The structure of white supremacy feeds off the narrative of the ‘docile slave.’ Painting Black people in history as submissive beings upholds the white conscience; it tapes over white people’s historical and present reliance on oppression for their mental stability and superiority, by suggesting that Black people were willingly inferior. When, in reality, Black people have been rebelling with might since their capture.
CW: racism, violence, police brutality, suicide
I’ll admit, the title of this article is posed in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, but the underlying premise points to two concurring factors: the hypocrisy and northern hemisphere-bias underpinning global governance, and the distinct shift towards authoritarianism that we are currently seeing in Trump’s America; the latter possibly justifying intervention under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. The Trump administration’s current bent towards authoritarianism is not mere hyperbole, nor the incendiary Twitter-ranting of an orange mad man, but a dark and extremely worrying leap towards the kind of repression that characterizes Assad’s Syria, or the recent kidnappings in Iraq, wherein those protesting against the regime are bundled into unmarked cars and whisked away into the night.
Norfolk’s music, gig and free party scene is a vibrant stream of colour, with bright red, gold and green gushes moving through the illuminous pool. Reggae, dub, jungle, drum n bass and techno can easily be discovered blaring from a stack of speakers in a venue or elusive field in and around Norwich. Norfolk loves sound system culture, but many of those same people who dance to this music are quiet in the struggle against racism.
“Babylon A Fall,” they shout. But what does that actually mean?
In early July, Extinction Rebellion UK released a statement discussing their “relationship with the police.” They explained how they now recognise that their tactics of civil disobedience and mass arrests have been insensitive to and “have excluded Black people, other communities racialised as non-white, and other marginalised groups and contributed to narratives that have put those communities at risk.” They also apologise that this recognition has come so late.
CW: police brutality, racism
We tend to think of them as a trio: the police; the firefighters; the paramedics. They all answer the same phone line; they all blare the same siren on their way to the scene. Not all three, however, exist to support civilians, nor do they operate in unison, and this façade is what enables the police to be revered no matter how much they tear communities apart and instil fear.
Colston is in the river. Winston Churchill is quivering. Cecil Rhodes glares brazenly at the Oxford University governors threatening to tear him down, his maniacal eyes finding flickers of solace in the realisation that whether he remains or not, the society he served over a century ago still slithers in its self-made pool of white supremacy (enough to still make his cold hard mouth turn into a grin).
The taking down of statues is a powerful display of justice. Every day, the Black community has had to endure looking up at its oppressors whilst simultaneously being battered by the system that those same glorified figures acted to perpetuate. Each statue that falls is a nod of recognition to the Black experience – an experience which has been subdued for hundreds of years as something that is not worthy of our knowledge. However, whilst pulling down a statue is a strong gesture, it does not annihilate the insidious manifestation of racism that courses through every part of our society. We need to do more.
CW: racism, violence, police brutality
We need to talk about the rioting. And the looting. And the destruction of statues during recent Black Lives Matter protests. We really do. The failure to recognise the entrenched nature of historical and enduring structural violence in both the US and the UK speaks volumes in terms of the normalization of oppression, enforced poverty, racism and discrimination in contemporary society. Whilst there are certainly white victims of structural violence, it is an irrefutable fact that Black or minority ethnic communities experience the most severe intersecting consequences – not as uncomfortable rarities, but as a grinding, every day, relentless struggle, which as we have seen in the case of George Floyd along with so many other black men, women and youth, can too often have fatal results.
CW: racism, violence, police brutality
A tide of anguish currently sweeps our world, hammering at the white supremacist order. On the evening of May 25th, George Floyd was mercilessly killed by a white US policeman. The world watched from their homes as Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, ignoring his screams as he called out that he couldn’t breathe. George Floyd was suffocated of his last breath. Three other policemen stood and watched. The state brutally murdered a Black man. The people decided to revolt.
Right now, we are seeing mass protests from the US to the UK to the rest of the world, both on the streets and online, physically and mentally. Police brutality pervades our society and the recent piling up of Black bodies such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery has become just too much. We need change. The only way to achieve this change is to abolish the police.
