So I wrote this poem inspired from a song I co-wrote nearly ten years ago (available on request) at Performing Room in Northampton.
Additionally, this is also inspired from the film The Great Dictator, written and directed by Charlie Chaplin and his speech in that film.
in 2016 my country split in two
48% voted stay the rest to leave the EU
in the wake of Brexit and Windrush
when we moan we’re told to hush hush
workers continue to suffer under the bourgeoisie
saving every coin so they can survive this austerity
men, women and children hurt and alone
many don’t have safe places they can call home
in halls of residence students sweat
whack to the knees crippled under government debt
you know these loan sharks in suits
playing judge, jury and hangman ready to drop the noose
these are images on a news reel
this history we’re living in now is sealed
it’ll be written with photo-shopped pictures
as you know that history’s written by the victors
you can see lies written into faces
discussion puts world leaders through their paces
they tell us what they want us to hear
but critiquing their actions fills their minds with fear
politicians thinking what they think is right
turning people against basic human rights
deporting British citizens and funding wars
street slabs acting as veterans’ floorboards
Black or White; Christian or Muslim; Gay or Straight
through othered visions the powers that be discriminate
destroying communities, minds and souls
they’re not yours not for corporations to own and control
Northampton, campus incorporated
degrees and education hyper-monetised…
Town Centre – litter-ridden, takeaways and charity shops
in addition to police on the beat and All Saints’ sighs
fake news, false media, forced slave labour
form systems that change narratives and model behaviour
it causes nothing but anger and distress
look at the world in protest and continuous civil unrest
like Goebbels and Lord Kitchener with propaganda
they use words and pictures to play on our anger
like Darth Vader they use the force to enslave us
using false media and stories to garner our trust
peace exists on Earth with the breathing and the living
not with us murdering those who are giving
don’t pollute the world with plastics and aerosols
pollute it with children who dare to be brave and be bold
humanity has been through so much pain
but those who’ve maimed must take responsibility
if they don’t things will never change
fix up and for once take some accountability
we should guide each other
like Indiana Jones in his quest to discover
one race – one people – one destiny
as we scout in pedigree and human history
Citizens of the World, have your say
we’re not pieces in games chess for them to play
party politics’s been casting us in sin
boxing us based on gender, beliefs, race and melanin
those of you preaching what you think is right
turning people against basic human rights
experiences have given me perspective
it’s made me who I am and taught me to live
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
I wrote this poem inspired by a post on Instagram by London-based poet, rapper and, well, lyricist, Nate, about the British Museum.
Additionally, ‘The Evidence Room’ is inspired by ‘Custard and Curry’ by Canadian poet Robyn Sidhu.
London’s ‘The British Museum’ is the blackface of British History. Will Britain ever give these items back? Not a chance!
Though, I do recall reading an article saying they’d loan items back to Nigeria and Ethiopia; to this day Britain still acts like it’s 1834.
Our introduction to Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) in Marvel’s Black Panther just sums all these feelings up so well.
This video was filmed last night (September 26) at Studio 88 on Leicester Square by SFP videographer, Kevyn Ricard (big up yourself!)
One day in January, I was caught in a conversation with a man who thought imperialism was GREAT! That the British Empire was awesome! With the constant questions and statements, it felt like a date so that’s what I’m going to call it.
And so I thought, should I really be here?
I was in fear of his mind, confined to nostalgia –
bits of bunting swaying in the breeze,
like nooses hanging from trees in a Jim Crow South.
I think of The British Museum… should I really be here?
I haven’t quite decided yet. Look, when
I see those artefacts I see quashed rebellions and resistance.
I see livelihoods as blood sports, so I begin to think
of The British Museum and the Victoria & Albert too…
When I tell my White friends this, they are confused.
I tell them “Yes I am British.”
Well, British-West Indian-West African
maybe a bit of Indian and Chinese
there as well I don’t actually know.
They are confused
since my passport says British Citizen,
that makes me British, right?
Or does it make me part-white?
