5 Min ReadSelf 17 August 2020
We all have an identity, built over time from what we secretly hold dear. Whether that identity was formed from hurt, pain, joy, tears, or success, it so easily becomes the foundation of who we are. For many years, my identity was clear; I was a London Fashion Week Designer. My life was centered around my career, the success I'd built, and the outlandish goals I'd set out to achieve. I'd become a bit of a robot, immune to adversity, pressing onwards towards the goal no matter what. If someone didn't like me because I was Black, I didn't notice or didn't care. I was a force of determination and skill, and nothing was going to stop me. Or so I thought.
This was my identity, but my identity was shattered. Falsely jailed in a foreign prison, my rights stripped from me, and forced to see myself as so many in the world still see me, as nothing more than a Black woman. My world was destroyed as the racial perception of others was allowed to erase my existence simply by their own cognizance. My story was rewritten for me without question, without truth. I was labeled, and treated in accordance, with every Black stereotype one can imagine.
My resumé was erased, and I was labeled a dangerous Black criminal, as the UK police testified that I had previous criminal convictions in the US involving violence...a testimony of lies. Whatever they assumed about Black people, that became my new mark, my new label. Even my education was twisted, as a judge told me that although there was no evidence I'd committed any crimes, he thought it was likely that I was smart enough to convince someone else to commit crimes on my behalf. I had identified for years as a fashion designer, but there I sat, jailed unjustly in a prison cell in the UK, heartbroken, and acutely aware that I was Black. To some, I was nothing more than the color of my skin.
My story was rewritten for me without question, without truth. I was labeled, and treated in accordance, with every Black stereotype one can imagine.
We still live in a world where police brutality and corruption is rampant. I was a victim of fraud at the hands of my former friend. I was deemed a victim of fraud by the British police just months before my own arrest when they couldn't find (or didn't even look for) my former friend who had already been arrested, confessed to six counts of fraud, and was then bailed out. He absconded, an error that falls on the responsibility of the police, not me. Yet my life was being deemed as worth nothing, I was ransomed as a coverup for their mistakes. They came and arrested me and took things from my apartment without a warrant, and then they lied, stating I had previous convictions in the US to suggest I was truly the violent criminal that Black people are often assumed and portrayed to be.
This lie was enough to have me remanded to a maximum security prison as British police denied my foreign national rights. When government release orders were sent for me, I was held unjustly and never released. Lawyer visits were canceled by the prison on my behalf, I was sexually assaulted by a prison officer, and I was discriminated against by some of the white staff members within the prison, even after filing multiple complaints of discrimination within the prison. Even my apartment became a free-for-all as things were stolen and then destroyed by my former landlord. At every turn, I was ignored. In one instance, I was told by a prison officer that he didn't care if I used to have tea with the queen...I was a prisoner now, nothing but a Black mark.
I had identified for years as a fashion designer, but there I sat, jailed unjustly in a prison cell in the UK, heartbroken, and acutely aware that I was Black. To some, I was nothing more than the color of my skin.
In my case, there were no thoughts of a future or returning to my old life, my former career as a fashion designer. They had stepped on my neck so hard (figuratively speaking) that I longed for death inside my cell. I was one of the most hated inmates in the entire prison, specifically hated by one of the most notorious serial killers in the UK. To top it off, she prided herself on hating Black people. While she and others roamed free within the confines of the prison, it seemed I could do nothing more than accept my new identity, the new label given to me.
But then, something remarkable happened. Somehow, an inkling of my true nature peaked through, and I began to fight—fight everyone at every turn. When the judge tried to put me on trial without any disclosures from the prosecution, I wrote him a letter telling him that what he was attempting to do was modern-day death by hanging. He intended to hang me, and I wasn't going to participate in my own execution. I went after the police for perjury, no warrant, the lot.
I was ignored, but I didn't care, I kept fighting. I wrote a book, sent it to Congress, and my mother was on the other end state-side to fight with me. I didn't stop, we didn't stop, until I was freed.
Somehow, an inkling of my true nature peaked through, and I began to fight—fight everyone at every turn.
I think, I hope, that was the fight of my life. I don't know how I survived it, and I'm not sure I could survive something like that again. I'm still nursing myself back to health, having suffered severe PTSD after being freed. I am so thankful to have returned to fashion and for the welcome I've received by the fashion industry, but the battle is not done yet. My identity bit by bit is being restored. I once again am a fashion designer, but I'm a fashion designer with a distinct purpose and mission to effect change in prison reform and the mistreatment of Black people, Muslims, and minorities within the justice system. I've seen it, I've lived it, and it's about time things truly change.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist