A misleading image presents itself within certain areas of Black power discourse. It is the gilded image of the Black royal or the ancient African empire, manifesting within popular culture as a vision to aspire to. The recent release of Beyoncé’s Black Is King brings the subject back to the forefront of the public domain, presenting a glorification of Black royalty in the matrix of the Black liberation struggle.
This idolisation does not fit a revolutionary paradigm, but, rather, strives for “advancement” in line with a white supremacist world. It honours the western concept of civilisation as a system that oppresses others: there would be no monarchy without subjugation, no “great” empire without violence and theft.
Content warning: mentions transphobia
As the Green Party lets its members elect its third member of the House of Lords, one candidate’s name has jumped to my attention more than the rest: Rupert Read. For those who don’t know, Read is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, a former Green Party Councillor in Norwich and, according to his website, a ‘climate and environmental campaigner’. Whilst this can be seen as an impressive list of roles and beliefs, these aren’t the reason that Read’s name caught my eye.
Content warning: brief references to sexual assault
The Barging Buddhi and Other Poems takes us on a journey from human expectations that are created within a set culture, to more cosmic climbs, from which we are brought back to earth with the fragility of life, to then be connected to a wider sense of nature. Sunita Thind’s poetry is rich, sensual and visual. Although her numerous questions throughout the collection hint at self-doubt and uncertainty, she shows a strong sense of voice that is not easily contained, like the ‘pyrotechnical parrots’ she describes, how humans ‘clip their wings to capture the fury of their rainbow constellations / humans devouring them like black holes / sequestered in monster iron cages.’ The collection is strongest when assertive, using imperatives: ‘delete the tears’, ‘stain me’, maroon me.’
by Lotty Clare
Towering out of the ocean at 13,796ft, Maunakea is the tallest point in Hawai’i, and one of the most culturally and spiritually important sites in the archipelago. It is considered to be the piko (umbilical cord) of Hawai’i. It is also seen as kūpuna (ancestors/elders), and is the home of deities as well as the site of various shrines and burial grounds. Furthermore, the mountain is also an important habitat for several endemic species of animals. If you were to have driven down the road to the summit on the 15th July, you would have been stopped by a line of kūpuna blocking the road with their bodies. They were protecting this sacred site from the construction of a 30 meter telescope (TMT) which was given the OK by Hawai’i governor David Ige. Since then, this group has gained traction, and crowds have grown from a few hundred, to thousands. If you were to go there today, you would find a large camp on the site, with tents, cultural ceremonies taking place, traditional food being prepared, and a community run day care and school.
by Tamar Moshkovitz
This Wednesday, 19th June, the poet Joy Harjo was named the US’s 23rd Poet Laureate. She is the first Native American to be appointed to the role, and we should all be excited to hear her perspective – a voice previously unheard, or ignored by the tradition of American poetry and America’s colonial national narrative.
by Liv Barnett
Barbershop Chronicles is a ride which buzzes with energy from the first shaves to the final fades. It is written by Inua Ellams, UK-based poet, playwright and performer, and is an exhilarating play that identifies various aspects of black men’s experience through snippets of stories and interactions in barbershops that Ellams overheard as he travelled throughout Africa. Like hairdressers or taxi rides, barbershops can be intimate spaces for banter, storytelling and confession. With generosity and patience, this play does a good job of allowing audience members to step momentarily into the world of men’s chats. We become part of the warmth and banter between sensitive characters and appreciate the feelings and analyses that come with post-colonial politics, experiences of cultural change, complex family dynamics and making a living amongst love and friendship.
by Josh Doble
The unassuming small parish village of Southrepps, twenty-two miles north of Norwich, is the surprising location for a memorial to the former pariah state of Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe. This is not necessarily a well-known site – it was stumbled across during a summer cycle – yet it represents an important space to demonstrate the wider political environment in rural Norfolk, and the area’s connections to right-wing pressure groups further afield. The memorial itself is opposite Southrepps Hall and is made up of an avenue of Tilia Cordata – small-leaf lime trees – and three flag poles hosting the Union Jack, the Rhodesian flag and the original Southern Rhodesian flag. The Sladden family are the ‘Lords’ and ‘Ladies’ of Southrepps Hall and have a close history with Rhodesia, historically being settlers themselves. It would appear that the Sladden family built the memorial to commemorate their connections to the former country and to celebrate its memory.
