Plucked – A poem inspired by Lubaina Himid’s ‘Name The Money’ artwork within the Navigation Charts Exhibition


Plucked

Plucked.  Plucked by a heavy hand

Plucked and placed here then, here now

Plucked out of the plenty of our motherland’s bounty of

Roaming meadows, flowers, trees, valleys and vines

Plucked.

Plucked by an empty necessity to create all that was unnecessary

But for the chosen few

Base figures, history rewritten

Charts now as underhanded sign off at the highest level

May I

Lean my head to the side with sad lowered eyes

May I

Step back in a most courteous curtsey

May I

May I

NO!

A dieu

A dieu

I wave my hanky with sad lowered eyes

But as I wave I believe

I believe into the particles of air moving at MY command

Rousing

Rousing the spirit in space

The concrete of my condition smashes against my skeletal pride

When I stand as a cut out copy of myself

Get the violins out for yourselves

Bow out once and for all

Roll over and in

The rich bounty of the meadows, flowers, trees, valleys

The Roaming vines

And.

Hang.

There.

Justice doesn’t come overnight but we must keep the community pressure on: Justice For Judah Campaign Petition Chief Constable Andy Marsh for the officers involved to be suspended

For many onlookers it may feel as though the Justice For Judah campaign has taken a back seat whilst awaiting the result of the IPCC investigation.  The IPCC investigation was launched immediately after the incident and they will be assessing whether the police actions of tasering community elder and former race relations advisor Ras Judah Adunbi in the face back in January, constitutes gross misconduct. 

The campaign team formed quickly after the incident with a launch that saw the Kuumba Centre, a longstanding spiritual home of the African Caribbean community in Bristol, packed out.  Since that meeting there have been various strategy sessions under the authority of Ras Judah himself; meetings with the IPCC commissioner responsible for the case Ms Cindy Butts and even a visit to Avon and Somerset’s taser and firearms training facility at Black Rock in Portishead.

“Black Rock was an eye opener, a lot of money has gone into their James Bondish facility, and it was very impressive.  All the police on the night were frank and open…But for all the bells and whistles what we see day in day out on OUR streets is something quite different.” Campaign Chair Desmond Brown.

The IPCC recommendation is likely to come in around June and both the campaign team and Ras Judah hope it is the result that they and the community would expect and that Avon and Somerset Police promptly discipline the officers accordingly via an independent public panel.  The highest sanction would be sacking without notice.  However if it is found to have been a criminal offence the IPCC will refer the case directly to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) which may take many months.  

In the meantime the community at large are left with the question as to why officers under investigation for gross misconduct remain in post.  Whilst it is claimed that one officer is working outside of Bristol and the other has had her taser license removed and is assigned to non response jobs, that the officer remains on the streets whilst appearing to hold a clear racial bias remains a major area of concern.  As a response the campaign team have launched a petition demanding that Chief Constable Andy March suspend the officers without pay until the investigation is complete, in this way the community can be assured that the force acknowledge the severity of the incident particularly in regards to community tensions and damaged relations.  The petition will be placed around the community and can be signed online here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/suspend-the-two-police-constables-who-tasered-ras-judah-1

The campaign team have also taken the testimonies of a number of citizens who feel they have been discriminated against, stopped and searched without reason, violated and in some cases have seen their journey to justice last several years.  In response the campaign team have launched a ‘Victims of Injustice’ support group to meet the needs of a growing number of Bristolians who feel that they have been treated unfairly by police both recently and historically. One young man who lives in St Pauls claims he was wrongly tasered last year and that the experience left him badly shaken and wishes that there had been a campaign for him but now feels hopeful for for the future and for justice to be served. The support group aimed at people of African descent in the first instance before opening out to other vulnerable groups such as people of Asian descent and others.  The support group will meet for the first time on the 30th of March at the Kuumba Centre on Hepburn Road from 11am until 12.30pm and will be led by an experienced facilitator.   As well as providing a safe space for people to talk about and heal from their experiences, it will also inform the creation of a collective strategy in tackling inherent attitudes of sections of the police when it comes to policing people of African descent and others.  One of the ambitions of the campaign team is that this will also form the basis of a new community driven charter.

The road to justice is often a long one – The Justice For Judah campaign follows a long line of injustices experienced by people of African descent at the hands of the state.  The campaign is determined that Bristol must set a new template for learning and co working that may inspire both the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Bristol citizens, other cities and indeed other corners of the globe.

