Diversity City

I’m very fortunate to live in London (well, the London Borough of Croydon) and I’m so glad that I can look to any corner of my city and see diversity. I don’t just mean race. I mean religion, political views, ethics, gender, sexual orientation. The lot. Being involved in the work that I do is a real insight into how this part of town is run. So many people I know are activists, campaigners, socially and politically aware and active.

It’s great and there’s no doubt about it.

One thing I have noticed though, which upsets me sometimes is that even though our city is so diverse, there’s one group that doesn’t seem to mobilise as much as others. We have a huge feminist movement. A huge LGBTQI movement. A huge black rights movement. A huge immigration movement. But my community, the one I grew up in is no where to be seen and if it can be seen, it’s not been seen by me. Even tonight at the Border Talk event in Vauxhall, I’m pretty sure I was the only Chinese person  here.

I’m Chinese by blood and proud of it. Only in the last few years have I really started to talk about being Chinese and talk about being Chinese. In that time I’ve been so proud. I see the Chinese community taking care of each other like we’re all family. People I don’t even know will support us when/if we ever need it. But we’re not, I don’t feel, fully integrated.


Who’s fault is this? No one’s in particular. We’re partly to blame, of course, but so is society. I’m not saying we have it hard as a people but we’re still subjected to stereotypes and unintentional racism. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked “do you live above a takeaway?”, “do you know martial arts?”, “so, who would win in a fight between Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee?”. People actively avoid saying the “N” word but the words “chink” and “yellow” are still banded around like nothing.

We’re often stereotyped as the people that work in takeaways. The people that sell pirate DVDs. The people that speak with that hilarious accent. We’re good at maths and all play the violin and piano. Well, no, for a start. But I get it. A lot of Chinese people do work in takeaways. But why is that?

You tell a child enough times as a society that they’re the spawn of Satan and they’ll believe it. You tell the Chinese community, directly or indirectly that they’re best placed working in a takeaway, where do you think they’re going to end up?

We’re often seen as the meek, mild people who are happy to get on with our work in the classroom quietly but that’s not all we are. We’re proud people who value community and we are so much more than our race. We are youth workers, graphic designers, carers, creators, writers, philosophers, artists, rappers, actors,  and China also happens to be one of the fastest developing economies in the world.

So my message is twofold here.

1. Society needs to acknowledge the Chinese community as more than the people on the other side of the counter when they order their egg fried rice and spring rolls. We are people with stories.

2. As Chinese people, we need to stop letting ourselves be ignored. We need to speak up on the issues that matter to us as British Chinese people and we need to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters here in the UK. This is our home now too, lets look after it.

Yeah, Chinese, and what?

Campaign Bootcamp Blues

So I made it home this morning around 1am after a very long and very tiring week at Campaign Bootcamp. The last two posts I’ve written were written while I was there and they mostly focused on my anxiety and how I was coping with that throughout the week. This post will be slightly different. Campaign Bootcamp is obviously a huge deal. It costs the best part of £3000 to take part per-individual and has training from some of the best campaigners around. It’s also in massively high demand with around 250 applicants and only 34-ish places. So in appreciation of this great training and community, here are the top 4 things that I’ve taken away from the week.

1. Knowledge

Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Knowledge is super broad and you do learn something new every day but I’m talking about vast amounts of knowledge and information. Whether it was about values, theories of change, other world issues or existing campaigns, I learned more than I expected to. Lots of that knowledge came from within the group itself and it was all made so accessible for the less experienced campaigners in the room. So even though it might seem like a bit of a cheat, it’s important to remember that knowledge is power. The more you know…

Learning outdoors in the sun is the best way to do it. 

 2. A Kick Up The Arse

When I arrived at the training we all had to introduce ourselves for one minute. And while everyone else went up and spoke about themselves and all the campaigning that they do, I spoke more about the fact that I wasn’t currently a campaigner. I’m more of a teacher, instructor and supporter. However, now that I’ve spent the week with some of the most ridiculously experienced and passionate campaigners there are, I feel like I’ve been given renewed energy for running campaigns rather than just supporting them. Keep your eyes peeled for more. 
A nice chat by Shami Chakrabarti was certainly… Sharmi-ng! HEYOHHHHHHH!

