The UK “Riots was still very raw for me. I had grown increasingly agitated by the way the online, bar, train/bus, media and street debate had and has been raging. My sentiment had more to do with the fact that I couldn’t understand why my perspective and emotion was landing on the side of the “rioters”. Even the term “rioter” was niggling me. It seemed to automatically say “the bad guys”, it criminalises a group of people the moment the word hit the ear or the eye without them having had a a chance to explain why or how this drastic destructive action was considered an option to get a point across.
I then began to feel nervous that I was unable to write poetry about it as I was in conflict about some of the things I was seeing on the news that were out of order yet motivated by something. I remember on the 29th September Troy Davis was killed by the state of Minneapolis Justice system. I posted on Facebook, how I had no words and couldn’t I have my feeling first, as a friend had said “how could you be a poet with no words!?”. Something deep stirred inside when these “riots” kicked off and it had something to do with having grown up with my eyes wide open to the inequalities in society that directly effected the psyche, that make peole do things that seem totally irrational. The power of injustice and inequality is forever downplayed and needs to be explored rather than shouted down just to sell a political agenda and newspapers.
Then the disaffection and lack of belonging came into play as the race narrative was batted about the media arena knotted in with the fetisization of “feral youth” rhetoric. My irritation with was blurring my creative process. There was so much conflicting information and opinion flying across the country, I was as confused as the bees whose homing instincts are now confused by the wireless network microwaves crowding the atmosphere. I could not navigate my way to the page.
So it was on my when I was commissioned by Film Africa 2011 to write a piece in response to Menelik Shabazz‘s HANDSWORTH SONGS (watch on YouTube), I managed to have a place to start. This commission became a beacon, a lighthouse in the murky rhetoric, recrimination and pontificating that blocked my view to the responsive poetry I knew I wanted to write.
HANDSWORTH SONGS made it so obvious. The film is an insightful and poetic response to the UK “riots” of 1981 in Handsworth, Birmingham, with thought provoking raw footage where the ‘discontent’ in society manifested itself as “bringing the issue to the street”, as did the new generation in response to the ‘austerity measures’ of the new government on 2009, 10, 11. And that’s me, speculating as when the discontent was reaching boiling point.
I had to write about one man’s dreams of settlement, the turbulent effects of migration, trust and mistrust and uncomfortable violent change that illustrates a country broiling in historical denial and resistant awakening.
I highly recommend a watch of the film.
Even Dogs Have a Place in the World
We were coughing in the dust
from the fall out of your war, anyway
like some kind of anti-fairy dust,
your uncertain future settled as unemployment
and division on our Caribbean mountain,
some had worn british uniforms before,
Some said we had no business in a white mans war
Them’s the ones who kept score
when You called us to you
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