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Archive for December, 2007

New Year Honours list

Australian Kylie Minogue, Yorkshireman Michael Parkinson and Londoner Jazzie B all get awarded in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

 

 

 

I personally don’t think there’s anything much more British than Soul II Soul. LOL

To see BBC interview with Jazzie B click here

 

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The parents of these children went to school together and continue to be friends today.

Notice the St George cross on the boy’s arm. He wears it with pride, and so he should.

The father of the black child was wearing an Ethiopian flag badge. He wore it with pride also, and so he should.

Mere symobls of idenity and nationhood should not get in the way of true friendship.  And so it doesn’t.

Such symbols should not get in the way of future potential friendships either. 

Life should not be like a football match, beating up people just people they wear the wrong colour football scarfs.  Also life should not be like the streets of South Central Los Angeles getting shot for wearing the wrong colour; blue or red. 

Symbols are merely that.  Symbols.  Not as deep as the red blood that flows through all our viens, or as the emotions that exist in our hearts. 

(No apologies for getting sentimental about this issue!)

picture-068.jpg

“What was hidden from the wise and prudent shall be revealed to the babe and suckling (children).”

Matthew 11:25

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As the embers of the 2007 begin to fade into 2008,  our reflections of the year that has been a commemoration of the slave trade abolition are filled with a mix of disappointment and optimism.Bristol, as one English city steeped in and materially enriched on the people-trafficking two centuries ago, has seen itself in the spotlight throughout. The politicians national and local have made strenuous efforts to ensure the celebrations , ooops should that be commeration, had been fitting for the nature of the (A)ct.


18th century Bristol dockside

With an initial rush of congratulatory noises about the high-minded morality of Abolition, rebukes came from the Afri-conscious and the left, asserting instead that  ‘Slaves Abolished Slavery’ (to use the title of one study by the learned Richard Hart), not white liberals. This was to remove some of the wind in the sails of the movement for celebration. And the commemoration took on a more dialectical tone.

For some (council staff and commemoration organisers mostly), the criticisms themselves were a problem. The COBG opposition was particulary loud and threatened to de-rail the move towards a smooth running ‘event’ (as the year was characterised). However, this added the Anti-thesis to the Thesis to create the Dialectic. The COBG position was to make a powerful call for a dissociation of African people from the ‘celebrations’. While this was unlikely to be embraced by those around who saw for the first time, their own culture and history being looked at directly, it was enough to change the tone to a more realistic / truthful(?) perspective. It was the first time for a long time (since 1980s),  that Bristol saw ‘Black politics’ come into the centre.

One tricky area in Bristol was that the lack of senior African heritage people in the council meant that the year was headed up by a Asian heritage man as one of the more senior ‘black’ figures in the culture department. He had also spent a number of year working in the community sector. This led to the revelation of some other flavours of -ism. Of course, in council terms he was ‘black’ enough, though that political definition (i.e. BME) proved to be a nonsense on this occassion, where detractors demanded something more culturally specific. Awkward for the council, they battled on. Though later that officer seems to have floated up to work on national activities on the commeration year. Where presumably, people were more eclectic, and the public scrutiny less parochial.

In the end, 2007 was mostly about safer cultural events rather than action on social and political equality as demanded by the antagonists. It was rather like 12 black history months one after the other, Any event bearing a hint of ‘black’, vied for incorporation and a branding with the Abolition 200 logo. We also saw a lot of mainstream and other organisations taking on the mantle of the slave trade to grab some of the attention and a wad of the cash, put aside by the council and national lottery, for commemoration activity. Fair enough it’s was meant to be a city-wide country wide thing, but it remains to be seen how much interest many of them will retain in the subject.


