FAMILY: WHAT MAKES A HOUSE A HOME?

FAMILY; WHAT MAKES A HOUSE A HOME?

 

WORDS TJ SAWYERR – PHOTOGRAPHY FILIPE PHITZGERARD

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a world where seemingly everything is temporary, the one true mainstay in life is those for whom we deeply care. Our families act as our teachers, our soulmates, our mentors, and provide a special feeling of permanence and security that can rarely be replicated. 

 

 

Following on from his informative written piece, entitled ‘Family’, creative director, writer and activist TJ Sawyerr ventured into the depths of London with photographer Filipe Phitzgerard to shoot with and speak to the families of four up-and-coming models in the comfort of their own homes. With each of the models having a particularly prominent voice when it comes to social issues, the discussion centred around the influence of family, the importance of community and struggles with systemic racism in society.

 

 

TJ Sawyerr: Hey! Introduce yourself and tell us what you do.

Luke Akoto: My name is Luke Akoto, I’m 17 years of age, I’m currently at 6th form and I’m an aspiring basketball player and model.

 

 

TJ.S: What does ‘family’ mean to you?

LA: The word ‘family’ means way more than just blood to me, the family is people that will have your back through whatever, people you can feel comfortable around at all times.

 


TJ.S: What’s the best piece of advice you received during your childhood?

L.A: ‘No matter what anyone tells you if you want to do something go for it.’ Words of wisdom from my dad.

 

 

TJ.S: What are your biggest concerns as a black person in today’s climate?

L.A: The biggest difficulty for me as a black person in today’s climate is the fear that expressing myself will stop me from thriving, educating myself or even living a comfortable life.

 

 

TJ.S: How can we as a community come together to combat these problems?

L.A: I think the protesting has helped open eyes but we still need to have those uncomfortable conversations with people to educate them.

 

 

TJ.S: Do you think that, as yet, the BLM movement has gone in the right direction?

L.A: I feel like some aspects have really gone well in terms of spreading awareness, however other messages like Blackout Tuesday kind of lost their meaning and looked more like a passover trend.

 

 

TJ.S: What changes would you suggest need to be implemented at a government level over the next 5 years to mitigate injustice?

L.A: Actually hire people that know what they’re talking about, and say it how it is on the news, rather than sugarcoating the problem.

 

 

 

 

TJ Sawyerr: Hey! Introduce yourself and tell us what you do.

Tobi Areoye: My names Tobi Areoye and I’m 20 years old. I’m currently studying Business Management at the University of Kent, writer for PANA MAG and model for Contact Agency.

 

 

TJ.S: What does ‘family’ mean to you?

T.A: The same way your friends almost act as an extension of yourself, I feel the idea of family reflects your morals and values as a person. My family is my safe place.

 

 

TJ.S: What’s the best piece of advice you received during your childhood?

T.A: In God’s time! I’m a strong believer in everything having its own time, so just trust the process. Things have a weird way of working for the best. Imposter syndrome is something that always hits me at weird times too. Feel I’m not deserving of certain opportunities and often doubt myself. But yeah its always important to reassure yourself and remember there’s reasoning behind everything. Also, daily affirmations! Word to Bazz and Ab! There’s power in the tongue!

 

 

TJ.S: What are your biggest concerns as a black person in today’s climate?

T.A: Representation. There is a lack of positive black media portrayal in mainstream media today and, as black individuals, we are often painted negatively. Feel as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that a lot of these news outlets are just not for us. I also feel like we’re becoming desensitised to black trauma. The commonness of racial injustice worldwide has meant we are often forced to see incidents of racial injustice over social media frequently. So much so that we have normalised it. It shouldn’t be normal seeing black people killed.

 

 

TJ.S: How can we as a community come together to combat these problems?

T.A: Be the change you want to see! Give light and attention to platforms actively trying to give voices to those within our community. Like Pana Mag. Check out Pana Mag. Pana Mag’s sick (@pana_mag). Another way would be through investing in our own community. Align your purchases with your values. I think things like the black pound day are really cool.

 

 

TJ.S: Do you think that, as yet, the BLM movement has gone in the right direction?

T.A: I think it has encouraged people to educate themselves on black history and the systems that are inherently in place to disadvantage certain groups. Despite the empty gestures and virtue signalling displayed by many organisations to show solidarity, I feel it has shown that there is indeed a problem at hand and change is necessary. 

 

 

TJ.S: What changes would you suggest need to be implemented at a government level over the next 5 years to mitigate injustice?

T.A: Police officers and other professionals go through unconscious bias training periodically. Clearer legislation put in place to hold police officers accountable for wrongdoings. Zero tolerance outlook to discrimination.

 

 

 

 

 

TJ Sawyerr: Hey! Introduce yourself and tell us what you do.

Zack Barnett-Moxam: Hi, I'm Zack Channon! I’m a father trying to make it in the modelling/fashion industry to create a great life for my daughter, myself & my people alike. In my spare time, I'm part of a running & fitness group called MT (Men Together) located in Brighton and before lockdown I was doing voluntary work with homeless people, which I'm looking to get back into. Other than that I use my social media to write & share motivational self-love posts, which in turn gets a lot of attention from people, (mainly those who need help) and we tackle their problems together - by the end of the year, I'm hoping to create a blog with all the information from these posts!

 

TJ.S: What does ‘family’ mean to you?

Z.B: Family to me means everything and includes everyone I know. Blood doesn't define it for me. A lot of people I'm not related to I deem my brothers & sisters, mainly because they've always been there for me and have always had time for me. These are the people that my heart resides with the most.