by Stu Lucy
Last time we met I penned a reflective piece that acknowledged not only my privilege but also the de facto situation of millions of people across the planet, not least in Africa, forced to make the difficult decision to leave all they know behind, hoping for a better life in alien and often hostile lands many thousand of miles away. I’d like now to rewind to the very beginning of that process to try and suggest why it is so many end up making such a choice.Continue Reading
by Stu Lucy
As I mill around town needlessly purchasing disposable junk to wrap in trees so I may conform to the widespread Western orgy of consumption that is Christmas (sorry), I can’t help but notice that they’re everywhere. Costa, Nero, Starbucks, Coffee #1, it seems you can’t walk more than 100 metres before passing one of the acceptable narcotic dispensaries so many of us rely on to get through the day. It’s time to close this short series of food, and now drink, related pieces with a quick overview of coffee and its long and eventful relationship with Africa.Continue Reading
by Laura Potts
‘If anything, art is…about morals, about our belief in humanity.
Without that, there simply is no art’
Norwich’s own Space Studios hosted Bridges, a fascinating exhibition by artists Marcia X and Karis Upton, earlier this month. Entering through a small alley, I climb stairs up to the first few works, which I find in a dark setting, immersing me in the exhibition. Up another staircase, long enough for me to begin reflecting on what I’ve seen, is a much lighter space, with works hung from the sloped ceiling. Afterward, I’ll go on reflecting for some time – the themes and issues that Bridges explores are of such magnitude that every viewer is forced to sit up and listen.
by Alex Valente
CW: racism, sexism, fascism
There’s an old home-grown metaphor that runs in the Italian side of my family – which may have been acquired by my great-grandfather through his context and peers, I just have never heard it anywhere else – which goes as follows:
Italy is a watermelon. The thick, green skin on the outside is democracy, the Republic. The thin white layer that keeps everything inside together is the Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy, the centre party that governed Italy after WWII, and the ancestor of pretty much all centrist politicians since). The red pulp is the Socialist, Communist heart of the country. But the seed, the black seed from which it all grows – that’s Fascism.
by Chris Jarvis
CW: torture, rape, political violence
Less than a decade ago, left-wingers across the globe turned towards Latin America as something of a road map towards a more progressive and socialist politics. Many a left tradition could be identified in the range of regimes, leaders and parties that had come to power throughout the region. Evo Morales in Bolivia, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Ollanta Humala in Perù, Jose Mujica in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, the ever present Castros in Cuba, and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The “Pink Tide”, as this phenomena became loosely known, was high, and international awe developed among the left.
Breaking out of the 1990s, in which the global institutions of neoliberalism, from the IMF and the World Bank to the US state and multinational corporations drove an agenda of austerity, privatisation of services and market liberalisation, Governments of the “Pink Tide” brought promise of a better deal for the various Latin American nations which elected them. To greater or lesser degrees, these Governments sought to recentre economies away from international capital and towards the needs of people, increase spending on and provision of welfare and public services – whether through anti-hunger initiatives, healthcare programmes or education projects, and deepen democracy. Across the region, the Pink Tide brought with it decreasing levels of economic inequality, higher literacy rates, reduced poverty and greater levels of health.
In 2017, the legacy of these leftist Governments lies tarnished – and perhaps the most emblematic of this turn is Venezuela.Continue Reading
by Candice Nembhard
I have been living in Berlin for around two months now and generally the transition from the UK to mainland Europe has been a relatively easy process. If we put rising rent prices, endless German bureaucracy, and the future of Brexit aside, Berlin in some ways is a safe haven for a young black Brit such as myself.
Undoubtedly, my ability to move, live and work in Germany is not possible without an immense amount of privilege. I, unlike many people, do not face the same amount of adversity by simply being here; irrespective of my feelings towards my nationality, having a British passport is a golden ticket I didn’t have to work for. However, even with its numerous working and academic advantages, my citizenship does not defend me against the microaggressions of prejudice and racism that I receive almost on a daily basis.Continue Reading
by Sam Naylor
Content warning: this article mentions homophobia and racism
“In Britain we use our history in order to comfort us, to make us feel stronger, to remind ourselves that we were always, always deep down, good people.” That was Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum, describing Britain’s à la carte style of remembering at an exhibition opening in Berlin last month. This selective remembering is dangerous in itself, and when this approach is combined with current post-truth narratives Britain’s attitude to its past becomes very chaotic. Tracey Brown has argued that “the idea of a ‘post-truth society’ is elitist and obnoxious”, with good reason. But we need not apply this notion as all-or-nothing, without subtlety. Instead, we can understand a post-truth society as one that occasionally believes in emotive language and bombastic phrases over bland yet factual statements, rather than one which has ‘had enough of experts’ entirely.
