Saturday, 16 April 2011

Black Feminist: The Art of Resistance

by Lola Okolosie

As we draw closer to the ever talked about royal wedding, it is almost easy to forget the myriad of events held to celebrate Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of International Woman’s Day. Less than two weeks ago now, Black Feminists held our inaugural event. It was an evening showcasing the various methods Black women employ to demonstrate their resistance through art. Organised by the wonderful Charmaine, the event took place at the welcoming Lambeth Women’s Project on Stockwell Road.

Working in collaboration with Shisha, the international agency for contemporary South Asian crafts and visual arts, we opened with a video installation by the artist Yasmin Yacub. The piece entitled Refuge: Testimonies of a Lost Home is a photomontage dealing with the plight of those seeking asylum in the UK from across Africa and South Asia. The testimonies of these individuals were powerfully given a space to be heard.

From here we moved to the spoken word of Black Feminist member, Jeni. Her piece, authoritatively denied the attempts by dominant patriarchal society to construct her (and us) into its own image of her/us.

By now standing room only, we were honored with readings from poet and performance artist, Dorothea Smartt. The works shared with us covered many diverse topics but remained centred on stories and experiences ordinarily marginalised. From celebrating the trailblazing courage and initiative of the Windrush generation to the highs and lows of being a young mother, Dorothea’s beautiful recitals brought a wisdom and gravitas to the evening, reminding us of the vibrancy of our black feminist predecessors.

In order to give audience members a taste of what our monthly meetings are like, we held a discussion, involving all attendees, on issues of concern to us as Black women. We began with a dialogue on how Black women are able to combat sexism and racism. It transpired that many of us had been labeled the clich├ęd ‘angry black woman’ for merely voicing an opinion that challenged racist and sexist behavior/attitudes.

Another topic of discussion centred on how, both in the public and private spheres, we are often relegated to a ghetto on the questions that matter. Eminent black people in the public eye are often there to discuss issues relating to the black experience as if it is our only area of expertise and interest. This, we found, can sometimes be replicated in our personal relationships, in which we are made to ‘speak for’ the ‘black community’ despite our obvious diversity of experience. Useful strategies were given on how to circumnavigate such ghettoisation. As Black Feminist member, Adunni, noted, the incessant emphasis on our differences allows them to be continually perpetuated across society.

It was apt, then, that our next performer was Black Feminist member, Selina, whose poetic address to Britain, placed the nation on trial for its bombastic certitude. We were then given a sample of Kurdish dancing, provided by the generous Fatima. We then closed with the lyrical dexterity of duo, Poetic Pilgrimage. Wonderful.

The event was a total success and truly life affirming. Make sure you’re there for the next one.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Britain on trial

Selina Nwulu

Dear Great Britain.

Great land of democracy

God has saved your gracious queen

But let us take a fleeting glance

at all who remain unseen:

Those who lie on the edge of the flag

victorious red, white and blue

Britain, land of hope and glory

You belong to the very few

‘Fairness’ is today’s buzz word

So I will treat kind for kind

Your time on trial will be brief, discrete

a few home truths- to ease my mind:

Britain, you widen the gap

between rich and poor

while Tax-free aristocrats

cheat the system for more, and more

Yet it's the welfare state

'in need of desperate attention'

funny how you're too busy

to give the tax evaders a mention

older women disappear

from our TV screens

replaced by buxom girls with pearly whites

cleavage busting from the seams

Britain, you reduce the rest of us

to the fringes, to our whinges

shrinking our brains to fit

Daily Mail showbiz binges

Britain, you ignore the majority

You inflate our education

you'd rather focus on Will and Kate

To unify the nation

Yes Kate, the fair 'commoner'

is now public property

Her smile now frozen

with PR instructed deity

Her marriage with the media

will last till death do her part

She's being wheeled out, exhibited

'She got Diana's heart'

dear Britain, your MPs make cuts

on expense bought pedestals

They communicate in “rars” and “roars”

but treat us all like fools

Yellow politicians do nothing

but make up the numbers

blue winds blow hard

sending socialism to its slumber

dear Britain, times get tougher

You bring scapegoats to the slaughter

'It's me, it's you,

the foreigner and his daughter'

The refugee searches for asylum

A safe place without screams

The single mother on benefit

scrapes by, by any means

So old Blighty, forgive me

but adjourning this trial would be absurd

This 'age of austerity' has gone to your head

Your moral standing has become blurred

Dear Blighty, your system is full of loopholes

We're drowning in your debt

Britain, land of hope and glory

We've not seen true justice from you yet.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Veena Malik, culture and dishonour

by Chitra Nagarajan

Veena Malik is a Pakistani actress who appeared on Indian reality show Bigg Boss (similar to Celebrity Big Brother) in October 2010. During the first week of the show, Shiv Sena (a right wing Hindu nationalist political party) activists protested the inclusion of Pakistani housemates in the show.

On her return to Pakistan, a case was filed against her for committing 'immoral' and 'un-Islamic acts' in a court in Lahore.

She appeared on Front Line, to talk about her experiences on the TV show. She was questioned by the host Kamran Shahid and mufti Abdul Qavi whether she had 'brought Pakistani culture into disrepute' by going to India, her clothing and her behaviour. She has received death threats as a result of this interview.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

This Pen

by Jeni Hallam

With this pen, I will re-write history
Write history again
Ink and cursive flowing from my pen
I will re-write lessons from sad stories
And illustrate a world right before me
Which is painted in the colour of a future that's bright
Freakin' ultraviolet in fact!
And I will fly closer to the Sun that dear Icarus,
With not even a singed tip or tanned shoulder,
I'm not immortal, just bolder
And now that I'm older I will relinquish
My grip on my bucket of bitterness
And let it clatter to the ground spilling
Tears of betrayal, pain and harsh truths
And where I once used salty tears to lick wounds
I will sew stitches with golden thread and diamond tools
Mop my brow with liberty and wash my face in forgiveness' pools
Rise from the ashes with golden wings
Fire burning in my pen
So let me re-write my history
I am not that product of colonialism
A bastard of an unholy alliance
Born of the blood of slaves and the sweat of injustice
I am not lighter than a paper bag, neither does a pencil stay stuck in my hair
And still it does not it fall
A pencil never has been, never will be there
There was no fat mammy in my history, yessuh, naw-uh ma'am,
And I have never been and never will be, infact, never will you see
Your light skin temptress
swinging my hips to your tune of desire
No Creole Lady Marmalade
No whimpering black victim
Born of the hood and lived in
The corner of society, a pilgrim
Neither am I your token, or your passport to equality,
I am not a sign of diversity,
I am not the smiling black girl in the back of your government advert with an afro pom pom and white teeth
I echo India Arie, when I say I am not what my hair pertains to be;
Whether creamy crack slicked back, or stitches and tracks
I am beyond whatever you thought I stood for
Beyond whatever you think I will die for I am here,
I have lived
I am a story well-told, I am my words and my ink
I am my bond and my stamp
I am the here and the now and I am beyond
I reconfigure my existence with thought and with song
I am a history well-lived
I am a present given gift
I am a future, a twinkle, the horizon
Or simply,
The light, reflected off this fountain pen nib.