 3. Resilience

The first two days were particularly difficult for me this week. I am not a huge fan of meeting new people, especially all at once in a place where I’m not comfortable! I had to take myself away for an hour or so, the first few evenings to recover a little from panic attacks. I was very close to leaving and not coming back. However, everyone was so supportive and so open and welcoming. I also remembered over and over about the opportunity and how hard it is to get on to bootcamp. I resolved to stay, even if I didn’t speak to anyone the rest of the week, I would stay. I even managed to put up with all the forced dancing!
A circle of dancing. Not tribal at all.
Luckily, MJ had a ukulele so I managed to feel better pretty swiftly. But I really had to work to stay there and be resilient. If I hadn’t forced myself out of my comfort zone I’d have missed out on some of the greatest people I’ve ever met! 

 4. People

I wanted to learn a lot and start putting things in to practice in my own life, work and campaigning. I met some of the most incredible people this past week. I knew calibre was going to be high when I walked into that room and I knew there would be people with more years of experience than I’d been alive for. I even got to meet and have lunch with Shami Chakrabarti.
What I really wasn’t expecting was to feel such love and warmth from people I’d only just met. Throughout the week I got talking to a bunch of people about everything they’ve been doing and why they do what they do but also about what they love to do when they’re not working or campaigning. 
Even besides that, there were some people who I was able to mess around with for no reason. People I was able to complain to/with. People who I was able to avoid dancing with. The culture was incredible and I knew at any point I could walk up to anyone and start a conversation with someone without feeling like I was being a pain in the arse. 
A little camp fire quiz session with Olivia the quiz master. 

So despite the rocky start and the crazy brain making things just that little bit harder, I’m glad I got on to Campaign Bootcamp, I’m glad I stuck it out and I’m so glad to have met everyone that I did. I’m actually feeling a bit lost without 30+ people around me at all times but I’m making the most of it by watching Blue Planet.

Oriana and Dora, the best buddies a guy could ask for!

Finally, Rachel, Tamara-Jade –

Campaign Bootcamp Part 2

Disclaimer: there won’t be much about the actual bootcamp day in this post.

So some time has passed since my post about anxiety and how it was affecting my time here at Campaign Bootcamp. Straight after that post and a nice reassuring chat with my friends Tara and Lucy, a lovely lady named MJ brought out her ukulele. For those of you that know me, you know exactly how much I love my ukulele and music in general. It relaxes me in my mind and body and gives me confidence like no other object or activity could.

I know I’m not a professional musician. I’m not a professional singer. But when you give me a guitar or ukulele it seems to transform me into a performer and a character. It turns me into a musical parody of myself and one that I wish I could be without my instruments.

It’s partly because I’m doing something I love. It’s partly because it makes people smile. Every time I perform in front of people I’m terrified, no matter who I’m with or where I am but the instruments put a physical barrier between me and the people. It’s like a reliable friend that has transformed into a musical instrument. It’s not just a tool for me, it’s a safety net and a trustworthy companion.

It might sound strange that a ukulele or guitar could be so important to me. In fact it is strange. But it’s a way for me to relax, collect my thoughts and give me confidence. This confidence may not last long but it’s a huge step for me to feel that good all the time. It helped me really connect and open up to people and it hopefully put a few smiles on their faces too. Music connects people in a way that can’t be matched. Even those who “aren’t musical” can create and participate in music in so many ways.

This evening has proven that music is a powerful tool. I sang with a lot of people, people sang together, we did a song from Kenya, songs from London, songs from Australia and the states. Music is truly universal and the most powerful tool for unity.

A

Campaign Bootcamp

So for the last two days and for the next four, Campaign Bootcamp is my life. It’s an intensive week long campaign training course. It’s not a cheap thing to do but luckily I managed to get a scholarship to get on the course which means I didn’t have to pay a thing!

Around 225 people applied. People from all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, genders and even countries have applied and I was one of the 35 people to be selected to be on the course. It’s an amazing group of people who are campaigning and working all across the sector from climate change to immigration. From youth work to positive money. The range
of people who are here is astounding and the skills and knowledge they have is not only impressive, but humbling and somewhat intimidating too.

