“Worry”

After recently turning 30 years young, I have been thinking about finding love and building a relationship a great deal lately. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet someone in the past and it’s not as easy for me like my friends since physically meeting people is tough. I would be keen to do so, despite the logistical and perceptional challenges.

It is very difficult for me to form relationships, as meeting people is hard when you are a severely disabled wheelchair user. I find this is often due to the complexities of accessibility and logistics of meeting people spontaneously. Not to mention that it is hard to go anywhere without my support workers, making it even more challenging to form relationships. Also, despite being fearless and very comfortable going up to people to say hello, I am concerned that the opposite sex may feel sorry for me and not see me as relationship material – the fear seems to take over. I strongly feel people often cannot see past my wheelchair, rather than the hard-working, interesting and humorous person that I am.

Not only do I have the challenge of finding someone who will accept my disability, coming from a Southeast Asian background I am expected to find someone from the same culture. Although my family and friends have their own beliefs, I think if you are happy with someone that is what is most important; it wouldn’t matter for me if they have a different background so long as they accept me for who I am.

And if I do somehow form a relationship and wish to have children with that person, the probability of me being a genetic carrier of neuromuscular disease is high. A doctor told me years ago that my siblings have a 66 percent probability of being a carrier. People may use this as a reason not to form relationships with disabled people. However, a lot has changed from the past and new treatments (and knowledge about genetics) may be available but more needs to be done to inform disabled people like myself of what the reality is; even if that’s just providing information and greater understanding.

Quite often the media tries to show what is “acceptable” in disability dating, but it usually ends up showing people who are having difficulty and are classed as “undateable‟ or “freaks” This is wrong. I truly feel that just because you’re disabled it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. On the other hand, I feel that able-bodied people should not be frowned upon or thought of taking advantage when in a relationship with a disabled person as well. Society finds it hard to accept anything they don’t understand, but if disabled people are able and wish to form a relationship they should be supported to do so.

This is where I think the creative industries (filmmakers, directors, writers, artists and designers, for example) can have a huge positive impact in changing the media and general public’s attitude towards disabled people who want to form relationships. Also, I think it is fine for some disabled people to say they want to have a relationship with a sex worker or something (which the media seems keen to highlight), as they’re finding it hard to form relationships. Personally, I would prefer not to do this because I don’t think it’s a healthy way to build a relationship – though I acknowledge that those who do make that choice maybe not be looking to build a relationship. I would rather meet someone who I can share my life with. It is society and the media that needs to accept that as a disabled person I have as much right to fall in love and form a relationship as my peers – and not apply arbitrary pressures on those in such relationships. I think, there needs to be much more candid but unprejudiced awareness with regards to disabled people, dating and relationships. It’s extremely important to have these discussions but to not frame them in such headline-grabbing ways as “freaks” and “undateable”. I would also be delighted to see more relationships in which one or both partners are disabled represented on television. This is how norms are reset and challenged.

Anyway I’m done worrying about it and I am going to be proactive further to go out and about so I can meet someone this year to just make it happen. Hopefully, my 30th will be an even greater incredible adventure that’s filled with love and forming a relationship too. Ladies, here I come. ¡Hasta Luego – see you soon!

Listening to “Worry” by Jack Garratt

“It’s Not Over”

So, I can now share with you all that I have only just gone and secured myself a job! After three years of struggling to find a job since graduating 2012, I am so happy to finally get this fantastic opportunity.

It has been tough, but I’ve been hired as a Researcher at communication / content consultancy (my description, not theirs) called Breakthrough Media.

A massive thank you goes to Tim Mitchell (Talent Strategist at The Talent Business that I met years ago at university and kept in touch with) for all his kindness in connecting me to Breakthrough and his help in securing me this job. It goes to show that the power of positivity (and proactively living by Anthony Burrill’s famous words of “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”) always does pay off in the end.

