Leicester on lock

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.

The more you know the details, the more it becomes crystal clear that systematic racism, incompetence and socio-politic deprivation are heavily involved in the cost of so many lives (or at least the quality of them).

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.

Performative allyship won’t lead to black liberation

(featured image source: Nappy.co)

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.

Performative Allyship. Source: Seerut K. Chawla.

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.

3% of the population in Britain is black, but 8% of the people who die in custody are black as well. Christopher Alder is still dead. Kingsley Burrell. Darren Cumberbatch. Mark Duggan. Rashan Charles. Xenophobia, racism and ableism clash: Edson Da Costa, Zahid Mubarek. No one has paid.

Out of prison, the genocide continues. Black people are four times more likely to die of Covid 19, mostly attributed to geographic and socio-economic factors. In words of the ONS, “other courses are still to be identified”.

Khadija Saye.

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.

Of all the celebrity tributes to Floyd, only Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) mentioned that Floyd was an artist himself: in the 90s, he was known as Big Floyd and was part of the Screwed Up Clique in Houston, Texas.

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.

Authentic allyship. Source: Seerut K. Chawla.

Queers & Co. podcast interview

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.

Ok check it out!

https://player.captivate.fm/episode/ab74063e-374a-4878-99df-6d40c05ba8ff

Book Review: Dean Atta – The Black Flamingo

Featured picture: Kings Place.

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.

Man on the Moon

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.

VIDEO: How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble

leavethehouse1

The world sucks sometimes. You’ve read on “Craig David” about a lot of the boogers that happened in the world, and that was just for ONE WEEK. The following weeks kept getting worse and worse in small and great scale: police brutality, terrorist attacks everywhere, your parents damning this country to hell and validating those who hate us to be more outspoken about it, horrible people inside and outside taking sneaky pictures in the changing rooms and laughing at those who don’t exactly please Grandpa Hugh Hefner’s rotten standards, etc.

It can be awful daring to step outside with the piercing fear of being attacked one way or another, but then there’s also the fear of ourselves that, if we stayed indoors all the time, we might never be able to come out and our voice will be muffed and lost. The fear of not coming home alive, the fear of not leaving house alive. This is for you, for us.

leavethehouse2

It’s a poem/film/guide thingie called “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. For those of us trouble by agoraphobia, being members of one or many “minority” groups and seeing our worst fears come through every day. There’s still a world outside, and this world still needs you. So get ready and earn some courage however you can, if possible.

The poem was written as an exercise at a Writing Poetry Google Hangout Workshop with Dean Atta. He gave the queue of making a how-to poem on any topic of our “expertise”. Later, I turned it into a short film for the Pangaea World Poetry Slam, who organised said workshop. It was lovely to merge three of my loves — writing, filming and sharing — and use them for a good thing.

Here comes the fun part: click, like and share with as many people as possible. Particularly people who would benefit from the message. You never know the ordeals someone could go through just to live a “normal” day. If I ever make money out of the streams, shares and likes (LOLS), I’ll give it all to a mental health organisation, particularly one which helps queers, POC and/or people who may not speak English and need someone to advocate for them. It comes with subtitles/captions if you don’t understand my accent, and I’m working on a Spanish translation. Subtitles in any other language are more than welcome. ❤

There are a couple of things that might be misunderstood. The “wear something that doesn’t attract negative attention” is not slut-shaming. We should be free to wear whatever we want, but some people don’t know or don’t want us to know this, so they attack. On low “spoons” days, you don’t even feel like fighting or defending yourself, so you keep your energy levels to a minimum and just try to roam by in a way that attracts as few bigots as possible.

Also, the “you’re still a woman on trainers, you’re still a man on stilettos” bit includes cis and trans people alike. A lot of trans people I know fear wearing items that are associated more with the gender they were forcibly assigned at birth. They don’t want to be “read” as “impostors”. A trans woman is still a woman on her Nike Air Force Ones. A trans man is still a man on his Louboutins. An NB is still an NB on whatever they want. Also, the fear of fragile masculinity or the fear of not being “seen as a woman” even if you’re cis because your exterior doesn’t match the “desirable standards” (women of certain colours not recognised in feminininininity, fat chicks like us seen as “one of the boys” by our crushes, et al). So yeah. I love you. If you find any fuckups in my work, let me know.