pele_

Like most Black men of my generation, I have long had a long distance love affair with Brazil. As a child growing up in the 70s, like boxer Muhammed Ali, and the West Indian cricket team, their international sporting success made me proud to be Black, and was a tangible repudiation of those that argued that Blacks were inferior. Though the glory days of that team led by Pele are long gone, Brazil is still the default team for any Black football fan in the diaspora.

But even putting their footballing prowess aside, everything about Brazil seemed sexy and cool, and the African roots of so much of its popular culture was plain to see.  From the martial arts inspired dance form of capoeira, to the sexy rhythms of Samba, and the beautiful women that always featured in any music video or documentary shot there, to the world’s largest street Carnival in Rio, that made our own Nottinghill Carnival look like a back-yard barbeque.  Hell, even the waxing treatment to remove pubic hair and facilitate the wearing of high-cut bikini bottoms is named after the country.  And I’m sure I even read somewhere that they invented the thong!

rio_carnival

But the increased media attention that Brazil has enjoyed in the lead up to the World Cup has forced me to question whether my love was misplaced – like forming a favourable impression of someone you meet on-line, who turns out to be a disappointment when you finally meet in person.  Much to my horror I’ve discovered that Brazil is a deeply racist country.  Anyone following this media coverage over the last 12 months, couldn’t have failed to notice that in any documentary featuring  politicians,  media personalities, or entrepreneurs the interviewees are uniformly white.  In contrast, those documenting Brazil’s gang wars, crack cocaine epidemic , or shanty town favelas feature predominantly the country’s darker skinned  people.  As I’ve learnt over the last year, the majority of the Africans kidnapped for the Transatlantic Slave trade were taken, not to America, or the Caribbean, but to Brazil.  The practice was not abolished until 1889, making Brazil the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the institution, and  it is clear that 125 years after its abolition, the descendants of those slaves remain firmly at the bottom of Brazilian society.

Looking at international finance we are told that the Brazilian economy is one of the new vibrant economies (The BRICS) bucking the global recession and enjoying growth.  But as the street protests before the World Cup revealed, this new wealth is not trickling brazil protestsdown to benefit all in the country.  The protesters were angry that the government had spent $12 billion dollars on building new football stadiums to meet the standards of FIFA, whilst neglecting the country’s schools and hospitals.  But from what I could see from the TV reports, the majority of those street protesters were the country’s middle class whites, the poor Blacks presumably being too busy dodging the bullets and bulldozers that were enforcing  the government’s cold-hearted policy  to clean up and ‘pacify’ the favelas before the tournament got under way.

pacification of the favelas

No doubt much to relief of the Government and the country’s rich elite, those street protests came to an abrupt end when the tournament began, as the protesters put down their face masks and Molotov cocktails in order to support their national team.  But again the faces of those Brazilian supporters in the stadiums were uniformly white.  How could it be that in a country that is 51% Black, 100% of the national team’s supporters in the stadium were white?

white brazil fans

Clearly this sporting spectacle was for the enjoyment of the rich, with the bill picked up by the taxes of the growing middle class. And as for the poor?  Well they were just an embarrassing inconvenience to be bulldozed out of view. Out of (the tourist’s) sight, out of (the government’s) mind.

Had Brazil been successful in the World Cup, no doubt the country’s growing social inequality would have continued as before.  Just as with the Olympics in the UK, the government could argue that,  ‘yes it cost a lot of money, but wasn’t it worth it? Look how it brought the country together’.

Even if Brazil had not won the tournament, but had played well and lost in the final, that argument could still have held some weight.  But with the ignominious way that Brazil were dispatched by Germany,  that can no longer be argued.  The country’s team was not a source of pride, but a source of national shame.  Those expensive football stadiums that will remain long after the FIFA officialls have left, will now not be monuments to the national team’s success, but rather reminders of their humiliation.  Though the country was united in grief when their star player Neymar was injured, they shed few tears for the eight construction workers who lost their lives in the building of those stadiums. For a country that has for so long used football to form their national identity, this can no longer be the case.  Just as England have slowly had to acknowledge over the last 40-odd years, Brazil are no longer a leading world football power.  How many kids will be sporting Brazilian football shirts after this? They didn’t get knocked out of the tournament after fighting bravely.  They scraped their way into the semi- finals where they were humiliated.  Germany gave them a lesson in football, and Brazil will now have to take their national pride and identity from something else.

crying  brazil fan

The government cannot continue with business as usual.  The whole country needs a rethink, rather like George Forman after his shock defeat to Muhammed Ali in the legendary Rumble In the Jungle in 1974.  Foreman was the Mike Tyson of his day, considered ‘the baddest man on the planet’ and unbeatable. Ali proved that he wasn’t, and after Ali’s shock victory Foreman was forced to re-evaluate his whole life. He entered a deep depression, and completely retired from boxing three years later.  But he eventually turned his life around, becoming a born-again Christian, returning to boxing only to raise money for his church, and is now more famous as the smiling face of the George Foreman Grill than as a mean-mugging pugilist.

george foreman young

george-foreman-grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hoping that after their humiliation, Brazil will have a similar re-evaluation.  Since they can no longer take their national pride from the football team, what will they take it from?  Now that the entire world has seen their social inequality, the horrendous living conditions of so many in the favelas, the homelessness and crack epidemic that blights so many of the neglected underclass, I’m hoping that rather than ignoring the plight of their own populous and looking for plaudits from overseas, the government  will start to turn their attention to those of the population who cannot win them trophies, but still need jobs and houses.

-CHRIST-THE-REDEEMER-

There are things in life more important than football.  Of course no one wants to hear that when their team is winning.  But you are forced to confront this when your team are routed.  Here’s hoping that their humiliating World Cup defeat will make the Brazilian elite reconsider their priorities, and start to make it a country that even non-football, non-carnival fans can admire.

Lee Pinkerton

 

 

 

 

New movie FRUITVALE STATION tells the true story of Oscar Grant (played by Michael B Jordan), a 22-year-old Black man, and his tragic interaction with Transport Police on the night of New Year’s Eve 2008.

The story of his tragic and needless death at the hands of law enforcement officers in America, reminded many of the killing of Mark Duggan in the UK.

Mark Duggan, 29, was a passenger in a minicab when on Thursday  August 4th 2011 he was shot dead in the street by police.  The death occurred during an operation where specialist firearm officers and officers from Operation Trident, were  attempting to carry out an arrest.   It was at first announced  that Mr Duggan had been shot after an apparent exchange  of fire. Later the IPCC admitted it may have misled journalists into believing Mr Duggan fired at officers before he was killed.  The circumstances of Duggan’s killing resulted in public protests in Tottenham which, fuelled by poverty and racial tension, led to conflict with police and escalated into riots across London and other English cities. This is widely seen as the  cause of the 2011 England riots.

 

Like Oscar Grant, Duggan had had previous dealings with the police but  was said to be “a good Dad” who “idolised his kids”. He and his fiance were hoping to marry soon and move out of Tottenham to “start a new life together” with their three children.
The main difference between the Duggan and Grant cases, was that in the American example there were many eye witnesses, with the event even being caught on camera phones.  Perhaps this is why the Police in the Grant case were convicted.  Some were disgusted that Grants’ murderer only served 11 months, but the officers who shot Duggan’s here in the UK were not even found guilty.
On Wednesday January 8th 2014, the jury at the High Court in London found the Police officer who shot Mark Duggan dead, not guilty of unlawful killing.
The presumption of the ‘Great-British-Public’ and the ‘Main-Stream-Media’ is that if the Police use force, then that force must be warranted.  If the Police use deadly force, then they must have considered themselves or the public to be in mortal danger.  In this case the deadly force was justified because the Police THOUGHT that Duggan had a gun and was aiming to shoot.  The fact that he didn’t is just a tragic mistake.
But this Duggan shooting is no isolated incident. To put this case in perspective, let’s have a quick review of the Police’s treatment of Black Britons over the last 30 years.

On 12 January 1983, a young black Hackney man, Colin Roach walked into the lobby of the old Stoke Newington police station, and allegedly blew his head off with an old shotgun. Roach had only minor convictions and was not wanted by the police at the time. There was evidence that he feared ‘someone’ was out to get him. Among the black community of Stoke Newington, ‘someone’ was the police. There were sections of the local community which believed he had been shot by the police. Others believed that whilst the police generically might be capable of doing this, they would not be so foolish – unless this was the most amazing double-bluff – to do it literally on their own doorstep.’
A coroner’s jury voted eight-to-two that Mr Roach committed suicide, but Hackney residents staged angry demonstrations and refused to accept the verdict, pointing out that (among other puzzles) no fingerprints had been found on the shotgun; nor had it been forensically linked to the dead man.
In 1985, an independent inquiry into his death on behalf of the dead man’s family was told of police harassment, wrongful arrest, uncivil conduct during home raids, misuse of stop and search and other abuses to Stoke Newington’s residents.

colin roach

In September 1985 the police conducted an armed search of the home of Cherry Groce seeking her son Michael Groce in relation to a suspected firearms offence – they believed Michael was hiding in his mother’s home. Mrs. Groce was in bed when the police began their search and Michael was not there at the time, but Mrs. Groce was hit by a police bullet – an injury which left her paralysed from the waist down.   This event was the spark for the Brixton Riots of 1985. The police officer who shot Mrs. Groce, Inspector Douglas Lovelock, was prosecuted but eventually acquitted of malicious wounding. Mrs. Groce received compensation from the Metropolitan Police.

The very next month a young black man, Floyd Jarrett, was arrested by police, having been stopped in a vehicle with an allegedly suspicious tax disc. Four police officers searched his home. In a disturbance between police and family members, his 49-year-old mother, Cynthia Jarrett, fell over and died of a stroke.  Cynthia Jarrett’s death sparked outrage from members of the black community against the Metropolitan Police, and was the spark for the Broadwater Farm Riot.

Joy Gardner was a 40-year-old Black woman from Jamaica who was killed during a struggle with the police at her home in Crouch End, London. Joy had come to visit her mother, Myrna Simpson, in 1987, but had overstayed her 6 month visa. In 1993 an immigration officer and police officers arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. When Gardner refused, the police entered her home and struggled and fought with her. Police gagged and restrained Gardner using a body belt and wrapped 13 ft of tape around her head which they later claimed was to prevent her biting them. Gardner suffocated and subsequently fell into a coma. She later died in hospital. These events were witnessed by Gardner’s five year old son. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995.