Or was it just when
my grandparents and great-grandparents
sacrificed white beaches for Windrush anthems?
And a few centuries earlier,
my five, six and seven times grandparents
traded the Gold Coast for slavery;
that doesn’t mean I am any more or less British
than John, Jack or James because
I have the pigment of a cocoa bean.
On our date, I sip on my water.
He sips on his coffee, he talks about
how he prefers it without sugar.
I think Demerara.
Just the beans and water you know?
Sugarcane plants from bank to bank,
slaves outflanked by overseer ships.
Nationality in binary terms is messy
because it’s not binary.
He reveals a bacon sandwich
squirts ketchup onto it
and presses the bits of bread together.
Bits of red slipping sliding
oozing abusing the paper bag –
dripping down onto floor
as he lay his heritage before me –
a quarter this, a third that.
I concur that I share this fractured history.
If you dissect my body,
if you cut into my torso and limbs,
you will find rivers of European blood
that swims with the gene pool of colonisers.
I am the red wine gushing
from the wounds of little Ashanti boys.
I am the Caribs of Grenada
jumping to their deaths from Leapers’ Hill
to escape the French slave traders.
I am Jamaica and the Maroons.
Nanny, she was Ashanti you know.
Came over in chains
but she never forgot who she was
despite the British putting them
to work sugarcane fields,
beaten and raped to yield harvest.
The Maroons resisted, Nanny persisted.
Ran for the hills,
fighting off the British for eighty years.
Ran for the Blue Mountains,
put colonisers’ heads on spikes.
No White man was safe
from the Maroons in the moonlight.
Maroon masters of camouflage,
attired in leaves. Still as trees
before they struck in the dark.
The Brits had the tech
but the Maroons had
the will, determination, magic…
this is the birth of Jamaica… real independence.
I am watered down White man,
colonisers who forced their way
onto my family tree
entwined themselves with
each bit of branch, bark and leaf
became part of the canopy –
mixed, meshed and mingled with soil
hijacking stem cells, membranes and nucleus
claiming they created photosynthesis.
I guess the concept of privilege
can be traced to history.
His presence, his words, are warning me
he is here to pillage the uncivilised
to steal a bounty for his wife.
On our date,
I watch his hands grasp his coffee.
I try to imagine them touching me.
I am uncomfortable, unnerved,
he smells like Rwanda being burnt to ash.
The woman that waits on him helps give birth
to his malignant anti-migrant mentality.
I may be immigrant,
grandchild of colonialism,
birthed from chains,
child of slaves and servants,
who worked the fields,
as our last names were
gambled with the ocean.
I may father multiracial children
who will be forced into cold welcomes,
but you are what sullied my pigment,
forced my flesh from
Mother Africa to begin with,
like a C-section
for gold, minerals and artefacts –
from the Ashanti in Ghana
to the Edo People of Benin,
my ancestors that lost their souls
so you could talk about Great Britain.
On this date that’s not a date,
he tells me I look mixed-race.
What does that even mean?
I could be half-white.
Should I take that as a compliment?
Being part-slave part-coloniser,
as if colonised is the new black,
as if being the same colour as the people
who plundered and slaughtered
those they thought lacked civilisation is ideal.
On our date,
he expects me to educate him
on centuries worth of colonial history
after he was previously defending it.
Instead I say:
I am one of the many voices
of the African Diaspora.
Yes, I am European. Yes, I am British.
Yes I am Caribbean. Yes, I am African.
I hear rumours
of Indian and Chinese in my lineage as well.
This is why we shouldn’t talk
about nationality and ethnicity as binary terms.
I tell him I am not the final resting place for his White guilt.
I will not carry his pride and mind in brass pots
like the water my forbears used to carry on their heads.
I am tired of talking to people like him
who seem to think I need validation
from someone who talks
like they grew up on a slave ship.
I can’t settle for this shit any longer,
that giving a big tip
to an Indian waiter isn’t
the first step towards repairing
centuries of racism and degradation.