Tim best describes Breakthrough Media:
“They are a cause-related communication consultancy that specialises in delivering awareness-raising campaigns (documentaries, long form video content, communication, events, PR, marketing (on/offline) and brand building) for a client base exclusively made up of country governments (UK, US and African Union predominantly, especially Somalia), the European Union and United Nations, as well as various NGOs. Breakthrough specialises in the fields of Conflict Resolution, Anti-Violence and Society-Building (building better societies). Their growth is organic and they’re not ones for pitching for work in what is a pretty unique sector. The company website gives a good account of their work although much of the detail is generalised simply because what they do and who it is for, in the main, is governed in the UK by the Official Secrets Act – which each employee must sign on joining – and divisive in nature, as it involves raising awareness and, in many cases, opposing vested political / religious interests for the greater good – both in the UK and abroad.

Founded in 2008 by Robert Elliott (background in producing/directing and documentary making) and Scott Brown (background in communication and PR), Breakthrough was originally known as Camden Creative and was a drama and documentaries production company that delivered a ten-part reality drama series for Channel 5 and a one-off documentary about the Mayor of Mogadishu for Al Jazeera English. In early 2012 the company expanded into integrated communication, changed its name and now produces radio, TV and online content alongside its core campaigns for a variety of clients including the United Nations, The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the African Union. In the last two years, Breakthrough has grown massively and doubled in size.”

I expect it will be an exciting and creative place to work, which makes me even more ready to get started with them.

Now all I have to do it sort out logistics and stuff before I can start, as Access to Work is frankly not very easy to deal with (I’ll you more about them later in another blog post) being a wheelchair user that wants to work to be a productive member of society like anyone else and not be stuck watching crappy daytime telly. I can (and will) do better for myself. However, everyone at Breakthrough including the awesome Managing Director has been really supportive and flexible to my needs. So, I’ll officially be starting on the 2nd September since they sent my first ever letter offer of employment last week and hopefully I’ll sign my full employment contract next week. I’m utterly chuffed and I cannot wait to work hard with the entire team at Breakthrough and create lots of incredible work together.

Also, I am working on some very exciting projects in the creative industries with some amazing friends this year too. These projects include working with organisations such as D&AD, The Muscle Owl and SheSays, and people like Danny (my best mate who’s a Mid-Weight Digital Creative at iris Worldwide, Laura Jordan-Bambach (Creative Partner at Mr. President and Former D&AD President, 2013-2014) and Mark Bonner (Founder, Creative Director at GBH and current D&AD President, 2014-2015) to name a few. It’s about making a big impact for myself this year and bringing out my creative voice in the right way with the right people.

“When working with your creative voice, then, you’ve got to know when to let the swagger in and when to keep it quiet.”Polly Campbell.

I’ll definitely keep you posted of any updates with anything.

Life is good. Everything I’m doing is finally starting to pay off. I am just going to worker even harder and be even nicer (something I always live by everyday) to make this all (this year) the most incredible adventure yet! ONWARDS and UPWARDS.

Thank you all for your ongoing love and support, it makes a world of difference. Watch this space for greatness!

Cheers your friend,
Sulaiman X

Listening to “It’s Not Over” by Andreya Triana

“Giants”

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” ― Malcolm X

So, it was my 30th birthday on 5th July. I just took it easy with my family. It’s strange to actually reach my age, as the doctors said I’d be dead at 5 and then 15 (when we moved to America), but I’m still here! It feels good. As someone who happens to have Congenital Muscular Dystrophy (MDC1A), I don’t let that stop me from doing want I want (when I want with, with whom I want) and I aim to always live my life to its fullest potential every day. I have a very active personal, professional, voluntary, and social life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I did want to achieve more by this time in my life, but I’m very grateful for all I’ve done so far. I am going to make sure this is the best year yet that’s filled with incredible adventures and I’m going to push my boundaries even more. As Scott Morrison best wrote, “Journeys are limited – Adventures are limitless.” I’m going help more people and build a positive, social legacy for myself as well. One way I am creatively going to do this is to fully set up my organisation (The Meliora Alliance) this year that you can read more about here. I aim to further do this through exploring and developing my passion for creativity, collaboration, technology, advocacy, and storytelling this year. FEAR does not take me: I take the FEAR. ONWARDS and UPWARDS.

