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?”

An Open Letter To ‘Moana’

I wrote this narrative poem inspired from the film Moana (2016), in my opinion one of the best Disney animated films since Lion King (1994).


The first time I watch Moana, I am in awe. It’s a spectacle to see that Disney actually made a film about a princess who’s not subjected to the Male Gaze and she’s of colour!

Warrior, battle-born, adventurer, explorer with all the fight, like Lagertha and Merida, as I hear the palpitations in my chest.

I smirk when she explores the concept of origins through song and dance. ‘Where You Are’ through customs and cultures of Motunui,

I stay quiet when they talk about old traditions;
I stay quiet when they talk about village mentality;
I stay quiet when they talk about safety and seclusion;
I stay quiet when they talk about coconuts and trees;
those vexations, confusion, frustrations, illusions –

as if my own family didn’t have versions of these conversations before they left the sunlit Caribbean for England’s wind, rain and cold.

She dreams like I do, travelling far away as the ocean calls her name. The world is wide and exploration pulls young minds and souls.

I wince when something bad happens to her, dragging a brown body storming down Middle Passage – a rain dance gasping under swash.

At night, I catch her looking into the the sky – thinking, wandering… wondering what will happen if she fails to the sound of splish splosh.

(Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios)

But Maui promises that he is one of the good ones. In her dreams, she walks though her village promising to make the woods great again.

And if she fails, it’s byebye Motunui; it’s an X on Maui. The same X on her parents. She asks him to meet her halfway, to reach across oceans,

bending continents in half… from sheer determination, to not walk over future generations of dead Polynesian bodies in order to compromise.

You know at night, I remember the first time I watched that film – the song and dance thumb bites to the Male Gaze and patriarchy,

plus representation in front and behind the camera. It’s a safety net, that Moana is one of the good ones.

That she’s strong, that she will get back to the paradise she calls home having restored the Heart of Te Fiti, 

And

It. Will. Be. So. Fucking. Worth. It.

Freak (After ‘Nothing Is For Nothing’ By Jill Scott)

I wrote this poem on my own experiences of childhood bullying inspired by the poem ‘Nothing is For Nothing’ by American poet and songwriter Jill Scott.


I had been playing chess longer than time itself,
being whatever piece they wanted me to
whenever they wanted me to be it –
a freak, a chess piece on checkered sheets,
being black, white, bishop, knight,
king or queen, a game unclean.

Check!

Played by my classmates
because of an apparent defect.
I accepted it because
I didn’t want to be alone,
now I’m trying to atone for my sins.
A childhood of wanting be wanted
by those other than my family.
I continued this image of “friends”,
laughs and jokes with them
often at my emotional expense.

Photographer: Jason Leung

Not friends at all,
pretending to fit in,
jibes at my melanin,
their image of a wet dream.
They thought I was
exotic, wild, neurotic, a freak.
Their cricket ball, for six I’d slog.
They told me to
“Go back to the trees I came from.”
I was monkey man, coon, nigger, wog.

And everybody walked around,
whispering about me,
like being able to run fast was synonymous
with members of my caste –
like Britain wasn’t suffocating
under its nostalgia raised at half-mast,
like there was nothing to laugh at other than
this slave running free on their plantation.

But when I was taking wickets and scoring tries
I wasn’t discriminated against, there were no jibes.
I was a gentleman, a man –
it was a sham. It really was, wasn’t I good for the cause?
Seems not, because the schools I went to
were this close to practicing colonial laws.

Intelligent, great cricketer,
good rugby player, head down,
but I was brown. Not good enough.
I was a firing lion,
like Michael Holding or Andy Roberts.
I was calm like Clive Lloyd,
but test me, and Vivian Richards will find you.
Knocking that ball right back twice as fast.

They wanted me to be obedient and docile,
stupid and oblivious. Working twice
as hard than everyone else, like a freak.
There I was selling my soul for acceptance.
Struggling not to be the latest generation
of slaves on my family tree.
Struggling to gain, gain nothing
but vexation, confusion, frustration, illusions.

As there was no love, just leeches
dressed as teachers in instituions that take.
Children of posh privileged people that flake
when life gets too hard,
when they get gruel and lard instead of steak,
when they didn’t get a pony for Christmas,
when they crashed their first car (it was a Jaguar).

Whatever happened to going outside and playing in the park
or dealing Pokemon cards like Pikachu and Charizard?
But all they cared about were horses and porches, Daddy’s cigars.
There was no love from their parents,
just empty condom wrappers where their hearts should have been.
And that’s what takers do, they push the self-esteem out of you.

