Re-Education Through Rap

One thing I’ve been enjoying this week, is learning about Black History through rap. I’ve found myself falling in love with rap again and being moved by the poetry of the lyrics. It has been a re-education of things that I thought I once knew. One song that has been on repeat throughout the week is Gangland by Lecrae. The lyrics have taught me more about black history than any history lesson (and this is coming from someone who has an English and History Degree). Below is the first verse with links to key people and organisations you should read up on.  

He ain’t have no sense of dignity, his daddy was a mystery

He’ll probably end up dead or sittin’ in a penitentiary

And tell the judge he can go to hell for the sentence

And it probably make no sense to you but listen to the history

The new Jim Crow or the old one

People out here fightin’ for equality and honestly I think they owed some

Back and forth some

Cleaver got a message for the people

Bunchy with ’em and they tryna stop the evil

And they cliqued up with they fist up

The whole neighborhood feelin’ like they meant somethin’

Then it was a mix-up, Fed’s got ’em fixed up

End of the movement, back to the bricks, bruh

And Raymond Washington about to start the Crips up

They gettin’ bigger every day and tryna fix stuff

They saw Geronimo Pratt dodgin’ bullets from attacks

Guess they figure, “We don’t really want it this much” You know originally, the gangs were created to protect everybody in the community. There was lynching and bombing going on and the gangs were there to protect. What people don’t understand is that a lot of the leaders died. Medgar Evers (has been shot), Bunchy Carter (has been shot), Fred Hampton (has been shot), MLK (has been shot in Memphis Tennessee). These youngsters didn’t have any direction. No leaders to look up to so they imploded on themselves.

Thank you for reading.

If Not Now, Then When?

I stood on the packed metropolitan line train, going over the muddled and angry thoughts that were racing through my head. I hadn’t been this angry in a very long time. As commuters shuffled in and out of the train at Finchley Road, I scurried to find an empty seat. I sat down, took out my phone and contemplated my choices. If this was about me, I would have happily stayed silent, just as I had so many times before. Just as I had with all the racists remarks and comments I had endured during my time at work. But this wasn’t about me. This was about racism depriving someone else of an opportunity. Racism stopping a black man from getting a job he had worked hard for. I hadn’t imagined that a day of sitting on interview panels would leave me feeling so much pain and anger on behalf of someone else. I finally decided to act, not just for myself and all the times I had stayed silent, but for him. I unlocked my phone and wrote the email. With so much rage running through my veins, I didn’t have time to spellcheck. I clicked send, got off the train, and walked the rest of my journey home.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have racism stand in the way of job opportunities. For some, racism takes a much darker turn, it kneels down on their neck as they cry out for breath, whilst the light of life fades from their eyes. This is not the first time that this has happened, and unfortunately, it will not be the last. Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and George Floyd are some of the few lucky enough to gain a hashtag. This has to stop. Not just police brutality, but the everyday racism, microaggressions and unconscious biases that leads one to believe that Black Lives Matter less.

The challenge we face is how does a society built on structural racism and injustice fight for justice. How can we, as organisms of organisations play a role. We all want the freedom to be who we are without abuse, assaults or oppression. Everyday we have a choice. A choice to speak up when we see that something is not right. Not to sit back as a Muslim woman is verbally assaulted on the train. A choice to learn more about other people’s experiences, to read books such as Americanah and Girl, Woman, Other, to watch documentaries such as Now They See Us, and 13th. We have a choice to sign petitions and to write to our political representatives urging them to act. These are small steps that will lead to a fairer society. One where white police officers are no longer allowed to murder unarmed black men. One where minorities can apply for jobs trusting that their qualifications and experience will be the deciding factor.

My choice led to a discussion, it led to an apology and most importantly, it led to changed behaviour. Now is the time to act and take a stand against injustice. Because if not now, then when? And if not you, then who?

Thank you for reading.

Book Review: White Teeth

White Teeth, a novel by Zadie Smith, unravels the lives of two soldiers who fought in World War II and the friendship that stems from their shared experience. The novel follows the two men back to London, intertwining their wives and children. It explores the racial identity of immigrants in the UK and the treatment of those who fought for the Empire.

