World Poetry Day – My contribution

Akala - The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company

“By giving form and words to that which has none – such as the unfathomable beauty that surrounds us, the immense suffering and misery of the world – poetry contributes to the expansion of our common humanity, helping to increase its strength, solidarity and self-awareness.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

A few months ago I was lucky enough to participate in a creative workshop facilitated by UK rapper, activist and academic, Akala founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company (THSC).

For our final exercise of an invigorating afternoon, we were given the task of taking a famous Shakespearian or hip-hop line and using it as the opening for a poem or short story. In my case I drew an Eminem line. We had 12 minutes.

Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit,
Maybe it’s because I’m lacking Love and hatred is my limit.
Maybe I had Love once, maybe I let it be lost,
Maybe I spend my days trying to justify the cost.

Maybe it’s Love I need, maybe I’ll find it again,
Maybe I’ll look back, happy that these days all had an end.

Maybe I’ll break free from my mind,
and from this Freedom I’ll find
That ‘maybes’ are just ‘maybes’ and Love was biding it’s time. 

THSC is a musical theatre production company that co-ordinates and runs education programmes, live music events and music theatre productions to engage young people, particularly those who are considered “hard to reach” and push them toward artistic excellence.

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Why Londoners Stand up to Racism

Stand up to racism

On Saturday 19th March 2016, I joined some 20,000 protestors in London to “Stand up to Racism” marching in light of recent hateful and divisive messages that have surfaced from populist right-wing movements here in the UK and abroad.

Everyone has their own reasons to take to the streets in protest. I wanted to find out what drives others who choose to physically take a stand. Below are just a few examples of some of the amazing people, young and old, who you could meet on such an occasion.

Anthony

Anthony Stand up to Racism

What has brought you here?

My life. I am 70 years old. In the ‘60s I was a street radical, lefty. A lot of the early stuff I was involved with was actually about anti-racism then, but it was also much broader “leftist” stuff. I have been lucky enough to spend most of my life in higher education, perpetual student I guess in a sense and where I was able to work theoretically, conceptually, empirically on all the inequality issues. I joined the Labour Party itself having never joined any party up until that point in 1979, basically thinking “Oh fuck, something has got to be done.” I was disillusioned with the whole damn thing of the Labour Party within 10 years and I left. They weren’t doing it for me. I just carried on with my professional work and doing bits and pieces here and there.

Not to put to finer point on it, but I have been re-energised by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and the whole extraordinary thing that has happened recently, and I have rejoined The Labour Party. I now spend a lot of my time as a happily retired lefty, doing these kind of things, working locally, whatever. That is why I am here.

Why is it important to be here and not just watch it from home?

It’s absolutely vital that we take to the streets. It’s a vital form of liberty and political expression of the progressive mass. You’ve got to take to the streets on a regular basis for positive progressive things, and there are a whole load of them, a whole spectrum of them. You have got to show your presence out there, you can’t do it just watching the tele. I know that social media is brilliant, but you have got to do this, this physical stuff. You get to enjoy it as well.

How do you feel when you are here?

I feel like a happy person. Very much so. I was thinking coming here, specifically today, I used to be involved in a thing called the All London Teachers Against Racism and Fascism, ALTARF, so I chose this banner which kind of reminds me of the struggle then. And it’s still the same bloody struggle and it will go on longer than I will.

Afua – Black Lives Matter

Afua Stand up to Racism

Why are you here today?

I am here because there is an injustice which is happening right in front of our faces. We can’t just act like it’s not happening. And if we all come together, that’s how its going to end, instead of just standing there and waiting for something to happen.

There is this quote, “Only evil can prevail, when good people stand and do nothing.” So us as good people, have to do something about it. Me and my friends are the next generation, so we have to make a statement and say why we are here. We have to make our voices heard.

What was significant about this rally that meant that you had to come here today?

Well Black Lives Matter is really close to my heart, I have been talking about it all over the internet, on my Tumblr, my Instagram, made a statement on social media, but I feel like I need to make a statement in person and dedicate myself [to it].

Black Lives Matter

Can you tell me a bit about this campaign and what it means to you?

Racism today isn’t about going up to someone and calling them a nigger, it’s the institutional racism that we experience in our schools and the government, it’s all around us. We need to make it stop.

Carol – Football Against Apartheid

Football Against Apartheid

Why are you here supporting Football Against Apartheid?

I am from Jewish heritage, even though I am personally an atheist. I believe that Israel should or must be expelled from FIFA, because apartheid is apartheid. There is absolutely no difference from what happened in South Africa, and what’s happening now. And to use the anti-semitism excuse, [to] every right minded person is absolutely abhorrent. It’s all very well saying it’s anti-semitism and is against Judaism, no it isn’t. It’s Zionism that we object to, we think that Zionism is a manufactured thing. The whole thing about a Jewish state is an artificial concept, and I think Israel are playing on it. As for using the holocaust as an excuse it is indefensible.

What is the connection with football?

Yes because South Africa used cricket to start the process to end apartheid, we are using football. It’s universal, it’s always in the news. We think it’s a good focus, and it’s growing.

And can I ask, why personally is it important for you to be here, to be part of this movement?

My parents came here, they were refugees. I think for the sake of human dignity, we are all the same. We are all in one race, the human race. Any organisation or group of people who don’t think that, I have no time for. I have an obligation, as my parents survived the holocaust to come here and support all refugees, support all people in the struggle. That’s why I am here.

All photography courtesy of the very talented and marvellous, Paul Deaville.