 

In April 1998Christopher Alder,  a 37-year-old trainee computer programmer and former British Army paratrooper who had served in the Falklands War and Northern Ireland, had been assaulted outside a night club and taken to a local hospital, where he was arrested by officers for an alleged breach of the peace following complaints about his behaviour from nursing staff . While fit enough to get into a police van by himself, CCTV footage shows that upon arrival at the police station, Alder was unconscious when dragged from the van and placed on the floor of the custody suite.  Officers calmly chatted among themselves, one of them suggesting he was faking illness. Eleven minutes later, when officers finally realised he had stopped breathing, attempts to resuscitate him came too late.  Alder died lying face down, handcuffed, with his trousers around his ankles on the floor of a police station in Hull. Following his death, Alder’s sister Janet launched a long struggle for justice. In 2000 a coroner’s jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, and in 2002 five police officers went on trial accused of manslaughter and misconduct in public office. All were cleared on the orders of the judge. An internal disciplinary inquiry by Humberside Police cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. In 2006, an Independent Police Complaints Commission report concluded that four of the officers present in the custody suite when Alder died were guilty of the “most serious neglect of duty”, but the officers responsible walked free.

 

On January 11, 1999, police arrived outside Roger Sylvester’s house as a result of a 999 emergency call. Two officers came to the house initially and found him naked in his front garden. Within minutes another six officers had arrived. The eight officers put Sylvester to the ground where he was handcuffed.    He was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. Police officers told his family that he was restrained “for his own safety.” According to one witness, Sylvester’s body was already limp when it was placed in the police van. He was taken to St Ann’s hospital and carried from the van to a private room where, still restrained, he was put on the floor by upwards of six police officers for nearly 20 minutes before being seen by a doctor. The officers, with the assistance of medical staff, tried to resuscitate him but he had sustained numerous injuries and remained in a coma at the Whittington hospital until his life support machine was switched off seven days later.

 

24 year old Azelle Rodney was a back seat passenger of a Volkswagon Golf travelling the streets of North London in April 2005, when the police performed what they call ‘a hard stop’.  The car had been under surveillance for several hours before officers stopped it in Edgware.  Police believed he was part of an armed gang who were on their way to rob a Columbian drugs gang.  With this suspicion the Police could have arrested Rodney and the other occupants of the car before they even started their journey, but instead chose to allow them to start their drive across London. Alternatively, the officers who had been following Rodney’s car covertly, could have switched on their lights and siren when making the stop so that they could clearly have been identified as officers.  Instead, within seconds of the Police surrounding the car, Rodney was shot six times by an armed officer who offered no verbal warning.  Two other occupants of the car were later convicted for firearms offences, but there was no evidence that Mr Rodney was holding a weapon at the time of the shooting.  True to form an investigation by the IPCC exonerated the Police, and the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was no criminal case for the police to answer. Seven years  later in 2012 a public inquiry was opened instead of an inquest because a coroner would not have been able to see some of the evidence that Police say was behind their actions.  In July 2013, a public inquiry chaired by a retired High Court judge concluded the killing was unlawful.

 

On March 15th 2011 Police conducted a search at the home of David Emmanuel aka reggae artist Smiley Culture.  Whilst Police were at the property Smiley Culture sustained a single stab wound to the chest, from which he later died.  An investigation into the Police operation was conducted by the IPCC and found no evidence that a crime had been committed, and no misconduct by Police officers.   An inquest into Smiley’s death will be held in front of a jury and will not take place before the conclusion of the trials to which Smiley was allegedly linked.

 

Though apologists say that relations between the Police and Black people are much better than they were back in the day, the truth is that little has changed.  Back in the 80’s it was the hated ‘Sus’ law that caused tension between the Police and young Black men – now its Section 60 powers.  Introduced in the 90’s to deal with football hooliganism, now its used to harass those who’ve never been to a football match.

In 2010 there were 70,000 stops and searches in London alone. Analysis by the London School of Economics and the Open Society Justice Initiative shows that during the last 12 months a Black person was nearly 30 times more likely to be stopped and searched that a white person.  And a separate analysis, based on Home Office data reveals that less that 0.5% of section 60 searches led to an arrest for possession of a dangerous weapon, five times fewer than a year ago.  And then they wonder why so many young Black men hate the Police?

How much have things really changed?  The death of Cynthia Jarret at the hands of the police led to the Tottenham Riots in 1985.  The shooting of Cherry Groce by Police the same year led to the Brixton Riots.  The shooting of Mark Duggan by the Police led to the Tottenham Riots of  2011 and the general hostility towards the police by Black people, and feelings of alienation and hopelessness from the underclass took those riots nationwide.

The case of Oscar Grant, like the 1991 case of Black motorist Rodney King(below) shows that often it is only when evidence is caught on camera, that justice will be served.

Lee Pinkerton

 

leepinkerton:

Some are complaining that the UK and US governments were too slow to get involved in the abducted school girls crisis in Nigeria. But is their intervention necessarily a good thing?

Originally posted on Media Diversified:

by Atane Ofiaja

Calamity befalling Nigeria is now the norm. Who could have envisioned regular bombings in Abuja, the nation’s capital? This is where we are, my Nigeria almost seems unrecognizable. New York City has been where I’ve lived for my entire adult life, but Nigeria is still home. Fond memories as a child in Port Harcourt still bring a smile to my face. Driving through Aba to my mother’s small village in Abia State was always fun. You’d be hard pressed to find clearer nighttime skies than in my father’s small village in Rivers State called Ngo. It was perfect for stargazing. Like most Nigerians in the diaspora, we cling to and yearn for home. We visit when we can afford to.

But the Nigeria we remember didn’t include bombs on city streets.Bring-Back-Our-Girls-590x339 As the attacks from the scourge known as Boko Haram continues to get bloodier and more…

View original 1,378 more words

‘Does my bum look big in this?’ For years that was a question that when asked by a woman of a man, had only one acceptable answer – ‘no’. A small pert rear-end was desired, and any item of clothing that made it look any other way was to be avoided. At least that was the case among white women.
But in the parallel universe that is inhabited by Black folk a different aesthetic was in place. Back in 1992 West Coast rapper Sir Mix A Lot released the track Baby Got Back – a song and video in which he paid tribute to the ample posteriors of Black women.