Luckily everyone is remarkably nice which means that my perception of intimidation from them is all down to my own mindset. For those of you who know me well will know that I kind of hate making new friends and it really does make me feel extremely anxious. As I’m typing this, I’ve briefly retired to my bedroom to listen to music and to relax and calm my nerves. It does almost feel like a shame at the moment that I’m not making the most of the social opportunities here but I’m hoping that my anxiety will subside over the next few days and I can overcome my fear of meeting people!

Day one was all about getting to know one another and trying to make us feel a little more comfortable around each other. While I know that I can chat to people without them turning me away my own nerves and anxiety are currently preventing me from doing so. To a lot of people it’s really easy to just strike up a conversation with people and click with them but for me I find it infinitely more difficult! I have of course spoken to people in group activities and when they talk to me but I have been finding it really tough to approach people, especially since my most recent breakdown. That has left me in a particularly anxious and delicate state but I’m determined to make the most of my opportunity here and not let anxiety hold me back.

Today was day 2 and was all about strategy. It was a very up and down day, my mood was pretty low coming into the day and again, it’s made the social side of things really difficult. I learned plenty and heard a seriously inspiring story from a lady about her experience of surviving a forced marriage and how she dealt with her own depression and anxiety and turned that into various campaigns and powerful articles. What a lady!

My main take away from this so far is that my anxiety is currently debilitating and in turn is greatly affecting my depression but I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t ruin my week. I just have to keep reminding myself of the pride that I have that I made it on to the course, the importance of why I’m here and the appreciation for the opportunity. Don’t waste this opportunity, brain.

A

P.S. Look how nice this place is when it’s sunny!

Week Commencing 25th May

The last seven days or so have been an ordeal. Had my mood been better I’m sure the last week would have been very different!

Monday: The day it all kicked off. This was the day I played my first gig in around six years. Needless to say, in the lead up to the show I was petrified. My strong mental resilience seemed to crumble under the nerves of playing a show which is very strange for me as I used to love it. I played a few songs and made a lot of mistakes which was horrendous for my confidence and anxiety. Monday saw my self worth plummet and that left me in a shaken state for the rest of my week.

I did a lot of travelling this week as well. Tuesday I went over to Slough and worked there for the day before delivering a session in the evening. Again not my best work which was due to my constant anxiety and that of course made it worse. Wednesday was much of the same. Slightly better but my mood was very low. The only plus side of Wednesday was seeing a friend which calmed me down significantly before I travelled up to Leeds that evening.

After getting into Leeds at around half ten, I got to the hotel and worked and practiced for the training I’d be delivering the next day. The next morning I had to deliver that training, sleep deprived, miserable and exhausted. One obnoxious man at the training did not help things and seemed to get to me more than it should have!

Friday was another semi pick me up where I saw one friend but was so exhausted that I missed another’s birthday. Sorry!

Saturday was terrible. I thought it was the 29th and so booked to go see a film with a friend. Turns out it was the 30th. My mums birthday. So not only did it feel like I’d forgotten my mums birthday, I also had to cancel on a friend. Once again my self esteem plummeted.

Throughout the whole week I’ve been having panic attacks. Usually in the very early hours of the morning though there are a few dotted around for good measure. Tonight has been no exception.

Mental health is an unpredictable beast. Lots of people would probably say that making a few mistakes performing is a minor thing and my reaction to it is disproportionate. They’d probably be right. But it just goes to show that even small things like that can be devastating to someone’s mood and we’ll being.

I went from feeling phenomenal last week to having one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in months. It’s hard to put into words how my brain works when my depression and anxiety really kick into overdrive but by talking about it at all will hopefully make it easier to articulate and easier to understand for others.

A

Mental Health Awareness Week

So this week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and it felt like a good time for me to get back into the bloggosphere, even just for this one post. It’s been nearly two months since my last post on here and the reasons for that are various.

Life has been hectic. Lots has been going on, good and bad! And so I thought it would be a good chance to tell you all about all the things that have been going on with my mental health. So I’m going to write about the good, the bad, the achievements and the setbacks.

