Sunday 22 November 2015

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Chill Pill Christmas Special 17th Dec at The Albany

17th Dec at The Albany
DO NOT MISS London's biggest poetry Christmas party at The Albany. We’re introducing local singer-songwriter Sarah Williams White who has been described as ‘raw, funky-rootsy slice of entertainment’ by Metro. To add to this all-star line-up Ross Sutherland will be performing his poetry which was shortlisted for the 2015 Arts Foundation Award for Poetry. Megan Beech, who featured on the Guardian’s list of Inspiring Young Feminists of 2014, will also be gracing the stage with her enigmatic prose and last but not least Bridget Minamore, shortlisted as one of London’s first Young Poet Laureate's will be performing, making this is night not to miss.

Saturday 31 October 2015

Chill Pill, Southbank's Being A Man Festival, Sunday Assembly and 2000 hits on youtube...

October was a very eventful month after reading's in Bristol, Leicester, Sweden and around London. I am now officially appointed as one of six London Laureates ( and was mentioned in The Guardian as one of Michael Rosen's Cultural Highlights as well as The Independent on National Poetry Day.

I also just had a few poems from The Island That's Hard To Find In English accepted for publication in The Rialto, Oxford Diaspora's Programme, Magma, Morning Star and University of Arkansas Press

One more thing...The First Time I Wore Hearing Aids just reached over 2000 hits on youtube, so thank you all for that.


Chill Pill November 10th
Chill Pill are proud to be hosting three poets from Sweden - Oskar HanskaHenry Bowers and Sam Kessel at QBIC Hotel for an international special. Also, this show is FREE!

BAM Festival at Southbank 27th Nov

I will be appearing on a panel selected by BBC Radio One host, Gemma Cairney to discuss masculinity, education and boyhood. 

5th Dec
I will be poem'ing at Sunday Assembly, Conway Hall. I have appeared previously with Sunday Assembly at Wilderness Festival, an honour to join them in London this time around.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Upcoming Shows - Ordspark Poetry Festival (Uppsala, Sweden) Southbank, Ronnie Scott's, Jamaica Rising at Bristol Literature Festival...

Proud to be included in Goldsmith University's exhibition that acknowledges 14 black British poets 

1st - 3rd October
I'll be performing and reading poetry in Uppsala Sweden alongside Sage Francis, Ian Ewok Robinson, Deanna Rodger, Henry Bowers and more...

National Poetry Day (Light show)
I have been commissioned to write three new poems around the theme of light which will be debuted at Southbank Centre on National Poetry Day.

11th October, Ronnie Scott's
Returning to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Verse Jukebox with Jumoke Fashola.

October 15th Tongue Fu, Rich Mix

October 21st, Jamaica Rising at Bristol Festival of Literature
I'm very much looking forward to sharing poems and speaking about Jamaican British identity in Bristol. Tickets -

Why Not Strive? - The Rights Of The Child Festival at Southbank. October 23rd, 7pm

Southbank, Oct 23rd
28th October, Leicester
30th October at London Review Bookshop alongside Daljit Nagra
Another poem from 'The Island That's Hard To Find In English' has been accepted for publication, this time in Magma poetry magazine. I will be reading alongside Daljit Nagra

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Storymoja Festival (Kenya, Nairobi) Chill Pill (London, The Albany)

Proud to announce that I'm flying to Kenya to take part in the Storymoja Festival with the British Council. I will be meeting local students from 10 - 14 year olds as well as collaborating with local poets and reading my own poetry. (

Sep 17th at The Albany
Tickets -
Also, Chill Pill is back. Although I will be in Kenya, if you're in London you must go! We're featuring poet, Kayo Chingonyi with live music from FUR. Also more from the OPEN MIC.