CW: mental health
Long predating the lockdown, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have reported feelings of isolation and loneliness at alarmingly high levels. This reached a point where ‘queer loneliness’ was dubbed an epidemic, and the mental health of the community overall was recognised as dire. With many now separated from their support networks during lockdown, queer people are experiencing new lows in their mental health. Additionally, much of the previously mentally healthy population is also struggling, and NHS services are suffocating from cuts, meaning that many queer people will miss out on vital mental health services as a complacent wider world focuses on going ‘back to normal’.
At the moment, we are led to believe that Covid-19 is a marauder snatching away our media, our minds and our vulnerable population and that the only way to defeat such a pernicious beast is to sing hollow cries of “we are all in this together.” Yes, this should be a time for us to unify in communal admonishment of the situation; a time where we should realise our shared will to thrive alongside our neighbours; a time to join mutual aid groups to help those more vulnerable in a true display of fraternité; but, in doing this, we should not be blind to the fact that we do not share an equal burden.
by Jonathan Lee
I am probably not the image most people have in their mind when they think of a Gypsy.
My mother is of mostly Irish-American stock – which gives me a few ginger wisps in my beard, and a smattering of freckles across my nose and cheeks. My hair is dark brown, not black. I don’t wear a lolo diklo (red scarf) around my neck, or a staddi kali (black trilby hat) on my head. Most of the time I wear jeans and t-shirt, I rarely ever dance on tables, and I have no piercings or tattoos. I live in an apartment in the centre of a European capital with a woman whom I am not married to, and I travel only about 20 minutes maximum by foot every day to go to work.
If I ask you to close your eyes and picture a Gypsy in your mind’s eye you probably see someone with bangles and gold hoop earrings, floral patterned clothing, long hair, and dark flashing eyes. They may or may not have a tambourine, and may or may not be wearing a turban with a little gem in the centre holding it up. Maybe you see a fortune teller, or a travelling metalsmith? Perhaps a musician? If you are European, more likely you also see a beggar, a thief, a criminal.
Inspired by my experience of Being a Man Festival, I attended an evening in appreciation of poet and educator, Jacob Sam-La Rose. The night consisted of speeches and moving poetry in tribute to his teachings. The energy was reminiscent of the Burn After Reading nights, and despite this occasion being a one-off, it captured what I love about live literature events. Often, it can seem that poetry is such a niche medium, that outsiders can struggle to find their place. However, these spaces provide a place where people can share both pain and joy, and connect with others through words. Sam-La Rose is mostly known for the incredible work he does with young people. He has tremendous influence on poetry today, and on the opportunities that many young people have to be exposed to, and enveloped by, this art form. It comes as no surprise then to read on the back cover of Breaking Silence, that his work ‘is grounded in a belief that poetry can be a powerful force within a community’.
It felt right to return to the well-thumbed pages of my copy of Sam-La Rose’s debut book-length collection from Bloodaxe, one of the most reputable poetry publishers in the UK. Breaking Silence was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, but many feel it has not had the recognition it deserves. Linking with themes from Being a Man Festival, the collection explores issues of manhood and masculinity, and how these intersect with race and dual heritage, as well as broader issues of identity.
Whether it’s Janet Jackson in a purple latex suit, TLC in a spaceship or Aaliyah in the headlights of a motorbike, it is no secret that visual and artistic concepts among RnB artists were undoubtedly ahead of their time. The late nineties/early noughties saw many artists make use of developments in CGI/Camera Technology, fashion, specially-designed sets, and shooting locations. Directors such as Hype Williams and Dave Meyers, noted for their work with Missy Elliot, have gone onto make iconic if not classic visuals young music lovers still reference to this day.
CW: discussion of racial slur
Twiglets, I have an unusual and likely unhealthy relationship with twiglets. Everything about them disgusts me. Their burnt and bitter flavour, their odd withered and gnarled appearance and the quantity in which I consume them. Likewise, I have an unusual and likely unhealthy relationship with Bill Maher and his show Real Talk.