The Good

I’ve had lots of good things happen the last few months and I’ve been able to get a lot done. I’ve achieved a lot and am generally feeling really proud of myself. Work is going great, I’m really getting my name out there and getting s*** done!
I’ve spent the last few months trying to get my life on track and I’ve been doing my very best to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve been trying to do more things by myself which I’d always struggled with. For example, I went to the cinema by myself for the first time ever. It might sound stupid and it might be a bit weird but I did it! It wasn’t easy though. I had to invest a lot of time and effort into it. 
First thing I had to do was spend money. I booked the ticket online in advance, VIP seating, 3D screening of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also went out to get some food an hour before the screening started. 
The next thing I had to do was tell people I was doing it! Once I’d told people I was going to go, I felt like I had to go. Backing out was no longer an option! 
The last thing I had to do was compose myself! After having eaten my meal I went into the cinema and very nearly had a panic attack so I had to compose myself. I just tried to think about the mission. 
I made it through and saw the film, beat my anxiety and ended up having a really good day. Don’t get me wrong I left the cinema feeling very shaken and completely overwhelmed but once it all sunk in, I’m really proud that I made it through that day!

I’ve also done a lot of stuff on Instagram with the #cheerupchallenge. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, my #cheerupchallenge is a series of posts highlighting all the things that I do to keep my mood up. If you’d like to follow the journey just follow me on Instagram @alexquang or click the link at the top of the page in the social media section!

The Bad

My mood has been undoubtedly lower than usual however my mental health in general has been a lot better! I can’t figure out a reason why my mood is lower but there are a few contributing factors. 
There’s been lots going on with my family which has contributed to my mood dipping. Lots of my family have been having troubles. My aunt is ill and my gran took a tumble and I’ve been doing what I can to help out. 
As a result of my lowered mood and family commitments, I’ve been seeing my friends less which again has a massive impact on my mood! Hopefully I’ll be better soon, with more free time and be able to go up to see the gang in Newcastle and of course those a little closer to home! 🙂 
Unfortunately also, I’ve been able to make good on the idea for my #OnYourMind project. It’s something I’d definitely like to come back to soon but at the moment, I’m not able to manage the idea as well as I’d hoped (hence the much simpler #cheerupchallenge). If you would like to help out though and contribute/organise, any help would be appreciated. Just email me at alexquang1@gmail.com! 

Overall

All in all, it’s been a mixed month. Right now I’m feeling a bit down but my mood overall and my resilience and ability to deal with my depression and anxiety has increased massively! I’m productive, able to pull myself up a lot easier and a lot less likely to fall into a deep depression. All the hard work seems to be paying off! 
If you’re interested about mental health and have any questions, by all means drop me a line and ask away! I can’t guarantee a clear answer as the topic is very rarely clear but I’m more than happy to share my story, the things that worry me most and how I cope. 
Alternatively if you need more structured help check out the sites below, find your local mental health services and counsellors or visit your local A&E if you’re fearing for yours or someone else’s life. 
A

#CheerUpChallenge

So I wrote in my recent post that I’ve set myself a challenge to cheer up. It’s imaginatively called the #cheerupchallenge.

I’ve spent a long long time figuring out what kinds of things make me happy. It’s a brilliant combination of music, fantasy, food and friends. Have a little look see at some of my posts so far and set yourself a little challenge to keep your mood up! 🙂

I don’t want to make this post too long as it’s going to be 99% pictures chronicling my quest to get better so I hope you enjoy and please feel free to give me a follow on Instagram (@alexquang) and leave a comment/like/share! 🙂

View this post on Instagram

Got myself some treats today as a little retail therapy. I've been so run down today I've broken out in some very painful stress spots so I thought I'd get some sunglasses to cover up parts of my face and some new cologne so I can at least smell nice! Lots of people forget that men can have anxiety about their looks too. It's something that I'm trying to be more open about but it's seriously tough. These things take time, energy and guts. Hopefully if I'm more open about it in future it'll encourage other men to do the same. Men are judged by society if they open up about their emotions and feelings but I say bollocks to that. #depression #anxiety #mentalhealth #therapy #cheerupchallenge #bodyimage

A post shared by Alex Quang (@alexquang) on

This is why I work!

So once again I’ve failed to keep on top of the blog. It’s been a hectic few weeks and I’ve been up and down and round and round.

