We are working with Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust as the North London Mental Health Partnership.

South Asian Heritage Month Celebrations

Selina Aktar celebrating South Asian Heritage Month

South Asian Heritage Month is held annually from July 18 to August 17 to honour, recognise, and appreciate South Asian history and culture, as well as to understand and celebrate the rich cultural legacy of countries and South Asia.

South Asian Heritage Month is a time when people from all walks of life come together to appreciate the beautiful stories and traditions of those with South Asian heritage. This year's theme is ‘Stories to Tell’, which focuses on the power of storytelling, and celebrate the stories that make up this diverse and vibrant community.

To mark South Asian Heritage Month across the Partnership, we have been running a number of events that are open for all staff. 

One member of staff, Selina Aktar, a DIALOG+ Lived Experience Facilitator/Champion, organised a lunch with the PMO (Project Management Office) team to raise awareness of South Asian Culture. The team made South Asian food, Selina shared some stories from her family history and played some traditional Bengali games. Below, she explains why South Asian Culture is important to her. 

Celebrating my culture is very important to me, mostly because my parents, like many others of their generation made many sacrifices. They did that so we, the first generation of Bengalis, could have a better life in England. I wanted to share some aspects of my culture and celebrate with my work colleagues and so I organised an afternoon with them where I shared stories and traditions. Pictured, is a game called Carrom. 

I remember travelling to Bangladesh for my summer holidays from the age of 3 to 11 years. when I saw cows, chicken, and goats for the first time. My paternal grandfather was a farmer I remember the rice fields as far as the eyes could see and walking bare foot through the mud listening to the squelching beneath my feet and thinking my mother is going to kill me as I was covered in mud. My grandfather proudly showed me what his family had accomplished and used to say ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ [My golden Bengal]

My maternal grandfather was a civil servant, many conversations I remember centred around political issues. I vividly remember my grandfather sharing an experience with my older two brothers, I sat at the back. He recanted his experience of fighting for Bangladesh independence. He explained how they made tunnels underground as the men and teenage boys had to hide as they were being taken to jail at the time of Bangladesh independence. I remember thinking it must have been very dark and scary. My grand father wanted us to understand the sacrifices generations have made so that we would not forget. 

Looking back now, I saw and felt my parents’ bravery and self believe, leaving all they know, their families and way of life. The strength they showed through the adversities they faced in their new country. The realisation their life was in England and wanting a better life for their children meant they had to embrace the new life they had created. 

My mother yarned for her birthplace the most. She kept up traditions like teaching us the Bengali language, cooking Bengali food, and constantly encouraging us to write letters to family in Bangladesh. I shared some of my mum’s creativity with my colleagues. We did a quiz, ate some traditional food, and watched a video that was created by the Bengali community.

The Bengali community is not often represented for its own qualities and experiences. The Bengali people have been on a long hard journey. We have our own language, food, culture, and creative arts. As a community we have faced struggles and injustices. We have our challenges too like any other community with integration, prejudices, and colourism but above all I feel stronger, rooted and blessed to understand my Bengali identity.

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