He pauses, finishes his coffee.
Tries to keep face, tries
to recover his bravado and breathes…
So I wrote this poem in response to when I was scouting for venues for Soul Food Poetry Northampton; certain places got edgy when I explained that some of the acts that we get read poetry about things like current affairs, politics, war, mental health and so on.
You can’t censor poetry, I don’t think we should censor people’s topics to make it more comfortable. However, we do ask for acts to be creative in how they omit swear words (as there’s sometimes children in the audience).
Art comes in different forms: poetry, prose, theatre, film, photography etc. When an artist’s work isn’t designed to offend, to censor it because certain people disagree with it / feel uncomfortable with it is wrong (to me).
Surely, if they can commemorate bloody, messy conflicts, poets can talk about politics, war, mental health and other such things in their performances?
These are the same places where come November 11, are decorated with bits of bunting donning the Union Jack flag celebrating the end of World War One, as well as remembering those who have died in other conflicts too (harsh topics indeed).
You can’t have different rules for different people. My poem ‘Genocide’ is inspired from ‘What’s Genocide?’ by Carlos Andrés Gómez.
The pub managers told me we couldn’t perform poetry with profanity,
they said poetry has to be nice, digestible and pleasant,
they said you can’t read poetry that dealt with difficult subjects.
So I ask them:
“Raise your hands if you have heard of The Armistice?”
In congruence, they raised their hands
like mustard gas climbing out of a trench,
like raised bayonets at the Somme or Passchendaele.
Vacant expressions blended with a curious ignorance,
like the quivering quiet at Gallipoli,
like throats coloured rotten with gangrene,
voices halfway murmuring,
like lone soldiers whispering from behind barbed wire.
Took place between 1914 and 1917,
massacred at the hands of The Ottoman Empire.
So, what is genocide?
They wouldn’t let me perform again
if I read these pieces,
poems that tell stories
of The Other during the World Wars,
works that raise bayonet
against Churchill and Kitchener.
Pieces of a real world war,
not just Europe as I was taught
in the hollow corridors of my schooldays.
I can’t teach grown-ass people
in the audience that the history we know
is part of a wider story
and that it’s okay to admit
the history we learn as children
is very one-sided,
that the nostalgic pride for
Britain’s past is often misguided.
How many glorified films
have we had about Winston Churchill?
A lot, yet he was instrumental
with Dunkirk and the Battle for Britain,
as he stands in Trafalgar Square staring
from the £5-note; though he
advocated for chemical weapons on
Iraqi tribes and called Africans “savages,”
talking about black and brown people
in the language of eugenics and averages.
So, what is genocide?
Your statues talk about Nelson’s victories,
but don’t talk about his endorsement of slavery.
Like Cecil Rhodes, those De Beers
blood diamond mines; imperialists
and their measuring tapes
stealing tribes’ ancestral lands
in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia
laying the foundations for Apartheid
in the southern nations of Africa.
You wonder why Black and Asian children want
to hide in lighter skin with blue and green contact lenses,
history books made them ashamed of their melanin,
forced to build walls, barriers and concrete defences.
So what is genocide?
Genocide is Morant Bay, Jamaica.
When the children of slaves
rose up in anger against the British…
A courthouse destroyed. Places were looted,
some were executed; it was a riot
in a place that no longer mattered
in the eyes of the empire.
But it’s what happened next:
the reason every Jamaican has heard of Morant Bay –
the reason why it makes the locals so vex,
the reason why that history is so fresh,
the militia swarmed in like wasps,
hundreds killed in this brutal act of vengeance.
A penance to show the Jamaicans who was boss.
Chantelle gave her daughter
the day before she starts school.
She exists at the end of a gun,
at the end of neo-colonial rules,
European beauty standards raised at half mast
of a bayonet blade cutting fine lines
into her beautiful brown thighs,
killing the sanctity of childhood innocence…
being told “She’s pretty for a dark-skin girl”
in Africa, in America, in England
this place that place around the world.
