmed who has suffered. His story represents one of the many thousands that still exist across the country. 

Stephan Pierre Mitchell continues working to promote Ahmed’s story, enabling a voice to the many voiceless that there are in the United Kingdom.