Passage (For Ben-Mark)

As part of my degree, I was required to write an “object” poem, so I decided to write about the cricket ball in my bedroom and its connotations.

I wrote about the ball, but it’s a metaphor for power, oppression and austerity – some of what my family experienced / saw when they came to this country

Cricket was a tool of the British colonisers but my great-grandfather also loved the game, and I like to think I inherited that from him.

I never met him, he died the year before I was born, 1994.


My great-grandfather Edison ‘Ben-Mark’ Noel came to Britain from Grenada in the early 1960s. Under the British Nationality Act (1948), he and his family were British citizens, including my nine year-old grandmother. Every Caribbean migrant that came between 1948 and 1973 were then known as the Windrush Generation, named for the ship of migrants that arrived at Tilbury after the war.

Why did Ben-Mark like cricket so
must be the ball
carmine like Caribbean colours

victorious since 1962
home from home
Gary Sobers and Clive Lloyd

anthems to the West Indian
between the pages of Small Island
bricks from cars like the slower ball

ooooh mustn’t throw stones
yorker, bouncer and googly
tampered leather and broken seams

so why bowl beamers, Amber
Jack’s wind-ripped skin
indelibly etched to foreign fingerprints

My great-grandfather, Edison Noel (known as Ben-Mark)
(Photo Credit: Dean Ventour)

Ben-Mark liked to
slam dominoes and kiss teeth
ya spake strange

he was at home with those
who didn’t talk like the Queen
hard hands and hot-rolled steel

black and white soldiers
in the vice of Thatcher
more strikes than smoke

stumped behind
given the King Midas touch
quack quack to the pavilion

why do I see cricket so
must be the ball
carmine like The Middle Passage.

Immigrant Land

I wrote this poem after ‘The Real Refugee Crisis’ by one of the best poets in Amsterdam, Kevin Groen – who I’ve seen perform a bunch of times.

This poem’s all about my country, Britain, and how the recent “Immigrant Problem” is a walking contradiction when you look at its history. Nonsense.


is the Windrush
men, women and children
‘born from a sugarcane piece’
from colonies under
the whipping whip hand
of Enoch, Winston and Victoria

centuries of
slavery and land exhaustion
wasn’t that enough
and the only way to survive
was to leave paradise behind
bringing vaguely
European-sounding names
to foreign shores
up against uncertainty

thought British identities
aflame in Brixton and Handsworth
left home to find home
to build a society in monochrome
you say immigrant
that just means native anywhere else
but reverse the roles,
“Brits” getting fat in the midst of Spain
they’re just called expats

same thing really
but newspeak smoulders retina
when immigrants
are black rather than white
seeing seas of rejections
like oceans’ belly didn’t profit in times
of slave mutiny and insurrection

the Windrush arrived at Tilbury
gambling their futures with Mother Empire
identities prickly like barbed wire
used and abused labour
corrupted civil rights
no war but the class war people say
No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs
bricks through windows
banana skins on the front porch
nigger, coon, monkey chants, wog

now they’re bored of our complaints
Caribbean grandparents
their children and now the grandchildren
my cousins, my brother and I
look it’s happening again
Brexit, UKIP, DUP
can’t you see how court jester MPs
treat citizens like it’s Ireland, Easter 1916?
like it’s the HUAC in 1955
like it’s Nazi Germany,
Gestapo and the Night of the Long Knives?

immigrant land
is the Windrush
the NHS
the Irish coal miners
those “expats” in America and Canada
the Brit(ish) Royal Family,
as all our ancestors went from
place to place as slaves and traders
also “explorers”, I call them invaders

we occupied your nations and stole your land
ripped children from mothers’ arms
trickled out with our lies thinking nobody
would remember fake wars or genocide

