Monday, 31 January 2011

Our Year?

I was in contemplation with an ancestor
the other morning.
She told me that she had seen darkness
in my aura
and she said that I would be betrayed
during the revolution.
I stopped the thing I was doing
and asked her - ‘what revolution’?

The revolution she said
that’s fomenting inside your head
pumping boiling blood around the circuit of your heart
the one that zealously gnaws at your intestines
churning your insides
devouring your cells like an embittered
vengeful tumour

It’s the one unleashing barricades of freedom
the one that raises empowered fists
to impassioned hails and chanted vivas
the one upturning stones and
unearthing dis-remembered truths
one that is a race against the atrocities of time
the one saluting your self-will and self-reliance
reclaiming untold legacies
it is the one repossessing your blighted prosperity
the one that is reviving your felicity

it is the revolution, she said that is
sparking your intuition
the revolution that is wombed
and waiting to be born of a
much more determined push somewhere
a little further from your imagination...

Stirrings that won’t simmer

There is a context for the year that I imagine most people are not aware of. The UN has declared 2011 the ‘International Year for People of African Descent.’ I’m trying to understand what it really means. Here’s some of the online blurb about it: “The year aims to strengthen international, national and regional cooperation to benefit the people of African descent, and to recognize and promote their political, economic, social and cultural contributions from their diverse heritage and culture.” (1) The same source mentions that the Guyanese Government is planning to mark the year with a series of activities that promote the historical and cultural legacies of Africans in Guyana. I imagine at the assembly that President Jagdeo gushed out these promises to trump the charges of racism against his government. No one’s fooled. This, of course, has queasy political vibrations because of the upcoming election when everyone tends to find their own racial shelter. Still, I suppose other countries with sizeable African communities will be knocking similar drums to mark the year.

I’m not sure how the year is being ‘marked’ here though. Where has it been mentioned so that we all heard and understood it? Was it amidst the popping of poppers and champagne, the stomping on balloons, in the warblings of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ that signalled the New Year? As declared by the UN at the 2009 General Assembly, “the Year aims at strengthening national actions and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.”(2) It therefore urges member states to actively participate and promote the event, self-funded, of course. But is this order too tall for the UK as a ‘Member State’ to take seriously? What does this silent drum mean? What is being planned by the UK government to mark this momentous occasion?

One month into what’s supposed to be ‘our year’ and the Tories and ‘Dems have made it clear, they’re not interested. There’s a global recession –that’s the only tune. The cultural, social, economic and political rights of AFRICANS are just not items for this country’s agenda. But we’ll get a day to roll our eyes at that yawn of a wedding beautifully timed to distract the masses. Some of us will shamelessly catch ourselves fawning at the bizarre pompousness we’re paying for whilst we’re yet denied social, political and economic rights.

So for those of us who want to strut with the UN’s gesture I think we’ll have to make ‘our year’ ourselves. Each one will hopefully remember not only to teach one, but to express mutual respect for each other. We don’t need any more crumbs, if that’s what the mask of this year really is. We want to be economically empowered for real, but no one is going to help us enjoy all those rights we don’t already have. It’s incredible to think that they have to declare a year (the Indigenous Peoples’ had their ‘Year’ a while back) in which to recognise the (Human) Rights of a particular group of people? I think Malcolm sums it up better when he seriously asks “how can you thank a man for giving you what's already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only part of what is yours?"

Perhaps if nothing else, we should embrace this year to seriously reflect on the depth of our collective experience – where we’ve been and who we are self-determining to be. It’s easy to lose (in)sight in the midst of these blinding Western lights. Any kind of revolution towards our self-determination is down to us. Revolution needs to be realised in ways that creatively channel our energies toward economic liberation and the liberation of our minds, hence the poem (Stirrings) I Shouted a few years ago. This fleeting, almost mocking homage of our humanity should not discourage us. It should make us fully alert to the hypocrisies that continue to deny us the substance of human dignity. There is yet a dehumanising philosophy that ‘holds one race superior and another inferior’ – this is our reality. We do not have to convince ourselves of the Rights of all peoples. This is what we have always known – that the world is diverse and that diversity is its richness. I say this not so that we might feel some kind of self-righteousness, but so we might understand why the drums are silent in the mainstream here. Since the UK takes lead from the US I’m not truly surprised by the silence. Did Barak Obama make a beat that recognised the significance of this year? I didn’t hear it, if he did. Didn’t his year begin with a roll in the sack with China’s Hu Jintao? This should tell us where his priorities are. I hear you; the man’s doing what the man has to do, right?

Fact is –as it’s always been - we have to beat our own drums, not for a month here (Black History) or a year there, but always. We have to create our own opportunities for economic enjoyment, tough as that is. That’s how we achieve self-respectability. If we do not have easy access to certain gates and doors we have to create new entrances. We have to keep bracing that wind and endure like the 'Ayo'. If there was no such thing as ‘employment’ – being paid pittance for the labour we give to someone else – what is it that we can do to claim our economic liberty? I’m no economist; I diverge on the territory only to try to understand the meaning of the UN’s gesture and to highlight how quietly ‘our year’ has crept in on us. Any beating of drums we’ll hear by keeping our ears to the ground, and we’ll feel that beating in our blood with every drop of libation we pour this year in honour of our ancestors.

Shout Out

I’ve listed a few links that might interest you.

(this shows the lack of seriousness about the year...)