And now I am the me you see now, the me
that joined Soul Food Poetry and holds onto himself
with both hands and all feet.
The me that must love and be loved in return,
but knows that love and hate is learned.

The me that is passionate, confident
and smart with self-respect.
Taught himself to love himself
because the freak didn’t.
I’m not a freak, I’m a man.

Blind Faith

I wrote this poem purely adapted from my own relationship with faith and belief. It’s inspired by the aftermath of Auntie Luisa’s death in regards to me and my family.

Also, it’s inspired by the poem “Agnostic” (which I related to) by poet Roscoe Burems on the WAN (Writre About Now) Poetry channel on YouTube.


Auntie Luisa had a heart full of batteries. A morning of activities would leave her drained. You know, breathless. She’d be plugged into her flat throughout most of the afternoon and replenishing that energy back would take all evening.

In her last days, she had a renewed faith in God – like my mother and grandmother had their whole lives. They owe their lives to their faith and I’d often go to Church with them. Not like I had a choice.

And as Auntie Luisa lie in that closed casket, my grandmother remembers all the times she (my grandmother) has died. Good Friday laying its hands on her body like a defibrillator.

My grandmother thanks God that for the ten years more we got with Auntie Luisa. She wasn’t supposed to survive six months. She thanks her faith not the doctors. And the Luisa we had in 2016 was not the same we had in 2006.

Photographer: DJ Paine

How anatomies and personalities undergo transformation. I observe a lot – even in her spirit, despite her best efforts, I saw a different Luisa. There were a lot of changes between this modern edition and her earlier rendition. Much alike the Bible I suppose.

Healthy, smiling, joking. Not saying she didn’t smile, because she was larger than life (even in death). I grew up with her sickness and the older I got, the worse she got… at hiding it.

I think in her heart, Grandma thought her daughter would be with us forever. They were like two peas in a pod, like Christianity and Paganism. No parent should have to bury their child.

Before 2016, I was an atheist. Now I’m agnostic. I can’t choose to believe in nothing. I’ve just stop dancing outside the pigeon holes of religion.

I don’t believe in God but I believe there’s something and those higher powers are beings too big for a chapter book.

I don’t pray, I meditate. I don’t just speak, I listen. I don’t just read, I write.

I read a bunch of stuff – on history, on the history of Christianity, things I will not talk to my mother and grandmother about. They’d likely not talk to me for a long time if we entered that debate. Sometimes peace is better than winning the argument.

My grandmother says she’s praying for me. Never actually says what she’s praying for. She thinks I’m a non-believer and when I see her with the holy book I smile.

I came to think there were a million and one differences between me and Luisa. When the doctor told us she’d gone, I responded with poetry. That’s my religion. That’s my meditation. That’s my mantra.

And when I found my chi, I saw the similarities between me and her were uncanny. It was right after hearing my uncle cry about her coma and her cardiac arrest, split chest like Moses in the Red Sea, watching Scleroderma be the nail in our family.

Experiencing stuff like this made me doubt religion. Seeing my family fall from grace. But watching their two-year ascension gave me hope on this ball in vast expanse of space.

And maybe they’re blind. Maybe I’m blind. Or maybe belief is about being blind. Blind faith you know. Trusting your feelings rather than your eyes. Trusting the spirit rather than your head. Definitely not following your nose!

In Star Wars, they call it The Force. In the East, they call it chi. In Church they call it God but I call it poetry. My family found it in a book and I found it in them.

Look, I’ve learned too much about religion to follow it without question. But they have endured too much not to. My mother has my great-grandmother’s bible by her bed.

Religion is the reason why my mother and grandmother are still alive. Still with me to guide me, raise me and educate me.

Photographer: Peter Hershey

One day, I will read that thing all the way through and add a chapter about them.

What I’m trying to say is I’m not an atheist. I’m agnostic. There’s times where I think I’ve seen too much suffering in the world to believe in God but I’ve watched my mothers be God too much to not believe in them.

#IfSlaveryWasAChoice

I wrote this poem directly inspired from Kanye West. His comments say that he believes the Slave Trade was a choice (for the slaves).

My poem comes from engaging with the memes and threads on the matter, including the frenzy on Twitter and the Facebook comments section.

I did not believe what he said until I saw it myself!


Kanye West said:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”

No, Mr West, marrying into the Kardashian Family was a choice. Praising Donald Trump was a choice. Uttering provocative comments was a choice.