#Anti-Trump, Unity In Diversity and Standing With Standing Rock

This is a speech I prepared for Bristol Demo against Trump’s #MuslimBan 30th January 2017. https://vimeo.com/201875674

I am a first generation Bristolian – I was born here – I am myself ethnically diverse, my mum is ‘white’ British and has been a Muslim for 3 years.  I am proud of my city – we have the potential to truly be a leading city. We have spoken out, we have stood together, marched together, we have petitioned and have been counted as anti Trump, and by and large a city of remain in the Brexit madness. But actually we are a city divided – I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge some of the white Bristolians in this city who have worked to make this city what it is for generations and who along with others have become marginalised.  I know some of you voted leave, I see you, I went to school with you. I care about you as I care about most citizens.  I believe in unity in diversity.  I believe in love and not hate. But I am asking all communities not to believe the lies that are told in mainstream media about other people and other cultures about Muslims about refugees, don’t believe the lies that we have been fed for so long that drives a wedge between us and distracts us from our true enemies.

What we are witnessing in this time is the result of centuries of wrong doing by the so called leaders of the world.  It is no surprise that Donald Trump is nervous about immigration given that we are where we are globally in terms of extremism and the refugee crisis in part because of what the USA has done in other territories. It is not something that has sprung up without cause, this is the effect of American policy, intervention and interruption whether it be oil grab or otherwise.  There can be no moral high ground when it comes to America and the crimes that it has committed and continues to instigate.

But lets take this back – lets take this back to the start. To the start of the first European settlements in America and when we consider colonies and settlements like Virginia we need to know that Bristol as a city was instrumental in the founding and financing of that through trade which also contributed to the exploitation and genocide of the indigenous people of that land.

So I also stand here today to acknowledge the tribes of the first nation people who right now this very moment stand on the frontline at the Dakota Access Pipeline, protecting the land, water and sacred space. Those first nation people were robbed, murdered and had their land stolen when the first immigrants went to America. Lets remember them – lets stand with them.

I saw a clip of the first nation tribes holding the fort and I was touched. I was touched by seeing them dance in the freezing snow.  Supporters come and go but they still stand proud, still standing after centuries of wrong doing against them.

“It seems that the party is over,

The crowds have gone home.

Only the warrior.

Only the warrior.

Touching the earth with chant and drum.

Will hold the dance.

Cold hollow shallow spineless men

Will fade into nothing in the next life

But not us we will dance, dance on, dance together

Dance until the bitter end and after it.”

Sisters With Voices as Partners In Struggle

Wednesday October 6th saw an all female line up of artists, performers and activists take to the stage at St Georges Bristol to pay tribute to the lives of three amazing women. Organised by members of the Ujima Collective, Sisters With Voices (SWV) was a stunning event packed full of entertainment and emotion, and it was indeed an honour to be invited amidst a rostrum of female talent and community friends, to give thanks for the lives of Miss Leotta Goodridge, Miss Carmen Beckford MBE and Miss Princess Campbell MBE and more widely to female activism and strength in general.

Out of the three it was only Princess Campbell who I knew personally, having worked with her in my role with the Malcolm X Elders since 2008 in which Princess played a pivotal role in motivating others, raising funds and telling people what was what. She was a true activist with a terrific sense of humour and I miss her terribly.  I had met Carmen Beckford in 2013 at the St Pauls Carnival for which I was Chair that year.  In many ways given Carmen’s involvement in Carnival and dance she would be an obvious idol for me and indeed she is.  I never had the pleasure of meeting Leotta Goodridge in person but I often saw ‘the Queen of St Pauls’ and I have since become more aware of all the amazing work that she had done.

All hailing from the Caribbean region (Jamaica and Guyana), all three women were icons of change and although no longer with us, they along with notable other transatlantic heroines remain with us not only in spirit and legend but also as partners in struggle as we see a new dawn rising here in Bristol by way of new movements ranging from the surge in the number of black female councillors; ‘Bristol is the New Black’ initiative; the multi award wining Ujima radio and even via connections to field changing publications such as GalDem. These new landscapes could not have happened without the earlier movements and pioneers in the circle of change.

Our Bristol icons of change rest with other transatlantic sisters such as Claudia Jones.  Nicknamed the ‘Mother of Caribbean Carnival’ born in 1915 in Port of Spain Trinidad Claudia migrated with siblings to join parents in Harlem, New York City in 1924 and joined the Communist Party at 18. A political prisoner and subsequently deported from the US to the UK in 1955, Claudia wasted no time in doing what she could to improve the life conditions of the black community and others in the UK, going on to found The West Indian Gazette in 1958 and a little later the world famous Notting Hill Carnival. Her contribution to community and activism is immense and her contribution to the socialist and the communist movements is highlighted no less than being buried next to her hero, Karl Marx, in Highgate Cemetery, North London.