A massive thank-you to you for all your ongoing support, kindness, and love as well!

As a sidenote, I want to achieve all the above, but I plan to look good while doing it. Here’s what I wore on my birthday:

The new Explorer reversible jacket by Hungry Castle (that make “Cool Shit”) and my new wooden Pac-Man bow tie by Bowtiewala that I bought at OFFF Festival this year from my trip to Barcelona, and my new limited Andy Warhol Converse I was given for my birthday.

Take care and speak soon.

Much love,
Sulaiman X

Listening to “Giants” by Andreya Triana

“Not Letting Go”

On 1st July, I was invited by Divya Daryanani (Co-Founder / Managing Director) to attend the Why Not People Launch event at Troxy. Why Not People is a new members’ club established exclusively for people with disabilities… “We are more than just an events company, members club and pretty face – we are smashing the stereotype, battering down the barriers and re writing the rules to make sure that disabled people’s lives are made better. Why you might ask, well, WHY NOT!? They “host accessible live music gigs exclusively for our members and their friends.”

Why Not People was founded by the lovely Jameela Jamil (writer, TV and BBC Radio host, and model) with the aim the of getting disabled people integrated and participating in attending live music. I think this is a great idea because as a severely disabled wheelchair user myself who is very active in society, I love going to gigs, films, creative/cultural events, etc. but I find it really difficult booking tickets as you normally cannot make disabled bookings online and I often feel isolated at most venues have to sit in the “wheelchair chicken pen” with no access to being a part of the audience while enjoying the show.

However, there are few good exceptions in music venues such as the Roundhouse, Wilton’s Music Hall, Rough Trade East and Union Chapel (four of my absolute favourite venues) that do an excellent job catering for disabled patrons. Just their positive attitude towards disabled customers alone is something that many venues could learn from.

Anyway, the launch event was a fantastic night of music, comedy and entertainment! I thoroughly enjoyed it and I feel so lucky to be able to have attended this special event; it was nice to actually be so well catered for a gig too.

It feels like a positive shift in greater rights for disabled people to be a bigger part of society and I strongly believe Why Not People is a wonderful organisation that is working towards this. As such, I very much look forward to working together with Jameela Jamil and Why Not People to ensure disabled people have a greater experience and access to gigs, as well as making sure that disabled people’s lives are improved as a result. After all, we have as much right as anyone else to go to a gig (and feel a part of the audience) and have a good night out.

Thank you to all the Why Not People team for a great launch event and cheers Jameela for having the foresight (and determination) to create this incredible organisation! Take care and speak soon. X

PS: Here are the photos I took from the night – 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Listening to “Not Letting Go” by Tinie Tempah ft. Jess Glynne

“Gravity”

On the 26h June, I gave a talk at the CANNT Find Them: Discussing Diversity in Ad-land event at The Hospital Club (a really cool, creative and accessible venue). I was invited to speak by my friend Laura Jordan-Bambach (Creative Partner at Mr. President and Former D&AD President, 2013-2014); the event was part of the CANNT Festival and hosted by SheSays and Iam:thenublack. At the event, I spoke about my experience of diversity in the Adverting industry, along with two other fantastic speakers – Hayley Mills and Kirk Flash.

This is what I wrote as an intro to my presentation for CANNT:
“As a severely disabled guy from a Southeast Asian background, I am passionate about creativity, collaboration, technology, advocacy, and storytelling. I want to work in advertising / the creative industries, but I have been struggling to break into the industry in any way whatsoever for over three years since graduating in 2012. Despite being very proactive and taking every opportunity to network with the industry, I often feel there is no support for someone like me and that advertising agencies are not willing even to say hello. I see the same people from the same agencies that create the same ideas and win the same awards. I think this needs to change.

Having a diverse workforce is a positive way to do this. We (women, BAMEs, disabled people) have unique insights into society and advertising agencies should be more open to work with us and utilise these insights. This is one of the reasons why I’m talking about diversity in advertising: I can engage to make this a greater industry and prove that as a disabled person I (and other disabled people) can be a part of the wonderful world of communication by working just as hard as anyone else (and showing people that I do have a sense of humour).