In recent years the discussion of gentrification and globalisation has become almost unavoidable – and for the most part, these terms have now been resigned as popular buzzwords in pseudo-intellectual conversations. As glib as this may sound, I shall do my best to explain.
While many a piece has been written on this subject, this is in fact not my primary focus. My intention is not to deny the lived and consequential reality of western mobilisation, but rather look towards the supporters and benefactors of this growing socio-economic practice. In particular, a generation of young people who are forgoing academic careers in favour of acquired/inherited wealth and personal development. More specifically, I will focus on my experience in post-Brexit Germany.
Content Warning: Racial slurs, homophobia
by Chris Jarvis
A few minutes’ walk from the dreaming spires for which the city is famed lies East Oxford’s Cowley Road – the hub where ‘kids of the multiculture’ grow up. An area undergoing rapid gentrification, it still retains its working class heritage, ethnic diversity, and unique character under the strains of the expansionist middle classes settling, with students and university professors increasingly filling the nearby terraces.
Cowley Road is home to the O2 Academy. Previously the Zodiac, the venue is emblematic of other changes in the area – a corporate takeover of a formerly independent music venue. Across the road sit branches of Subway and Costa, but a little further down is the Truck Store – the pivot of the local independent music scene. Here, at Oxford’s O2 Academy, Manchester-born Sonic Boom Six get set to tear up the stage on a Friday evening.
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.
I was fortunate enough recently to discuss race and race relations with a dear friend of mine. We covered numerous standpoints and theories, but the heart of the conversation was all about exposing the power of language – specifically, how it is inherently embedded with racist structures.
by Zoe Harding
Content warning: violence, neo-Nazism, the Holocaust, and anti-semitism. Article contains strong language.
I’d like to begin by showing you a video. It’s quite possibly a video you’ve already seen.
That man is Richard Spencer, professional neo-Nazi dickhead. The identity of the puncher is not yet known (and will hopefully remain unknown), but they’re believed to be one of the Antifa protesters from the day of the Trump Inauguration.
In the aftermath of the Women’s March — a worldwide protest in resistance to Donald Trump on Saturday January 21st 2017 that saw an estimated 4.6million people take to the streets in the US alone — The Norwich Radical’s Tara Debra G and Cadi Cliff put a call out. This article is the product of that call out, which asked for thoughts from those who identified as women and who attended one of the many Women’s Marches on why they marched. These are just some voices, but they speak from across the UK and the US in an act of collaboration, solidarity, and resistance.
TW: Mental health, racialised violence, racism
The first session at the psychotherapist is always tough. Your psychiatrist is a lanky white man presumably in his 50s. There’s a mosaic of framed medical certificates hanging behind his desk. You’re an 18-year old brown-skinned boy slumped back on this armchair that’s supposed to feel comfortable, but really the fake leather sticks coldly against your sweaty back. He asks about various aspects of your life to get a better evaluation: family history, school, suicide, self-harm, homelessness. He tries to sound nice—this condescendingly sweet falsetto undermined by the mechanical typing in of your diagnosis. Every time you spill yourself, you feel the room closing in.
In the niche space we call the ‘art world’, the discrediting or downplaying of black artists has not gone unnoticed as it has undocumented. That’s not to say critical discussion of African/African diaspora art has not been made; it is to suggest however that favourable and more accessible criticism is blessed upon the dominant sphere of white, European Art. For many black artists, including the likes of Kerry James Marshall, publicising the potential racist nature of art history opens up the narrative of what really goes on in the art world.
by Emmanuel Agu
Perhaps not in its inception, though undeniably, the climate change crisis is one of race. The protest today launched by the UK chapter of the Black Lives Matter (BLMUK) stands as a call to arms in opposition of worrying statistics of the UK’s Influence on both global climate change and the local effects — highlighting the disproportionate nature of these adverse affects on communities of colour in the west and world wide.
