Black Lives Matter.

Sunday. Oxford Circus. London. 9:30am. 

I stood waiting outside the station with a group of friends and a large crowd of strangers. Not much gets me out of bed that early on a Sunday morning- especially in central London -but there I was. Everybody was there for one reason: the Black Lives Matter march. The one held last Friday was a resounding success and now it was our turn. Forty minutes later, we set off down Oxford Street towards the American embassy, back down Oxford Street then onto Marble Arch and Hyde Park.

As the day went on the crowd grew bigger and bigger, almost like people dumped their shopping to join us. It was amazing to see. We were loud, we were proud, we held up traffic on Oxford Street (not something I thought I’d ever say) and we were peaceful. People of all backgrounds, ages, races and cultures- people who might not speak to each other at any other time were marching side by side on that rainy Sunday.

Bus drivers beeped their horns in solidarity (though I’m sure some of them wanted us to just get out of the way). An old woman gave everybody two thumbs-up while sitting upstairs on the bus. Some people we walked past gave us approving nods- very British.

Eventually we left after four hours with the several-thousand strong crowd still chanting and protesting as they walked down Park Lane, past The Dorchester hotel- again, not something I thought I would ever see! Instead of heading home, I had a little wander around London for an hour or two and saw that the protesters had made it to the Houses of Parliament. No rain or terrible British summer (because this is definitely the worst summer this country has ever had) could put them off as they stood there, while bewildered tourists wondered what was going on. 

The next day I discussed the march with a couple of friends. They wanted to attend but could not make it, then one of them declared, ‘I don’t see the point of protesting. What’s the point? Nothing is gonna change anyway.’ I was disappointed by his reaction but also unsurprised. If he had that attitude throughout life, I argued, then what’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning? What’s the point of going to work to pay for your car? You might as well give up. The point of the protest was to show solidarity in the aftermath of the terrible deaths/unlawful killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in America, as well as highlight the injustices towards black people in this country and worldwide. It was to show that any injustices perpetrated in future will not be taken lying down. It was also to (literally) demonstrate that we are here and we are as important as everyone else. 

There is a long-standing debate concerning the tagline ‘All Lives Matter’. Some people feel that by having the Black Lives Matter movement, it is encouraging a new kind of segregation and racism, to which I reply: No. As one placard said at Sunday’s march: ‘Pro-Black does NOT mean anti-White’. I wish some people would realise this because it’s not that hard to understand. I have friends and family of various races and religions and I am very proud of that fact. Of course all lives matter- that is obvious. Everybody matters on this planet. But I am also proud of my colour and my heritage and there is nothing wrong with showing that. 

The problem is sometimes, underneath the banner of All Lives Matter, black people can tend to be forgotten, unheard or even misrepresented. This may be due to certain people being pushed forward as the voice of our community who, let’s face it, have nothing to do with us. People who think they know everything about us and our culture because they’ve been around us for longer than 10 minutes. Too many times we have seen people represent us who are not of the same colour or, even worse, those who describe themselves as ‘politically black’. Where on earth did this nonsense come from? You CANNOT (and never can be) politically black- you either are or you are not. Being black is not a piece of clothing that you can throw on or off whenever you feel like it. 

It was fantastic to see so many people come together in London and across other cities in Britain (Birmingham and Manchester respectively) to show solidarity, love, peace and positivity while also shining a light on the issues that black people have to face here and around the world. 


Who Wants a Sandwich?

The Daily Mail has got its knickers in a twist again. Their front page headline this morning was as thus: ‘IS THERE NO ONE LEFT IN BRITAIN WHO CAN MAKE A SANDWICH?’
Apparently, a British-based sandwich manufacturer is having to employ Eastern Europeans to make their sandwiches as the Brits offered these jobs think they are too good for such roles. So the next time you buy a sandwich from the likes of M&S, Tesco or Asda, it might be made by (gasp!) people not from British shores. Clutch your pearls, middle England!

This story was of such national importance that the Mail splashed it on their front page, but who gives a shit? All I care about is that the sandwich looks and tastes good and is at a decent price. Whether they are from Portsmouth or Poland makes no difference to me- I just hope that the sandwich maker has damn good hygiene.

And to be honest, the Brits are not exactly the best sandwich makers. Before some of you all start frothing at the mouth with rage, I speak from experience. My mum used to make me delicious sandwiches for my packed lunches at school. Everyday, my friends salivated with hunger and envy as they looked at their unappealing cheese sandwich- an abnormally bright yellow slither (or slab, depending on how it was cut) of cheese wedged between two triangular slices of pasty white bread. No wonder they would throw them in the bin and go to the chippy instead. But I digress.

Obviously there are plenty of decent sandwich makers in Blighty but the Daily Mail cannot throw their hands in the air in despair when people decide they do not want to take on such jobs. It is such a ludicrous, bombastic headline designed to get people even more het up on a Monday morning than they usually are. It’s almost like they are doing UKIP’s job for them. The people that are coming to fill these roles (and the sandwiches) are not too precious to do so and good for them. And anyway, I can make a mean sandwich and so long as I still have that skill, this country is in good hands.

A Bit Much?

Over the past few days, various news channels have sent their reporters and cameramen to Oklahoma following the devastating tornado and after several days of saturation coverage, I am fed up. Fed up of watching them stick microphones in the faces of survivors as they recover in their hospital beds. I watched a report of a woman crying as she lay in her bed recalling the tornado and the harrowing memories, such as hearing her neighbours and friends screaming for help. The tears streamed down her face and I felt so sorry for her having to answer the questions of her interrogator- sorry, interviewer.

Some might say it was cathartic for her to tell her story and yes, that’s true. It’s just I found it a bit distasteful. As much as we all want to hear eyewitness accounts about tornadoes (especially as they are so spectacular and yet utterly terrifying at the same time), surely we could wait awhile and let those who are affected have time to grieve and come to terms with what happened.

Many of them lost everything: their homes, their loved ones, everything they know. If I was in their shoes, the last thing I’d want is to speak to a reporter when I’ve barely gathered my thoughts, but that’s just me- everybody is different.

And then- on a different tack -there’s the ever-developing story of the despicable murder of a soldier IN BROAD DAYLIGHT in Woolwich yesterday. Words fail me as to why someone would commit something so heinous. But yesterday evening every single news channel showed that video footage of one of the murderers ranting away into a camera phone with blood on his hands, holding a meat cleaver.

Cut to this morning and all the newspapers had the same image on their front pages. And all I could think was, why are you constantly showing this? I don’t want my young nephews stumbling across it in a newsagents. That barbaric image could give them (and adults) nightmares but also causes people become de-sensitised to such things.

We all know what happened- we’ve read the tweets and seen the footage, so I certainly didn’t want to see that when I turned on the TV first thing this morning. They’ve started blurring out and cropping the images but it’s like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

© 2013