Back then, infact throughout most of the latter half of the 20th century, the western ideal of beauty has been the skinny blonde: not a model that most Black women can fit into (or even aspire to without doing damage to their physical and mental well-being). Appropriately Black popular culture has always celebrated the fuller-figured woman. But traditionally the more robust phenotypes of Black women were looked down upon, or even scorned and mocked by the mainstream.
Remember Caroline Wozniaki – the tennis player who made fun of Serena Williams by stuffing her clothes with towels to mimic Williams’ curves?

Caroline Wozniaki
Caroline Wozniaki

But despite the disrespect from the mainstream, the Black camp maintained their campaign, mainly through rappers who’s videos consistently gave prominence to curvaceous hip-hop honies.
Now it seems that this centuary the two camps are meeting. I don’t know if it was down to J-Lo, or Beyonce or Kim Kardashian, but it’s clear now that even in the mainstream, bigger booties are in vogue. (Interestingly, whilst J-Lo tried to play down the interest in her butt as she attempted to be taken seriously as an actress, Kim K (in the absence of any discernable talent other than her body and self-promotion) seems to be accentuating her butt more the more famous she gets!)

The Kardashian sisters dazzle fans at their Nordstroms jewelry opening and then fly out together, Orange County.
…..by showing their behinds
jlo-butt-12
Both J Lo and Kim Kardashian got ahead ………

There was a time when white women would sheepishly cover their backsides with long shirts or jumpers tied around the waist. Not any more. Now they display them proudly for all to see, sometimes even encasing them in figure-hugging lycra for greater effect.
The mainstream’s new fascination with a fuller behind has even reached the highest echelons of British society. (Remember at the last Royal wedding all the fuss made about Pippa Middleton’s bum?)
Women of ALL races are now sweating in the gym, or even going under the knife in order to get a more shapely posterior. According to a new American Society of Plastic Surgeons report, last year, a staggering 10,000 buttock augmentation procedures were performed in the United States, up 16 percent from 2012.

And thanks to Miley Cyrus you can now enjoy the spectacle of white women with virtually no booty trying to twerk.

Miley twerking_2655244b
In 2013 Miley Cyrus and the ‘mainstream media’ discovered twerking

Apparently the new fitness craze is twerk-azize, or twerk-aerobics or something like that, though how you can achieve those moves if your back-side is best regarded as a flat expanse of flesh that connects your back to your legs, is beyond me.

When Lily Allen wanted to feature twerking in the controversial video for her last single and couldn’t deliver it herself , she recruited some Black girls to do the ‘booty shaking’ for her.

LilyAllen
Lily Allen thinks,…… ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’

Not only this, but white women are risking skin cancer in order to maintain a year round tan and even injecting collagen into their lips for a fuller pout.
So is this good news for Black women? Will they now move from being figures of scorn and derision to the ultimate symbols of female desirability?
Well unfortunately it’s not that simple.

beyonce booty
Miss booty-licious herself Queen B. Recognise!

While the ideal of female beauty may no longer be Kate Moss, neither is it Serena Williams.
While Beyonce is celebrated for her curves,

she works famously hard to make sure

she doesn’t deviate too wide of the size 10 ideal.

And while she’s happy to display her booty,

we have yet to see her natural hair.

I’ve no idea what Beyonce’s hair looks like in its natural state,

but I’m pretty sure it’s not straight and blonde!

When the super-producer of the moment Pharrell released a new album this year entitled Girl, he chose to adorn its cover with three models. When he faced criticism for not featuring a Black model amongst them, he was at pains to point out that in fact, one of the featured models was indeed Black. But you’d have to look hard to realise, as typically she was of the lighter-skinned variety. It seems that in Pharrell’s version of the United Colours of Benetton of female beauty, Crème Caramel is as dark as it gets.

pharrell_cover

Rather than the Black female archetype, the new beauty ideal in America is Latino (fittingly since they are that country’s fastest growing ethnic group) and in the UK the new ideal is something resembling mixed-race (appropriate since they are this country’s fastest growing ethnic group). Lightly tanned women of mixed heritage like Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Patton, and Zoe Saldana. Progress, yes, but we have not yet reached the promised land!

lupita
Lupita got a lot of love this year, but how much impact will she have?

There has been much fuss made of new Oscar-winning actress Lupita N’Yongo,   who for the last few months has not only  set the movie world alight, but the fashion world too. It as though the fashion and movie  industries have just discovered that African women exist.

gabourey-sidibe
Dark skinned AND overweight? No chance!

But for those hoping that Lupita will change the perception and desirableness of dark-skinned women, I fear that Lupita will have as much impact for dark-skinned women as previously Oscar nominated Gabourey Sidibe did for the image of obese women.

So Black women can now flaunt their curves with pride, but it will be a while before they are invited to the mainstream’s fashion and media party.