Monday 3 August 2015

Tony Blair Speech On In Which He Apologises For Britain’s Role In The Slave Trade

Nov 27th 2006, Tony Blair Commemorates 200 years since the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade In The UK 

The transatlantic slave trade stands as one of the most inhuman enterprises in history At a time when the capitals of Europe and America championed the Enlightenment of man, their merchants were enslaving a continent. Racism, not the rights of man, rove the horrors of the triangular trade. Some 12 million were transported Some three million died.
Slavery's impact upon Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe was profound. Thankfully, Britain was the first country to abolish the trade. As we approach the commemoration for the 200th anniversary of that abolition, it is only right we also recognise the active role Britain played until then in the slave trade. British industry and ports were intimately intertwined in it. Britain's rise to global pre-eminence was partially dependent on a system of colonia slave labour and, as we recall its abolition, we should also recall our place in its practice.

It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time. Personally I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was - how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today.

The people who fought against slavery came from all walks of life. They included slaves and former slaves like Olaudah Aquiano, church leaders, statesmen like William Wilberforce and countless ordinary citizens who signed petitions, marched, lobbied and prayed for change. The bicentenary is an opportunity for us all to remember those who were bought and sold into slavery and those who struggled against its injustices.

Community, faith and cultural organisations, with the support in many cases of the Heritage Lottery Fund, are already planning events to mark the bicentenary. We in Government, with local authorities, will be playing our full part. And the UK is co-sponsoring a resolution in the UN General Assembly, put forward by Caribbean countries, which calls for special commemorative activities to be held by the United Nations to mark the occasion.

We also need, while reflecting on the past, to acknowledge the unspeakable cruelty that persists in the form of modern day slavery. Today slavery comes in many guises around the world - such as bonded labour, forced recruitment of child soldiers and human trafficking - and at its root is poverty and social exclusion.

We also need to respond to the problems of Africa and the challenges facing the African and Caribbean diaspora today. Africa, of course, is a place of great beauty, fantastic diversity and a resilient and talented people with enormous potential. It is also the only continent getting poorer and where, in many places, life expectancy is falling.

But the world is now focussing, not least because of the G8 summit and the Make Poverty History campaign, on how we can help Africa tackle its problems. Agreement was reached to double aid to Africa by 2010, to write off the debts of the poorest countries and massively to increase funding to tackle AIDS and improve healthcare and education.

Britain is playing its full part both through increasing bilateral aid and through international leadership. The International Finance Facility for Immunisation, which we have launched, should save five million children a year.

All this is making a difference. Debt relief is already beginning to flow. It has, for example, enabled Zambia to scrap charges for health care. This is taking place in partnership with African Governments and their people. But there is a great deal more to do.

At home, the bicentenary is also an opportunity for us to pause and consider the enormous contribution today of Black African and Caribbean communities to our nation. Britain is richer in every way - for example, in business, politics, sport, the arts and science - because of the part played by these communities in every aspect of our national life. But even 30 years after Labour introduced the groundbreaking Race Relations Act and set up the Commission for Racial Equality, there are still barriers to overcome before everyone can make the most of their talents and potential.

government, we are investing in tackling inequality in education, health, employment, housing and the criminal justice system. I want to see a future in which everyone can achieve their full potential. Earlier this week, a group of young people from Bristol, Hull and Liverpool visited the capital at the invitation of the DeAcross puty Prime Minister and I know that our schools and colleges will play a big role in next year's commemorations and legacy events.

This bicentenary must also be a spur for us to redouble our efforts to stop human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery.

But, above all, this 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade is a chance for all of us to increase our understanding of the heritage we share, celebrate the richness of our diversity and increase our determination to shape the world with the values we share.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Simon Armitage, The Last Poets & Cultural Appropriation

 "Screaming "brand new", when they just sanitized the old shit" - Mos Def
I’m a fan of Simon Armitage. I have studied his poetry and taught it to GCSE students in Hackney classrooms and often, students appreciate poems like ‘Harmonium’. It’s a rich prompt to get students to think of what can come to symbolise a relationship, from a worn out piano to an unsung father figure. I’m also glad for his new position as Oxford professor of poetry. When this was announced, The Telegraph picked up on Armitage stating he; 

“Will use rap and hip hop to explore the definition of modern poetry so the literary form is not thought of "as a museum". 