Smith’s characters did not only grow up in the same area as me but went to school and hung out in all the places that I did. This meant that reading White Teeth ignited a sense of nostalgia of high school days and places long gone. Reading White Teeth felt like I was reading a story of my own coming of age, as a teenage growing up in Brent, I too felt the emotions of the characters as well as some of the experiences detailed in the novel.

One thing that took me a while to get used to was the style of writing. The Realism caught me off-guard as the last time I had read something similar was Zola’s L’Assommoir. Realism, although brilliantly used by Smith, is by far my least favourite writing style unless used by Balzac. Furthermore, the novel’s inconsistency in personal pronouns sometimes leaves the reader confused when trying to decipher whose perspective the chapter is in.

The biggest criticism I have for the novel is the lacklustre ending. In less than two pages, Zadie attempts to succinctly summarise years of experiences in a few lines leaving the audience with a sense of unfulfillment. The ending felt like a tv series that has been cancelled too soon, before viewers could have their questions answered.

Although I adored the familiarity of the places and experiences described in the novel, the style of writing made it difficult for me to get into the novel as it took almost 50 pages before I could begin to enjoy the novel. This is a novel I would recommend to a friend as I feel like it outlines part of my experiences growing up in Brent. However, due to its slow start and uninspiring ending, I would rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for reading.

Nature’s Call

One of the best things that has happened due to lockdown is that I am able to spend more time with nature. I have been able to discover places in my local area that are filled with lush greeneries and even some body of water. Living in London usually contains the hurry and bustle of my everyday life, due to this, I have not explored the green spaces close by. Covid-19 has given me the opportunity to explore my local area and to fall in love with it.

One of my colleagues, realising where I lived, asked me if I’ve ever been to the reservoir, during our virtual team meeting. I, thinking she was insane as there was no body if water anywhere near me, told her that of course not because no such thing existed anywhere near me. After further instructions from her, I discovered the reservoir 15 minutes walk away from my house.

I also discovered a country park 22 minutes walk away from me (the opposite direction from the reservoir).

I could not believe that all this empty green space was so I close by, especially after discovering the reservoir.

I have loved every moment of walking around both the park and the reservoir. Although I desperately want the lockdown to end, I am very glad that I have somewhere beautiful to escape to in the meantime.

Thank you for reading.

Girl, Woman, Other

Girl woman other is a book that explores the different experiences of girl, women and others in the UK.

Bernardine Evaristo’s gripping tale of diversity in the experiences of womanhood made this a novel that was very difficult to put down. One could not help but feel passionately about the characters and their experiences, from rooting for the success of Carol, to being enthralled in suspense of the twist and turns of Dominique, to gasping with shock at the revelations from Winsome. This was a novel that made it impossible not to feel some kinship with multiple characters whilst also being able to see the perspectives of those I disagreed with, gaining a better understanding of the complexities of girl-hood, woman-hood and other-hood.  

Evaristo superbly connects each character to another revealing a brilliant ending, leaving no sense of unfulfillment or anticlimactic sentiment for the reader.

The form of each chapter is one endless sentence with one full stop found at the end of the chapter. It allows the reader to read at their own pace as there are no stop indicators and instead the readers can pause at their own natural pauses. The form was easy to get used to as after the first two chapters, the reader can forget the lack of punctuation throughout the novel. The grouping of the chapters, although seeming random at first does in fact make perfect sense. Evaristo creates an ingenious novel, that allows the readers to enjoy the journey whilst the book reveals more of itself in each chapter.

The book covers a variety of themes, from gender identity, to imprisonment and abuse, to racism, infidelity, and identity politics. The book not only offers the perspective of the victims but demonstrates how our actions can make others fell like victims in one form or another. The stories that Evaristo creates through weaving together the different themes is both brilliant and thought provoking.

This is not only a book that appeals to your head, through its beautiful language and lexical choices, but one that appeals to your heart through the gripping experiences of the characters described in the novel. This is a book that I will recommend to all, it is a book that I have not stopped thinking about since reading it, and it is a book that I could read a thousand times over and still fall in love with it again and again. Although I do not think that this was a perfect book, I do think that it is a book worthy of 5 stars out of 5.

Thank you for reading.