This spoken-word piece was named “Newspeak” after the phrase coined by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It’s just media language.
This piece is about a few different things including media language, violence, guns, history and corporations. It darts around and I hope you can follow it.
“Newspeak” is also inspired by a poem called “How America Loves Ferguson Tweets More than the City of Ferguson” by Jaqui Germain on Button Poetry.
The media treats violence like a blockbuster. It’s about being flashy, generating millions via ratings, or in the case of movies, the box office.
The media love mass shootings, legacy media do; not the tragedy and death but they love the ratings. News stories perpetuated like horror films. No, action films like Bourne and John Wick. Bang! Shots fired followed by news cameras editing down grief like a plot device, and they’re all fighting for face-room.
How we love school shootings more than the institutions themselves. How we love to tweet. #Parkland, and that’s just one but there’s been fifty-seven this year. Fifty-seven attacks. It’s going to be a long summer of worshipping the flag, as politicians attack people of colour, under the flash of ulterior motives.
Spectres in street lights while black bodies splayed in the haze of tear gas, making the headlines of articles that win Pulitzer Prizes and Emmys for stories that sound good, like the click of the trigger. The rounds in the chamber. It’s not good at all, is it? A taxidermy of people’s trauma. How we’ve trained ourselves to be the undertaker, as victims are blamed for being maimed by the choice to continue to use archaic legislation.
Praise Twitter for microphones and media, making it harder for people to remain oblivious to the terrors vomited onto the streets of cookie-cutter neighbourhoods. If I were to die in police custody, the rungs of the cell would be the obsolete tears of my family, as they’d go unnoticed by the ones with quills.
Change the laws; stop hiding behind the 2nd Amendment, hand-to-hand hatred, outclassed out-dated . Put more limits on guns, as mental health-patients have more freedom to firearms than healthcare. But to be anti-gun means to be anti-American or so news corporations imply like they’re the House Un-American Activities Committee. Anti-gunners are the Hollywood Ten, communists who just want to live on a plot of land.
Heck, they just want to live! A patch of land would be a map of bleeding artefacts, as the history of America is the history of violence; the history of violence is the history of the West and it’s built on a mass grave.
These killings are nothing new; here we have Parkland. We have police creating more black stars than Hollywood. Or was it before that under the boots of slavery and Jim Crow? From Selma 1965 to Detroit 1967 to Lord Mansfield and the Zong Case in 1781.
Or was it when white men forced the Native Americans to assimilate their whiteness? Or was it when General Washington won America’s independence for the white upper-class?
Or was it when the pilgrims came from England? Or was it when Christopher Columbus came? And now America celebrates Thanksgiving.
It’s Britain’s historical amnesia. It’s America’s historical amnesia. It’s teaching schoolchildren that Columbus discovered America and the West Indies despite the already-thriving population – look to the Arawaks, the Caribs and the Amerindian past.
The right to bear arms. The right to fight in any capacity. It’s just right now, people can walk into Wal-Mart and then proceed to shoot up a school. The rules have changed, evolved, and technology with it. Mostly pissed-off white men who are as much terrorists as ISIS, not simply in a mental health crisis as the news says. Ready to condemn men with non-white skin, protecting the dominant culture’s melanin.
Legacy media love school shootings. They love terrorist attacks. They love violence and serial murder investigations that go on for months. They see ratings, we see grief and distress and horror.
They love children getting hurt. They love corrupt politicians. Lights, camera, action, cut, edit, effect. It’s a Hollywood movie. Car chases; car chases with guns, helicopters, speedboats, bomb blasts. Terrorist attacks on an iPhone, zooming in on faces of guilt and innocence.
Write the article how you want. Fake news. Alternative facts. It’s a damn tragedy. It’s a script. It’s a blockbuster. It’s nonfiction. It’s memoir, biography and someone’s life story.
And we, now, are watching them in the post-production phase of history. It’s us watching them watching us on this ball in the vast expanse of space. And as long as we are who we are, history is the last place we’ll look for our lessons.