A contentious statement, but for the most part he is right to point out that rap and Hip-Hop culture are relevant to western poetry traditions, I don’t feel the need to explain why and how, we’re beyond that argument nowWhat I did find interesting is when Armitage states;

We might need to consider what constitutes poetry, and rap might be one of the answers. If it comes up I'll probably talk about Kate Tempest - though she might be hip hop.”

Really? Kate Tempest is his entry point to validate the bridge between rap and poetry? I know Kate, I think even she would be embarrassed by this remark, but even though I understand Armitage’s intention, you got to be aware of the consistency in which black culture is appropriated by white mainstream media and why there is a carelessness to this statement, as Oxford Laureate, there is new volumes in his voice. Armitage does go on to say he wants the next person taking his place to be a woman, so in a way he could be setting up the stage for someone like Kate to be considered, very noble of him.

Last week I performed at Latitude, standing backstage with Bohdan Piasecki when Simon Armitage walked into the room and I was like “Shit, Simon Armitage!" I had so much to say to him but where do I start, how could I not come across as awkwardly overeager?” Then, as sudden as Simon appeared, the members from The Last Poets walked in and sat on the sofa, brushing past Simon, who now had nowhere to sit.

Hopefully I don't need to explain who The Last Poets are, but they are basically, alongside Gil Scott Heron, DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, credited among the pioneers of Hip-Hop culture in America. I had to take a minute to take in that these men were in the same room, not knowing the significance of the other and I, a poet and lover of Hip-Hop, could've taken the responsibility of introducing these two missing links and probably done more for poetry in the UK than any essay I’ll ever write.

That bridge Simon was building between rap and poetry, a lot of that was built by the guys from the other side of the Atlantic, who had just taken his place on the sofa. If only I had taken that picture, it would’ve been the poetry equivalent of John Lennon meeting Chuck Berry. The difference there is John Lennon understood the issue of cultural appropriation and famously, when asked if he was inspired by black music, Lennon stated, “of course, is there any other kind of music?”.

I’m not saying poetry is a “black” thing, that would be ridiculous, language isn’t racial, it’s cultural. I’m saying, if Simon Armitage is going to talk about under representation and feel a need to rethink our relationship with the ideas of what poetry is, who it is by and who it belongs to, he must go all the way and perhaps educate himself on the subject before he becomes another white man claiming his people invented something they didn’t.

Source -

Didn't get to speak to Simon Armitage but I did speak with The Last Poets and Eimear Mcbride

If you are interested in further reading, I'd recommend Nate Marshall's Breakbeat Poets Anthology.

Monday 13 July 2015

What Is Spoken Word Education?

This week I leave my position as Lead Educator on the Spoken Word Education MA Programme, it's been a great three years and it's been hard saying farewells to students and teachers. Here's a video of a few of the students I've worked with over the years at an all school showcase. Also look out for a series of blogposts on Spoken Word Education coming out on Apples & Snakes in the coming weeks.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Joburg Street Photography

Johannesburg, The Apartheid Museum & Maboneng, An Example Of Positive Gentrification

Currently, I am in Johannesburg, sat on the top floor, a mile in the sky of a hotel room with a group of theatre producers and programmers. Joburg, a city described with hard edges, grumbles below us. Peter Stark OBE, a former theatre director and a cultural policy expert gives us an orientation to the city, explaining how the city creaks and groans as it tries to keep up with the first world mechanics of free market capitalism. He looks and speaks like a larger version of Sean Connery in the extraordinary league of gentlemen, although he has an English charm about him, he’s also blunt and to the point. He’s able to articulate the brutality of European Colonialism and white supremacy in Africa in a way that even knowledgeable white people in England couldn’t without lowering their voice. You can’t avoid talking about race in South Africa, it’s a country built on racism since European invasion. Peter Stark, to be stark, is stark about being white and English in Africa. This, paradoxically, makes me comfortable with him. “Being white in South Africa is like being a V.I.P toilet” says Peter "after we’re continuously told we’re special, it’s hard to realise our shit isn’t as special as everyone else's”.

