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

Smile

I’ve become synonymous with historical poetry but that’s not all I write about; I do attack different subjects, including mental health.

That’s what this poem is about. Mental health problems can sneak up on the best of us and this poem is a few thoughts on trauma.


People don’t give Black boys enough credit.

Even now at 22 I’m still studying and the last time I studied a positive Black person was when my schoolteacher told us about David Harewood as Othello.

That was ten years ago in 2008, a long time, long enough;

ten is the Capricorn Zodaic sign;

is highest score at a poetry slam;

ten years (plus two) is the difference between my brother and I;

is the difference between boy and man;

was when I first fell in love with the song ‘Son of Man’, in Tarzan.

Photographer: Dean Ward on Unsplash

I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower (love it). I was walking home one night and was thinking how White and hetero-normative young adult fiction is.

It might not seem like much, but it’s about seeing yourself reflected and not as someone else’s crutch.

I view reading as breathing and when I read I frown; when I’m in photos I find it hard to smile (on demand). I’m sad, and deep in thought.

I’m always down.

People tell me to smile.

Strangers telling strangers to smile.

Sweet old ladies that mean well saying:

“You’re too young to look this sad. Smile, sweetheart.”

Grandparents saying:

“Be happy. Just feel better.”

Weird, isn’t it? Telling someone you don’t know / those you do to look happy and feel better, treating depression like a headache.

Photographer: Taylor Grote on Unsplash

A smile takes one muscle more than punching someone in the face, that last one is what those who look like me are synonymous with.

Violence. Shedding more blood than tears.

Tantrums over thoughts –

ideas left hanging from a noose, swaying in the wind at the top of Empire State, contemplating jumping from the Golden Gate.

Knives through veins and vital organs, trying to take on something you know is bigger than you could ever vanquish.

Something that has killed plenty before and will kill plenty after; because if there is no attempt you lose the at least you tried speech.

Don’t tell people with depression to smile, because they might still be trying to scrub the trauma, a confession more holy than sin.

Scrubbed with boiling water – tap water, bottled water, holy water, it all flows under the bridge. A boat sailing to the slaughter.

Photographer: Aaron Blanco Tejedoro on Unsplash

Don’t tell Black boys to smile. Compliment, maybe – don’t demand.

Allow the contrast to funnel through, and if he does want to force a smirk, he will do it of his own volition, not at the behest of you –

with someone he can feel vulnerable with,

not some plastic grinned,

fish-eyed nice guy (or girl)

who finds the frown as scope to blame the victim.

He might have a good reason to be sad;

could be overcoming grief;

could still be in shock after a recent event

or he simply needs a good reason to smile.

It is not your mouth and they’re not your lips.

Not yours to find solace in

when the windows crash and shatter from the storm outside.

When your cardiac muscle crashes around your moneybox

like seeds in dry soil refusing to grow without moisture or sunshine.

And if you really want a sad boy to smile,

a Black boy to smile,

a grieving man to force a grin,

to wither in sin despite the depression they’re in –

talk to him until  you’re hit by

the blunt force instrument of mental health,

until to them it smells like flowers and not a graveyard,

until they re-open historic wounds to find roses and not a corpse.

Photographer: Nikita Tikhomirov on Unsplash

I am not yours to tell to smile;

if you keep saying “smile”, no one will ever want to.

And if you get too close,

you might get bitten and the victim will smile red.

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?”

Privilege

I wrote this poem inspired from my schooldays and my reflections on that now as an adult, and its related connotations.

Also, this poem talks about how discrimination can happen between privately-educated / state-educated people of the same ethnicity.

This poem was deeply-inspired by ‘Privilege’ by Lacey Roop. She’s a slam poet and author poetry collection And Then Came the Flood


At fourteen, I was educated with the children of the rich and entitled.

At lunch I sat with them – children who lived in big houses.

Honestly, I disliked most of them. I didn’t want to be one of them.

My mom was a teacher, my father worked in IT.

The parents of these children were lawyers and businesspeople.

In other words, they sold lies for a living; however, like my colleagues, I never knew the meaning of without or hungry.

Some of the friends I made at school were people who had never encountered people of colour before – other than those they saw on television.

I grew up around people who had names like Seonai and Winston and Darius and Precious and Paris and Isaiah.

And they grew up with people who had names like Mary-Kate, Anna-Grace, Elizabeth-Anne, Tom-Harry and John-Paul.

Photographer: Matt Lamers

By today’s standards, they’d be known as progressive white folks who had more money than they knew what to do with.

They were the offspring of people who felt uncomfortable around someone like me, a child – whose last name wasn’t Jones or Smith, whose skin tone was a shade too dark, too dug up earth for their white picket fence.

One time, I was invited to a party. Drugs and underage girls littered it like confetti. The houses of lawyers and CEOs and surgeons, people who had inherited everything they owned.

When other Black people here how I talk, they question who I am. They question my ethnicity and identity.

Just because when I spill the heart contents of my chest, they ask if I am really Black. Because I talk too well for this colour.

As if my blood is not infested with the same slave plantation mud as theirs. I do not hate my skin but I’m often ashamed of those who share the same melanin as me.

Judging me on my RP and how I was raised, not what I say or how I behave. I hear people say, “If you know better than do better.”

This is why I can’t gawk from the side lines when I see Black people putting each other down. When I see colourism dividing us by our different shades of brown.

Black Privilege is feeling the bitterness of other people who look like me. This private school childhood is being the token Black.

It’s knowing my mouth is more bulletproof than Charlottesville which is why I use this mouth loud, even in the face of that bitterness.

To keep certain ears attuned to “You know better so be better.” For my eyes to be whitewashed and imperialised. Black privilege is a fiction, a fantasy.

It’s the assumptions people make because they hear my softly-spoken syntax – this relaxed tone of voice. This privilege-sounding tongue-tied man subverting stereotypes.

It’s the judgements we take without thinking. I was stop and searched by police for simply blinking… wrong place wrong time.

Having privilege is never having to think or talk about it. I’m always thinking and talking about it.

And if we all have voices to use, why on Earth should we stay silent?