A Fire Within.

lead_largeOver the past weekend, from corner to corner, my Facebook timeline has been flooded with some rather intense vilification.

There are the “black christians” criticising the US Supreme Court’s ruling which legalised same-sex marriage across all 50 states in the USA; there is the “white majority” who claim Southern Culture is being “exterminated”, as the confederate flag, which is widely viewed as a euphemism for ‘systemic oppression and racial subjugation’, is denounced, and senators agree to remove said flag from state buildings across the Bible Belt; there are the people crucifying Yeezus, following a polarising headlining performance at Glastonbury on the evening of Saturday 27th June, in an effort to dismantle the man they once deified, and now the black churches that house the “black christians” who persistently persecute same-sex minorities, and demonise homosexuality as an hell-intended abomination, are being burnt down in the wake of the act of racial terror committed by Dylann Storm Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th 2015 that, Kanye aside, sparked all of this unrest.

The routes of all of this rage clearly lead back to racial essentialism – “the view that racial groups possess underlying essences that represent deep-rooted, unalterable traits and abilities”. Perhaps rather than burning flags, “fools”, “f*ggots”, and houses of “faith” we – the divided universe – ought to unite to burn the racial essentialism responsible for all of this brutality, rather than burning the things that represent our racialism.

The only real way to burn those things?

Start a fire within.

Racial essentialism is housed in our hearts, our feelings, our heads, and our thinking.

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Mr Bermondsey

11141379_10153456229642495_662739023975966418_nAt minutes after 10am on Saturday 20th June, I stood on the streets of Bermondsey while sleep sat in the corners of my eyes, and waited for the funeral cortege of a local man to pass me by. His name was Barry Albin and he was a undertaker.

“Old Bermondsey” as my mum called him. “One of a dying breed”

When my friend was stabbed to death in the street a few years back, his family could not afford to bury him. We – his friends – struggled to raise the funds to afford him the sendoff he deserved, to no avail. Barry Albin buried that boy for free. No charge. Not a single penny. Not a second thought.

It’s likely that you won’t hear Barry’s name unless you are from Bermondsey (although his influence was as wide as his smile), but in a week where people have been massacred, and an unborn baby has been stamped out of the stomach of a local girl, I felt compelled to honour Barry, his family, and his bravery (he fought cancer) today.

Why?

Because Barry was a local hero -yes, but more than this he was an exceptional human being. His humanity and his handling of grieving human beings inspired compassion in so many. The world needs more people like him. Kind people. Compassionate people. Colourblind beauties who see beyond race, religion, sex, and sexuality and into the stirring that stirs the troubled soul. People who have seen so much death that they understand the true value of life, and appreciate the living before they become the dead.

Rest In Paradise Barry Albin-Dyer.

I won’t forget you Mr Bermondsey.

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Charleston.

10574316_10153452228992495_7419057671696321054_nWhen I was young the only place I ever felt completely safe was in church. I mean, literally, in God’s presence there was a peace that surpassed the pain, and occasional embarrassment of poverty, and allowed me to see beyond my worldly circumstance into what heavenly promise lay ahead.

My mother literally spends every spare second of her life doing God’s work at the church she attends. That includes anything and everything from praying without ceasing, cooking Curry Goat for the congregation, dressing the altar, cleaning and waxing the floors, and getting to the church 2 hours before every single funeral, wedding, and service for the past 35 years to ensure the sanctuary is suitably heated for all those who will be attending.

“A warm home is the sign of a warm heart”.

Such devotion – though remarkable – is not rare amongst blacks (especially black women) in (black) churches globally. In a world where the black woman is regularly, and systematically silenced, she has always had her voice heard there, by the God, the men, the women, the boys, and the girls who call her “headmistress”, because she is strict, but also fair.

What happened today in Charleston was not fair! At all.

People killed while praying. Hurtful. Horrible. Sad.

Is there no end to this terrible poetry?!

Amidst all the politics, I am reminded that what happened in Charleston, happened to people. Tonight I intend to take a leaf out of their book, and pray, and when I do I will speak every single one of their names:

Clementa Pinckney.
Cynthia Hurd.
Daniel L. Simmons Sr.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Ethel Lee Lance.
Myra Thompson.
Sharonda Singleton.
Susie Jackson.
Tywanza Sanders. 

We speak your names

We speak your names.

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Slide.

1354897736_80.177.117.97I want to go to Elephant & Castle Leisure Centre for a swim. I want to pretend I’m drowning so Mr Warr will take pity on me, and let me wear arm floats. I want to pretend those gifted arm floats are my biceps, and fight the false tide as the alarm that warns of waves sounds, and with a sharp intake of breath I oppress the beating of my boyish heart, and become the lad my dad wanted and hope I don’t die. I want to slide down the frog slide into the waters of yesterday, and be pain free again and see young me and them St. Jude’s homeboys who have become men who take care of homes and boys, and though the things I need to make this happen have all gone – the leisure centre, boyhood, and the will to unlive –  in the fight to stay afloat, I am still dying to keep my head above the pool of poverty. Instead of swimming, it’s off to work I go.

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Birdcage.