After visiting the Apartheid Museum, an intense and moving experience, I found myself shaking my head at the fact that the theme park next door and the Apartheid museum is owned by the same company, (this company also has shares in the skin bleaching industry if I heard Peter Stark right, it was also a site where gold was struck when the Dutch were settling) this is capitalism, starkly Amoral, what makes money, makes money. It also made me think of the gentrification that’s been happening in London. A few weeks ago I overheard a guy outside a coffee shop in Bow, tell his friend he’s “moved to Hackney because it’s meant to be jumping”, but he’s disappointed with how many old people and school children are about. I had to pull him up and say “Hackney is a community, not a theme park”. But this is it, if you got money and no emotional investment in an area, you care less about the cost of your fun.

Later I visited Constitutional Hill, another intense experience looking at the condition of those jailed in the Apartheid era, including Gandhi and Winnie Mandela. Afterwards, just round the corner there was a musical theatre, walking out of these dreaded historical landmarks into singing and dancing (and you couldn’t overlook that the directors and most the actors were white), there’s something insensitive about that. I’m not saying anyone needs to be in constant shame, but rollercoasters and musicals? it feels like two long white middle fingers.

Speaking of Gentrification, I visited Maboneng this evening and met the community activists that managed to nurture relationships with the town property developers. A town that has investors and the guidance of a local community who see the area as a home, not a theme park. The money here is doing more than talk, it’s listening. The cynic in me wanted to tell the locals about Hackney and Brixton as a warning tale, but I didn’t need to, they understood. They felt they’ve managed to negotiate the space to suit both, local community and new investments. The artwork on the walls around the city is staggeringly striking. A large portrait of a young Nelson Mandela in his freedom fighter days, posing with boxing gloves on looms over the town. The statement is clear, the people here will not be moved from their own movement.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Iain Ewok Robinson On Whiteness In South Africa

Ewok as YOBO
“Can’t heal nothing without pain” – Toni Morrison

In 2012, after returning from teaching English and poetry in Cape Town Townships, I had my first photography exhibition as part of the Afrovibes Festival in The Albany, Deptford. I published a travel journal, “The Coloured Experience” alongside the exhibition. Chill Pill, the poetry night I co-curate has been in collaboration with The Albany for over four years now. Last year we collaborated with Afrovibes and installed a Chill Pill show inside a Township Cafe’ at The Albany. Currently, I am in South Africa looking to meet the nation's poets and poetry programmers to start potential international collaborations. Along the way I'm thrilled to meet Iain Ewok Robinson in Grahamstown and see his latest one man Spoken Word show, YOBO, which is a commentary and deconstruction of whiteness in South Africa.

First off, man, it’s been a long time in the making and we finally get to meet! When I was last in South Africa your name rang from Cape Town to Durban! I want to congratulate you on your new one-man Spoken Word show, YOBO. An ambitious piece and I applaud you for taking it on… so, what is “whiteness”?

Ha ha! Master Antrobus, it's been a highlight of my festival this year, touching base with a head like yourself.  So YOBO, yeah, ambitious, but from our perspective (my wife Karen is the co-creator and director) we just felt that there was no other way to approach this subject other than head-on as you said.

