In a ‘new normal’, where we are socially, or rather physically distant, we found a new way to be politically close. By this, I don’t mean being close in our political views – rather, coming together virtually to learn the process behind democracy, hearing from speakers from various political backgrounds and sharing insights in unprecedented times. I am a participant in the Patchwork Foundation programme, who encourage and support the active participation of young people from diverse communities in British democracy and civil society. This year, during a global pandemic, I experienced sessions on Google Hangouts, learning about politics, campaigning and much more. This strange, yet exciting experience has been bizarre, to say the least, but rewarding nonetheless.
My experience with Patchwork Foundation stems from a few years ago, when I stumbled across the organisation and through them was able to meet the heroes who served with Nelson Mandela. Speaking to individuals who actively fought against the apartheid, instilled a hunger inside me for activism – to make a real change in this world. Their words around overcoming injustice still ring in my ears in the aftermath of George Flloyd’s murder. We have moved from apartheid to insititutional racism – proving that now, more than ever, there is a deep need for young people who are politically savvy to be the leaders of tomorrow, to create change.
Now, as a ‘Patchworker’ in their Masterclass programme, I have the opportunity to hear from world-class speakers. A few months ago, we had our induction session in parliament. I was buzzing, surrounded by wonderful individuals, ready to be challenged in a political programme. That was the first, and only, time thus far that our cohort has met in person. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that we would be thrown into a world where a virus would stop us in our tracks. After the initial uncertainty, I was delighted to hear that Patchwork Foundation would be moving to an online platform.
Our first Masterclass session was with Yael Lempert, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in London. Although we were not physically present together, I felt her powerful presence through her online talk. She spoke in a raw and honest way, taking us through a journey of her past and how she reached this esteemed position in her career. It was a great honour to hear her insights – seeing a woman, in what is typically a male-dominated world, thrive and succeed is inspirational. She shared many nuggets of wisdom, such as her advice on finding a job that sparks your passion and going for it – she said that somebody has to get the job, so why not you? It is similar advice that my mum gives me – if you don’t apply, you won’t get it! The thing which stuck with me the most however, was when she told us the importance of speaking truth to power. That is something I live my life by and I hope that by participating in this Masterclass programme, I will gain the skills to be able to effectively communicate the hard truths to people in positions of power.
Written by Haleema Ali