SCRAWL_falling_figureI used to look out the window and wish myself away from there, and now I would do anything to go back to that room that was empty of all things except their expectations.

They all hoped I would turn out to be something good and, like every good thing they ever owned, when I did … they destroyed me.

No one held the blame until my body hit the tarmac. Until that point they passed the blame between them like the police passed around the rumour that ruined us in those dark days after Thatcher’s demise.

The local paper ignored the white lady with the hard hair and an iron heart. Instead they called him sick. The local people stayed silent. Instead they stared. They waited for us to speak up. To say something slick so they would have some good reason to cut us. As if our wounds weren’t already aplenty.

Wounds should be worn the way soldiers wear bullet holes … with pride. But it was my pride that wounded my people so deeply they decided it was best to destroy me – their great expectation.

“Pride comes before destruction”

I fell. Into the wrong hands. In with the wrong crowd. And, eventually from that window where I would once wish myself away from there.

13 floors up. One man down. An eternal escape.

As they had done with the boy before me, the local paper called me sick. The local people said they were sorry. My people’s silence said they were ashamed. Over the years, that silence swept through each of them. It filled them with the discussions we never had; the jokes we never told; the gratitude we never gave one another; the apologies we never accepted; the unanswered calls, unnecessary tensions; half-eaten conversations, and the meals that turned cold behind the heat of yet another argument about my “abnormality” as I went to bed on an empty stomach, with a heavy heart, and weighted by the kind of tiredness that sleep cannot cure.

Regrets.

Those are all they have now. To accompany everything that reminds them of me. No hope. No expectation. The room behind a nailed down window where longings, pretty thoughts, impossible things, and the made up anecdotes that grow more absurd with each retelling are stored for safekeeping. To keep them safe from the dangerous reality of their shared truth of how they drove the poof from his perch.

No good ever comes of regrets, so unlike me, their regrets will never be destroyed. Instead their regrets will destroy them a thought at a time, as they live with them, and without me.

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“Leave”

In the days after I was brutalised by my father in 2011 I felt like the life had been beaten out of me. I had lost my home. I had lost my family. I had lost all my possessions, and I was possessed by perhaps the most prolific pain a son could possibly feel after being persecuted by his papa. I wrote this in those days, and I put it away alongside my self-belief, which became so intensely ravaged over the next four years that I am really quite fortunate to still be here.

“Leave” is a missive to a missing man. He may never read it. He may never know it. But it is written. In the blood we share. In the blood he shed.

Shalom Papa. Shalom

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Shirley Manson and The Master’s House.

Article-8695445-ShirleyMansonSomewhere between Hypocrisy and Privilege Shirley Manson decides to pop her head up out of the corner of international obscurity, and draft an “open” letter with a closed mind.

A letter that justifies the very actions it seeks to condemn.

This is an attempt at publicity not unlike Sinead O Connor’s attempt to (s)mother Miley Cyrus in the later part of 2013. If it were not so, why not send this “message” covertly, because this is not a private “message”, this is a public attack. A very public ad hominem attack to be precise.

From what I have seen, Kanye West used his platform to attack a system that religiously rewards the dominant culture while constantly undermining the efforts of minority artists. You may not agree with his method. You may think it disrespectful. But his argument is sound, and he did not stoop to throwing around labels like “twat” – as Shirley Manson did – to make his point.

It must be very disconcerting for the dominant culture to constantly watch this black male (in)subordinate attempting to dismantle the Master’s House from within. So disconcerting in fact that every time he gives an opinion, he is accused of ranting, and pathologized, to reproduce and reinforce the metanarrative that ties black masculinity to hegemonic violence, anti-intellectualism, and mental illness.

Aside from this, while Beyoncé may not need Kanye to fight on her account, I am certain Beck does not need Shirley Manson to fight on his account either.

So why do it?

Where does the real suspicion lie?

When these artists only defend one another because of their shared whiteness, and completely ignore the sea of injustices many “black” artists are systematically submerged in, and have been submerged in ever since music became one of the many pillars of popular culture.

Where was Shirley’s “open letter” when Macklemore won several Grammy’s in the face of Kendrick Lamar’s resounding superiority in 2014, and where was Shirley’s “open letter” for the obliteration of India.Arie’s efforts in 2002!

And that is where Shirley faltered, by reducing a structural issue to an individual one, by attacking Kanye West, instead of attacking a system that upholds the heteronormative ideal of whiteness; that rewards whites who misappropriate black culture, and condemns that culture in blacks; that punishes “black” artists because they are not “white” enough to sell records, and that assaults Kanye’s conduct instead of addressing his case.

This is not about Kanye, it just so happens he is the only one brave enough or stupid enough to speak out on behalf of “the race” in the impulsive, and unrehearsed way that he does. Everyone else is probably afraid of being pathologized, called mad, and kicked out of the Master’s House, and placed back on the proverbial plantation where the spectre of poverty lingers like a brutal reminder of the oppression they thought they had escaped when the door was opened to let them in that house in the first instance.

So why attack Kanye West? Because when you are standing in the white light of your own privilege, it is very easy to pick out the “black” spot, and do everything in your “power” to erase it, and keep the Master’s House pure, clean, untroubled … and pearly white.

Attack everything or say nothing.

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