Inspired by the arrival of spring, Jessica Carvalho analyses what it truly means to ‘bloom’, and shares stories of not only inspiration, but also strength and perseverance.
I’m a firm believer that life – much like time – is composed of seasons. Someone’s winter could easily be someone’s summer, but one thing is certain; that very winter will pass, leaving the ice it brought along to thaw away, and flowers to bloom in its place. Sure, these flowers may look different than before, but they are even stronger, and even more beautiful.
Our existence follows a similar pattern – hard times are a given, but they too shall pass and give way to good days, and we will always come out changed from the experience – still as stunning and resilient as ever. The adversities we face in our lives are just as multifaceted as we are, and this article will focus on three people who overcame their own winters, now using their spring to raise awareness and be a voice of change in a world working through its own snowstorms.
Ironically, during the warm spring of May 2020, it suddenly turned cold. The racial tensions in the US reached a tipping point before spilling worldwide; a ‘balance’ that was due to be disrupted with every passing day. The murder of George Floyd was a wake-up call to the atrocious discrimination Black people face to this day, and it rang loudly for Natasha, all the way in the UK.
Known solely as her mononym, she is one of the co-organisers of the first UK Black Lives Matter protests, and the founder of All Lives Matter; the campaign which held weekly protests across the country for ten weeks, and the one which saw the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. Amidst all her activism, Natasha is still a student, but she is one of the few who have managed to unite the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “We’ve managed to ride the momentum to form established teams in London, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham,” Natasha says, and she is considering “venturing into politics” in the near future.
What sets Natasha apart is that, despite these fantastic online and offline campaigns, spring isn’t quite here yet; Black people have been living through a never-ending winter for centuries, one that is riddled with tales of hardship and pain. However, Natasha is hope, a sign of change – one that not even the hardest snowfall could deter from blooming.
The coldest season was also particularly gruelling for Dr Clara Barker. As a teen, she lived through Section 28 (which banned the promotion of homosexuality in school settings), meaning she grew up with no role models to look or relate to. Despite this she “always knew” she was transgender. In the late ‘80s, protests against Section 28 were rampant; this law came at a time the LGBTQ+ community was already dealing with the AIDS epidemic, only further targeting a sexual minority that was already struggling to cope. The implementation of the law took a heavy toll on Barker’s mental health at the time, and she suffered from “severe depression and suicidal thoughts”. Now fully transitioned, Dr Clara Barker has carved a name for herself not only as an LGBTQ+ activist, but also as an engineer and material scientist at the University of Oxford.
Science is an area which is still heavily male-dominated; their female counterparts are very rarely acknowledged or praised for their contributions. Dr Clara Barker is changing the narrative, nowadays a member of the university’s Department of Materials, and an advocate for women in STEM and LGBTQ+ diversity. “I was no longer pretending or hiding.” she recounts, the lab providing the perfect conditions for her to bloom into the person she was always destined to be.
As a woman, Patsy Stevenson is undoubtedly used to winter; cities designed to be biased against women, keys between knuckles, avoiding secluded detours, home by dusk – a never-ending terms and conditions list every woman has known her entire life.
Stevenson became known as “the girl in the photo”, a striking image depicting her helplessly pinned to the ground by two police officers as she tried to pay her respects to the late Sarah Everard, after her remains were reportedly found in a woodland in Kent.
Clapham Common was due to be the scene of a peaceful vigil in her memory until the arrival of the police, who began to make arrests. Stevenson recalls being “so scared”, and that she doesn’t know why she was “pushed to the ground so forcefully”. The very disruption of what would have been an emotive memorial for the death of a young woman is rather telling of the stance of not only the Metropolitan Police, but society as a whole. Women are always expected to make all arrangements just to ensure their human right to life, liberty and security and even then, they are violated – sometimes by taking away our voice, sometimes by taking our life. These situations aren’t simply winter or summer; there periods of autumn and spring, in which all we can do is relentlessly fight the fight and stop ourselves from being the next woman being honoured at a memorial.
It’s hard to lay a positive veil when we’re constantly battered with snowstorms, but the passage of the time is the only certain thing in life. With it, naturally, will come epic highs and absolute lows, but so will change. Every day, someone wakes up and decides to make change happen – the three stories mentioned are proof of that, each alike in adversities and growth. Though certain situations in our day-to-day life may be less serious and intermittent than those, it doesn’t take away from their seriousness and impact they can have on our wellbeing. One thing is certain, however; everything shall pass, and we’ll bloom yet again, stronger than before.
You can find more of Jessica’s work through her Instagram page, @whatjesstypes.