Abo’ 200

March 2007 was the pinnacle, where you couldn’t turn without being bashed about the head by the slave trade. The BBC coverage was something. It got so intense around March, I was bored to death with it. Despite being 1) interested and 2) involved in making a programme for the Beeb (with Marvin Rees). This programme argued that there still existed a racial fracture, unspoken of in recent times. That black and white did not really understand each other still.  It also considered that working class whites needed to be considered in the changing face of Britain as they are in danger of feeling ignored. And this debate rages on – even on this site, with BNP supporters making their presence felt on a daily basis.
The one thing that this year can clearly assert about the slave trade story is that in a city like Bristol, it can no longer be denied that there was involvement in this trade. This is unlike twenty years ago, when you could go into library and ask about Bristol’s role in the trade, and a librarian would say there was none. Ignorantly.   However the real(ish) views of many white Bristolians about the subject could be heard on BBC Radio throughout 2007, and the truth is that little has changed or been understood about the impact, implications, legacy and politics.  Much of this though is due to the fact that the media debate has not moved beyond the horrors of the middle passage, and plantation life, or the bollocks about apology. There are so many levels yet untapped. Subtleties, Contradictions and 500 years of untold stories.
Human cargo
Artist Impression of Human Cargo & the Middle passage –
in Bristol Empire & Commonwealth Museum
The worst and most damning example of that is the Merchants’ Quarter debacle. The city centre renaming highlighted the ignorance, intensity of feeling and underlying racism and insecurity around this whole subject. And then, after being pushed to rename, because ‘Merchant had something to do with the slave trade’, the developers landed on ‘Cabot Circus’ after public consultation. A bloody joke indeed.  In my view, the Merchant could have been reclaimed, with Bristol having deemed itself a fair-trade city. But with Cabot, who was sent to “occupy and possess” new-found-lands, there is no redeeming, and all the energy had been spent against the Merchants. Most of Bristol did not, and still do not understand what that was even about. In this respect nothing has changed, sadly.

The opposition to the year, ironically led to some interesting collaborations, while claiming it was insignificant. The Africentric response, Operation Truth, Ligali, and so forth was most memorably, and bravely captured in Toyin Agbetu’s performance in Westminster Abbey. This was one man who refused to lay down and be a house nigger. I was most disapponted however in Trevor’s (Sir Phillips) reponse outside the abbey when I asked him what he thought. It was like he had made so much effort to convince the authorities to let black rabble in, and look what they do. Well it as only one, as the rabble weren’t roused. Gentrified and in their Sunday best in the presence of none other than the Queen and Prime Minister, noticably no-one else left. Despite his pleas of ‘Rise up you Africans’. The Africans sat in their pews and looked at their shoes. Unlike the Bussas, Sam Sharpes, Malcolms and Toyins of this world.

Leonard Parkin - rebel leader
Rebel Leader Rising Up

Carnival Heroes
Fes’ 2007 – from 50 Cent to Empress Menem

Fes’ (st pauls carnival) went down well.  Probably because it had little to do with Abolition. Or did it? I wonder if the expanded route and invitation of UK wide mas’ and carnival artistes’ to the Bristol event, could be sustained without ‘Abolition funding’.

Cos even before the end of the 2007  year,  we heard about the cultural weakness that Bristol is facing.

Despite everything being so cultural this year, the city is threatened with the loss of at least three key cultural institutions.
1) The British Empire & Commonwealth museum announced its immenent departure, city lack of support from Bristol council and lack of footfall from visitors. Naturally they are poised to move to London where they can get a much more interested audience for the story of how Britons ruled the waves.
2) The Bristol Old Vic, founded from Guineas made in slave trading,  and until recently , the oldest working theatre in England,  now  sits dark on the queitened, cobbled King Street.   And
3) Kuumba , the supposed hub of African Caribbean arts in the region is racked with internal struggles and a complete lack of vision and community support that threatens to bring it down.

These are interesting for two temporal reasons.

1) this is happening during a year lavished with African and global culture and promise of remembering our histories
2) it’s on the brink of the the year that Bristol would have been Capital of Culture, had it not lost out to Liverpool.

Not to mention the loss of Imax, Wildwalk, no Concert venue…. and who knows what else is going to be off the cultural map. That’s how we go into 2008.

Bristol 2008 -capital of culture bid lodo

Mr Babbage say urggh urghh!

So as the face of Bristol (and Britain) changes yet again, so too the cultural and political agendas. And as predicted by the Africentrics – after this year is done they’ll forget about us and go onto someone else. Well that’s as maybe, but have ‘we’ not learnt anything about self-motivation and mobilisation. Usually only to be found in tragedy and conflict. What about everyday Kujichagulia, Umoja and all that!! It aint just for Kwaanza.