When I think "whiteness" I think "blinding white light".  It's a type of mental blindness inherent in most white people that allows us to view other races as victims, as oppressed, as previously disadvantaged, but somehow disables us when it comes to seeing ourselves as privileged, advantaged, as perpetuating an ongoing racist paradigm.  Whiteness is an act of "othering" if you will, of positioning white as normal and anything other than white as abnormal.  Whiteness is the result of centuries of inbred superiority along a completely arbitrary genetic difference, skin pigment.  It is a condition that allows us to say sorry but not to feel sorry, to hide away in plain site, to feel sorry for ourselves for being victims of self-inflicted guilt.  I think the idea for me was best encapsulated by an author called Peggy McIntosh in an essay called"White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack".  She says "White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks."

What’s racism got to do with us in 2015? (said the brown Brit to the white African)

The world has never been as readily accessible to us, in terms of our being globally connected through media, and yet even with this incredible expanded knowledge base we are somehow growing further apart.  Segregation along lines of class and race and religion is growing as rapidly as the technology that purports to bring us closer together.  We are finally seeing each other for who we really are: scared fight-or-flight animals with a consciousness that has us not at the top of the food chain but at the bottom of the crab bucket.  Racism is a manifestation of some of our most base animal instincts for survival at all costs.  Confronting it and transcending it means that we have to be able to see it, to recognise it, and the act of exposing racism in all of its manifestations is also an act of community, of coming together, or eradicating arbitrary categories and differences that enable us to be separated easily.  It's such an arbitrary category in fact, race, as evidenced by the existence of a brown Brit kicking it with a white African.  Humans, we seem to love labels so much, we buy into them because they seem to make us feel more certain of ourselves somehow.  Maybe it's because we are so settled in our consumerism that we respond so readily to these easy to apply images of each other.

YOBO got a standing ovation on the first night, but you mentioned walk out’s too, considering it’s a head on commentary and critique of Whiteness in South Africa, you must have expected that?

Yeah, totally, I think we ticked all the right boxes with that one!  Same story tonight at our second show: ovation at the end accompanied by one or two walk-outs during the piece.  What's interesting to me is when the walk-outs happen.  Tonight I managed to pin-point the exact moment.  It was during what is arguably the most judgmental part of the performance, a voice-over called "Dear White People" that is essentially about owning our privilege.  I will never know exactly what the reason was.  Maybe it had nothing to do with the show!  Maybe there was an emergency at home and they had to cut-out, but in all honesty I think it has more to do with people not wanting to feel preached at, not wanting to be challenged.  Some people come to theatre so that they can escape, or so that they can bare witness to someone else speaking their thoughts for them.  This piece, as you pointed out, tackles the topic head-on and doesn't leave you any room to hide really.  It was intended for that purpose, because I think that trying to make this subject matter comfortable for white-people is retroactive.  As one reviewer said, he was "looking for more charm, more humour, more enticement to enjoy…Maybe Robinson's too angry to sugar-coat the pill."  I think he nailed it.  I think that the time for mincing our words is long gone. 

Do you think YOBO could speak beyond your shores? For example, the US’s Black Lives Matter gets a name check, what conversation can be had internationally?

This piece is very specific in its use of South African-isms to localise the discussion, only because I don't feel equipped yet to deconstruct racism outside of my immediate context as a white South African male.  That being said, it does speak to the idea that the real work to be done in terms of addressing this condition of "whiteness", especially with the more hidden insidious institutional racism, is really about seeing it, exposing it and activating white artists and creatives to tackle it head-on by turning the tables.  As many international activists and writers have said recently in response to the exposing of the brutal racism that still exists within the American public policing system: Racism is not a black problem, it is a white problem, and the real work in righting this wrong needs to be done on white people by white people.

Brett Bailey on Exhibit B set
We were talking about Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B. When that show came to London it was protested, apparently there were no protests in South Africa, what do you think that says about racial consciousness in these two parts of the world?  

