Bulletin Tears

I can’t remember the last time I caught a news bulletin – on the tv, the radio, in the window of a (spectrally empty) electronics store – without an unchecked, volatile reaction spilling out of me. Sometimes in long debates (virtual or otherwise) with my family, others in a barely stifled shudder, sob or scream depending on my depth of feeling/ how much caffeine is in my system at the time. 

I just listened to a bulletin, early in the morning – the 8.30am BBC news bulletin at home – telling me that tighter restrictions are being enforced in my hometown. Reporting the lethal lack of testing, country-wide, in a place I’ve temporarily escaped from. Ending with a soundbite from a distraught medical professional lamenting the end of the ‘elastic walls’ of pre-pandemic A&E waiting rooms, wondering where she can safely hold all the sick people that are beginning to flood back to emergency rooms. As if she used to hold them all in her hands and they were slipping away between her fingers. Like she was personally responsible for them all. 

There are days I can’t think of anything worse than turning on the radio. On others I can’t bear to be away from it, to be alone, so I bring the voices, jingles, playlists with me from room to room in my empty apartment; blaring tinnily/ defiantly from my phone, filling the flat via the home speaker system, through my headphones while I cook pasta for one in the kitchen. 

I sometimes manage to allow my mood to be lifted, but for the hourly punctuation of the news bulletin, reminding me that cases are on the rise, the elderly are in danger, we’re entering a potentially lethal recession and you can only gather in a group of more than six if someone is profiting from your gathering, or you’re a shooting party. The government encouraging neighbours to report one another to the authorities for their need for human interaction that they’re choosing not to conduct in a pub, cafe, restaurant or H&M. As if meeting under the watchful eye of strung-out waitresses with sick parents at home, on the premises of these entities alone, will ensure our adherence to social distancing measures. As if we don’t each have children, teachers, nurses in our families, elderly relatives, epileptic grandfathers in the advanced stages of Alzheimers who wouldn’t survive if the virus found a home in them that we’re frantically trying to protect. 

The constant reeling off of reasons to stop giving a fuck about the essay I’m trying to write, the theory that in spite of everything I’ve loved reading and have been so engaged with, thinking how informative it’ll be for my thesis, is an existential nightmare with absolute power over me. I can’t mute it. I can’t tune it out. I must hear out every update to see whether I need to pack my bags and return to my family, to weather the storm with them. 

Sometimes coffee before 8am helps. Other times it doesn’t stop the 8.30 news bulletin tears.

some racial reads

Novels, essay collections, non-fiction, memoirs, biography, history. There are endless forms available to educate yourself.

No one is going to become an expert overnight and no one is asking for that. But this issue is more than a night’s work. So read up if you can – whichever form draws you most. 

I’m starting with The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward because these are what drew me. 

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Good Talk by Mira Jacob

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi

When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

Mindful of Race by Ruth King

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis

The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

SIGN

We Can’t Breathe – Minneapolis-based petition calling for the immediate arrest and second degree murder charge of all four officers involved in George Floyd’s murder

NAACP petition #WeAreDoneDying – if you are outside the US and want to sign, you need to enter a US postcode – I used 11201 Brooklyn

Justice for George Floyd via Change.org

Justice for Breonna Taylor via Change.org. Taylor was fatally shot two months ago by LMPD police officers who stormed into her home whilst serving a ‘no-knock’ warrant, at the wrong address, with the individuals at the center of the investigation already in police custody. 

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery via Change.org. In February Ahmaud Arbery was pursued and fatally shot by Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael, under the false pretext of suspecting Arbery after witnessing a burglary in Satilla Shores of Glynn County. No one has the right to pursue, attack and kill an unarmed, non-threatening individual. Arbery was racially profiled. 

^^This case-specific list could go on. It cannot be left to BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people and communities to organise and speak every time this happens. 

DONATE

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Black Lives Matter

National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP)

#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #ICantBreathe 

no one isn’t seeing this

No one isn’t seeing this. 

Reporting on the Minneapolis protests is focusing overwhelmingly on rioting and destruction, largely without consideration of how aggressive policing of peaceful protest heightens the potentiality for violent clashes between civilians and agents of the state. This reporting does a disservice to the frustrations of people trying to be heard amid the deafening silence of a government complicit in the destruction and marginalisation of black lives. 

The protesters in Minneapolis have a constitutional right to peaceful protest. That same right was exercised by demonstrators during the Women’s March earlier this year. Only one of these groups has been met with the preemptive threat of militant state force. Hint: it’s not the (overwhelmingly white) women wearing pink hats. The officers being placed in the path of demonstrators in full riot gear are actively obstructing peaceful protest in an already singularly incendiary situation, and it has escalated. We have seen video evidence of the police escalating confrontations and repeatedly firing the first shot.

Inaction from non-black people in the face of racial injustice of this monumental proportion is nothing less than complicity in a global system that serves and protects YOUR white privilege. We continually witness how that privilege emboldens some to call the police as a weapon against black bodies (see Amy Cooper in Central Park), and others, to kneel on the neck of an unarmed black man until he no longer has the air to say ‘I can’t breathe’. 

It is very easy to think about how far away meaningful change feels, how gargantuan the actions needed to get there, and to wilt in utter despair – speaking from the sun-soaked English suburbia I’m currently living in which feels like a parallel universe to the teargas-filled, smashed up streets so many Americans are fighting and surviving in right now. Watching videos of protestors being attacked in my bed at 2am until I cry will help no one. I have felt a world removed, as though my hands are literally tied. But they are not. 

It is okay to not know how to act or where to start. As long as you engage with empathy and in solidarity, anything you have the power to do is a good thing. If you have white privilege – use it. Use whatever privilege your race, gender, religion or sexuality affords you to lift those that you see oppressed. 

You can donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, raising bail for those arrested for protesting the murder of George Floyd. Murder is a word we need to get used to using in these situations. Not manslaughter, not tragic death, not unlawful killing – m u r d e r. It should make you at the very least uncomfortable. 

You can also donate to the Black Visions Collective or Reclaim The Block, organisations suggested by the MFF that are working to lift up black communities and end police brutality. Donating to Black Lives Matter supports their global network spanning the US, the UK and Canada. 

Remember that it is not the job of people of colour to educate us. No person of colour is obliged to be your teacher. You can educate yourself widely about racial injustice. Sign petitions, read books, watch films, consume culture created by people of colour. James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison. See the world and their communities as they do and let their anger consume you. 

Read. Learn. Donate. Advocate. 

Educate yourself and put your money where your mouth is if you can. 

I don’t have any answers and I don’t feel qualified to comment on this moment. I have never been persecuted because of the colour of my skin. But my ignorance does not absolve me of the duty I feel to wield my privilege in solidarity with those that are suffering. 

We can but try, and try we fucking must. This cannot go on. 

#BlackLivesMatter #ICantBreathe #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd 

Some preliminary actions, readings + resources I have used, for folk wanting to learn and assist:

See links above for organisations and funds you can donate to in aid of those arrested for protesting the murder of George Floyd

Black Lives Matter and the NAACP – verse yourself

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad – order and support a northern community-run bookstore at the same time 

Rough Draft NY has compiled a good preliminary reading list 

Maragang are donating 100% of profits from sales of their Hot Summer Nights tee to BLM from tomorrow. The kind of localised vocals and support we need to see. 

Some educators and activists you can find on Instagram:

Rachel Cargle

Sassy_latte

Mona Chalabi – I refer to her infographics a lot 

Munroe Bergdorf

Candice Brathwaite

^^ These educators utilise their space and disseminate their resources on their terms. If you cannot respect that, please don’t wade into their comments with your take on how there must be a ‘better way’ (with regards to rioting and looting). Civil, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights have all historically progressed from similar moments of unrest. Their virtual space is not yours to whitewash or wage a war of civility. 

tied up over tripping

I’ve been too tied up and worried about tripping over my words to really say anything for the last little while. But there’s a lot of shit going on and writing helps to straighten out my brain, so I’m gonna start spewing words onto the internet again. 

I felt tied up because I hold writing in such a sacred regard. It means something to me that I can’t articulate (GREAT START) and the thought of trivialising it with mediocre offerings nauseated me/ made me want to cancel myself before I’d penned a word. So I’ve been holding it reverently at arm’s length, always thinking but rarely writing, until something that used to fall out of me became something I feared, something I disconnected from, something I assured myself was not meant for me. 

The silent interim exacerbated my chronic reading habit. And I realised that it really is true: you don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you have something to say. Props to Fitzgerald for that sage take. It resonates.  

My something isn’t going to be read by the world or win Pulitzers. But if I don’t try to say it I might spew for real, so, here we are. Some hopefully sensical, potentially latently anarchistic unfiltered musings on whatever I’m thinking on will henceforth appear here.

I probably won’t say henceforth again.  

Literary Musings: Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

His words were like a blow to my head – they made me dizzy and disoriented. I mumbled them to myself, trying to piece his sentences together again. […] The past flipped itself open like a spooky family album, revealing one familiar picture after the other, highlighting the things standing in plain view, which I had never seen. Things I had refused to see.

 

I owe my enduring love for African and world literature to classes I took with some exceptionally involved professors at Leeds University. It wasn’t that I wanted to deliberately avoid classes in canonical ‘English’ literature. (Evading Great Expectations throughout my degree was entirely a happy coincidence, honest.) Their classes introduced me to writers from some of the most beautiful and troubled places in the world, and being immersed in the literature of cultures previously unknown to me was enthralling and addictive.

This lasting influence led me to Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s Baileys-shortlisted debut novel. Set against the political chaos of 1980s Nigeria, Stay With Me is a powerful, plot-driven exposition of a marital struggle able to strike a chord with women all over the world.

In riveting yet simple prose, Adébáyọ̀ keenly demonstrates her character’s fears, dreams and deceptions, and their impassioned frustration at the militarised state of Nigerian politics. Characters evolve soundly: Yejide is an instinctive judge of character with a razor-sharp tongue and dry sense of humour to match; her husband Akin desperately in love, outwardly self-assured and privately proud beyond common sense. Adébáyọ̀’s writing explores the cultural complexities and pressures of a Nigeria still in the grip of a largely patriarchal system.

Hats off must absolutely be extended to Adébáyọ̀ for her pointed and unabashed exploration of a topical subject so specific to Nigeria. The onus on women to bear children (often by any means, as Adébáyọ̀ explores) is represented as an oppressive bind, characteristic of a marital struggle which holds true for many women in twenty-first century Nigeria and all over the world. The pressure placed on Yejide to bear a child is suffocating and relentless. Subjected to an interminable stream of medical examinations, prophets and fertility-inducing rituals that all fail to produce a child, she is eventually presented with a new second wife for Akin. That Yejide steadfastly opposes polygamy is of no consequence. She is expected to make room so that they can both bear the children that Akin – and more importantly his mother, Moomi – longs for.

Following an intense ritual ordeal atop the ‘Mountain of Jaw-Dropping Miracles’ at the hands of the comically rendered Prophet Josiah, the pressure to become pregnant plunges Yejide into an extended psychotic break. Through the emotional clarity of Adébáyọ̀’s writing we accompany Yejide through the unspooling of her psychological state: through her imagined and actual pregnancies, and in the transition from the stigma of childlessness to the trauma of child loss, culminating in the emotional shut-down that leads her to abandon her broken life with Akin altogether.

Akin’s inability to face his truth and what this costs Yejide is aptly summarised by Diana Evans as ‘the damage done by the boundlessness of male pride’. The steps Akin takes to project his childlessness as Yejide’s burden led to an acute disdain and detestation of this character as I read. Yejide’s heart-breaking realisation of what Akin’s deceptions have cost her speaks to the patriarchal bind in which women in Nigeria are held in terms of oppression of individuality and absolute deference to their husbands.

In the vein of some of her predecessors including Chinua Achebe and Chimimanda Adichie, Adébáyọ̀ explores the fractious relationship between tradition and modernity and pressurised expressions of masculinity and femininity in 1980s Nigeria. Episodes of Nigeria’s political tumult are seamlessly woven into the narrative with a depth of understanding that belies Adébáyọ̀’s age and experience. Political coups and revolving dictatorships provide a tangible backdrop for the diurnal routines of Yejide and Akin, from their days of protest and courtship at university to raising terminally ill children amid political uncertainty and an interminable undercurrent of state violence.

Emotional and compelling, Adébáyọ̀’s novel is a brave contemporary exposition of the Nigerian female experience. Stay With Me will leave you pondering the deceptions and fates of Yejide and Akin long after you have turned the final pages.

 

This story made me revisit the universality of the female experience for myself, and reminded me of the importance of reading writing beyond reflections of our own cultural experiences. Of reading outside of your own, tiny geopolitical bubble.

Do this where you can. It’s important.

2017 Taught Me Some Things

I’m writing this home alone on New Year’s Eve, post-bath with gin, because I’m fucking hungover (happy birthday Kate!) but also because I liked the idea of some quiet brain time.

This year has been good to me. I had a lot of fun with some heart-warmingly brilliant people, and spent the summer skating around/ putting in serious grind with a bunch of reprobates I’m stoked to call friends.

The pace of this year has been erratic as hell. Some things rushed at me out of nowhere and turned out to be the best things that could have happened. Others hovered uncomfortably in the background and continue to linger, waiting for me to make my peace with them.

This was the year I FINALLY graduated, and there were times I wondered if I would, with a first-class degree, and my university awarded me a prize for best dissertation on an African topic. Incredulity is an understatement but I’m begrudgingly allowing myself a little pride in this (amid convulsions of irreconcilable self-deprecation).

This year it hit home that places will always be there (despite what certain delusional tangerine-hued demagogues might think #BearsEars), but people won’t. I fought my impulse to wander and delayed travel plans, because my family needed an extra pair of hands at home and because Canada isn’t going anywhere.

[SPOILER I’m moving to Canada this year.]

This year I learned the value of time well spent, and the crime of time wasted. I tried to use my time as well as I could and I’ll try to do better with it from here on out.

I opened up about some things and buried others deeper where quite frankly they can stay for now.

I met new people, made some plans, and broke my arm on my skateboard because you know what you just can’t win ‘em all.

This year I’ll try to remember what the last one taught me, and do better for as many people as I can. And, learn to drive/ write more often/ shake my culinary prowess into a semblance of respectability/ try not to do this thing where I immerse myself in anxiety-inducing head-sinkingly negative thoughts because WHO needs that.

 

Happy 2018 home slices, may your intentions be good and your time not wasted.

Lo x

#MeToo

 

Having stumbled across it quite by chance myself, I’m unsure how many people would have tuned in to Channel 5’s Raped: My Story on Wednesday. When I settled in to flick through what the banality of weeknight TV had to offer I had envisioned settling on something entertaining and not at all serious. Or catching up on Louis Theroux.

Instead I found myself glued to my seat and entirely struck by the strength and pain of the women looking back at me, into the camera, sharing their stories about what it cost them to speak out about being raped.

‘Rape’ is a word a lot of us find difficult to use in popular discourse. In private or in public, for men and women, it is a universally unsettling and stigmatised term in everything from journalism and social media to politics and the judicial system.

Watching these women recount their harrowing and intensely personal violations caught me completely off-guard. I wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready for the loss, for the lack of justice, for the transformations these women were forced to undergo as they developed a skin thick enough to deflect the misconceptions, doubt and counter-accusations being heaped upon them at every turn.

These women suffered rape or some other [NOT LESSER] form of heinous sexual abuse; were violated; had the courage to come forward and attempt to press charges; and were serially let down by an interminable string of individuals and governing bodies, from the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to the juries that served on the fraction of cases that made it to court.

These women were barred from seeking justice, denied closure, and advised not to pursue their cases by people in positions of power. Their ordeals were characterised as nothing out of the ordinary: ‘sometimes these things happen.’ Best to let it lie. Don’t make a scene, whatever you do, don’t make a scene. How unbecoming. You’re alright now, aren’t you? No harm done.

The statistics quoted in the documentary speak to the appalling way that sexual assault cases are dealt with in legal and political terms.

There isn’t enough [FORENSIC] evidence [HER TESTIMONY IS EVIDENCE]. Had you been drinking. What on earth were you wearing? But you had sex with them the week before. Did you actually say ‘no’? Why didn’t you run? Why are you only coming forward NOW?

Such are the myriad prejudices and assumptions that discredit and place blame on survivors. On Channel 5’s debate program Petronella Wyatt let us all in on a secret: the length of your skirt predicates your desire for unsolicited sexual advances. Her blithe sweeping statements cited alcohol consumption and wardrobe choices as reason enough to expect sexual advances and/ or violence. Miniskirts in parliament are open season. ‘What do you expect?’

We do not expect someone else’s hands in our back pockets. On our waists. In our hair. Between our legs. Around our wrists.

Our skirts are not inadvertently soliciting sexual comments or advances on our behalf.

The debate scrutinised the power of the #MeToo hashtag in the court of public opinion, and the ‘mob’ mentality apparently surrounding Tweets about sexual harassment and violence.

There is a reason survivors feel more confident Tweeting than walking into a police station. Why the Twitter mob is addressed in lieu of a jury.

It has taken a hashtag to give victims and survivors the confidence to speak out – and they are, finally, in droves. Is this cause to celebrate the unifying power of the digital age in which we live? Can we finally address the failings of our judicial systems that systematically prevent victims from accessing a more concrete justice in the legal sense?

To the Harvey Weinsteins and Michael Fallons who continue exist outside of the scrutiny of public opinion: your behaviour has never been acceptable. It has merely been accepted.

No longer.

Our answer to the rape question needs to change. The mantra needs to be

DON’T RAPE. Not DON’T GET RAPED.

 

___

Rape and sexual violence are complex and upsetting topics. Channel 5 compiled a very helpful list of some places you can go and people you can call for guidance and support. It’s here.

Some Things That Make Me A Person

Following on from my previous post in the vein of introductions/ hello this is me, I’m here *waves*:

In-keeping with the age of chronic over-sharing in which we  live, I thought it fair to shed light on some of the quirks and convictions that sum me up as a writer and human, as these will largely inform the writing that here appears. And so as they fell from the jumble of my brain, a list of some things which make up the person behind these thoughts can be found below:

I am an aspiring (failing) early-riser, seasoned gin-drinker, and communications specialist/ freelance writer maintaining a loose hold on most of my marbles.

I am a literature graduate who chose to study Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie instead of Great Expectations.

I (will try to) write with conviction, I read, I collect pins bearing witty pop culture references/ overtly political statements, and I travel a lot. (pins in the above photo obtained mostly via the wonderfully kooky Kate Gabrielle.)

Names commonly associated with myself include Lo, Pop, Lolobrain, and Mancane. (Spoken: man-kaa-ne with a Zulu click. Informal translation: ‘small one’).

My addiction to change consistently uproots me, and my constant uprootings help to ground me. I am aware of how contradictory this logic first appears.

I microwaved my Barbies into a seething molten grave when I was five.

I fiercely advocate for justice and equality in all things, and believe in making constructive noise on these issues where possible and/ or necessary. Do this if you can. It’s important.

I am northern in soul and Manchester will always be my home. Other places I have called home include South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands and too many tents and temporary structures to count.

I love digging into offbeat topics I know nothing about and will enter into discussion with anyone about pretty much anything.

I naturally gravitate towards mountains and books, and the sense of calming insignificance I’m imbued with when immersed in either or both of these things is my favourite refuge.

PSA in case it wasn’t already abundantly clear: publishing my writing on the internet scares the hell out of me.

I sometimes enjoy indulging in overly complex and complicated sentences. The wordy webs woven in the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald fascinate me, and whilst never assuming to compare myself to this troubled and talented literary enigma, sometimes there are just too many brilliant words that cannot be sacrificed, points that cannot go unmade, sentiments that cannot go unexpressed – and so to hell with simple sentences.

I am a feminist, who is tired of the raised eyebrows and sidelong glances that follow this identification all too often. I hope these knee-jerk reactions will soon become less frequent. The political, social and economic equality of the sexes is not something any rational person should fear. IT’S IMPORTANT.

I am forcibly learning to overcome my vitriolic hatred for unobscured photographs of my face. Until then, catch me hiding behind puppies, book covers, coffee cups and other people.

I value compassion and independence above most things, and actively seek out people(s) that do likewise.

Other loves include understated affection, chronically oversized jumpers and mozzarella pizza.

As a person so far incapable of doing so, the concept of settling, in both geographic and emotional terms, fascinates me.

I have decided not to limit myself and write ad-hoc about any and all of the above (jumpers and all – riveting), and hope to wade into a host of other disconnected subjects for good measure.

With this profession of quirks and confessions I welcome you to this, my small small corner of The Internet.

I hope to write often and learn a lot. I would love you to read along whenever the mood strikes you, and invite you to laugh, object, commiserate, and reach out with your experiences of so many of the things about which I know nothing. There are no thoughts, comments, questions, qualms, queries, or cries of anguish that I do not want to hear.

Learning is the goal here.

Lo x

Take #1: Welcome to Lo on The Internet.

If you’re reading this it means I have taken the plunge and/ or taken temporary leave of my senses and put some words on The Internet.

I have been making excuses and generally skirting around the ‘Publish’ button on this blog for almost a month now. Identifying myself as a writer online seemed such an impossible and fake thing to do, and thinking about other people reading my words still makes me vaguely nauseous. But in the name of writing for myself and to give myself a break, here they are. My words, that is.

I thought I should use my first post or two as curator of Grassroots Propaganda to contextualise this online endeavour of mine, and give some kind of introduction before happily fading into the anonymous haze of online writing.

I have always loved writing and cautiously aim, with Grassroots Propaganda, to make a concrete(ish) habit of it. I hope to share lovingly articulated tales of my travels both past and present; some thoughts on books and music, both that I like and that I don’t; and musings on the evolving spectacle of current affairs and popular culture with which I am vaguely enthralled. (Read: frequently scrolls Trump’s Twitter feed in varying degrees of trepidation and incredulity – sentiments you’d think would have numbed this far into his presidency, and yet POTUS’ woefully inaccurate punctuation usage and nonsensical accusations continue to simultaneously alarm and amuse.)

More than anything I am writing for me, in an attempt to stave off my brain’s ever-imminent deterioration into Netflix-scrolling #unwoke zombie mush. A blog of thoughts and words and maybe a photo or two, curated by me, at the mercy of the internet. This is what I like to imagine Grassroots Propaganda will be.

You are warmly invited to accompany me in this endeavour and peruse my musings at your leisure, and in spite of myself and my reservations, I hope you will. Or, you know, don’t. That’s also fine. (But I get nervous and company is nice, so do stay.)

Lo x