I am going to be speaking about my personal views on the diversity problem / challenges in advertising, as well as the (potential) solutions and benefits of having a diverse workforce. It is an honour to be invited to this fantastic opportunity and to be a part of CANNT, so we can aim for a brighter outlook in the creative industries.

Together we can build a more diverse industry and better society. I look forward to being at the forefront of this change, collaborating to ensure this becomes a reality in the near future.”

All in all, my presentation seemed to go well and the audience was quite engaging. I really enjoyed the event and listening to the two other wonderful speakers talk. Together we came up with some great ideas for greater diversity in the advertising industry and wider creative industries. I really look forward to working with other like-minded people to this into a reality, hopefully sooner than later.

Below is my actual presentation for your review (the parts in presenter notes that are in Bold is what I said):
Sulaiman Khan – Diversity in Advertising Presentation

Listening to “Gravity” by ‪DJ Fresh feat. Ella Eyre

@liannelahavas @RoughTrade @Mariamafrida @jaysikora @iamjameswyatt: The #lovely and very #talented #LianneLaHavas and I after her live performance at #RoughTradeEast last night. #YESItDidHappen! Enough said.

#London #2015 #events #music #live #livemusic #gig #giggage #accesslivemusic #accesstolivemusic #FistBumpsOnlyPLEASE #NewAdventures #AdventureIsCalling #LoveLife #IAmNOTInspiringIAmJUSTLivingMyLife (at Rough Trade)

@liannelahavas @RoughTrade @Mariamafrida @jaysikora @iamjameswyatt: #Signed #vinyl from the #lovely and very #talented #LianneLaHavas (of her fantastic #new #album #Blood that’s ***OUT NOW***) that she signed herself after her live performance at #RoughTradeEast last night. #Cheers Lianne and see you again soon!
You must definitely check her out and help make #LianneForNumberOne too.

#London #2015 #events #music #live #livemusic #gig #giggage #accesslivemusic #accesstolivemusic #FistBumpsOnlyPLEASE #NewAdventures #AdventureIsCalling #LoveLife #IAmNOTInspiringIAmJUSTLivingMyLife (at Rough Trade)

@liannelahavas @RoughTrade @Mariamafrida @jaysikora @iamjameswyatt: Did this happen? YES, it actually did! Post-show #smiles with #lovely and very #talented #LianneLaHavas after her live performance at #RoughTradeEast last night, where she sang a few songs from her fantastic #new #album #Blood that’s ***OUT NOW***. She is utterly amazing and one of my favourite musicians! Also, big up to Adam, Jay, James and Frida (Lianne’s #awesome band), who are so talented too.

#ThankYou Lianne for another great show and look forward to seeing you again soon!
PS: I hope you like your present I got you and you enjoyed it? Just wanted to say #cheers to you for making music that help me get through the tough days and being a wonderful soul.

#London #2015 #events #music #live #livemusic #gig #giggage #accesslivemusic #accesstolivemusic #FistBumpsOnlyPLEASE #NewAdventures #AdventureIsCalling #LoveLife #IAmNOTInspiringIAmJUSTLivingMyLife (at Rough Trade)

@liannelahavas @RoughTrade @Mariamafrida @jaysikora @iamjameswyatt: Had a great time seeing the #lovely and very #talented #LianneLaHavas perform live at #RoughTradeEast last night and I throughly enjoyed her show yet again! It was a special release gig in honour of her fantastic #new #album #Blood that’s ***OUT NOW***, which I just love as much as her debut album if not more. Until next time, Lianne!
A big #ThankYou to the entire team for hooking me up with the best #VIP seats in the house too, you’re all awesome! Being #disabled is made better when you meet such #nice people like you.

#London #2015 #events #music #live #livemusic #gig #giggage #accesslivemusic #accesstolivemusic #FistBumpsOnlyPLEASE #NewAdventures #AdventureIsCalling #LoveLife #IAmNOTInspiringIAmJUSTLivingMyLife (at Rough Trade)