by Faizal Nor Izham
Disclaimer: mentions violence against women, casual racism
Last week, the Internet was sent into its usual frenzy over the latest political correctness issue. Amidst the now sadly all-too-common Western-centric controversies, such as actress Rose McGowan raising the issue of the use of casual violence against women in movie posters to market ‘X-Men: The Apocalypse’, the Internet also reacted strongly to a television advert from China that was making its rounds on social media. The ad, featuring national detergent brand Qiaobi, contained levels of racism considered disturbingly casual by most standards.
In the commercial, a pouch of Qiaobi cleaning liquid is forced into a black actor’s mouth by a Chinese woman, who goes on to bundle him head-first into a washing machine. After a few cycles, she opens the lid and in his place, a Chinese man emerges instead. He proceeds to wink at the camera before the tagline appears onscreen: “Change begins with Qiaobi”.Continue Reading
by Josh Wilson
Just over a month ago I moved from the UK to the beautiful New Zealand – the home of the mighty All Blacks, the cute Kiwi bird and jumping into an abyss supported by nothing but a piece of string in search of some elusive sense of ‘excitement’ (also known as a bungee jump). I am going to be here for at least a year; with the graduate job market looking so feeble back home I decided working in a bar somewhere with a bit more sun wasn’t such a bad idea.
This makes me an economic migrant, and there are a lot of us young Europeans over here. So why aren’t people outraged that I am stealing a hard working Kiwi’s job or putting undue pressure on the welfare state? I should probably point out at this point that I am a white British atheist, and I think this may be very important in trying to answer the question of why I’m not victimised and resented by the vast majority of New Zealanders.Continue Reading
by Ananyaa Bhowmik
“Do you think mother‐tongue is a patriotic idea?”
“Of course it is”
“Well, we happen to live in a state where the regions were divided according to language. Can you feel patriotic towards your region in a country like India? Patriotism is an inclusive concept, while mother‐tongue gives you identity when identity politics is played. It isolates. It is a constant struggle between feeling proud of your mother‐tongue while being included. By the way…”
“‘Mother’ Tongue is a Patriotic concept. A conundrum, don’t you think?”
In light of recent events in JNU, and being part of a University (Jadavpur) that is one of the greatest supporters of those “anti‐nationalists”, it is perhaps amusing to note that I am attempting to discuss as patriotic – or nationalistic, even – an idea as mother‐tongue, in occasion of UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day. The University ground is a battlefield as each group tries to define what being a patriot actually means. Cries of “Vande Mataram” (All hail the Mother) ring out. In a country that has forever been portrayed as the Mother Goddess ‐ an object of devotion that is inaccessible, idolized, rigid and unchanging; a mere bearer of children, stripped of any other form of identity, in a burning country where youthful souls struggle to establish individual identities and right to choice, I sit writing on mother‐tongue. Mother‐tongue, which made me a Bengali, all because of a mere genetic accident. And where it all really began.Continue Reading
by Carmina Masoliver
I went to see ‘Suffragette’ with a lot of mixed expectations. I’d heard the reviews weren’t that great, my mum described it as ‘slow’ and there’d been criticism for the lack of BME women in the film (zero). There were also issues of Carey Mulligan’s accent and the fact the film was advertised as having leading roles by herself, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter. These may seem like minor points, but they reveal deeper issues beneath their surface.
by Emmanuel Agu
Let’s face it, the history we are exposed to in this state is white-oriented, Eurocentric and frequently glamourizes the power and history of Britain’s Imperialism. School curriculum’s explain theorems, recount stories and literature of white heroes, white professors and white creatives. Our history museums and art establishments are filled to the brim of treasures looted from Africa and Asia that continue to remain in our state for claims of ‘greater accessibility’ for the rest of the world– Infact even within the castle of our Monarch sits the remains of buried princes forcibly taken from their homes. In the supremacist society we live in- white history is celebrated and panegyrized daily, don’t be so ignorant as to ask for your time of remembrance when society does not exclude you.
Black history month exists in defiance of the structures that chose to exclude those that supremacy excludes- but one must, ask what does it mean to be black?