Photo Credit: Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

Ragnar, Boudicca and Edward the Confessor
I could on and on about our unEnglish ancestors
the African Tudors John Blank and Catalina
we took in Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany.
we traded in gold with Ghana, held slaves at Elmina
people came from Australia and New Zealand
India, China, America and Botswana…

don’t listen to those politicians who
talk of English England
England meaning land of Angles
meaning land of Norsemen, Germans
so don’t listen to those sermons
from Eton MPs in their long coats
free movement goes way back (1774)
with Ignatius Sancho
the first man of African descent
in Britain, to exercise his right to vote
and now those who came in the 1950s
the 1980s and the 2010s, called
illegal, rapists and criminals, condemned

we never care to think
what immigration is,
like Voldermort and those horcruxes
where you’re from and where you are
compromising bits of your soul,
it’s assimilation on a budget
at the brunt of backward racial theories
identity politics and mind control
there are no immigrants to be found
in Trump’s internment camps
nor on British streets
and it’s starting to feel Dickensian
pollution, poverty and street lamps

Photo Credit: Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

we’re all immigrants
we’re all people
we’re all citizens of the world
defying invisible borders

to be called nice more than nigger
to be called friend more than feared

that Windrush, that all of us together
wish to find home. To truly belong

and really,

who can argue with that?

Calling Citizens Of The World (After ‘The Great Dictator’ By Charlie Chaplin)

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

Photo Credit: T-Chick McClure on Unsplash

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

Photo Credit: Annie Boilin on Unsplash

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.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Black & British

I wrote this poem as a companion to my poem Good Immigrant, a poem whose title comes from a book of creative nonfiction edited by Nikesh Shukla.

Black & British is inspired from a poem called A Black American  and the book and  television documentary series Black and British: A Forgotten History. 


When Columbus arrived in the Caribbean from across the sea
there were already natives there who were content and free.
And those who were bought, sold and thrown from the slave ship Zong
were brainwashed by slavers into thinking their skin colour was wrong.

Simultaneously the free Blacks without chains
mated with local tribes like the Caribs and the Arawaks
and White history. And because of this,
we’re a market of multi-coloured fruits,
so to the hoots with pure bloodlines
and according to geography and genealogy
the first Britons may well have been Black.
As we’re a people of many shades, clans and tans,
from Idris Elba to Thandie Newton to Cheddar Man.

And through migration
our characteristics changed and genetics cracked
and bits of everything seeped in
creating pick n mix nations and historical revelations.

Photographer: Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

I am Black and African and European
and West Indian but I don’t know who I am
I’m human and that’s my identity.
A good immigrant,
because our ancestors went from place to place,
and that’s everyone’s family tree.

Once upon a time I was called nigger
and wog and coon and coloured
my Windrush grandparents suffered this too
in a Technicolor society, in the 60s
where they walked with purpose
as Black was beautiful.

But I’m still feeling edgy about being
Black and British; and if you think
being called a Black Briton
eases my mind, you’re wrong
putting my ear to the doors of
Holdenby, Sandringham and Althorpe
to hear the sad odes of slave songs.

Photographer: Olayinka Babalola on Unsplashed

There are many Black Britons
whose parents moved
from Cameroon and Nigeria,
Haiti and Grenada,
Barbados and Jamaica,

And if you go to Africa and the West Indies
in search of your race,
you will only find another Briton
lost in a foreign place.

However, your heritage
is everywhere. Look at all the
shades of our skin. Black is not
a colour, it’s the epicentre
of the society we’re living in.

Photographer: JD Mason on Unsplash

If you choose to be called British
I won’t persist. I know I’m not
the only one struggling
with their identity,
as the land I was born in
is a historical penitentiary.

I was born British
but raised West Indian.
Who am I? I don’t know yet.
But just let me be
and I’ll figure it out,

eventually.

The Evidence Room (For Nate The Lyricist)

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.

Photographer: Tina Guina on Unsplash

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.

Slaves chopped sugarcane on the banks of the Demerera River in the Georgian period

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…

“What did you say?”