Lee Pinkerton

Originally posted on Legacies of British Slave-ownership:

Guest Blog by: Patrick Vernon[1]

 The success of Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years A Slave at the Oscars provides a new opportunity to explore the legacy of enslavement through the lens of family history and mental well being. In his acceptance speech, McQueen stated “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.” Although it may feel coded, the expression ‘endured slavery’ is of major significance when exploring the emotional legacy of the enslaved past; this is because this past still has an impact in terms of behaviour, cultural norms, parenting, relationships, lifestyle choices and in how identity is projected and received, not only for people of African descent, but also for people of European descent. In the United States, academics such as Dr Na’im Akbar and Dr Joy Leary have used the concept of post-traumatic…

View original 1,353 more words

Mark-Duggan-Inquest-

On Wednesday January 8th 2014, the jury at the High Court in London found the Police officer who shot Mark Duggan dead in the streets of Tottenham in 2011, not guilty of unlawful killing. How, some asked, could the Police shoot an unarmed man and it be considered ‘lawful’?  Some commentators described the verdict as ‘strange’ or ‘surprising’, but I for one was not surprised.  This is business as usual for the Criminal Justice system in Britain.  The Police are NEVER convicted of unlawful killing, unless there is video evidence which can prove it – and even then, it’s an uphill struggle.

The presumption of the ‘Great-British-Public’ and the ‘Main-Stream-Media’ is that if the Police use force, then that force must be warranted.  If the Police use deadly force, then they must have considered themselves or the public to be in mortal danger.  In this case the deadly force was justified because the Police THOUGHT that Duggan had a gun and was aiming to shoot.  The fact that he didn’t is just a tragic mistake.

mark duggan

Mark Duggan was shot dead in the street in broad daylight – lawfully?

The officers had been surveilling Duggan for some time, and knew that he had obtained a gun earlier that day.  So naturally, the Police argued, when they performed a ‘hard stop’ on the minicab he was travelling in, Duggan was preparing himself for an armed shoot-out with the officers who had surrounded him, and so they reacted accordingly. The jury believed that version of events. A version by officers so confident of their story, that they refused to be interviewed by the IPCC and instead gave written statements after colluding.

Despite the fact that other eye-witness say that when Duggan left the cab, his hands were up and he was in fact holding a phone.  Despite the fact that the gun in question was found some 20 feet away from the body, on a grass verge, on the other side of  6 foot fence. Despite the facts that Duggan’s fingerprints were not even on it.

Sadly the jury were unwilling to believe that the Police could have shot an unarmed man, and then planted the gun there themselves to cover their tracks. Because the Police are all honest law-abiding citizens and Duggan was a convicted criminal. A notorious international gangster no less. Perception is everything.

But this Duggan shooting is no isolated incident. To put this case in perspective, let’s have a quick review of the Police’s treatment of Black Britons over the last 30 years.

In 1985 Cherry Groce was hit by a police bullet when the police conducted an armed search of her home seeking her son (an injury which left her paralysed from the waist down). The police officer who shot Mrs. Groce, Inspector Douglas Lovelock, was prosecuted but eventually acquitted of malicious wounding.

Joy Garner's five year old son watched her die.

Joy Gardner’s five year old son watched her die.

In 1993 Joy Gardner fell into a coma after struggling with Police when they and an immigration officer arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. She later died in hospital. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995.

A similar fate befell Roger Sylvester when he was taken into Police custody in 1999.  He sustained numerous injuries in his struggle with the officers and remained in a coma at the Whittington hospital for seven days until his life support machine was switched off.

Or there’s Frank Ogburo who was arrested in 2006.  Eye-witnesses saw a struggle between the officers and Frank which resulted in him being sprayed with CS Gas, being handcuffed and brought to the floor. CCTV footage captured several more officers joining in the restraint and striking Frank to subdue him. His death according to the jury at the inquest was as a “consequence of restraint”.

More recently in 2011 we are meant to believe that David Emmanuel, aka reggae artist Smiley Culture stabbed himself in the chest whilst Police conducted a search of his house. An investigation into the Police operation conducted by the IPCC found no evidence that a crime had been committed, and no misconduct by Police officers.

-SmileyCultureRip1sml

I bring up these historical cases to illustrate that the Police have form when it comes to killing Black people and getting away with it. So no, I was not surprised at the Duggan verdict. I gave up being surprised after the four police officers involved in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King were found not guilty, despite being caught on camera.

But that was the past.  As we all know, since Obama became President, things are so much better.  We now live in a post-racial society where racism is illegal.  But even if that were true, guess what?  Sometimes the Police fit up white people too!  Look at the behaviour of Police in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. The Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012 found that police had deliberately altered more than 160 witness statements in an attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the fatal crush, and deflect blame from their own inadequate crowd control.

It has long been known by those in the Black community that the Police sometimes lie in court and fabricate evidence in order to get a conviction.  This is a fact that the majority of the UK’s citizens (outside of Liverpool) were unwilling to believe.  That was until in the ‘Plebgate’ affair in 2012.  If the Police can lie to discredit a respected member of the Government,  how much more likely that they will do so to cover their own crimes and discredit a convicted criminal? And most importantly,  how much more likely that a jury will believe them?

The police are not above 'fitting up' even a government minister

The police are not above ‘fitting up’ even a government minister

I don’t know exactly what happened on that day in Tottenham 2011.  I wasn’t there.  I don’t know what was in that Police officer’s mind as he pulled the trigger – twice. But I know my history.  I know that when Black people die in Police custody nobody is ever held accountable.  I also know that sometimes the Police kill people unlawfully and lie and collude and fabricate evidence to cover it up. I know that sometimes innocent people go jail because of a forced Police confession (Cardiff Three); and sometimes guilty people get away scot-free because the Police aren’t motivated to pursue them thoroughly. (Stephen Lawrence)

And what I also know, is that it’s as hard for a Black man to get justice in this country today, as it’s always been.

footnotes

1.  Background to the police shooting of Mark Duggan can be found here

2.  There have been 10 unlawful killing verdicts at inquests or inquiries involving deaths in police custody or following police contact since 1990.  There have been eight attempts to prosecute police following a death in police custody or following contact in the same period, none of which have been successful.

