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Sikh-Briton Jaspreet Kaur And The Spoken Word





Jaspreet Kaur is a total badass.

Not in the stereotypical way. She doesn’t ride a motorbike or open bottles with her teeth.

She is an inspiration. She’s tough. She’s no holds barred. Her way of tackling the tough stuff? Spoken word poetry.

A teacher at a secondary school in central London, England, Jaspreet started doing performance poetry a year and a half ago, finally finding the courage to share the poetry she’d been writing for a decade.

Now she uses the form to inspire women and affect social change, tackling everything from the stigma around periods and body hair to mental health and decolonisation.

‘I was just so intrigued to see whether or not anyone was able to connect with my words and if it was able to inflict enough emotions to trigger positive social change,’ Jaspreet says.

‘The first poem I performed was entitled ‘Queens and Corpses’ which focused on the 60 million missing girls in India and the ongoing son preference in the South Asian community. It sparked such a positive response and the spoken word journey has been snowballing since then’

Now, alongside teaching, Jaspreet performs her poetry on her YouTube channel and blog, ‘Behind the Netra‘, and on stage at events, festivals, and rallies.

‘I feel that spoken word can be such a powerful tool to impact social change and protest against injustice,’ she explains.

‘We are a society that has conditioned ourselves to bottle everything in, we associate strength with silence, when it reality sharing our thoughts and feelings will help us as individual and as a society. Poetry has helped me find my voice, so now I’ve got to share it.’

Jaspreet mainly focuses on issues of gender and women’s rights, using her poetry to remind everyone that sexism is still a thing and feminism is entirely necessary. She’s not one to stay quiet or pretend injustice isn’t happening. She’s going to talk about it.

‘Although women’s rights have come a long way in the past 100 years, the idea that women are now completely equal and thus no longer need feminism just isn’t true,’ says Jaspreet.

‘Yes, women do have more social, political and economic rights than ever before -- but the fact is, we still have to deal with the harmful side effects of gender inequality on a daily basis.

‘We still have to deal with pay inequality, body-shaming, sex-shaming, slut-shaming, mansplaining, victim-blaming and the constant erosion of our reproductive rights.

‘Feminism also aims to tackle the pressures of partiarchy on men, such as toxic masculinity, domestic violence and mental health stigma. As a woman of colour, things get even more complicated. The constant issues we deal with as a woman are combined with racism, cultural pressures and taboos.

‘And let us not forget developing nations are still being forced to cope with harsh, gender-specific health threats like fgm and fight for basic rights like education. That’s why I feel my poetry can act as a way to still voice these issues, especially as some of the women going through said issues might not be able to voice it themselves.’

A big part of being able to voice these things is a quiet confidence – something Jaspreet will be discussing as part of TEDxLondon on 4 June, 2017.

Jaspreet’s talk will be about the struggle of being from a culture in which mental health issues are still stigmatised, and trying to maintain self-confidence in the midst of shame and silence.

‘Growing up in a traditional family and community, I had already heard negative labels given to people suffering from mental health issues,’ explains Jaspreet.

‘Many people within the South Asian community still believe that mental health issues are a sign of bad ‘karam’ and that you’d be unable to get married and would bring shame on the family.

‘This led to me having no self-confidence what so ever growing up. I was told not to be too loud, not to be too confident. As a woman, I was meant to be seen, not heard.’

The talk will begin and end with two of Jaspreet’s spoken word pieces, with her own story sandwiched between: one of anxiety, depression, abuse, and attempted suicide. She’ll share how poetry saved her, giving her back the confidence to love who she is.

‘Confidence to me means being secure in your own intelligence and behaviour, knowing that you can handle whatever comes your way,’ says Jaspreet. ‘Confidence is being true to yourself. It means being content in your own skin.

‘I went through a number of unfortunate life situations which meant that I was never able to feel these ways about myself. The lack of self-esteem, in combination with anxiety and depression, led to times where I couldn’t even get myself out of the bed in the morning.

‘But now, with the combination of self-love, faith and finding my passions, I have never felt more confident, and this is something really excited to share in my TEDxLondon talk.’

To those struggling with self-confidence, Jaspreet has this advice: ‘Learn to love YOU. The key to loving yourself truly is to give yourself that which uplifts you, not just for the moment, but long term.

‘Loving yourself is having the courage to feel your feelings – even the ones that aren’t so pretty – without judging them. It’s holding yourself when you are feeling sad, angry or lonely with the utmost love and respect. Loving yourself takes practice and a strong resolution.

‘It’s the willingness to pick yourself up when life throws you a curveball. Even when you’re hurting -- lifting yourself up as if you truly were your own best friend. It’s reminding yourself how strong and you are.

‘You will be able to conquer anything if you put your mind to it, but first you have to take the time to learn how to love you.’

Hear, hear.

[Courtesy: Metro. Edited for]

May 13, 2017


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