The 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil, has resulted in a lot of firsts. Nine countries are celebrating their first ever gold medal, including first-time entrant Kosovo, whose sovereignty the Olympics committee recognised only two years ago. The Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) was also formed to ‘bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis’. Despite not having won any medals, their significance lies in their representation. The ROT acts as a symbol of hope to those who have been forcefully displaced from their home country that the dreams of these displaced athletes will happen despite all the unfair hardships, injustices and atrocities they have experienced.
I graduated! I actually graduated. Mortarboard thrown, picture taken, congratulatory conversations with parents and friends and then you hear the dreaded, “What are you doing next?”
It’s not that I have never given much thought to what would come post-university — quite the opposite. The last few months prior to dressing in my cap and gown have been filled with endless job applications, copious redrafts of my CV and looking into Masters programmes both in the UK and elsewhere – I cannot be the only one. I am certain the same can be said of other BAME students whose road to graduate employment is a lot more uncertain and suspiciously taxing.
by Joshua Ekin
Content warning: mentions suicide, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, mass shooting, murder
A massacre in an LGBT+ space, by a Muslim, with a legal gun, and alleged connections to Daesh. It’s easy to see how contemporary American anxieties converge in the political aftermath of the Orlando shooting. The media response to this — the largest massacre in modern American history — exposes how truth is controlled by the present political regime.
For those who do not spend their days fretting about radical social discourse, homophobia can be difficult to define. Before Obama legalised same-sex marriage federally, it dominated the media conversation, establishing rights as the fulcrum of group empowerment. While the LGBT+ movement focused on this, statistics revealed that LGBT+ kids across the world were entering sex-work and committing suicide at an alarming rate. If such statistics were ever mentioned, it was to bolster marriage as the unequivocal endowment being denied to the LGBT+ community. The institution Australian Marriage Equality claims that the ‘higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, early school leaving, conflict with peers and parents and suicide ideation [are] all directly related to the discrimination.’ Marx might have called this ‘bridal false-consciousness.’
“You can’t even use apostrophes.” I may not have always said it, but I’m certainly guilty of thinking it and similar things to do with punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Whether directed at someone during an online debate, or used to make yourself superior because someone else has bigoted views or an unfavourable political standpoint. Even in cases where someone is verbally attacking you and making personal comments, you’re not the better person for commenting on their intellect or education.
by Emmanuel Agu
Lemonade, Beyoncé’s latest album, is aptly named. In the political climate we live in with constant reminders of the atrocities that black people face, and a music industry that seems to be losing its greatest and brightest this year, nothing could have been more refreshing than this album for popular culture and especially for black women. This is undoubtedly the strongest piece of work Beyoncé has ever produced; musically, visually, and politically. With features and samples from a wide variety of artists including James Blake, Jack White, Diplo and for a second time another sample from Outkast’s’ ‘Spottieottiedopaliciousness’ (which I will never complain about), Knowles-Carter goes from strength to strength and I am truly left to question if it is ever possible for her to release an album less brilliant than its predecessor.
‘You are not alive to please the aesthetic of colonized eyes’
– Ijeoma Umebinyuo
An interesting thing happens when fully-assimilated BME in the West engage in politics, whilst retaining and proudly displaying their multicultural and racial identities as minorities—they become characterised as ‘radical’ and disruptive to the everyday function of society. Here are examples of how various politicking non-white figures have been portrayed:
- Prior to Sadiq Khan becoming mayor of London on May 2016, Khan suffered from smear attacks by Zac Goldsmith. Goldsmith’s attacks included ‘Sadiq Khan won’t stand up for London’s Tamil community’ and ‘his party supports a wealth tax on family jewellery,’ with the latter based upon the uncomfortable, racist assumption that this taxation is a defining political issue for South Asians. Goldsmith also branded Khan as a ‘radical,’ belonging to ‘a Labour party that thinks terrorists is its friends’.
- The newly-elected first Black Muslim president of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, depicted as an ISIS supporter for having been against a 2011 motion condemning ISIS, because of its apparent wording that demonises all Muslims, despite later supporting a revised version condemning ISIS and Islamophobia. She has also been criticised as anti-Semitic despite publicly declaring her stance as anti-Zionist due to Israel’s continued violation of human rights by its continued military occupation of Palestine.