Lee Pinkerton

Ends

My Hopes for 2014

Posted: January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The new year is traditionally a time for making resolutions, and promises to do better and try harder.  Here’s a list of things I’d like to see more of (and less of) in 2014.

Less living in fear – more living the dream

Less waste men – more real men

Less baby daddies – more committed fathers.

Less waiting for a Messiah –  more being the change we want to see.

Less begging the man for handouts –  more doing-for-self

Less criticising the things we don’t like, more promoting  the things we do

Less fake tan, fake nails, and fake hair, –  more celebrating natural beauty.

Nicky Minaj - a living breathing example of Black self hatred.

 

lauryn-hill1

 

 

 

 

Less skin bleaching, more self-love

Less ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ – more ‘spending quality time’.

Less ‘Talking about it’ – more ‘Being about it’

Less of ‘my nigga’ – more of ‘my brother’.

Less grand tall buildings ­-  More  homes for families

Less Banker’s bonuses – more worker’s pay-rises

Less jobs for the boys – more jobs for the masses. David Cameron and  Boris Johnson - the Eton/Oxbridge mafia just won't loosen their grip.

Less aristocracy – more meritocracy

Less of a stranglehood by the Oxbridge elite – more access for the rest of us

the occupy movement

Less  bedroom tax – more corporation tax.

Less War on terror – more war on want.

Less trolling – more ‘liking’

Less adding friends on facebook – more making time for friends in real life.

Less super-hero franchise sequels

the-avengers-

 

– more character driven dramas.

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Less coverage of the Royal family –  more support for hardworking families

Less Versace, Versace, Versace – more education, education, education

Less fetishisation of youth – more respect for old age.

Less obsessing over celebrity couples – more supporting of struggling parents

kimye

 

 

 

Less Kanye and Kim

 

 

 

- more Barack and Michelle

 

barack-and-michelle1

Here’s looking forward to a better 2014. Let’s make it happen………………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t watch X-Factor, or Britain’s Got Talent, or The Voice, or any of these TV talent shows.  But such a controversy was caused when X-Factor contestant Hannah Barrett complained of the racist/shadist abuse that she suffered on social media, that it reached even my radar.   According to Barrett, Black people were tweeting saying that she was ‘too dark’ to be a pop star.

Hannah Barret - too dark for showbiz?

Hannah Barret – too dark for showbiz?

For those outside of the Black community, this story may seem strange. If there are two areas that Black people have been allowed to thrive in this country, it is in sports and music. Infact many of the biggest pop stars of the last few decades have been Black. But the sad truth is that when it comes to women in entertainment, you can be Black, just not TOO Black.

All of the many successful Black female performers in the music industry, such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes, Nicki Minaj etc, have something in common besides their Platinum discs – they are all light-skinned.  The fact is that women in entertainment – be that music, movies, fashion or TV – are judged first and foremost on their appearance.  Regardless of their talent, any woman who wants to succeed in this business must be considered as attractive – an attractiveness defined with very narrow tightly defined parameters.  They must be slim, light-skinned, with European features, and long straight hair. If you are a dark-skinned Black woman, or even a fuller figured white woman you can work in these industries, but you will have to play the background. You can be a backing singer, but you can never be the star upfront.  You can be a supporting actress, but you can never be a screen goddess.

Alicia Keys - just right?

Alicia Keys – just right?

The many Black actresses who’s success we celebrate  – Halle Berry, Thandie Newton, Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton, Naomi Harris etc – all fit within these narrow parameters, and all come in a lighter shade of Black.

I’m not wanting to detract from the undoubted talent of all of these stars, but the sad truth is that they wouldn’t have reached where they are today, were they a few shades darker, or in possession of  more African features. And what’s so worrying about this fact, is that little Black girls growing up today, may NEVER see themselves positively represented on screen. This has been the case for as long as we’ve had cinema.

From Josephine Baker in the 1930s, to Lena Horne in the 40s, and Dorothy Dandridge in the 50s, to Pam Grier in the 70s, to Vanessa Williams and Lisa Bonet in the 80s, to Tyra Banks and Halle Berry in the 90s, to Beyonce today, when it comes to our Black beauties, it seems the lighter the better. In this Eurocentric world in which we live in, mixed race is the acceptable face of Blackness. Those sisters who are dark, try in vain to aspire to these European standards by modifying their appearance with hair weaves, colour contacts, and even toxic skin bleaching creams.

Pam Grier

Pam Grier

josephine baker

Josephine Baker

dorothy dandridge

Dorothy Dandridge

 

Interestingly the same standards don’t seem to apply to men.  Black men can be dark and still considered attractive. Consider old favourite Tyson Beckford, or new favourite Idris Elba – their dark complexion seems to enhance their desirability. Whilst the essence of feminine beauty is slim and pale, the essence of virile masculinity is tall and dark.

But it is an oversimplification to simply blame this phenomenon on the racism of white people imposing their narrow Euro-centric perspectives on the rest of us.  Remember that Hannah Barrett was complaining of racist comments from fellow Black people.

In music videos dark skinned women are conspicuous by their absence.  It has been de-rigueur for some time now that the eye candy in rap promos will be mixed or Latino, and it seems in UK music videos, even lighter sisters can’t get a look-in these days.  Notice recent videos from grime artists Wiley and Dizzie Rascal, that depict their idea of a perfect pool party, as them and a few male friends surrounded by a harem of skinny white girls.

