My city is on the news as 866 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the first two weeks of June. That’s one quarter of Leicester’s total since the beginning of lockdown.
There were initially rumours about returning Leicester to lockdown, but now the proposal is to continue the current level of restriction (which is very low, to be fair) until 18th July, instead of 4th of July as in the rest of the country. But decisions can change by the minute.
Thinking about Liverpool in the 80s, for instance. Basically defunded for being Labour by a Tory federal government, used to opportunity to cause chaos and cost lives in the Hillsborough massacre, only to have the victims satanised and blamed by right-wing tabloids.
I’m afraid COVID-19 might be our Hillsborough.
While in nice comfy Clarendon Park I’ve seen a lot of people breaking the rules, most of the focal areas affected are actually working-class people of colour. Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Publishing was tweeting earlier today that the spike seems to coincide with the Prime Minister’s order of reopening factories. And who works in factories, particularly Leicester factories? Working-class people of colour.
This is all very deliberate and targeted. The spike does not match with the BLM protests, which were made keeping distance and precaution. I couldn’t attend as I’m in a vulnerable group, but most people in the pictures were wearing masks and staying safe. Not the same can be said about “football” fans in London a couple of weeks ago trying to “protect statues” and “stop history from being erased” while zieg heiling at the cenotaph and pissing on plates dedicated to heroes who saved lives during terrorist attacks. That far-right meeting, by the way, also included anti-5G, anti-masks, anti-vax conspiracy theorists protesting along while chanting “All Lives Matter”. We still need to hear about the consequences of that one.
Either way, I’m fuming, but also willing to continue the lockdown (if not strengthened, to be fair) until it is safer and necessary. We need to make sure our people are safe, especially if they are also from the particular affected communities by this pandemic and this system.
UPDATE: poet Cathi Rae says something similar, but more eloquently and from her testimonial as someone who has lived and worked in those areas of the city.
Note: as a non-black person of colour, it’s not up to me to decide what will and won’t lead to black liberation. It is not up to me to call myself an ally either, since calling yourself an ally is a performative sign.The final decision lies on the people. This is just something I have observed online. And yes, I have done specific actions in support of BLM from quarantine, but I’m not talking about them because I don’t want a cookie for doing what needed to be done.
These past few weeks I have been keeping quiet over here because I felt my voice was not needed. I did not want to take up space via performative allyship, as this is the time for black liberation.
I had initially avoided to write about my support for Black Lives Matter because the general timeline was getting too crowded with nonblack individuals and corporations showing their support. In theory, this should be a really good thing: privileged people are using their social and economic capital to spread information on the often-lethal biased actions of the so-called “justice system” against black men, women and children across Western civilisation. A lot of them were posting black squares on their Instagram accounts to silence themselves using #BlackLivesMatter. However, the feeds were soon clogged with big dark silence, making it harder to find news and advice from actual black people and activists involved in direct action.
The same thing happened when the black squares were shared under #BlackOutTuesday: darkness, just darkness. Some users did get a hint and used the hashtag to amplify the work of black creators, but it would all still managed to drown in a sea of dark.
Recently, some celebrities shared a video montage of themselves looking upset about unspecified actions in the past — vaguely announcing they probably did racist jokes and comments back in the days — and promising to not just not do it again, but call out anyone who does it in their vicinity. Let’s see how long they remember. Some comedians, such as Leigh Francis, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, have apologised for the use of blackface in their successful comedy shows. In the case of Francis, it seemed quite counter-productive, leading to online rabid fans racially abusing Trisha Goddard, one of his most popular impersonations.
Other famous white people, such as Lea Michele, jumped on the BLM hype train without addressing their previous problematic behaviours, as if they never happened in the first place.
It’s all staged white noise and dark squares, and the murder of George Floyd is not fully avenged. The murder of Tony McDade is not fully avenged. The murder of Rayshard Brooks is not fully avenged. The murder of Breonna Taylor is not even avenged. Trayvon Martin’s murderer is free and going on dating platforms. Philando Castile’s murderer is free. Tamir Rice is not having a high school Zoom graduation.Eric Garner is not breathing.His daughter is not breathing either. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. Stephon Clark. And these are only a few, in one country, a land where not everyone’s free and a home where the bravery of existing as the underdog is a threat.
