I’m hopeful but …

After my last blog post ‘I’m hopeful …’ I’ve done some reading and I’m not liking what I’ve been reading.

Call me ignorant, call me naive. Call me blinded by love for the common people rather than being critical or cynical or overly politcally.

In my last post I mentioned Extinction Rebellion ( XR) and the work they’ve been doing with non-violent action to put climate change back on the agenda. And they’ve had some measure of success with the all party agreement on calling a state of emergency on climate change as well as a massive influx of people wanting to be involved in the movement. Hell, I’ve even thought about getting involved.

What I’m learning is that XR is predominately white and middle class. This is a long-standing critique of the British environmental movement being too white and middle class and not enough inclusivity.

There should be more black and brown bodies taking part in XR protests and actions. But if XR’s strategy is arrests then I’m fucked, because historially the evidence indicates, my black body would be treated far differently in police custody to a white body. Fact. So you’ll have to excuse me from getting involved in that way. I admit it, I’m scared of what would happen to me if I was arrested.

The main issue I have with XR is that the climate issue is a racist issue and this just isn’t being addressed enough for my liking.
The people of the global south, the poorest people of the world as well as where the majority of people of colour live are experiencing the effects of climate change the most. Communities in the global south bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change, whether physical – floods, desertification, increased water scarcity and tornadoes – or political: conflict and wars and racist borders.

The people and movements of the global south deserve more than mentions in speeches. They should be leading the protests for climate justice. Climate change is the result of colonialisation and
neocolonialism ( more to come on this point).

“Extinction Rebellion US have already added a fourth demand  – a just transition that prioritises the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a liveable, just planet for all.” source

And in the words of Wretched of The Earth, a grassroots collective for Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups and individuals demanding climate justice and acting in solidarity with our communities, both here in the UK and in Global South, “The climate movement will be decolonial or it will be nothing”.

Black British Art – a series

I’m a Black British artist. I’ve been involved in the union for artists in England. I’ve been involved in different exhibitions and events around the arts. What I know for sure is that the British art scene is elitist and exclusive.

I’m actively attempting through my own practice as well as research and reading to make visible the invisible; the invisible history of Black British art. For centuries, Black artists have been visible amongst themselves/ ourselves being involved in individual and collaborative projects. But within official records and archives, the Black presence remains little and absent.

Histories and lives and stories are missing within British arts from an African diaspora perspective and I hope through my creating and agitating and archiving I’m changing the narrative.

Through a series of posts I hope to explore the Black British art tradition to bring this rich and diverse and valuable history to light and more recognition. I look forward to sharing my findings with you.

Plans for May

I announced on Instagram the other day my plan to go on another social media hiatus in May. This is something I periodically do as a means of self-care. In the past, I’ve left it too late before taking a break and I’ve been left rolling in the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. I’ve been burnt out and rendered speechless with nothing productive to say.

I’ve learned from this experience, I’m planning my retreat ahead of schedule, when I’m still in a good position and enjoying the experience. I’m taking a rest while the going is good. And there’s a voice saying to me, I’m a fool for going now, for leaving the party early so to speak. Things are getting exciting, I’m making connections. I’m also receiving a lot of support for my #100daysproject. I go silent and I will loose all momentum, all exposure etc.

My sanity and health is more important. I take breaks from social media as an act of self-care. The time away gives me the time and space to go within and listen more carefully to my own wisdom. Going dark on the internet, gives me a chance to create without distractions or comparisons. It gives me space and permission to breathe.

I’ll still be posting here as well as on Patreon and sending out Studios Notes during this time as I feel as if I’m just getting started with this blogging malarkey.

This break is coming at a time when our new project is beginning, which involves more Black, Asian and ethnic minorities getting out into the British Countryside. I’ll share more details soon.

red

For me, at the moment, red signifies anger. There’s a fire burning in my belly, it’s been stoked by my time away at Shifting Loyalties this last week.

My forthcoming e-book with Culture Matters is an exploration of this anger. My anger at how black Woman are treated in society. How we end up at the bottom of the pile in terms of being treated with decency, respect and love.

This piece is part of this collection.

‘Death by persons unknown’

Pain provides the common language of humanity; it extends humanity to the dispossessed and, in turn, remedies the indifference of the callous.
– Saidiya V. Hartman

(Picture the scene).
It’s a Sunday afternoon
& the bees are busy hovering
around blousy peonies,
at a church picnic.
The crowd moves in closer as the fire’s lit.
(Look at them gathering, working up a sweat, working up a frenzy as the barbecue takes hold).
They linger in the smell of flesh,
in the smell of blood.
The only shade is thrown by the kill;
the swinging charred remains of a black body.
(Try to shift your gaze).
From the hanging meat to the sea of red-faced, smiling white people hungry for violence fed on a diet of hate for generations.
There’ll be a photograph produced of this social ritual. You might receive a postcard making
the past very present.
& if you’re feeling it,
it could burn a hole in your heart.

Missing Stories

You may have missed her story.
There’s a loud silence
when a black woman is brutalised/raped/murdered.
Front page headlines seldom carry outrage,
hardly carry a mention.
My heart catches fire every time
I have to decipher the details
through a pinhole of shadows.

I see her being followed home from that party.
Them two stalking her apartment
thinking she’s got money just by the way she holds herself.
Or at least her grandmother must.
They break in. Gag and tie her up in the basement
where they each take their time to beat and rape her.
What I remember from between the missing lines
is those bastards making off with a few dollars,
an iPad and a laptop after they set the house on fire.
You may have missed her story.
Let me tell you another story along the same brutal missing lines.

Found Poem – Chicago

Things happen in the blink of an eye
I pray to keep him out of harm’s way
I pray to keep him until he’s grown
But there’s a target on his back
And a gnawing hunger in his eyes
No prospects no jobs no hope
I pray to keep him close
I pray against police and gangs
But shots are fired shots are fired
No respect for humanity

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The Big Smoke

There’s no place like London. I was down there for a couple of days again last week. A flying visit you could say.

I caught up with an old friend from Uni. I love that we are still close friends and that we’ve been through so much together. We don’t live in each others pockets, and sometimes we have gone years without seeing each other. But when the chips are down, we know we can count on each other. We have always been there for each other. I am so very grateful for this friendship and unconditional love.

While in London, I took in a few exhibitions. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the National Portrait Gallery at Trafalgar Square, so I popped in there for a few hours. I didn’t pay for any of the visiting shows, as there’s far too much to see in the permanent exhibitions.

I was so inspired by what I saw. I was taken through British history through the portraits of Kings and Queens, writers, artist, movers and shakers of each time. There is more to come out of this visit. I am allowing the ideas to percolate in their own time. But I felt my ignorance of British history while in there. And I think this stems from a feeling of not belonging in Britain. Feeling unwelcome here as well as rejecting my British heritage also.

I found walking around, looking at these faces a newfound pride and interest in what made this country the way it is today. And I know my ancestors, black and white had a hand in these developments.
I look forward to exploring this rich vein of knowledge and activities further through my reading, writing and photography. I am excited about what will unfold.

Night Marriage, Lowlands Estate, 1791.

‘Let’s feel what the Massa sees in you,’
he whispers,
like a snake’s belly on hard sand.
He takes me in.
His rough stubble tears at my thighs,
as greedy palms, with raised moons,
kneed my belly. His smell is
stale sweat mingled with
the heavy wet perfume of dirt
turned over with my hoe.
His high shiny leather riding
boots are still on.

from: The White of the Moon (2007-8)

Poetry