I thought I’d write a little post about work this time. I’m sitting in my hotel in Derry, Northern Ireland after a ridiculously long but rewarding day which has reminded me why I do the job I do. I went around three groups in Northern Ireland today, across three different organisations and facilitated by a fourth and spoke with a lot of young people about their project ideas and how they can apply for funding.

Most of the groups started out extremely shy, reserved and probably very nervous. There they are doing their daily thing, when a random guy from London struts in to talk to them. After a few minutes though, they started to open up about their ideas and JEEZ! They weren’t only good ideas, they were BIG ideas. The young person that impressed me the most though, was a young lady of 8. She was by far the youngest one there and even though she’s too young to apply for funding herself, the group that she was part of wouldn’t have been able to come up with their ideas without her. Time and time again throughout the hour and a bit that I was with them she came up with idea after idea and blew all of us away. It was clear that none of them had ever seen this side to her and she’s clearly destined to go far.

She got the group enthused and excited about the ideas that they were talking about. All three groups had amazing ideas but hers were by far the best and they came from such an amazing, teeny tiny package.

By the end of the day I’d met three groups of incredible people all eager to work with me to develop their projects. Days like this get me excited and enthused about working in this sector and getting other young people confident enough to take up the opportunities that I was lucky enough to have. I’ve seen and experienced first hand the power that volunteering can have on a person’s confidence, life skills, professional development and career prospects. I’m just excited to be able to spread a little of that in my job and wherever I go. I only hope that others like you reading this right now have the same experience I’ve had in your own lives and careers.

A

On Your Mind update and the new challenge!

It’s been a long long time since I last posted! Sorry to all who read, but I’m hopefully going to be back on track pretty soon.

As you all know, I’ve been working on collecting some stuff for a new project #OnYourMind which is still happening! It’s just taking a bit of time to collect a bunch of stories. It will be launching pretty soon and it’ll be a limited run of hopefully around five or six posts!

I’ve also set myself a new challenge on Instagram which you can follow me on from the top of this page called the #CheerUpChallenge. One of the reasons I’ve not been posting as much is because my depression has been extremely trying recently and once I finish work I don’t have enough energy to do anything else. The challenge is going to be simple. Make a conscious effort to do the things that make me feel better!

If you’d like to take part too, feel free! @ me on Instagram and use the hashtag #CheerUpChallenge!

I will be back soon, I promise!

A

Even on the best of days

Today was an odd day.

I got back from Manchester feeling thoroughly pleased with two days work. But at the same time, very anxious. See I had a gig to go to. An amazing band called The Staves. My anxiety came from the fact that the person I was going with had to cancel because of work. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find anyone else to go with so I was going to have to go alone.

As the time went on and the gig got closer my anxiety grew. I’m someone that refuses to go to a restaurant or a cinema or the theatre alone. I’d sooner eat my own arm than attend something like that alone. I asked everyone I thought might be interested if they wanted the ticket for free but it was, sadly, too short notice.

Eventually I mustered up the courage to go alone in the hopes that the music would pick me up as it usually does. Throughout the evening I went from highly anxious, very self conscious and extremely uncomfortable to being just about okay enough to enjoy the sound of those three beautiful voices.

At one point I was close to having a panic attack and I almost left part way through. Luckily, The Staves are not only incredibly talented, they’re also hilarious. They managed to keep distracting me with music and their surprising potty mouths. If you hear them sing you’d never expect it but it was brilliant.

The problem is I was constantly so anxious and I’d worked myself up into such a state before the gig that my brain wasn’t working properly. My memory of the evening is blurry. I remember them being amazing and hilarious but nothing beyond that. No specifics.

Even on the best of days I feel anxious but there are things that help me cope. Today it was The Staves, their beautiful faces and spectacular voices and music. They managed to stop me from breaking down in public and having a panic attack in a venue full of a few thousand people. It’s likely they won’t ever know what they did for me today and do on a regular basis. Today I took my first step to becoming comfortable enough to do more things like this by myself! Cheers, ladies!

Also keep an eye out for our first post for #OnYourMind coming soon! If you want to find out more, check out my previous post, tweet me @albysaurus or email me alexquang1@gmail.com