 

TJ.S: What’s the best piece of advice you received during your childhood?

Z.B: The best advice I ever received was to simply look after myself. Being the youngest of 5, but the only child from both my parents, I became very easily attached to those around me and a naïve part of me thought that I would always have others to rely upon and guide me. Unfortunately, circumstances changed quickly and I had to adapt my lifestyle; this was honestly a silver lining for me, forcing a young me to become more independent through it all.

 

TJ.S: What are your biggest concerns as a black person in today’s climate?

Z.B: It's difficult, to say the least. The amount of times I've been racially profiled and stopped & searched by police is ridiculous. Once on suspicion of 'drugs & weapons' in Waterloo Station, they took me off the train, making me miss my brother's performance and that hurt me. Another time I fell asleep sitting up on a bench with the same brother, we woke up and literally as we've woken up two policemen have come running at us - one doing the most and jumping a fence for no reason - just to detain us. I could go on but in all these experiences I was just minding my business, being me; a young black man in society. It's infuriating to continually have to go through these things whilst also worrying about my daughter's future. I refuse to let the system or society affect her life negatively in any way.

 

TJ.S: How can we as a community come together to combat these problems?

Z.B: By taking action. How? Through continuing to support and fight the good fight. We're protesting yet again. Some people from older generations that I've met at these protests have literally been doing this their whole lives which is sad but very powerful. You hear their stories, their cries and it resonates so deeply with you. They've dedicated their lives to the cause, they've dedicated it to the betterment of our people. We need to rise up & speak up like them, be active in the community, support one another, etc. - they've set the best example and it's up to us to carry the torch. 

 

TJ.S: Do you think that, as yet, the BLM movement has gone in the right direction?

Z.B: I believe it has greatly, we're stronger together and I feel like we've capitalised on it more. People put down social media but that's OUR platform, it's the people's platform, and it's being used to aid us - we can organise events, set up groups to pinpoint specific problems, be there for each other, share information, raise awareness, etc. The mainstream media will say what it wants but you can't deny the media that's controlled by the people. Even our allies have shown out for us. And most important change is actually happening.

 

TJ.S: What changes would you suggest need to be implemented at a government level over the next 5 years to mitigate injustice?

Z.B: It has come to my attention that people are saying to defund the police and put the money into society in other ways to benefit the people... Um, yes! I am all for that. It was one of those things that I knew I wanted before I even thought about it. Bring back youth centres to the level they used to be at; in their vast numbers and availability to everyone in every county, town and city. And if not that, then to change the entry requirements and just overall effort & knowledge that it takes to become a policeman. It takes around 6-7 years minimum (in the Uk anyway) to become a lawyer - and that's after already acquiring the needed qualifications - yet to become a policeman is nowhere near that level of effort, but they're both there to more or less do the same job of enforcing the law? I know who I trust. Some of the police out there don't even know most of the laws they're enforcing and that's just ludicrous. They don't know the law but because they have a hat and a badge I must listen to them? Ha. Listen, I wouldn't go to a fish to teach me how to fly. In all seriousness, though we need more from the government because from where I stand it doesn't feel like they care about us, and to get any form of recognition, we have to say something and we might not even be heard - whatever happened to be there for the people? Fix up.

 

 

 

 

 

TJ Sawyerr: Hey! Introduce yourself and tell us what you do. 

Alexsandrah Gondora: Hi! My name is Alexsandrah and I’m a model, mum, endo activist and teacher in the making.

 

 

TJ.S: What does ‘family’ mean to you?

A.G: Family to me is a bond, a unity that’s so sacred that I cherish it so deeply. I protect and love my family like nothing else. Family is irreplaceable, I have friends whom I call family and I will always treat them as my blood. Family is priceless and it truly means everything to me.  

 

 

TJ.S: What’s the best piece of advice you received during your childhood? 

A.G: I was always told to be strong, never give up and stand up for what I believe in.

 

 

TJ.S: What are your biggest concerns as a black person in today’s climate? 

A.G: I’m concerned that we live in a system that’s set up to make black people fail. I feel like a lot of black people are falling into the same systemic trap! We need to break this cycle and stop allowing those who implement this corrupt system to take advantage of us.

 

 

TJ.S: How can we as a community come together to combat these problems? 

A.G: We can do this by creating our own opportunities and coming together and supporting one another instead of killing and fighting. Educating ourselves is key as well! We need to push higher and higher despite the doubt surrounding our abilities. 

 

 

TJ.S: Do you think that, as yet, the BLM movement has gone in the right direction? 

A.G: Yes and no! I think BLM has really become a commercial slogan. I want to see more come from BLM, not just Instagram posts. I want to see how the movement is actually helping black communities and how are we intending to move forward. I think it’s been great and it’s had a massive impact but now we do need to push for real actions, real legislations and real results!!! 

 

 

TJ.S: What changes would you suggest need to be implemented at a government level over the next 5 years to mitigate injustice? 

A.G: Damn, I could be here all day answering this question! Firstly the government must be willing and ready to listen and make changes! I think every workplace should have an enforced level of diversity, especially the major influential corporations! I think the media needs to review and amend how they treat and speak about black offenders compared to white ones. I also think, in order to improve relations with black communities, the government needs to halt the promoting and celebration of slave owners and notorious racists. I don’t give a fuck what they did for this country, they have contributed to the demise of many black folks and should not be glorified in the form of statues in our streets! This doesn’t fix things but it’s a starting point!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOLLOW TJ SAWYERR ON INSTAGRAM

 

FOLLOW FILIPE PHITZGERARD ON INSTAGRAM

 

 

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