(Writer’s note: I specifically wrote this article focusing on East and South-East Asian portrayals. Despite being in the same continent, I do think that South Asian and Western Asian representations in media differ vastly from those of East and South-East Asians.)
There’s no doubt: East and South-East Asians in mainstream media can’t exist without being reduced into racist caricatures. Asians, including me, cannot exist beyond the characterisation of our slant eyes, buckteeth, and thick accent. We are good at maths, martial arts, and being meek. We are not artists, but tech geniuses. We cannot be main characters, only sidekicks. Only comic reliefs, either sexless nerds or docile sex fetishes, and ladyboys. Because if we do, we turn white.
By Eve Lacroix
John Ehrlichman, an aide to President Richard Nixon, has confirmed what black activists and drug policy reformists have known for decades: the War on Drugs is not only a failure, but it is also a racist and controlling political tool.
Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson is founder of The Mouthy Poets, based in Nottingham, who are a collective of 50 young poets. A poet herself, with a blurb of incredible achievements, I can’t help but envy her success as someone so near my age (she’s actually younger). Watching from the outside, I can see how much she has grafted to get where she is today, and her enthusiasm for what she does shines through at workshops, performance events, and is inside every well-chosen word on the pages of the Pigeon Party (2014) collection with flipped eye publishing.
Poems are enclosed in two-part poem After The Blackstone Rangers, which sets the scene for the collection. They describe a childhood growing up in cities, where “everyone was learning”, whether rolling cigarettes, or dancing. The words are both familiar and unexpected; a place where love and friendships are based on fun that is “still disposable and warm” — referring to the “can of Scrumpy Jacks”— but also holding a wider resonance, like most of Stevenson’s work.
From #oscarssowhite to #rhodesmustfall, a spotlight has been shone on the lack of diversity and positive representation for POC across numerous institutions. Although these discussions have been catalysed in online spheres, the implications of these hashtags reference the real experiences of silencing and downplaying the importance of solidarity among BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people — particularly in student environments.
In 2015, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) conducted a study that suggested more BME students as opposed to White British students were enrolling in university — despite statistically ‘underperforming’ in academia. A general consensus made by researchers was that students from minority households have higher aspirations regarding education than their white counterparts, even with the increase made to tuition fees and the potential privatisation of student loans at hand.
Disney’s 55th animated feature has been five years in the making, with a social commentary as relevant today as it was when the writers first put pen to paper. The film is an anthropomorphic crime caper following rabbit police officer Judy Hopps and con-man fox Nick Wilde. It’s full of laughs, but the lingering importance is in its more serious side.
by Emmanuel Agu
In the three years since the origin of Black Lives Matter campaigning- we as a people have plenty to be thankful for.
Amongst the continuous protests against non-indictments of cops who slaughter us; despite being refused entry to the venues that play our music and profit from our culture, we have made progress.
The movement only gains further ground each day: the suffering of our people is openly documented for all to see, and pioneering individuals in the movement are meeting with possible presidential candidates. The most important achievement of the movement lies in the renewed energy within a generation. Though it is often exhausting hearing the same harrowing accounts; to continuously explain valid theory and personal lived experiences to voices that will attempt to silence you- I am firm in the belief that the only way we can initiate radical change within structured oppression is through continuous and accessible discourse.
by Jonathan Lee
In the post-imperialist Western world, liberal society is becoming ever more self-aware of social and cultural sensitivities, most evidently in the influence of the arts as a vehicle for perceptions of race, gender, sexuality and culture. Cultural appropriation is a topic hotly debated, and one where the divide between appropriation and appreciation can sometimes be uncertain. This ambiguity and subsequent argument is usually tied to power relationships, dichotomy in stereotypes (e.g. black hairstyles being perceived differently on white heads) and most often, the struggle for the appropriated culture to control its own identity.