I don't think that South Africans have had enough large inclusive conversations about the notion of a type of institutional racism that seemed to typify the reactions that were the London protests.  For us race is still very much a he-said-she-said surface level type of personality clash, where to be racist is simply to use derogatory words or demean others through outright acts of dehumanisation.  This idea that there is an entrenched almost invisible superiority complex that pervades our society is only really being exposed now through the work around transformation being led by student groups and grass-roots activists at our universities e.g. #RhodesMustFall and #OpenStellies.  A lot of people here would have succumbed to the ease of simply brushing off Brett Bailey's work or ignoring it rather than confronting it.

You’re a musician, rapper, graffiti artist, educator and a parent… How does race play a part in each of these identities?

Well, I group all of those aspects of my career together as seeing myself as a Hip Hop artist, and Hip Hop culture taught me about race and politics and alternative education.  Hip Hop draws it's roots from black Jamaican and American working-class culture.  However, the power of Hip Hop is in its ability to transcend race, to cross borders and connect people beyond race, gender, age or language.  So expressing myself through the elements of Hip Hop culture has introduced me to the problem of stigmatised racial categorisation ("A white rapper?"), and it has shown me some solutions, at least enough for me to believe that we have the ability to connect beyond the barriers that we have constructed in our society.

The biggest barrier that I face as an educator in South Africa is language, which is still very much tied to institutionalised racism.  The oppression of indiginous black Africans through a dispossession of their language is for me the deepest cut of all.  Education is at crisis point here, and my ability to play a part in addressing that crisis is ham-strung by my inability to communicate effectively in any language other than English.  My work as a poet and a teacher comes with the bitter pill of reinforcing the dominance of English as a medium of instruction and mainstream communication in our country.

As a dad?  I want my son to speak twenty tongues and use every one to tell stories about the way we were and never want to be again!

As we’re both poets who teach, I have to ask, did Suli Breaks see your response to his Why I Love Education But Hate School and what’s the story behind that?

Yeah, he left a comment on the YouTube site, something like "I'm glad we can keep the debate alive."  I basically wanted to provide a vital balance to his seemingly one-sided argument about the validity of standardised schooling systems.  While I agreed with some aspects of his agenda, I just think that he didn't take into account the teachers themselves, at all, or the parents.  He grouped them all together into one "education system" that completely dehumanised the incredible individuals I have come across, both as teachers and as colleagues.  I know from first-hand experience how teachers and parents have to struggle to navigate the dominant education system that serves to produce cogs for the capitalist machinery, where they are having to satisfy the education outcomes of policies that are determined by politically aligned committees and look good on paper, but when you have to apply them to "real-time" teaching, face-to-face classroom connections and conditions, prove to be lacking.

So Ewok, we’ll be seeing each other in Sweden alongside Sage Francis in October for the Ordsprak Festival. The force is with us… right?

Yeah yeah!  There's a powerful posse of poetic heads lining up for the Swedish journey, and the Upsaala Ordsprak Festival 2015 looks set to be some continent shifting consciousness connecting brother, best be warned!  Three days of Slam, Spoken Word and the purest poetry.  Salute my man, see you there!

Follow Ewok on Twitter - @EwokEssay 

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Next Gen Poet, Hannah Lowe - "Poetry Is The First Place I Claimed A Mixed Race Identity"


After Hannah Lowe was our guest poet at Keats House Poets Forum last month, I got to speak with her in a Holloway Road cafe. Hannah's first collection 'Chick' is, as she calls it "poetry of memory". Exploring her relationship with her Chinese-Jamaican father while growing up in Britain.  I have recommended this book to a number of people who have never read a poetry collection.
Have a listen to her poem, 'IN' and what she had to say about the "Black British Poetic"

Monday 1 June 2015

What Is Impossible

On Race, Feminism, Education, Gentrification & Colonial Cocktails

“Students from gang-ridden areas of the East London borough of Hackney have been learning how performing poetry can help tackle life, one word at a time.”