Yesterday was the third anniversary of the Grenfell massacre. 72 people lost their breath. The overwhelming majority, black and brown migrants and their children. One of them, Khadija Saye, was a promising artist about to be displayed at the Venice Biennale and homaged by Tate Britain much later.
These black artists are only revisited after death and reap no fruits for their labour. Besides, it is not necessary to be an artist to be mourned. It is not necessary to be “an outstanding member of society” to be mourned. Not even the victims with criminal convictions deserved to die. Not even the disabled, the old, the children, the migrants with no papers who lived and died in that tower deserved this end.
Black people do not owe us talent, charisma, physical or mental work, in exchange for their survival and legacy. In fact, it is us who owe them plenty. We owe them a peaceful life, freedom, justice, reparations. We need to let them be and let them stay, and for that, we sometimes need to be quiet if we have nothing more to offer besides white guilt and black squares.
With the whole pandemic going on, this year’s Burning Eye Books releases are staggered. A lot of release parties postponed, cancelled or moved to online (again, gotta love an online event).
So, it looks like Meanwhile will be released in October instead of September. Will add more updates as time goes by, including book release party, tour, or whatever comes next. Smoke signal book tour? Message pigeon delivery service? We’ll see how this match of Civ VI our society is stuck in continues.
Take lots of care. Stay safe, wherever you are. Love you.
It’s my birthday today. 34 years old now, and we’re mostly celebrating indoors watching television and cuddling the cat.
Coincidentally, I got another present: my interview on Gem Kennedy’s Queers & Co. podcast is out now. For a bit more than half an hour, I talk to Gem about Anglophilia and soft power, racism in the queer punk scene, writing poetry, migration and so on . You should listen to it. While you’re at it, also listen to previous episodes with fabulous guests such as Cameryn Moore, Lady Blue Phoenix and Imogen Fox.
CW: COVID-19, health risk, self-isolation, quarantine
These times are scary and uncertain. People are ill and dying due to selfishness and inconsideration from the government and the general public. It was not until this week that universities and other institutions shifted their services from presential to online, while pubs and leisure centres were only closed last night – after a bunch of glazed hams packed their locals for a few cheeky pints goodbye.
As a person at high risk due to my chronic conditions, I have been self-isolating at home for about ten days now. It looks like I will spend the remainder of March indoors. We had to cancel our visit to relatives in Mexico (where there are fewer cases and quicker security measures) for Spring Break, as well as a university trip to Amsterdam and Brussels later in April. University is now providing online-only lectures. I had an informal one yesterday, catching up with coursemates and lecturer (who has the main symptoms of COVID-19 and is recovering at home). It was wholesome. I also joined a Zoom meeting from the Labour party with a lot of grassroots discussion featuring Jeremy Corbyn. The other day, I spoke on the phone to a friend; and I’ve been regularly in touch with family.
It’s quite odd, but in this state of isolation, I feel a lot more involved with the issues and people I love and care about than in “normal circumstances” aka semi-automated austerity heteropatriarchal underworld capitalism. Been saving a lot of spoons that I used to spend on preparation and commuting. No pressure to trek it into places that take time and money to reach. No longer having to put on a glam face, pretending things are fine, chasing arbitrary targets of success. We all just sit down, unkempt, in front of the webcam, and talk to each other in solidarity, sharing ideas much easier with the help of technology. Gaining access to free books, intimate gig streams, words of advice, movie-watching and gaming.
The possibilities have always been there. We could have taken them before all of this happened. But now that we have them and we know how to use them, we must not let them go.
Once/if/when we are back to normal, let’s make our events as accessible as possible. Affordable and comfortable in person and online. Reach out as many as possible. The chronically disabled, to whom the curfew never ends. Those kept apart from us by geography, economy, architecture, medicine, law. Make our practices available and sustainable, for our customers/audiences and ourselves. Don’t be afraid to say yes. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid. Be prepared.