The struggle for Roma to self-determine their own public identity — that being which is perceived by those outside of the Romany community — has historically been dominated by stereotypes of the ‘Gypsy other’. These myths, biases and often outright lies likely stem from the Middle Ages with arrival of the Roma in Europe. In an age of relative racial homogeneity, the Roma appeared as a foreign, outsider race whose dark countenance was associated with evil in a time of church hegemony and bigotry. The associations forged with the Roma during their early arrival were compounded by subsequent centuries of persecution and hatred, often based on conceptions of ‘the Gypsy other’ rather than interactions.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Ribka Sibhatu (1962-), ‘So bella nera’
And they call me
This article is inspired by the bizarre reaction I have encountered as a reasonably dressed British-Asian travelling through the less diverse, major cities in Western Europe. At first I thought I was being paranoid – after all it is hard not to be aware of your starkly contrasting skin-colour in a sea of predominantly white faces. But this particular behaviour became undeniable in places of public transit – such as the queues at passport control and the underground – where you would need to cut the tension with a laser from a high-quality diamond factory. People weren’t just looking, they were gawking.
And the most interesting part was that it wasn’t malicious. There was no sneering or narrowing of eyes, but rather lingering looks of astonishment and intrigue. Eventually I began to wonder, and do excuse my ‘French’ when I say this, could it be that these dear people were not used to seeing a person of ethnic minority actually looking good?
by Emmanuel Agu
To be forthcoming; yes- living and working conditions for black people have reached some atrocious lows in Obama’s two terms as president: the worst black unemployment rate in 28 years was recorded at was 16.8 in March 2011; 28 percent of all African Americans were living in poverty in 2013, and two out of five African American children lived in relative poverty – the most harrowing statistic of all: a $131,000 disparity between the average income of the white household and the African American.
Perhaps the biggest paradox of all is a Black President coexisting with the Black Lives Matter movement independent of the government. Statistics like these really do not encourage much faith in Obama and his ability as a ‘black president’- but again to merely look at these statistics without considering the economic climate Obama was thrust into would be a misrepresentative and reductive analysis. The ‘Great Recession’ in 2008-13 is widely understood to be caused by a deregulation of wall street during Bush’s Administration and was characterised by fiscal austerity, collapsing of housing markets due to irresponsible lending from the banking sector which (amongst many other contributory factors), could perhaps be lead us to reason these effects on the black community.
By Mike Vinti
Protest and pop are unusual bed fellows. The noisy, often chaotic world of protest can often seem like the antithesis of the sleek, PR heavy world of modern pop music. However, the two have a long a history together. Whether it’s Punk, the Rock Against Racism movement or afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti running for President of Nigeria, there are plenty of instances where protest and pop music have joined forces to fight injustice. This is happening again today, not only with the renewed attention on feminism as we discussed two weeks ago, but also with the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
by Emmanuel Agu
More so than ever before with our current Conservative government- UK politics has always been something I’ve personally felt very distanced from. Those who occupy positions of power that govern the direction our nation is heading in are often far richer than I, public/grammar school educated, significantly whiter and straighter than I could ever hope to be – I’ve accepted that fact a long time ago, and it’s not something I see changing in near future.
Don’t misunderstand me though, I will never and apply the often far-reaching and misdirected scope of white liberalism (see Caroline Crampton and Louise Mensch twitter feeds) and contend privileged members of parliament can never hold the interests of the oppressed at heart in their campaigns and motions- effective representation is far more than a skin deep observation.
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?
by Emmanuel Agu
In the last 20 years there has been a trend of homegrown UK BME actors/actresses abandoning UK television, where they gained initial notoriety; and heading to America to further their careers. Notable examples would be Chiwitel Ejiofor, Parminder Nagra, and Archie Panjabi. With blockbuster hits and critically acclaimed films under their belts like ‘12 Years a Dlave’, ‘Bend It like Beckham’, and ‘East is East’ for these aforementioned individuals; an apparent lack of talent is definitely not the factor.
by Mike Vinti
Since its inception gangsta rap has been a thorn in the side of the establishment. Brash, violent and loud, its explosion in the late 80s and 90s tore up the rule book of hip hop and reshaped the genre in its own image, introducing the world to the harsh reality of life on the streets of black America. With the cinematic release of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ a week away (August 15th) it only seems fitting to look back at some of gangster rap’s greatest and explore its legacy thirty years on.