After visiting the young poets I work with in Hackney, this is how the article, written last week by the Reuters journalist begins. (The journalist had good intentions, but skewed editors). Straight off, I’ll say the students I work with in Cardinal Pole are not themselves “in-gangs”, they are mixed-ability (in terms of literacy and predicted grades) and between the ages of 12 -17. They attend our after school Spoken Word poetry Club and are indeed, growing up in the marginal regions of Hackney, still, as one of the English teachers rightfully put, "our students are up to more than just rising against their circumstances."

“The Spoken Word Education Programme, founded by a former Chicago social worker, aims to help pupils in some of London's most deprived districts to articulate their feelings and have their voices heard despite an often difficult upbringing.”

Peter Kahn is not merely a “former social worker”, he’s an English teacher and community leader with over 25 years teaching experience.

"These kids are so disenfranchised," said Christian Foley, a poet and spoken-word educator at Cardinal Pole school. "The gang warfare arises from the fact you own nothing, and so you're going to fight over a lamppost because that's all you have."

Christian was in fact referring to a different working environment, not the students in Cardinal Pole. This is a clever spin, because what Christian was actually highlighting was the systematic failures in our government in welfare and education and how this ties to the future prospects of our young people. Also,(ironically, given the tone of this article), how harmful the negative reinforcement of stereotypes are for both, society and the individual within it. We don’t necessarily “give students a voice”, they already have one, we counter the argument that they don’t have anything worth saying. We recognise that whether they speak or not, other people (media, politicians etc) are already speaking for them.

“Hackney was one of London's four most dangerous boroughs in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics. It also ranks in the bottom quarter of the capital's 32 boroughs for a range of indicators including low income, health and education, according to London's Poverty Profile, an independent data provider.”

When you say Hackney is “dangerous”, I think what should be asked is, dangerous for whom and why? Hackney is known as “the socialist borough”, due to its long history of anti-racist and anti-fascist organisations. Evident too, in the names of Hackney streets such as Sojourner Truth Close and Nelson Mandela House. Public figures such as James Baldwin, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Michael Jackson, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Jesse Jackson, Angela Davis have all spoken and passed through Hackney. The Dalston C.L.R James library acknowledges a powerful Caribbean activist. In certain circles, this indeed, sounds dangerous.
"A Symbol Of Hackney's History Of Tackling Racism" - Anthony Kendall
“The spoken-word initiative began with Peter Kahn, who used poetry to help students in one of Chicago's most crime-plagued districts. He found that pupils who could not discuss their problems would open up when performing poetry they had written, helped by the art form's links to hip-hop music.”

Yes, Hip-Hop music but also, many of the students are aspiring actors, public speakers, physicists and attend an after school “Debate Club”, which they excel at.

"A Complicated Answer," an anthology produced by the Hackney pupils, covers experiences from witnessing a stabbing to losing a friend to cancer. There are several about fathers leaving their families.”

Yes, there are also poems about poetry, friendships and “what it’s like to play the piano”. The poems in “A Complicated Answer” are about bravery, not ghetto pathologies.

“the programme is backed by institutions including the Arts Council. Since its 2013 inception, Cardinal Pole has seen one student into Oxford University to study English literature; while others at the school, which is principally made up of ethnic minorities, have improved their English.”

Something cuts me here, it’s on the edge of saying “ethnic minority children are being civilised by the English language, and look, they now have the prospects of attending a prestigious but also, a racially problematic institution, Oxford University. Just the other day Oxford made headlines for serving “colonial comeback cocktails” in their Union bar. Is this really the golden measuring bar for academic success? I've known students from ethnic and working class backgrounds who became suicidal after attending Oxford and similarly acclaimed universities.