It is at times overwhelming to attempt to measure up against such women who selflessly went beyond what was required of them. Who knows truly what their inner struggles were as I am increasingly becoming aware that actually you cannot do it all or really have it all -in fact more often something needs to give, sacrifices have to be made. It is unlikely that any of them set out to do what they did, rather it was an inner irrepressible drive to serve their communities, seek justice and to challenge the status quo.

 

Rosa Parks was another ‘unplanned activist’ who didn’t wake up thinking she would instigate a boycott and a law change by refusing to give up her seat in the black section of the bus when the white section was full. It was rather that she had had a busy day was tired and needed to sit down which she was entitled to do. Very quick plug that I will be playing Rosa Parks on the 22nd October on the Bristol Bus in the M Shed – free entry, the play Clara and Rosa is around 30 minutes. I leave you with a quote from that play:

 

 

‘It’s good to have heroes. To have idols. I got my own – we’ve all got them, or at least we all should. Gives you something to go after. But they’re just human beings, doing the first thing that comes into their heads at the time. I mean, I wouldn’t even’ve got on that bus if I’d seen who was driving it… People do what they got to do not always what they want.’

Black Lives Have Always Mattered

“I am outraged at what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the US – I am equally outraged by whats going on to our nation worldwide and of the lack of action that we are taking collectively. Black lives have always mattered – they mattered when they invented civilisation, they mattered when they created the first university in Mali, they mattered in maths and they mattered in ancient science.  They still mattered when they were taken against their will and were enslaved on plantations which built much of America and Europes wealth. 

Well guess what its 2016 and not only do black lives still matter, but black lives are still being lynched and black lives are still working on the plantations albeit in a different guise.  The black pound and the black dollar are amongst the most strongest spending powers so I ask the question why are so many of us still poor?

I am the deputy leader of the Green Party Group here in Bristol – this is not a political platform to that end but I must raise the points that health matters, quality of life matters, air quality matters, non GM food matters, climate change matters and climate change might matter to some of us more when countries like Jamaica will not only endure beaches plagued with plastic, but will also cease to create its famous blue mountain coffee because of climate change which will cripple the farmers even more, the farmers many of whom descend from enslaved Africans and were left with nothing when emancipation came.  Plantation owners were compensated but former slaves were  left to die and are still being left to die in 2016.

We cannot separate this history from our current truth – we have been fighting for freedom for over 400 years and we simply cannot stop now.  Lets re focus on what actually truly matters , All I know is that I matter, my family matters, you all matter – turn to the person next to you and say ‘you matter.’

Black children who die in mines in Congo to supply us with mobile phones, matter.        

The disproportionate number of us in mental institutions and in prison, matters    

The number of us with diabetes and preventable diseases matters      

The way we talk to each other – matters

Love matters

Caring maters

Respect matters

And Humanity mattered

The obvious and the subtle genocides that are happening now need to stop.

WE are Africans – lets stop running away from who we are – We are the global majority – WE all matter  we have been at the forefront of invention and creativity having created many things but I note that guns were not one of them.”

Speech written and spoken by Cleo Lake in front of City hall at the Black Lives Matter march and rally Bristol 10/6/16 Photos by Night Camera Action 

https://www.facebook.com/nightcameraaction/

Chats With Eddy

A charitable love cast out in your city
Our City
Free education at the highest cost
Plucked petals land on
You loved us not?

With your flower in my hand,
Brown bronze reminders of remembrance
Lest we forget
No
Surely its time
We
Forgot

I’m standing at your weir
No longer wheeling snuff
But this stuff
This stuff we are left with
What really happened pre the ‘yous‘ in Africa?
Is it yet to be written, revealed or verified by academic hand ?

Still, I cannot blame you the dead
I blame the living who preside and concur

What would you say today?
Who would you be?
Would you be somehow in amongst with the best of ’em can in hand?
A can, not a pipe the Bristol accessory
Cuz they’ll be no dreams round here
Just a fag and a can at the end of a shift for the living dead
To shift minds away from this stuff

This enforced stuff
This workhouse stuff
This unjust stuff
This Bristol stuff
That remains
Between Baron and Beggar

On reflection
I hear distant voices saying
‘Don’t cry for me smile for you’
Yet good Mr Stewart says
‘I wouldn’t want to be young living now’
Fact and fiction
Like it or not
Your name haunts this City

Scattered artist chalk walked and drove into concrete
They’ll be no white wash on these streets
St Pauls is not for sale
Thoughts on daylighting rivers
For the sake of the environment
Long covered up
Might make a moot or a moo
For a non poisonous chance to life