By way of defence Wiley and Dizzie have both stated that they are not responsible for the selection of the models in their videos, but for such outspoken and independently-minded artists, I would expect them to take more of a role in how they are being visually represented. (If the video stylists asked them to wear a dress for the shoot, I’m sure they would have had something to say!)

Wiley - and friends!

Wiley – and friends!

But to me, even worse than the rap videos (who could ever look to Lil Wayne for guidance?) is the fact that the hosts on BET and so many African cable TV channels replicate this trend, having exclusively dark brothers accompanied by mixed or light-skinned sisters in front of the camera. So why are we as a race perpetuating the dissing of our darker skinned sisters? How and why have we inculcated such self-hatred?

It all goes back to the doctrine of white supremacy that was so successfully spread throughout the African diaspora through slavery and colonialism. For centuries white Europeans have drummed into their darker skinned subjects, that Europe was the pinnacle of civilisation, and that the rest of the world were primitive heathens without a culture of any worth. That God was white, Jesus was white, that white women were the epitome of beauty, that Black is ugly, and the closer to white you were, the higher you could rise. A racial hierarchy neatly encapsulated in the catchy phrase ‘If you’re white you’re alright, if you’re brown stick around, but if you’re Black get back.’

White Jesus

White Jesus

Malcolm Gladwell explains the Jamaican plantation experience in his book ‘Outliers’

“whites saw mulattoes – the children of those (mixed) relationships – as potential allies, a buffer between them and the enormous numbers of slaves on the island.  Mulatto women were prized as mistresses, and their children, one shade lighter in turn, moved still further up the social and economic ladder. ”

Gladwell further outlines how the victims of this hierarchy of shade absorbed the racist doctrine that still operates to this day.

 “Mulattoes rarely worked in the fields.  They lived a much easier life of working in the ‘house’.  They were the ones most likely to be freed. It’s not surprising then, that the brown-skinned classes of Jamaica came to fetishize their lightness.  It was their great advantage.  They scrutinized the shade of one another’s skin and played the colour game as ruthlessly in the end as the whites did.”

Sadly today such shadism is not confined to the descendants of slaves.  Skin lightening creams are as popular in Asia as they are in Africa and the Caribbean. But in the 21st century isn’t it time we stopped perpetuating it?  Please be aware, I am not promoting one shade over another.  I am saying we should celebrate Blackness in ALL of its shades, not just the ones that fit in with Eurocentric values. Realise that it’s not possible to be a conscious Black person whilst perpetuating shadism/colourism.  We need to re-programme ourselves, to counteract the centuries of white supremacist brain-washing.  Let’s not pass on these negative messages to another generation. Let’s stop using racially loaded concepts like ‘good hair/bad hair’.  Let’s stop this ‘Team Light-skin vs Team Dark-skin’ foolishness. If you’re buying a doll/action figure or books for Black/Brown children make sure that the heroes/heroines look like they do. Let’s see more music artists including some dark-skinned sisters in their videos. And let’s see a dark skinned sister win X-Factor!

De-programming material

If you’re down for the cause and want to stop the rot, here are some resources you may find useful to share with the children in your life, or less enlightened peers.

Video/film –Beauty Is

Chris Rock’s Good Hair good hair

Dark Girls

Yellow Fever: TRAILER from Ng’endo Mukii on Vimeo.

black beauty bookBooks  Black Beauty by ben arogundade

Greetings cardshttp://personalise.colorblindcards.com/

On-line –  visit www.endcolourism.org

Twitter-  follow @EndColourism

Dolls Rooti Dolls – http://rootidolls.com/new/rooti dolls

Back in the 1990’s when I was working for The Voice newspaper, also working there an older Jamaican man named Milton. I’m not sure what his official job title was but, depending on the time of day, he would fill the role of receptionist, handyman or head of security. But in my view his real role was as the heart and soul of the paper. With his no-nonsense plain-speaking Jamaican manner he would keep us British-born university-graduate journos in touch with the original spirit of The Voice.

TheVoiceLogo(1)

The Voice was the first newspaper aimed at the Black British market.

By day Milton could be  as polite and professional as the best of them, but at night, when most of the staff had gone home, and the rum had come out, his inner ‘Yard Man’ would reveal itself. He would educate and entertain me with his stories of growing up in Jamaica and his youth in England.  One of his stories involved him and his pals going for a night out in London.  He and his crew would roll up to a nightclub in their sharp suits and winkle-picker shoes, only to be turned away by the bouncers, while the scruffily dressed white men would just saunter in. It was these bitter experiences that led to the formation of the Blues parties and Black-owned nightclubs that were such a feature of the Black-British cultural life in the 70s and 80s. With the advent of hip-hop, house music, and dance-culture that arrived in the late 80s, the race-bar of London nightclubs fell away, as did the need for the Black owned clubs and Blues parties.

when white-owned night-clubs turned us away, we created out own.

when white-owned night-clubs turned us away, we created our own.

Thankfully such blatantly racist door policies are no longer a regular feature of London nightlife, but more a subtle colour-bar still exist in certain professions.

I had a taste of it when trying to move from The Voice into the ‘mainstream media’.  So much so, that I abandoned my career in journalism for nearly a decade.  My recent return to the field was prompted by the advance of social media which removed the need to negotiate with such gate-keepers. In the last year or so, working with on-line groups like Media Diversity and the TV Collective, this appeal for access to the closed doors of the media are a regular topic. The media, like those nightclubs of old, are exclusive places with a strictly enforced door policy that allows admission only to those who face fits.  There is a long-running standing joke in comedy circles, that no Black comedian will be able to get their own show on the BBC until Lenny Henry dies.

