Black Lives Matter foundation wins Swedish human rights prize

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has won Sweden’s Olof Palme human rights prize for 2020. Organisers said the movement was honoured for promoting “peaceful civil disobedience against police brutality and racial violence” across the globe. They noted that about 20 million people had taken part in Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the US alone, along with millions more around the world.

An online prize-giving ceremony is due to take place in Stockholm on Saturday. The $100,000 (£73,000) annual prize commemorates Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister and prominent human rights advocate who was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.

Free anthology of black authors to be given to all primary schools in England

A free anthology of books by black British authors is to be provided to every primary school in England. Reading charity BookTrust said the initiative was part of a drive to increase the diversity of voices in children’s literature. The collection, called Happy Here, is aimed at children aged seven and older and will be published on 5 August. It will feature writers including Yomi Sode, Clare Weze, Dean Atta, Patrice Lawrence and Sharna Jackson. The project is a collaboration between BookTrust, publisher Knights Of and charity Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE).

Covid-hit New Orleans turns homes into floats for Mardi Gras

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of many much-loved events and traditions but the good people of New Orleans were not going to let it ruin their annual Mardi Gras. When the mayor of the Louisiana city announced that the raucous, crowd-filled street carnival parades would not be going ahead, residents decided to turn their houses into floats instead. Home decorated to celebrate Mardi Gras with oversized Mardi Gras jesters, Thousands have been transformed for the two-week long carnival that runs until Ash Wednesday in mid-February. A special project was set up encouraging home-owners to hire the many artists who would normally have months of work preparing for the event.

Nia Dennis: US gymnast’s ‘black excellence’ routine goes viral

A US gymnast’s routine celebrating “black excellence” has gone viral, with millions of views on social media. The floor routine by Nia Dennis, an athlete at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), incorporated songs by artists including Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and Missy Elliott. She said Black Lives Matter protests inspired the performance, which saw her kneel with her fist in the air. “I had to… for the culture,” the 21-year-old wrote on Instagram.The routine wowed the judges and earned her praise from celebrities, fellow athletes and fans. A video shared by UCLA Gymnastics was viewed more than nine million times.

Can we really feel the benefits of nature through a screen?

So to find out more, the University of Exeter, in collaboration with the BBC, has created a “unique experiment” to help understand the emotions people feel when they watch scenes of nature online or on television.

When people click on the link they will be asked to watch a three-minute video of, what Smalley says, is a “virtual nature experience”. But what people hear will be different and chosen at random. “Some people might encounter something which focuses on the visual experience, others might encounter something which focuses more on sound,” explains Smalley. Participants will then be asked to provide information about the emotions they experience when they watch the video.

Among those who have contributed to the project are the award-winning film composer Nainita Desai, and the sound recordist Chris Watson, who has worked with Sir David Attenborough for 30 years.

The cartoonists making mental health their muse

Comics are not just about superheroes. Emily Oomen meets the artists shaping graphic medicine – a genre focused on the experience of living with illness. Ellen Forney was in her twenties and working as a professional cartoonist when she stumbled into the world of graphic medicine. The artist had been working for one of Seattle’s long-running newspapers The Stranger when, in 1998 and just before she turned 30, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She says the diagnosis “sank in like the sun had gone behind the clouds”. Comics had always been a familiar language and format for Forney. She turned to them looking for comfort and was excited to discover a new genre she had never heard of – graphic medicine.

The genre focuses on and discusses topics within the medical field from cancer to Alzheimer’s and anorexia in an engaging and entertaining way. Although developed for patients and medical professionals as a way to explore different conditions, it is now often found in general stores and libraries.

Forney who was comfortable telling stories through this medium, started to create comics for herself about her experience of living with mental illness. “I wrote a lot in my journals,” she says. “I didn’t know that those were going to be pieces of a comic, a memoir later, but it’s kind of how it comes out of me, in words and pictures.” She says it gave her great solace while she learned to manage the condition.

After several years of creating comics for herself she designed a graphic memoir of the experience – Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me. “I felt like I needed to do it for myself and to get it out there to reach other people – because I can, because I’m a storyteller, and I thought it was an important story to tell. “It’s not just ‘here’s my experience, that was a mess’, but how do we put those pieces together? How do we come to heal?”

Lai Chi-Wai raises HK$5.2m for charity climbing Nina Towers

A man has scaled a Hong Kong skyscraper in his wheelchair to raise money for spinal cord patients. Lai Chi-Wai, who became paralysed after a road accident ten years ago, climbed 250 metres (820ft) of the Nina Towers building.
Before his accident, Lai Chi-Wai was a rock-climbing champion in Asia and eighth best in the world. He said that “knowing there was a possibility…that I could be a climber again, I found some direction in life”.

Steelers: How anti-gay row inspired rugby film

Conventional perceptions around sexuality, gender and manliness are challenged in a new documentary about Kings Cross Steelers – the world’s first gay rugby club.

The feature, it was announced on Thursday, will get its UK premiere online next month at the virtual Glasgow Film Festival, after last year’s BFI London Flare Festival- where it was due to screen – was cancelled due to coronavirus. The film is narrated by Ashton-Atkinson, whose personal experiences establish its emotional backdrop.

The Australian’s own story begins with him as a young rugby-playing kid slowly coming to terms with his sexuality. He is then callously outed by another guy at school, who records the two of them having sex together and shares it around. The “unrelenting bullying” that followed left “scars” that took him “to the brink”.

Years later, seeking an escape from his depressive state, Ashton-Atkinson quit his job and moved to the other side of the world. What he found there was a club full of like-minded competitors who helped him to get fit again, get his life back on track and ultimately meet his future husband, John.

‘Discriminatory’ mental health system overhauled

Plans have been announced to overhaul the mental health system – with the aim of making it less discriminatory towards black people. Ministers say changes to how people are sectioned in England and Wales will see them treated “as individuals, with rights, preferences, and expertise”. Black people are over four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act, relative to population. The mental health charity Mind said the changes “cannot come soon enough.”

“We need to bring mental health laws into the 21st Century,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “I want to ensure our health service works for all, yet the Mental Health Act is now 40 years old. “This is a significant moment in how we support those with serious mental health issues, which will give people more autonomy over their care and will tackle disparities for all who access services – in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds.”

The reforms will also ensure that autism or a learning disability cannot be a reason for detaining someone under the act. In future, a clinician will have to identify another psychiatric condition to order their detention.

Cling film artist ‘overwhelmed’ by Pershore reaction

Large nature-themed murals have started to pop up in a Worcestershire town, painted on cling film. The impromptu works in Pershore have been created by a graffiti artist who goes by the name of Mr Sce.
He said he wanted to “make people happy” with his creations, after rediscovering a love of art during the Covid-19 pandemic. One local person dubbed him the “Pershore Banksy”, although the style of his latest work is very different.
The pieces, featuring different animals are painted on cling film, wrapped around trees – a technique Mr Sce said was inspired by another graffiti artist.