In 1619, the Dutch brought free blacks to America from Africa as slaves.

If slavery was a choice, master be like “I didn’t tell you to stop pickin’ that cotton, boy!”

And I’d be like “That’s my shift for today. I already signed out. This y’all problem now.”

Slavery was conscripted for the African, for those with black skin, button noses and knotted-hair; many thanks to covert and structural racism, what we now call White Privilege.

Anika Noni Rose as Kizzy in the Roots remake (liked it more than the original) was great
Roots, History Channel

And then master starts tripping, belt buckle flipping, his feet doing that late-night tripping down to the slave shacks, like in the Rape Houses of Bunce Island (Sierra Leone), where he and our ancestors would be together.

Refuse, and he’d get angry, his temperament would change like the weather. And at the same time, the free Blacks of the Americas, like the Maroons, who fled slavery for forests, stuck it to the colonisers and their profits.

If slavery was a choice, all you’d have to do is text ABOLITION to 1863. Mr West, If you really think slavery was a choice, you’re going to love what happened next.

Just text JIM CROW to 1865. Just text SELMA to 1965. Just text MONTGOMERY to 1955. Just text Malcolm to 1965. Just text KING to 1968. And that was the fate of The Slave Trade’s offspring.

But according to you, slavery was a choice, published in the meandering mind of Supreme Overlord Kanye West. This is the same guy who had umpteen hits. Great tracks,

but then proceeded to call himself God and pledge himself to fat cats like Trump, superseding Samuel L. Jackson’s Uncle Tom-figure in Django Unchained. I concede, that you are worse because this is real life not a film, not a kid’s storybook written by children’s authors like Malorie Blackman and A. A. Milne.

You spout your shit on Twitter and TMZ to insight reaction, which is followed by media traction but this is the last straw. Slavery is history. It’s raw. See, that’s how you became you and I became me.

Black people don’t forget. We’re not mermaids just looking pretty. We’re the sirens in the stories of Odysseus and the Greeks. We’re on the rocks singing songs to drag the slavers down to the depths where they buried our ancestors.

Rip muscle from marrow with nine-tail whip. We are remnants of our grandparents’ grandparents. We derive from those who survived the Middle Passage trip. Not all were so fortunate.

Just look at the Zong Case (Massacre). Look at Jonathan Strong and Granville Sharpe. Look at James Somerset.

“No master was ever allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted from his service, or for any other reason whatever.” – Lord Mansfield

We are the descendants slavers feared. We lived. The strands of family trees survived the mutinies – Morant Bay, the Southampton Insurrection, the Haitian Revolution, the unruly witch hunts in the American South and in England – in places like Manchester, London and Liverpool.

If slavery was a choice, explain to me why the Underground Railroad existed. Truly. That’s history, sue me. Try telling Harriet Tubman who fled her master’s wrath and then went back to help others in bondage. She freed hundreds despite having a bounty on her head!

And that’s in a school of thought in ode to Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Jacobs, Ottobah Cugoano from Ghana and Mary Prince, a West Indian slave. It was do or die.

Slavery is written into the dirt. It is written into places like Selma, Alabama. Edmund Pettus Bridge named for the grand dragon in the Klan.

White hoods and confederate flags – flame-bearing, torch-wielding, black-lynching, our bodies swaying in the breeze of Jim Crow and that bridge still stands to this day, still called Edmund Pettus Bridge.

If slavery was a choice, it would be Starbucks saying “you can work here, but twice as hard for not half as much as is the norm, but for no pay.

If slavery was a choice, it would be Applecare saying you can work for us in the United States and not pick cotton.

Actually, it’s Applecare Plus and you would need to opt in within 60 days of choosing to become a slave. Hand on the Bible and… woah!

Mr West, if you get hurt on the job, how much does the Workers’ Union pay you again? Pension, health insurance, equal rights? But you need to fill out a form on the employee Wi-Fi.

And when the overseer calls you nigger you need to call the white, HR official. You are then fired, because HR isn’t there to protect employees but to protect the institution, the company, the Klan.

If slavery was a choice, there would be a field cookout on Labour Day.

If slavery was a choice, I’d be raiding master’s fridge for the cookout.

If slavery was a choice, I’d be making super fly outfits out of master’s cotton.

If slavery was a choice, I’d be at Slave University looking like Prince walked onto the set of Coming to America.

If slavery was a choice, I’d be telling Master to pick his own motherflipping cotton!


“You can’t buy a slave, you’ve got to make a slave.” – Connelly, Roots (2016).