“Poetry is not a panacea, and those involved in the programme know it has its limits."You never give up, but sometimes it just takes time you don't have," Kahn said. "They may not make it to (age) 25."
This is Peter Kahn acknowledging a reality for some of his inner city students in Chicago, but equally relevant, is some of those students grow to feel isolated from an education system which glorifies fascist, sexist and racist literature, I’ve written about this in a previous blog post.
“Despite this, at Cardinal Pole there seems to be an irrepressible optimism among students. What is poetry, the educators ask Tian Sewell Morgan, one of their star students. She thinks for a few moments and answers: "Blood in words."”
Yes, blood in words, as in the blood (that stays in her body) is poetry, as opposed to the idea that poetry is something keeping blood inside her.

Articles like this in Reuters contribute to the conservative's attempt to justify the social cleansing of London and the racist fear-mongering of working class ethnic minorities. The disparity between rich and the poor in the UK is vast and easy to contest, words are powerful, but they aren't enough. 

In the East London schools I've worked in, I've seen students have schooling disrupted because their council homes have been sold to private investors. Many are moved to Kent, where Fracking was a possible cause of a recent earthquake. 

Careless language is a misused weapon, people often say, "you get what you deserve", but we live in a country which built an empire on slavery and the oppression of the poor. There are twelve million dead Africans in the Atlantic, responsible for the wealth and building of British colonies world wide. Without those mass burials, there is no "Great Britain". This is why Nationalism takes on a form of genocide denial, or genocide glorification. Decolonising your British identity is difficult and I've yet to have a discussion on it that didn't involve someone getting upset or defensive.

George Orwell differentiated patriotism as "devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life" and Nationalism as a desire to colonise and "secure more power and more prestige, not for oneself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his (or her) own individuality.”

I was asked the other day why "I put up race related articles on facebook, why is race a struggle, isn't feminism a more pressing issue?", the idea that a struggle needs to struggle against each other has only led to inside bickering of people on the same side of the coin. In this area, I myself have used embarrassingly careless language on twitter which I made a public apology for.

C.L.R James, in a speech in Hackney in 1984 addressed an anti-racist rally by saying, "I want us to be aware that for a long time women have been at the very bottom of society", James asks, if education is how we defeat oppression and austerity, why is it that there are higher amounts of women graduating from universities and still so few in Congress, Parliament or positions of political policy influence? 

C.L.R James states "black people in particular have a lot of experience of being maintained in a position subordinate to the general level which is attainted by men and women who are not black." He goes on to say it would be hypocritical to claim a "fight for equal rights"as a racially exclusive battle. This from a man, born the same century slavery was dismantled in the Caribbean, where he was born (1886) and spent over seventy years as a historian and activist.

The Island That's Hard To Find In English is a poetry manuscript I have been working on for the past two years. I am currently travelling to all the colonial hotspots in the UK (Liverpool and London covered wildly) but recently I was in Bristol and learned the idea for the African slave trade was put into motion by the Mayor of Bristol, John Hawkins. I'm delving into this history and feeling how it re-aligns my sense of self as a British, Jamaican. America's first UK based Embassy was built in Bristol after a falling out during the trans Atlantic trading profits of Rum and Sugar from the Caribbean. 

This links directly into our current culture and conservative-led government with the passing of a law called "TTIP" which allows major corporations compensation for "loss of profits", tax payers are now insurers for multi-nationals (as if their off-shore tax havens weren't enough of an insult). When slavery was abolished, slave merchants, plantation and slave owners were also compensated for loss of profits. Unbelievably, this was paid for by the tax payer. These people were rewarded instead of punished (there was no human rights bill that would see to it otherwise). Charles Dickens mocked this in Little Dorrit, "Credit is a system, whereby a person who can't pay, gets another person who can't pay, to guarantee that he can pay". 

Human rights laws which would have seen the enslavement of Africans as unjust are now being undone by Michael Gove. When talking about colonialism, people in the UK often ask what it has to do with today? I find it incredible that anyone could go through the English education system without having such questions answered? Today is built on yesterday. 


My thoughts here are by no means complete, it's merely an outpouring of thinking and feeling done while working in education, examining my privilege and positioning myself in a society, hung over after too many colonial cocktails.