Earlier this year Virtual Migrants were involved in a research project devised by the University of Manchester Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice and a series of interactive drama-based workshops led by Theatre in Prisons and Probation to faciliate conversations about radicalism.
The project was devised as ‘a collaboration between young people, school staff, interdisciplinary researchers, and creative artists, that focuses on developing an inclusive and open discussion about how schools approach extremism that speaks to, and is led by, young people’.
The government’s Prevent strategy has been accused of being more damaging than enabling; acting as a mechanism of exclusion that represses rather than encourages conversation. It was fascinating to hear the views and frustrations of teachers and pupils in dealing with Prevent and Safeguarding legislation highlighting even more the need to “talk about this”.
Here’s the poem that resulted from these conversations:
Extremely Safe Radical Preventions
Who are ya?
Who are ya?
Who are ya?
Who is behind the mask?
Behind the hood?
Behind the veil? Continue reading
The 10th November marks 20 years since the execution of writer, poet and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders for their protests against Shell oil destroying their land.
To mark the occasion Platform have shipped the Battle Bus (the Living Memorial to the Ogoni 9 designed by Sokari Douglas Camp), over to Nigeria in an act of solidarity with the Ogoni people.
At present the bus is still impounded by Nigerian customs – the head of which was on the tribunal that decided the fate of the Ogoni 9 back in 1995. Keep in touch with updates and solidarity with the Ogoni who have threatened to mobilize and cripple the economy unless the bus is released via #bus4ogoni9 and #Freethebus hashtags.
This poem was commissioned by Platform and forms part of a leaflet designed by graphic artist Jon Daniel and also featuring artwork from Alfreedo Jaar.
You can read a blog on the poem over on Platform’s website here.
Here’s the performance from Zena Edwards, Selina Nwulu and myself that we put together to showcase our commissioned poems at Writing Climate Change at the Free Word Centre.
Our collection takes race and climate as its central theme. In looking globally at who is most affected by climate change, we see that those disproportionately affected are countries within the global south, people from the majority world who directly rely on the land or the sea for their food and survival.
We consider how climate change impacts diaspora communities and how ongoing inequality and historical legacies of colonialism have led to migration and dislocation from ancestral lands. The collection seeks to engage with dialogues about climate change that take into account the criminalisation of Black communities.
You can download these poems together with all the other commissions from writers Sarah Butler, Nick Hunt, Stevie Ronnie, Dan Simpson as a PDF here.
Check the Free Word blog to watch the other commissions and for a panel discussion.
After attending TippingPoints’ Weatherfronts conference in September several commissions were made available to write about the issues. Myself, Zena Edwards and Selina Nwulu applied to write a series of kwansaba poems developing on from conversations we began at the conference with Dorothea Smartt and other attendees.
I chose to focus my commissioned poem on several dates throughout the last month in which issues of race have raised the global temperature. The connected through-line of fire and heat a questioning of how we use, measure and connect to our climate.
Spring in November
Bonfire Night. A man hanged, drawn, quartrd.
Yet beyond council fences, flames flicker still.
This desire. This fire. Within. It burns.
Treason trumps torture. Famous anon. take streets
A million White masks. Black face unity.
Can we turn? Hunt out witches’ wisdom?
Seek council with shaman? Lest we forget
From Guy’s London torture Tower blood flows
Colours Israeli Red Sea, clots the Atlntic.
Nine eleven. Not Pnochet, not Opium wars,
Great War. Heroic death. Brave butchry. Sacred.
Pin Vctoria to chests and sing victory.
Are these Afghan poppies? Made in China?
Or is this drug a British export?
Black death spawns a White saviour virus
Locusts take air, buzz over brown mouths
A bread basket is branded basket case
Feed the world with helplss needy Africns
Do They know it’s thirty-four shoppng days
until Xmas? Give Us your fcking money
How much a pith helmet Space suit?
Flying above our planet you may pause
How fragile. Where are the borders? Walls?
Shudder. Someone has left the gas on.
Are those candles for the Ogoni nine?
An eternal smogged flame for Saro-Wiwa?
Bonfire fury night and day where maps
are drawn. Protest hung. And village quartrd.
Back to earth for student sun rise
Black history strides strong from October
This term, we face race, qstion ugenics
Reject their choice cuts, favour ital diets.
High pressure sweeps in from the south
to reduce recycle replant our server farms.
Cold front here to stay. Kettles boil.
Steam release across Ocean. Sgrgatd city burns.
Nothing to see here in post racial society.
Black Out this bleak Friday. Buy nothing
Mammon clutches mama’s throat. Hands up. Off.
Thick smoke revrses the choke hold. Cough.
Tears stream. Levees break. In these storms
a chance to remembr who we are.
Friday Feelings is a collection of poetic thought, wit, wisdom and anecdote that takes the reader on a journey from dusty Huddersfield day-dreams to the heat of the Indian monsoon. This is Harry Jivenmukta’s debut poetry collection on paper following a prolific writing history that includes three novels, innumerable short stories and poetry collections (see www.loosewords.org) as well as 67 workbooks for KS3 and KS4.
Harry’s words are presented here together with newly commissioned and specially-selected artworks from the artist Janet Devine. In her abstract explorations of form and nature Janet’s art provides a bold, colourful yet subtle compliment to Harry’s poetry, allowing the reader to draw further metaphors and meaning from the text.
Written throughout a year of attendance at the Write Stuff writing group, the poems offer us a glimpse into the many lives and seasons of Harry Jivenmukta. From cold imaginings of a Russian winter via Dostoyevsky’s scratchy pen, to remembrances of life under the Panjabi sun, to fantastical encounters in Baku, Dal Lake, Kashmir, Mumbai, Moscow…
Harry has travelled far and his perceptive vision reminds us not to take life too seriously, to find pleasure in the ordinary. In Harry’s world: missing the bus becomes an opportunity to catch the rainbow; the late arrival of the Write Stuff facilitator offers a chance for existential philosophy; a common weed is heralded above the pampered rose; a pile of vomit is “a work of art from the night before”. Continue reading
Posted in Poetical Political, Poetry
Tagged Friday Feelings, Harry Jivenmukta, Janet Devine, Love Arts Festival, Real Junk Food Project, Rommi Smith, Samuel Moore, the Baggage Handlers, Word Emporium, World Food Day
The TippingPoint Weatherfronts event posed certain questions:
What is the role of the writer in addressing climate change? What kind of story is climate change? And inspired more: Who gets to tell this story? Whose voices are negated? And how can we approach climate change from a climate justice and reparations angle?
From my latest Sable Litmag column: