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Brain Dump: Hope, forgiveness, moving, nominations and training!

August 13, 2013

It’s been a while (again), I seem to find myself here at odd times of a year, no longer the weekly blogger, much more the needy (read guilty) blogger. As I write, I’m sat in an airport lounge, facing a flight delay which won’t see me get home till 1am, contemplating cancelling my first appointment at 7.30…the very fact that its a contemplation rather than a decision marks a true step change in where I am.

I have hope. I’ve found that through all the tough aspects of the last 6 months and year in general, I have hope. I know that whatever comes my way I can have hope and I am proven right in my hope time and time again. Last weekend, I got to spend a full 3-days with my Goddaughter. When My Friend Died I went through a myriad of emotions. I felt guilt, I felt hurt, I felt defeated, I felt broken, but last weekend marked a significant change in those unfamiliar feelings of despair.

I was separated from my Goddaughter when my friend and I argued, despite it all I always had hope that one day, we would go back to where we were and my two favourite people would once again be part of my daily life. When my friend died, I lost that hope, I felt that my instincts had failed me and I had judged everything poorly. As I learn more about the circumstances of her passing, I understand that I cannot hold myself responsible for what happened. As I get to know the amazing young girl that is my Goddaughter, I recognise that I was right to have hope. She is the embodiment of her mother. Her energy, her expressions, her character, her artistic spirit and her unshakeable love for me, despite all that she must remember (she is 9, so she knows enough) gives me hope. We share memories of her mother, her attitude to hearing these stories, her wisdom in knowing that although all was not right, her time with her mother was special gives me even more hope. In turn, I know that she, along with my future children and all things that make me happy give me hope that my pains are worth it, the gains are there so long as I take time to appreciate the big and the small things.

This week also marks a significant stage in my life. In addition to dealing with the grief of mourning and the stress of new responsibilities at work, I’ve also been working on forgiveness. Forgiveness of myself and forgiveness of a significant person in my life, one whom I have had to accept will never acknowledge the wrongs they have done. I’ve learnt that forgiveness is special, its yours to embrace. No-one can keep it from you if you are willing to let it in. Hate, anger, even seeking closure are distractions, forgiveness is about strength. And don’t get me wrong, it will be tested. I am to be tested this week. I am to confront the person I have forgiven for the first time since I undertook my journey. I decided I did not need this person to be involved in my path to clearing my heart of hate, but yet this week, I have to look that person in the eye and be honest with them about my feelings. I have to really walk the walk and speak truth into my feelings. Time will tell how much impact this meeting will have on me, as things stand, I feel strong, I feel able and I feel open. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with only positive things to say.

In other news, Alan and I are moving house. Have I mentioned how much I hate moving house? Yeah. Thankfully it’s only 3 minutes up the road. Given the short distance, I’m seriously considering getting one of those companies who come, pack your house, move you, then unpack you at your destination, that would be nice eh?!

So, despite my complete lack of posts over the last two years, I was nominated for a blog award. A Liebster Blog award to be precise, given to those who have a small number of followers but who are worth a highlight. There are no judges, there is no physical award, just a notification that you are someone’s favourite blog (Leibster means favourite in German). So thank you to NaijaBrit88 for my nomination. I’m grateful that I am still getting views given my rather sloppy posting habbits. There are rules around accepting the award (personal info, nominating others) and I shall handle those in a separate blog post.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to my personal trainer ESINPT. I’ve known Esin for a long time now and have joked that I would have to go into training to train with him. The guy is SERIOUS, are you hearing me? SERIOUS! Train with Esin if you’re not just in it for a fad diet. Train with Esin if you’re looking for a long term holistic overhaul of your thinking, eating and training. Train with Esin if you care how your money is spent (don’t complain about the cost of a PT if you’ve wasted months of gym membership without going!). Basically, just train with Esin. And if you can’t afford to get a PT just yet, boost yourself up with some of his blog posts and motivational posts on Facebook. He doesn’t ramp. My butcheeks are thanking him and his fellow PT pratitioners for their renewed firmness. Maybe I will make it to our 7.30am session in Regents Park after all….

High flyer, low expectations

March 27, 2013

It’s fair to say, this year has seen the biggest transition of my working life, in many ways for the better and in others for the worse. I’ve been ‘promoted’ (job titles and what not were never my bag) twice in this period and have been given full reign to define what my professional future is. These options have been great for me and Alan, we’re living the young dream, living in a great flat, earning good money and going on great holidays (we’re just about to head to San Francisco for Easter :-)). For all of this, I am grateful, I thank my lucky stars and God that I have had the choices I have had. But I have also learned some truly profound lessons.

I have cried for myself and over others more in the last year than ever before. With my increased responsibilities have come an increase in my emotional fragility. My decisions have an impact on other people. The buck stops with me, although there are directors above me, I have no real ‘boss’ who can make the hard decisions. I have to face those uncomfortable conversations with the client, I have to be friend and pushy boss to my colleagues and until I got here, I didn’t realise how lonely it can be for those who are in positions of responsibility. It all comes with the territory, you learn to adjust and I’m learning, it’s been a steep learning curve but I’m on it, I’m climbing and I’m coping.

What I am not coping with however is the very unglamorous life of the frequent work flyer. When you have to fly out once, twice a week almost every week, when you spend up to a third of every week in a hotel which is not as comfortable as your own home, when you have to get used to eating poorly when you’re in a hotel and when you can never wear what you want cos your destination has 2 foot of snow for 6 months of the year…you won’t find a single piece of glamour anywhere. Sometimes I try to go up and back in the same day, but then I accept a 16 hour day with a 4am start, crazy early if you need to still be creative at 2pm.

Did I mention I hate airports? Yeah, I hate them. As a frequent flyer my whole life I thought I’d been through everything an airport had to throw at me, but having had half my cosmetics confiscated when I don’t check in my bag and having idiot conversations with silly border staff, I hate them even more! I hardly have luggage worth checking in, but let me give you some advice, don’t bother putting your nice creams in those Superdrug travel containers…border staff say if they can’t see the content label, they are confiscating!

Now let me give you some insight into the hotel thing. Unless you work for glamorous super budget consultancies like Galweather & Stern, reality is a double bed, two foot of room around the bed and BBC World News. Most of the time they climate control all the rooms meaning that poor little Nigerian girls like me have to ask for portable heaters to get to sleep. I’ve also eaten in a lot of hotels and (supposedly) fancy restaurants, it loses it’s shine. Sometimes a girl just wants chicken and rice and moose stew just doesn’t cut it (specially when it has none of the seasoning I associate with a hearty stew!).

There is no end to this in the short-term either, I’m going to be doing this for a while. I am naturally looking on the bright side, my frequent flyer miles and status are looking healthy, I’m collecting loyalty points on every hotel I stay in, I’m collecting points on all my work credit cards and expenses (thank you Amex) and by hook or by crook, one day someone will take pity on me and upgrade my flight and/or hotel to something fitting a Nigerian princess as myself! lol!

Jokes aside, I appreciate that my moaning is coming from a position of privilidge. There are many without jobs, without the options I have and without the opportunities to get around as I do. No matter what I will never get complacent, I’ve worked hard to get here, but I need to work hard to stay here and give back wherever I can…

My friend died

December 24, 2012
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted. There are many reasons. Life got a hold of me, I didn’t need the release of posting (well I did, but I didn’t know where to start), I was busy, I was over-thinking it. Whatever the causes, I’ve been drawn back here to post because my friend died three weeks ago yesterday.

Yesterday, I did a card reading (caveats here, I’m not a card reading kind of person, but sometimes you follow life) and I got the Godess of Love. She wanted me to know that someone I loved but that was far away, and had possibly recently left the Earth plane, was thinking of me and wanted me to know that they will always be with me. I can only conclude that my friend sent me that card.

I’ve had a letter in my heart that I wanted to write to my friend since I found out she died. It seems odd to write a letter to someone who is no longer here, but the Goddess of Love card also encouraged writing as a way to connect with the emotion. And so I wrote the letter.

I have pondered why I felt the need to post it here and I have drawn (or been led to) one clear conclusion. We all in this world need to stay connected to each other. Respect the agency of others, but follow your instincts when it comes to loved ones, our mental, emotional and spiritual health can be so fragile. We should show those who we love that we appreciate them, for all their faults and issues, that they can turn to us, however late, however low they get. You never know when you could be the difference between someone giving up and them finding a reason to stay alive.


My darling,

You took yourself away, you were hurting so much you decided there was only one option for you to find peace. I hope you have found it. I hope you can see clearly now, I hope that love has found it’s way back to your heart. You never left mine.

I think about you often, every time something happens that I need to share. Good, bad, funny, you were the one person I could call with any kind of random story, no logic, just to share. You always understood exactly what I meant.

When you and I met, I was still developing my personality, I was 18 and had a million personas which I wore at different times. You knew who you were, you stood grounded in who you were. I admired you for that and it inspired me to figure out who I was. We fought a lot in the early years. As I consolidated who I was, we rubbed each other up the wrong way, becoming opposites in many ways. But we always made up. We always had a connection. I never understood why we fought that last time.

When we stopped talking, I felt like I was going through a divorce. I was depressed, I kept playing with your telephone number not quite able to delete it. I stalked your now de-friended Facebook profile wanting to see if any piece of information trickled through. I don’t think I was as heartbroken with ex-boyfriends, but then, you were there to help me through. When we stopped talking, I lost the one person I could turn to for anything. We put other friends, our closest friends in a difficult position so I couldn’t turn to them without betraying you or endangering your relationships with them. I felt conscious you needed people, but I had to accept that you didn’t want me.

What I know now, the things I understand now, it makes me question why I was so quick to accept what I knew felt wrong. But I cannot blame myself, anymore than I can blame you. I will never know what you went through these last few years, the things I hear seem alien to me. When I found out you died, my heart broke again. I always thought we would make up like we always did. I didn’t know this time was different. The knowledge of your passing has been the hardest truth I’ve ever had to accept in this life, I’ll be honest, I’m still working on it.What I do know, and why I write this letter is that I would not be who I am without you.

You were one of my soulmates in this lifetime. Your spiritual sense inspired mine and gave me confidence to explore. Your intelligence made me brave enough to learn about my identity, my past, my present. Your emotional strength introduced me to authors and books that changed my life. You gifted me The Alchemist. Without it, I would never have gone travelling. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without you I wouldn’t be who I am today.

I can only conclude that you are an angel. You may even be one of my guardian angels, time will tell. Your heart was too big for this world, you felt too deeply, you hurt too long and ultimately became consumed by thoughts, feelings and emotions that were not true to your soul.

I thank you for the blessings you left in my life. I think I understand your legacy and the role I will play. I didn’t take becoming a godmother lightly, I will look after your daughter as if she is my own. She is young, but I will tell her the stories of her mother, of your will, of your energy and spirit.

Goodnight my darling, we will see each other again when it is my time.



Brain Dump: Anniversaries, Aunties and Egusi & hard dough bread

October 2, 2011

Amen to the ‘Indian Autumn’ we’re having here in London at the moment. The last few days have grazed the late 25 – 30 degrees mark (80s for the farenheit folk) and although it is now freaky given that we are in October, I am not complaining at all.

Earlier this week, I had to sunbathe from the comfort of my couch as I struggled to recover from illness, but by Friday, after work meant a trip down to the Southbank for sunset by the river. Saturday was a beautiful walk through Ladbroke Grove & Portobello Road where I met and fell in love with an antique treasure chest (it sent me subliminal messages from the street).

Great timing, because I’m moving home and will be procuring lots of bits and bobs as Alan and I make our mark on our new abode. Yes, we are setting up our very own love shack. We’ve passed the year mark, both require a change of address and so the stars aligned for new chapters. Bring it on. But this raised a new question….

When you’re not married, what do you celebrate as an anniversary? The day you met? We can vaguely remember this. Your first date? A bit of iCal magic helped work this out. When you became an item? I have no idea when this was, haven’t done the whole will you be my girlfriend malarchy since primary school. The first date doesn’t feel like a solid enough moment, but I’m up for finding ways to get him to buy me gifts!

Today has been as lovely as yesterday, Sunday lunch in a pub garden, stroll through Liverpool Street to grab some red velvet cake from one of my favourite bakeries and a horrific chance encounter with one of my auties, her husband and mother. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if it wasn’t their first meeting with Alan. Along with a lot of hugging and grinning and shouts of joy, they managed to sneak in the usual “When are you getting married?” “Don’t waste time!” and some extra bits in Yoruba for my ears only. Gee, what fun.

Anyhoo, tonight is a chillax, watch Star Trek and eat leftovers night. I’ve managed to convince Alan of the benefits of eba with egusi stew, but his latest combo of egusi stew and hard dough bread took it to levels I hadn’t ever thought about.

Roll on October…I’m ready for ya!

My identity, Our history, The politics: Part 3.

September 26, 2011

A few years ago I had a conversation with a friend about definitions of racism. He put it to me that racism only exists in explicit circumstances, outside these circumstances, it is just prejudice. I believe he got his definition from either Louis Farrakhan or Elijah Muhammad but I haven’t had much luck actually finding anything I can attribute.

The basic premise was this, prejudice is when you actively dislike or discriminate against someone based on any facet you choose. Everybody is prejudiced, we have all been brought up disliking one group or another because they smell, eat funny food, look funny, are dumb, are thieves [insert any old rubbish reason here] etc. Racism however is the application of prejudice within the context of race or ethnicity, such that you can impact on the other group, socio-economically. This means you can disenpower them and prevent access to education, housing, employment and social mobility.

This is interesting, I have a strong affinity for this definition of racism because in so many ways it feels tangible. Do I care if you like me? Not particularly. Do I care if you can stop me from eating and feeding my family? Hell yes.

I’ve often seen the above view of racism used as an excuse for why non-whites can’t be racist, because we don’t hold the position of power, we cannot disenpower others. Not sure I agree with that. In many ways, I see regular examples of racist behaviour that don’t seem to meet acceptable lines of racial division.

For example, I would argue that in the UK, the domination of the black hair and black food industries by asian and Turkish shop owners is an example of racism as defined above. On my parent’s high street, a Ghanaian grocer was driven out of business when 6 other shop owners (2 off licences, 2 butchers, 1 grocer and 1 newsagent) who all belonged to the same Pakistani family, started to stock his produce and using their collective buying power, slashed their prices to drive him out of business. He fought for 2 years. As soon as he closed, they all increased their prices again.

The same model is replicated all over the world, where one group has the benefit of scale, or political influence they use that advantage to economically disempower another racial group, thereby being racist.

There are two strange places I want to take this now, the first is the recent riots in England. I spent quite a while trying to find all the various links and articles I read about this to post here and have decided against it. Let me speak with my own voice.

I hate the police. Harsh but true. Not often the position taken by educated, armchair liberals such as myself but its true. I am under no illusion that they are here to protect and serve so long as its politically, financially and culturally beneficial to them or some elected official. ‘The police’ is not my police. I have been stopped by police in my car and felt the indignance of being treated like a dickhead, I’ve witnessed countless examples of bullying and abuse of position by the police. I also happen to live in Tottenham, about 200 yards away from where the riots kicked off on that fateful Saturday in August. Did I see any of it? No. I stayed in my house and prayed for peace.

My feelings of disappointment in this case however, are aimed at the rioters. The disenfranchised, the disenpowered, the forgotten, the destroyers, the hooligans, the enforcers of racism. Yes. I believe that the rioters, allowed themselves to be the tools of racism, they destroyed livelihoods, homes and businesses often on their own doorsteps. Looting from JD Sports, or the off-licence was not a victimless crime, it meant a shop couldn’t open, any staff who worked there are probably not compensated for that. People were burned out of their homes, just so they can become victims themselves, anything they had managed to achieve, or acquire, stamped out and turned to ashes. The riots did far more direct damage to ethnic minorities in one week, than the ConDem coalition could have hoped for in a year.

Marginalised communities allowed themselves to become agents of racism, and it’s a blurred colour line here, in this scenario we can include the poor whites, blacks and asians as victims of overt racist activity.

The second scenario I want to discuss is the attack on blacks in Libya. In the west, our news broadcasts talk often of “Gaddafi loyalists”, they don’t ever discuss paid mercenaries. They talk about rebel groups clamping down and launching successful attacks, but are only just slowly (and really quietly) starting to mention brutality, random racist attacks, looting, rape and torture of black people ‘suspected’ of being Gaddafi fighters.

In Libya right now, we have a UN backed attack on any dark skinned person living in that country. They have no rights, their property is being taken away from them, they are being degraded. Other north African countries (such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt) are watching with some amusement, they’ve long wanted to rid themselves of the black pest and their persistent attempts to get to Europe anyway. Now the Libyans have a ‘legitimate’ reason and means to do as they wish, to denegrate, and take racism to new heights, all in the name of a tyrant who isn’t himself dark skinned. This is racism, but it doesn’t feel like many people want to call it that, the only voices are the usual suspects, activists and social commentators, but are not having much affect, there is too much to gain for the west.

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about how Cress-Welsing’s book The Isis Papers had set my mind all a-flutter in agreement and disagreement about who I was and how I relate to other races. In Part 2, I then contextualised this around ideas of shared history or experience with black people around the world, and expressed my disdain with how easy we find it to homogenise and round everything up so we can give it a name, but actually find that any accounts of history are only ever the perspective of a group or individual, they do not always represent reality and are definitely not the whole truth.

When I apply my identity and awareness of my history and the history around me, I end up with views on present day politics as expressed above. It’s not cleanly divided along a racial line, because I’m black, I don’t default on excuses for black people. Because I’m educated, I don’t subscribe to silly ideas of how great this wonderful democratic land I live in is….it’s clearly not. But ultimately, because I choose to see and continue to look for my truth, I will always call things as I see them.

I’m not in the business of making others comfortable, I’m just in the business of me.

My identity, Our history & The politics: Part 2.

September 10, 2011

This is the second in three-part post, which started here.


Our history

Maybe a slight mis-representation here but I’ll explain why.

I recently read a blog post (Nelson Mandela is African-American?) which talks about how children in a summer camp in the USA believed that Nelson Mandela (and therefore all black people) is African-American. What was worse according to the person making the comment, was that his colleague also had this same assertion, or at least didn’t see a problem with the idea that black or African was essentially interchangeable with African-American. The author of that post was discussing political correctness, but it got me thinking about how much of the history of race relations in the USA stands for the history of race relations across the world.

A good friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a Henry Louis Gates Jr. three-part documentary aired in the US earlier this year called Black in Latin America which, explores the experience of blacks brought over from Africa during the slave trade to the Americas, in countries other than the USA. It’s an interesting documentary, worth watching (if you can ignore Mr Gates and his annoying manner).

Not many people would know that Brazil has the second largest population of black people in the world, after Nigeria. I.e. not only were five times as many slaves trafficked to South America as North, but only one country in Africa has more black people in it than Brazil! That little fact blew me away.

To then encapsulate all that, I’ve just finished reading a book called Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. If you were brought up in the US school system, apparently this is a junior-high textbook (be interesting to know if this is true). Griffin, a white liberalist who ended up being a key activist in the 60s & 70s, changed his skin colour using drugs and make-up, to travel the southern states of the US and experience first hand what it was like to be a black man.

Needless to say, articles he published about his experience led to him and his family being made outcasts and the victims of hate mail, threats and dummy lynchings. The thing about this guy which intrigued me in his epilogue written much later after the original publication of the book, is that he basically got it.

Although it was patronising at first that he felt he could ‘black-up’ and integrate with black society, it was also revealing that he succeeded. He wasn’t writing sympathetically about the experiences of a black man, he was realising them and contextualising the attrocity of his experience in his reality as a white man. He fought to see things from the white point of view, but it didn’t always work.

His experience after the study was that white people saw him as someone who could tell them what to do about blacks, and blacks saw him as someone who could actually relate to, and speak for their experience.

Whilst Griffin’s book is again possibly an example of how US race relations are considered to be the complete ‘black’ experience, I feel like it practically validates Cress-Welsing’s theory on racism being a tool used by whites to secure their genetic survival. He talks about white folk who are kind, do seemingly good things, but when it comes to black people, they have a duality, a part of their character that doesn’t see a human in a black person, but sees a threat, an animal, a thing.

I’m not trying to justify this (my regular readers should know me better), but what Griffin describes in some ways is an example of Cress-Welsing’s theory, when applied to the context of the horrible things that happened to black people on American soil during, and since the years of slavery.

Where this somewhat shaky justification totally falls flat however, is in explaining how the white European adventurers got on ships sailing far and wide with no fear, and then out of so called genetic fear committed acts of genocide, rape, theft and devastation upon countless communities all around the globe. If you have little to no awareness of another group of people, are your first instincts really to to kill and pillage?

Another element from Griffin’s book which stood out to me, is that the discussion was not limited to racist southerners. He also mentions liberals and white activists who turned against black people because they felt that self-determination for African-Americans was an affront against them. Ungrateful black people turning against the white saviours.

Sound familiar? It’s the modern story of post-colonisation. The story of every country in Africa. The story of Australia’s aborigines. I know people who see the symptoms of racial inequality all over the world (riots, poverty, joblessness, vagrancy, crime) as examples of how ungrateful the repressed community is, after everything the benevolent others have done for them. The famine crisis in the horn of Africa is seen by many to be another example of why Africans can’t rule themselves, how despite years of Red Cross adverts of flies in their mouth children, ‘these people’ just don’t seem to be able to get their act together.

So yet again, we come back to a relevant example that broadens Griffin’s experiences beyond the USA.

Do I have a coherent argument to make here? Probably not. And that’s half the problem, coherence is hindered by all the various theories, all the real experiences (each with their own biases), all the political correctness and incorrectness. Our history, my history, your history is only ever a series of events defined by our respective exposures to life. No mater how widely (or not) a person explores, they come no closer to have a solid view on why people do what people do.

My conclusion? It’s tragic. Our history is tragic. Not only do we constantly tend to either homogenise our classifications of each other and our ‘shared history’, we also seem stuck in this idea of us and them, and how ‘they’ is never us. We never quite get to the point in the discussion of race where a classification truly represents an experience in a meaningful way.

In Gates’ documentary, he seems angry that black people in Latin American countries often choose to label themselves anything but black, but the American idea that ‘one-drop’ defines you really doesn’t work either. Especially in the case of Latin America where all the other drops combined outnumber the one.

So let’s just say its a big bowl of alphabet soup, you’ll never count all 26 letters, nor will it ever stop bugging you that you have two w’s and 5 b’s.

My identity, Our history & The politics: Part 1.

September 7, 2011

This post is probably a combination of various thoughts that have been going through my head in the last few months (which haven’t made it onto my blog…sorry!).

As the grand title suggests, there are a few key ‘elements’ that continuously surround our every-day whether we actively recognise these or not. Sometimes, you read something, or something happens and you realise that no matter what you do, some facts can’t be avoided. I don’t believe I deal with this any better than anyone else, on the contrary, I often find myself humbled by what I feel, because it doesn’t necessarily make me feel good about myself.

I’ve decided to break this into a three-part post because I think the themes are linked. I’ll warn you now, there isn’t much of my usual gaiety. I’m tackling some difficult race issues and I hope I can make some sense of what’s being a hot topic for me of late.

My identity

Earlier this year, I started reading The Isis Papers by Frances Cress-Welsing. Now, this is not a book for the faint hearted. If you want comfortable reading, you need not apply here. I’ll start with confessing that I have not managed to make it to the end of the book. I look at it, and it looks back at me.

Cress-Welsing is a psychologist. She has spent years working with people, exploring the various psychosis of the mind that plague modern society. The title of the book is named after Isis the Egyptian godess who, upon discovering the murder of her brother/husband Osiris, searched the land for his parts and brought him back to life, thereby restoring him to his rightful place. Isis represents truth, justice, right. With this book, Cress-Welsing wants everyone to recognise the truth of race relations as she sees it.

There are some things in the book which I agree with, many others which I fight with, even more which just leaves me confused and crestfallen. One of these is what Cress-Welsing sees as a simple truth: Racism is borne out of an inherent need for white genetic survival. In other words, in order for whites to survive, black people (i.e. non-whites) must be crushed and their ability to dilute or eradicate the white race must be prevented.

In many ways it makes sense that genetic survival is at the heart of racism, it could explain its simultaneous existence in so many parts of the world. It could explain how the African kingdoms through history allowed themselves to be infiltrated and destroyed; they simply didn’t have the same fear, so they didn’t act accordingly. They saw no threats as they were dominant.

The affect this book has had on my thoughts around identity is interesting. Fundamentally, I cannot rationalise my life, my achievements, my work, my friends (of all races) with the idea that I threaten someone else’s genetic survival, or that I should be acting in a way that allows me to defend the attacks against me as a black person. It’s gone beyond the classic scenario of not being a victim of [overt] racism, to somehow being told that I have to assume that whites need me to not exist or succeed in order for them to exist, whether they realise it or not.

Cress-Welsing’s racism which she explores through the book in amazing, unbelievable, painful, crushing, homophobic and revolutionary ways, boils down to the fact that no matter what kind of person we believe we are, what our identity is, if we deny that racism is an active, proactive and directed assault against black superiority and dominance, we are ourselves complicit in the act of racism.

I don’t believe myself qualified to dissect what she says in the book, but I’m going to do my best to work through it in my own mind. Now don’t get me wrong, this book is not a dictum, you do not have to live your life by it, but it is talking directly to things I both believe and try to promote, at the same time as things I abhor and unsuccessfully ignore.

The role my race plays in my identity is immense, not least because in many ways it is intrisically linked with my nature and my nurture. The influences that act on me are as important as those I strive to embody. If we don’t find a place of harmony, we can’t find a place of defence either.

If I can’t determine whether I like or dislike this book, if it has made me question things I believe, am I strong enough to withstand the manipulations and not so altruistic intentions of those who may come against me? Pretty uncomfortable food for thought.

This isn’t a book just for blacks, its a book about race, as she calls it “The Keys to the Colours”. If you’re brave enough, pick it up.

So…how about that Shell lawsuit thingy eh?

September 3, 2011
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Have no idea what I’m talking about? Well I wouldn’t be surprised. At the beginning of August a landmark case in the British courts provided some light in the otherwise dark night sky that is Shell’s presence in Nigeria.

In brief, Shell has accepted responsibility for a series of oil spills during 2008 and 2009 in parts of Ogoniland. To be more specific, the Bodo region. The article on the Al Jazeera English website goes on to say:

“SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria) has always acknowledged that the two spills which affected the Bodo community, and which are the subject of this legal action, were operational,” a statement from Shell said.

Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers representing the Bodo communities, who live in the snaking, oil-rich creeks and waterways, said the case was the first of its kind because it would be handled under British jurisdiction.

“SPDC has agreed to formally accept liability and concede to the jurisdiction of the UK,” a statement on the law firm’s website said.

“This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in this country.”

Mutiu Sunmonu, managing director of SPDC, insisted most spills in Nigeria were caused by sabotage and illegal refining, but said the firm would help with the clean-up.

He was responding to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which said decades of oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of southern Nigeria may require the world’s biggest ever clean-up.

“This report makes a valuable contribution towards improving understanding of the issue of oil spills in Ogoniland,” Sunmonu said.

Despite the fact that most media orgs did not pick up on this story, we cannot underestimate its significance.

Number One, there have been virtually zero successful claims in Nigeria or any foreign courts where Shell either accepts liability or is proven to be liable for the decades of environmental destruction, economic sabotage and violence in the Delta region of Nigeria.

Secondly, Shell accepted liability!!! Now in the wake of the active lobbying, corruption and underhanded tactics being used by Shell executives (especially Anne Pickard while she was top exec of Shell in Nigeria), and exposed in the Wikileaks cable gate earlier this year, we know that Shell will do anything to avoid culpability. Why did they accept this time? Surely there must be more cases, where short of changing history, they would not be able to quietly buy their way out of responsibility.

Despite the fact that they continue to blame sabotage (rightly in some cases) for the majority of spills, much of the damage in the area began pretty much when Shell and other companies (including Chevron & BP) first entered Nigeria, and not in the recent 15 year period of violent activism on the part of local groups. The spills mentioned above alone equal 20% of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and they were just a few years ago.

Who can quantify the damage of 50+ years? And lest I come across as naive, our politicians are actively complicit in this situation.

The blog Remember Sarowiwa regularly publishes updates on legal cases and political activity around Shell and oil in Nigeria. A recent article discusses the potential concessions being made by a parliamentary bill which will tax oil companies less than they currently pay for operating in Nigeria. Less, not more. Even less money coming in, that will never be used to support the affected families and communities.

What I find dissapointing (if only because my nature can’t help but expect more), is that Nigeria is running scared from being uncompetetive. Despite the immense profits being recorded by these companies, Nigeria is counting money coming in before considering the cost to it’s people.

The USA is forcing BP to compensate every individual, company and community affected by the spill over there, has our government done even 1% of what the US is doing to BP? No. And still, they bend over backwards to accomodate them. We know that our politicians will always fill their pockets first.

Now, in light of the court case above, if this window can really provide applicable case law, I say lets jump on it! I’m no lawyer, but I would hope that there is a chance that we can finally start making Shell pay. It’s not like they don’t have the cash. We cannot be scared that they will take their business elsewhere, quite frankly, there just isn’t enough oil in the world for that.

What we should be scared of, is the obvious fact that the lives of every Nigerian affected by the situation in Delta is obviously worth less than the $112 price tag of Brent crude oil today.


This post was also published on as “Can we now start making Shell Pay?”

De vez en cuando….en La Paz

June 14, 2011

Why in the hell Bolivia? Well, why not. When I did my round the world jollies three years ago now (how time flies), I managed to get to Ecuador, Peru and Brazil but missed out all the countries in between. So a few weeks ago, accompanied by a close friend who used to live there, I ventured deep into South America and up into the fabled capital city of Bolivia; Nuestra Senora de La Paz.

Firstly can I just debunk a real myth here; it ain’t always summer in South America. The place was f**cking freezing. Not just cold cold, it was the swearing kind of cold. Let me qualify this.

Antarctic cold is -26 degrees or something, snowing constantly, things freeze bla bla and you compensate by wearing seven layers of clothing as well as untold types of specialist gear (I’ve never been anywhere that cold, so please allow some poetic licence).

La Paz cold is between 5-10 degrees celcius. Not so bad, you wear a few layers, a scarf, boots ye kno. But the thing is, step out of shade into sunshine during the day (and the sun is a real bitch that high up) and you’ll find yourself feeling like its 23 degrees and getting a bad case of prickly heat. Don’t think about disrobing too much though, the oxygen is so thin at that altitude that the heat only exists when you stand directly in sunlight.

Add to that the fact that I suffered altitude sickness from day one and basically was breathing like I had a pulmonary disease after taking 3 steps and what you get is a lil black chick who proved that black folk don’t belong at altitude!

(As a sidebar, I’ll add that I only saw my first Afro-Bolivian when we took a daytrip to warmer and lower climes to a town called Coroico. Much more civilised temperatures.)

We were fortunate enough to get free accommodation with friends for our ten day stay; the apartment had the most beautiful views of the city, facing away from the sun, meaning it was colder inside than outside. They don’t really do central heating, the old school adobe houses that capture and retain heat don’t seem to have competition in modern high rises like the one our apartment was in…its cold outside, cold inside, cold everywhere.

Aside from the cold, La Paz is one of the weirdest and most amazing places I’ve ever been to. As a city, I don’t know anywhere that has views the way La Paz has.

Imagine a flat plane, totally flat, the kind where you see things hundreds of miles away (the Altiplano) and then imagine a valley within that plane (surrounded by a growing area called El Alto), with hills and crazy cliff drops, inclines and peaks with a pretty modern city built right into the heart of it and you have La Paz.

Everywhere you look there is a view, either of Illimani, the most popular local mountain or houses built at what the heck angles or bits of uninhabitable rock that look like the moon. Needless to say, my camera had much to consume.

Foodwise (gotta mention the eating), I wasn’t particularly blown away, BUT, (its a big but) I discovered one snack that my heart will long for forever. Saltenas. Beautiful little pastries filled with chicken, meat or veg and the sweetest savoury sauce ever. The mouth dribbles in memory….

Another interesting bit about this place has to be the return of the indigenous people to places of prominence and power. Like most of South America there is a large Indian population (although not as large as it possibly should be) as well as the natural mix occurring with the white population.

Five years ago, they gained their first indigenous president Evo Morales and he is now into his second term. The economic and cultural change that followed Evo’s rise resulted in an increase in the Aymaran population living in La Paz, as well as an increase in people choosing to wear supposedly traditional dress, known as Cholos (the men) or Cholitas (the women).

They’re everywhere, old, young, in shops, as street vendors, bus conductors you name it. Because of the traditional nature of their clothes, you might be inclined to think them poor….do not be fooled. They’re just as likely as anyone else to be affluent, sometimes deceptively so.

One thing that’s clear is the obvious contrast between Cholos/Cholitas and everyone else. They are all generally Aymara people (although in Coroico there were black Cholitas), most Bolivians I found were friendly, but the Cholos and Cholitas basically are practicing active prejudice towards anyone non Aymaran…even other Bolivians.  It’s not outright outspoken prejudice, just that quiet, weird lack of acknowledgement…quite odd.

Anyhoo, enough of the cultural lecture, I laughed, I clubbed, I drank, I danced to salsa, bought an awful lot of leather bags and whatnot. I also ate Llama for the first time, pretty decent meat I tell ya.

Would I go back? Yes, but I probably wouldn’t stay in La Paz too long, the weirdness of the place eventually gets to you, but I’ve got an itch to explore the rest of that pretty awesome country, so watch this space!

On the way home, we spent five days back in Rio (I LOVE Brazil), the only thing is, those five days coincided with the ten days of crap weather Rio has a year. Go figure, this time, clearly the beach wasn’t ready for me!

In the name of the Artist

May 11, 2011

Hey folks, for the first time evar, I have a guest blogger! I feel like I’m growing.

Introducing Theophilus Scribe. Please give him a lot of love, this is his first post (hopefully not the last), and possibly the genesis of a new blogger on blogville…watch this space!


“The aesthetic must serve a moral purpose, its called artistic responsibility” – Some smart dude.

I am a shameless proponent of the statement above, existentialist as it may be, I feel it should be one of those guiding principles that all artists should abide by no matter their specialism.

I am getting tired of the double standards displayed by entertainers when they find themselves in hot water with the populous at large and in their defence they seek to invoke what they see as their ‘get out of jail free’ card by calling themselves an ‘Artist’. It comes across as though they actually think that being an artist means that they can do as they please and their actions should be exempt from judgment, as though they have diplomatic immunity.

The ironic things is, that by actually declaring themselves as artists, it places them in a position where anyone with a mind at work will hold them to a higher standard than that of a run of the mill entertainer. Now this is where entertainers fall into a trap, they react to having done something that rubs a vocal group up the wrong way by trying to justify it by proclaiming themselves artists. As if they cannot be criticised by the public, or as if they only answer to a higher power that only artists have in common.

Problem is, that’s bollocks. You can be criticised by your audience. You do answer to them, you asked for their attention and so now you have it. You cant ask them to support you when you feel you are doing something they will approve of and then tell them they cant judge when you do something they don’t approve of – those double standards cant run.

This brings me onto the latest entertainer to jump into this trap, Mr Vybz Kartel. In a recent lecture he gave at UWI in Kingston, he decided to invoke his ‘get out of jail free’ card, in retaliation to a host of criticisms that have been levelled at him recently.

Where it got interesting for me was how he drew parallels with the criticism that reggae received when it was first making waves, and more importantly how the late, great, Sir Robert Nesta Marley was viewed as ‘dutty-head rasta’ when he first came out and how he is celebrated now.

This is where I fundamentally disagree with the point Vybz is trying to make, yes reggae music and certain artists back in the day were criticised by the establishment, but there is no confusing reggae with what Vybz is doing.

Bob Marley was a Rastafarian and as such the principles he decided to live his life by became the inspiration and subject of his music. As an ARTIST he chose to express what he lived and that expression took all the forms it could from the songs he sang, to the way he dressed, to the causes he dedicated himself to. In other words, Bob Marley the artist and Bob Marley the person were inseparable because he lived his art.

The result of this is that his aesthetic reflected his purpose, any audience will have an idea of what he represents without explanation.

Now this I feel is the often overlooked piece of the puzzle; as an artist you want/require an engaged audience, therefore how you engage them is how you want them to perceive you and your art.

This means that the audience becomes judge, jury and executioner; they see what you do and judge you in relation to the perception that you, as an artist, have portrayed. This is ok when the two are in sync, but when they are not, thats when the audience calls your integrity into question – which they have a right to do.

Now Vybz Kartel has landed himself in hot water because he’s done things that have led his audience to call into question his judgement and his message. He’s not the only entertainer guilty of this, there are many of them. The bottom line is, some cats just want to get paid, which I fully understand, they’re not here to provide any type of message or really engage anyone beyond a superficial level, they’re just trying to eat.

In that case they’re entertainers and not artists. Mr Vybz Kartel, I find you guilty of being an entertainer and not guilty of being an artist. Don’t front, just be cool.

If you have a spare ten minutes you can watch the video.

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