The aforementioned optimism? Well I would settle on the fact that with the intensity of this year clear,  it has been recognised as the beginning of mainstreaming the African-British story. While many remained unconvinced of the value of such a chapter being brought to the fore,  I’d say that given the enrichment of the British Empire in almost half a millennium of slaving activity, then I’d say there is still a lot to learn about it. Hopefully as the embers fade and the dust settles, we can begin to make cooler, more educatted considerations of this story and its impact. If the legacy is that at least one African heritage historian emerges with academic rigour and the calibre of a Eric Williams, CLR James, Richard Hart or Madge Dresser, then we will be making progress.

Politically there is still some way to go. Just look at the BNP flavoured comments on this site if you can be bothered.

Economically, we still like our cheap-to-the-producer-marketeer trainers, and consumer goods that keep people enslaved today. Like we nah learn nuttin.

Slavery Today

Our cheap-to-make consumer goods- makers protest
(photo in BECM)

peace, love and hope for our human futures

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So beautiful…

Asa – Fire on the mountain top.

The inspiration is tragic, but the result is beautiful. As is Asa.

Why it’s here. Positive Representation, Poltically intact.

It’s an African sista, or a black female artist if you like. And her voice… well!

Furthermore, the message also is one that we all need to hear. See Lyrics pasted below –  Essentially: There is a fire on the mountain and no one is running. Or well doing anything about it!

It’s politically sound also because it beats the usual representations of like snoop and fiddy, with booty shaking, and exhortations to kill, snort, smoke, buy cars, brands, booze, and well generally…self-destruct.

The Fire on the Mountain comes in many forms,  and extends out as a metaphor. Those soldiers (in the video) could be the Nigerian soldiers getting a wage for protecting some oil-company’s assets, or (with the extenstion allowed by the lyrics) they could be runners on an urban street propping up the drug economy, while beating down their communities.

In the ocean of ongoing attacks on African image and identity through mass media ( lookup Dr. Anthony Browder), this as representation stacks up as something that you(th) should be directed towards.

That makes it relevant to this blog. Nah true?

And with all that, it’s just a beautful song, beautifully sung!

Shameless Advertising for an artist that should go places.

(more…)

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1. Morrissey has song titles and lyrics such as “Bengali In Platforms” and “National Front Disco”.

2. In Johnny Rogan’s biography of Morrissey he claims in his late teens the singer, wrote “I don’t hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely”

3.  At the 1992 Madness Madstock! reunion concert at Finsbury Park, London, Morrissey appeared on stage draped in the Union Jack Flag with a backdrop for this performance of two female skinheads.  

4.  In the early days of the Smiths Morrissey is quoted as saying “”all reggae is vile”.

5. “Britain’s a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration, it’s very difficult because although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears.”  NME, 2007

Which one is being reffered to?

Why are people still so shocked????  

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Friends say teacher loves to travel

Have been very speechless over Teddybeargate this past week.  As much as I may love the idea of Africa my ancestral homeland I will not defend her in all her decisions.

The decision of the Sudanese government and courts last week to jail Gillian Gibbons for allowing her school class to name a teddy bear Muhammed is absolutely shocking and depressing.  The Sudanese decision is, no other words to describe it, absultely f—ing ridiculous!!!

For one thing, it was named after a boy named Muhammed in her classroom and NOT the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).

The Islamists say they are angry becuase to name an inanimate object Muhammed is an insult and Idolatry.

The ‘Idolatry’ claim is the huge flaw in their theology. 

To place such importance on the name and not the Prophet Himself (pbuh) IS idolatry.

To place importance on any person other than the Prophet Muhammed himself (pbuh) just because they have the name Muhammed is idolatry.

To get offended by a teddybear with a name IS Idolatry as they are placing undue importance on an object that should not be feared. 

The only one to be feared is God Himself.

The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) is much much more than His name.  For Islamists to believe otherwise is a flaw in their faith in their Beloved Prophet (pbuh).

If such importance and reverence was given to the name in the Muslim world then NO ONE should be allowed to be called that name as no one is as beloved or important as the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). 

The woman was just out there working helping out in the way she thought she could.

There is far too much hate in this world.  

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