The first Young Adult verse novel in Dean Atta’s catalogue, feels like a warm hug to my inner child, inner teenager, inner baby queer.
We grow through over 300 pages (over three hours as an audiobook — you must listen to the poets read their work whenever you can) along Michael’s journey of self-discovery within his family, his school(s) and university, and the world we share together. Through friendships, heartbreak and ignorance from the people surrounding him, and our own ignorance, as he is the sole holder of his ever-shifting truth. A fabulously proud miracle of melanin in a sea of pink.
Between the narrative verses of his story, there are poems within poems, textual conversations where the unspoken speaks volumes, user manuals for drag, performance, gender, race, origins, destinations.
Michael (and Atta) never forgets who he is and where he comes from, regardless of occassional turbulence in his flight, and always takes the opportunity to give a shout out to other black queer pioneers and trailblazers, from Beyonce and Audre Lorde to Jacob V Joyce and Chardine Taylor Stone. The last two, people I am blessed to know in person as influential figures, colleagues and friends. I have also been honoured to have taken workshops under Atta’s guidance in the dearly departed Mouthy Poets collective, the Pangea Poets project, and the MAC in Birmingham. It is amazing to see him thrive and reach audiences of all ages across the world, hopefully inspiring them all to write their stories, their guides, their truth.
Waiting for the sequel, to see Michael grow through the rest of his university years, drag and poetry career, and life. What happens to his friends, to that one cutie from the London hip hop gay club, and that no-so-cute person at the end. Not going to give out any spoilers, but Michael is fierce, beautiful, handsome and brave. Leventis, as those girls at the beach say. Leventis indeed.
Heyy, I had a lovely workshop at Everybody’s Reading Festival and would definitely do it again. The festival is still going on this month and you should go to the events. Particularly looking forward to the Black History Month Special Man on the Moon written and performed by Keisha Thompson on the 31st. She is also giving a workshop at Word! a few hours before the show on the same day on Afrofuturism. Signal boost to any Black writers and performers reading this.
10 October 2019 6pm to 8pm Sharing Space, Portland Building De Montfort University
Based on the concept of liminality, this poetry and performance workshop aims to motivate those who feel stuck between nationalities, races, genders, bodies, legal and educational status. Open to everyone, particularly refugees, migrants, survivors of domestic abuse and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Here we can create and share work in a safe environment, following prompts and inspiration from other liminal poets and give performance and confidence advice to those who want to speak their truth but don’t know how.
The workshop will be provided by Cynthia Rodriguez, a Mexican-British writer and performer who writes from between the lines based on their life as a non-binary migrant whose ethnicity and background cannot be found in the regular British census.
This event is organised as part of Everybody’s Reading, a month-long festival aiming to inspire Leicester to read, write, listen and speak. The rest of the programme is also really good and highly recommended.
While the event takes place at De Montfort University, attendants don’t have to be students or staff members of the institution to attend. Just be excellent to each other.
The event is +18 only since difficult and upsetting topics might be discussed. We have a safer spaces policy and assistance in case anyone needs it.
Bisexual, bipolar, unipede. This is the script for a play that definitely needs to become a film. Like a Michel Gondry or Julie Taymor film. Or directed by Jackie herself. There are rainbow lights, unicorns, bubbles, Welsh maggots, teddy bears, and plenty of quotable quotes.
As per request, we cannot say that Hagan is brave for living in her own body, but she certainly is brave for speaking her truth with no additives and without trying to play it “nice”.
The review was meant to be only for the book, but we’re in for a treat! Here’s a version of the performance, as presented at Bristol Old Vic in November 2015 and filmed by Darren Paul Thompson. It’s almost an hour long, so sit down, get comfy, come into her disco forest grotto circus rocket and travel through decades, wine glasses and hospital beds. And if you need to iron some clothes, iron with a shoe, for Edna’s sake.