Gangsta rap is hip hop’s bratty younger brother, fed on the social conscious rhymes of early hip hop but filled with the anger of a generation excluded from the yuppie party of the eighties. Like punk before it, its church is broad, ranging from the smooth, sun-drenched rhythms of G-Funk, to the hard edged, sample heavy boom bap of Wu Tang Clan. Frequently criticised by those on the left and the right for glorifying violence and misogyny, scapegoated for the prevalence of crime in black communities, and beloved to many a hip hop head, the story of gangsta rap is the story of poverty in America, as relevant to this day as it was back in ’86.
Recently, I went on a school visit to see To Kill a Mockingbird at The Barbican, and whilst I think the actors played their parts incredibly well – especially Zackary Momoh, who played the role of the falsely accused Tom Robinson – I’m not writing here to give a glowing review. I read the book around the time I started my job at the school three years ago, yet the play, adapted by Christopher Sergel, had a different impact on me.
Actors slipped in and out of character to read directly from the book, narrating through a multitude of different accents, obviously showing that they were each sentimentally and emotionally affected by the text. This sentimentality, however, was lost on me, and as the production drew on, I came to think of it as unnecessary that it was being heralded to such acclaim in 2015.
CW: Racism, Sexual Explicitness
by Emmanuel Agu
So I suppose this starts as incredibly clichéd as every article you’ve ever read central to this topic, so apologies for the start. My story looks like this initially: a surprisingly overconfident, yet tragically naïve 18 year old city kid sets off to university, desperate to finally leave the comfort and restraint of home, yearning for a new circle of friends with few inhibitions; eager to explore depths of his sexuality and surrounding community. None of this realistically, was achievable with a 12:00pm curfew (African parents. Let’s just leave that one there.)
Fairly rapidly I’m granted a few of my first desires – fresher’s week had me out and as drunk as I could ever wish to be, I was very quickly surrounded with an open minded, assertive circle of young men and women, a second circle of friends as eager as I was to see what life was like living free the constraints of a second generation African upbringing, and finally a group of flat mates that squabbled and clashed and reconciled in a clockwork fashion that felt like a family away from home.
Many I had been on dates with, or perhaps had confessed my identity to (feeling a little loose tongued whilst inebriated) had told me my identity “wasn’t really a thing”, I was quite simply “greedy” or still had “half my leg in the closet.”
The run-up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has been full of surprises so far — whether for better or for worse is another matter altogether. Not long after former First Lady Hillary Clinton announced her campaign, Jeb Bush, brother of George W. and former governor of Florida, subsequently announced his own candidacy. America could potentially have its first-ever female president, or its third Bush president within the space of three decades.
Then it got a bit funny. Business magnate and television personality Donald Trump decided to offer himself up for election, much to the collective delight of Internet — the announcement itself was barely spared by popular satirists such as Stephen Colbert on his popular television show. Finally, Louisiana governor, Indian-American Bobby Jindal, announced that he too would be running for president.
After two successful terms with America’s first-ever black president, it does seem that America is now hankering for more diversity in its politics.
The recent Charleston shootings on June 17th — in which nine people were shot and killed inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — has raised eyebrows from all quarters as to why suspect Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, has not been labelled by the media as a ‘terrorist’ for his hate crimes.
The reason being, as offered by several news outlets, is that convenient labels such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘thug’ would automatically be applied if the attacker were Muslim or black. However, Roof, like many other ‘lone killers’ the United States is becoming increasingly known for, has instead been given labels such as ‘mentally ill’ and ‘angry loner’.
Girlhood, or Bande de Filles, is a French film directed by Céline Sciamma, centring on the character of Marieme, played by Karidja Touré. Taking place in a suburb of Paris, Marieme undergoes several transformations throughout the film, shown through her name change to ‘Vic – for Victory’, as well as through her appearance, sexuality, increasing misdemeanour behaviour, and relationships with family and friends. The film was humorous with Marieme’s knowing smile being a feature throughout, yet it also provided important social commentary.
The fact that seeing a French film with young black girls at the centre is so unusual, let alone it being shown in Odeon Cinemas (and not merely restricted to independent screens), plus the women playing the group of girls all being found through theatre classes and high schools as opposed to agencies, shows that there is a need for more film like this.
Hannah Silva, known for her success as a poet both on page and on stage, delivered her research on ‘Repositioning Performance.’ It was filled with quotations, energy, and analysis of a Salena Godden performance. Immediately it linked to the ever-complex discussion about the page/stage divide, connecting to Malika Booker’s paper later, as well as the She Grrrowls Q&A, whereby BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) poetry is positioned as ‘performance’ or ‘spoken word.’
It was my third year of attending the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival, first envisaged and implemented by Artistic Director Jude Kelly, five years ago. The programme was full of interesting performances, discussions, and workshops. I’ll be focusing on some of the arts related events. Part 1 can be found here.
Sunday began with ‘Lips’ choir singing cover songs from artists such as Kelis, Sia, Destiny’s Child and Livin’ Joy’s Dreamer. They sparkled in a mix of sequins, shirts and bow ties, and drew a massive crowd. Poet Bridget Minamore began Who Owns Your Body? on the subject of street harassment, particularly highlighting the racial differences, reflecting on a trip to Peru.
by Mike Vinti
It often seems today that everything exists in its own sphere — music in one box, politics in another, and visual art in another still. This is self-evident when you take a look at a lot of popular culture. For example, the rise of TV shows and films, such as The Interview, that use politics as backdrop for their plot, yet fail to engage in any substantial political critique.
The same thing has been taking place in music for the past twenty years, and musicians who have attempted to rectify this have either been relegated from their illustrious chart positions, or left to the underground.
This separation has made it harder for writers and artists of all stripes to experiment with the boundaries of their medium, and there’s been a death of explicitly political works of culture which make into the mainstream because of this. Of course, challenging the dominant perception of your chosen field always creates a stir. However it seems now, more than ever, musicians aren’t even being afforded the chance to do that.
It is Valentine’s week – apparently that’s a thing now – a time of saccharine sweetness, hollow gestures, and empty consumerism in place of romance. In-keeping with the seasonal spirit, then, I want to talk to you today about hearts that long ceased to beat; about a festering horde of blank-faced ghouls, hungering to sink their teeth into human flesh. No, not the populace of shag-app Tinder. Today I am talking about actual zombies.
The undead have always possessed a special place in my own heart – sating more than a simple blood-lust in my own cinematic tastes. Zombies often shamble above and beyond the call of duty, creeping and clawing their way into socio-political territory rarely visited by the supernatural silver-screen. They often act as crude agents of social commentary – and sometimes even of justice. The reanimated corpses who so often fill our post-apocalyptic screens aren’t really a thing to be ‘feared’ by us as such; they are a cultural representation of us. Zombies are the fictional embodiment of the dominant section of society’s fear of a mobilisation of the filthy, impoverished masses.
As Robert Kirkman’s famous comic series (and subsequent televisual smash hit) so often reiterates, “We are the walking dead.”
by Cadi Cliff
When a celebrity says something explicitly racist, we make a noisy ritual of shunning them. We’re able to do this because the multiculturalism movement changed the rules of civility. It has taught us what not to say to each other, but not what to say next.
Michael Brown, 18, was shot on August 9 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. The black teenager was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson police officer. The disputed circumstances of the shooting and the subsequent protests have ignited debate about law enforcement’s relationship with African-Americans and use of force by the police. The grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer over the death of Eric Garner came ten days after a grand jury in Missouri decided that Darren Wilson should not face criminal charges. The failure of any prosecution in both the Brown, Martin, and Garner cases highlights a trend in the American judicial system; once is a tragedy, twice is a pattern.
Every time toxic, tragic events reveal the unequal ways that different Americans experience re-segregation and state violence, we talk about having a productive discussion, but we never really have it. Instead, we’ve regressed a half-century in our racial progress.