No room at the BBC for Black comedians until Lenny Henry dies?

No room at the BBC for Black comedians until Lenny Henry dies?

They and the other broadcasters seem to operate a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. The chosen Black faces in favour will vary over time – be it Trevor McDonald, or Darcus Howe, or Richard Blackwood, or Kwame Kwei Armah, or Reggie Yates, or Idris Elba, but only one at a time can gain entry. Like the nightclub bouncers of old, even if the gate-keepers of the media are not actually racist, they seem afraid to let too many of ‘us’ in at once, for fear of scaring away their regular punters.

In just the last month we have seen supermodel Naomi Campbell highlighting racism in the fashion industry; Labour MP Chukka Ummuna discussing ‘lazy racial stereotyping’ on British television; grime artist Dizzee Rascal complaining that Radio 1 don’t playlist his songs; and the general outcry from the Black British population about the stereotypical depiction of Jamaican culture in the Channel 4 documentary My Crazy New  Jamaican Life.  It’s all very well complaining, but what are we doing about it?

Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of those frustrated ravers of the 1960s.  They didn’t stand outside those nightclubs and picket, or start petitions demanding equity.  They simply moved on and started their own thing.  So by the time I started raving in the late 80’s, we had a pick of nightclubs in east London full of people that looked like us, and played the music we liked, all night long. And guess what else happened?  When our scene became acknowledged as being more attractive, Black DJs and ravers alike were welcomed into those previously off-limits establishments with open arms.

There was a time that Black DJs like Trevor Nelson were not welcome in West End nightclubs.

There was a time that Black DJs like Trevor Nelson were not welcome in West End nightclubs.

So perhaps we should follow the example of the pioneers who came before us.  Rather than singing the same old song, demanding equality of access and greater diversity, perhaps we should set up our own thing?  But one major obstacle stopping us is money.  Most of us don’t have rich parents who can financially support us, and we need to get paid. Not many in our community have the money to start up their own TV stations or finance big-budget movies. And none of us can afford to set up a business that runs at a loss for the first year, whilst we wait for blue chip companies to include our outlet in their yearly advertising budgets.

But in the last decade such financial barriers have been removed by one thing – the internet.  Thanks to this wonderful invention, journalists like me don’t have to wait for a Fleet Street editor to give me a job, or even a commission.  We can start our own blogs and write what we like, immediately we are inspired.  And by linking up with writers collectives like Media Diversity can have our copy read around the world.  Thanks to Facebook and Twitter we can distribute our work, interact with appreciative readers and increase our profiles.  Thanks to YouTube comedians and writers no longer have to convince execs from the BBC or ITV.  They can simply film it, upload it, promote it through social media, and watch those views and subscribers multiply.

And perhaps we’d be less fearful of doing it ourselves if we stopped thinking of ourselves as BMEs or Ethnic Minorities, and instead recognised the power of a worldwide diaspora, an international target audience who needs are currently being under-served. Plug into the power of Black twitter!

The Real McCoy is 20 years old.  Let it lie!

The Real McCoy is 20 years old. Let it lie!

How backwards do we as a people look when we start campaigns demanding that white-owned radio stations should play more Reggae and Soca? Or when we beg the BBC to bring back an old show like The Real McCoy?  Are we really saying that there has been no new Black comedy talent to emerge in the last 20 years? If you really think that, then you’re not paying attention. Would you walk into a white-owned restaurant and demand that they start serving Jerk Chicken? Wouldn’t it be smarter to open-up your own restaurant? Way back in the 1980s Val McCalla didn’t campaign and protest at the lack of Black journalists on Fleet Street – he set up The Voice, and got rich in the process. In the 90s, when Kanya King, like the rest of us, observed that Black artists were getting ignored by the Brit Awards, she didn’t start up a petition, she started the MOBO Awards.

As the film director Spike Lee put it “If you don’t own stuff, you have no power.  When Black people start thinking more like entrepreneurs instead of ‘please Mr White man, can you do so and so for me?’ we will call the shots.”

Or to quote Miguel de Cervantes “Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.”

'If you don't own stuff you have no power'. Spike Lee

‘If you don’t own stuff you have no power’. Spike Lee

And for those who argue that we pay taxes, and we pay licence fee and so we deserve to be represented – well we’ve been arguing that for 40 years now, and where has it got us?

So instead of begging those old media houses to acknowledge our presence, let’s side-step the gate-keepers and build our own thing, or support those that already exist. Begging is SO unattractive, and so last century. If you don’t know where to start here’s a list.

RADIO. If you want to listen to Black music that’s not obsessed with the Rhianna/Chris Brown/Jay-Z/Beyonce carousel of electronic dance music that dominates 1Xtra and Capital Extra try Radio stations Colourful and Solar.

TV. If you want news, discussion and entertainment that doesn’t only feature Black people when we’re selling drugs, try TVstations Oh! TV, VoxAfrica, and The Africa Channel.

Web Coms. Fancy seeing some middle-class Black people in normal monogamous relationships? Try the Web-coms BWNG, Venus vs Mars and Meet the McKenzies.

Brothers With No Game - available on YouTube right now!

Brothers With No Game – available on YouTube right now!

On-Line Media Outlets. For on-line news, discussion, and debate try the blogs by – The TV Collective, Media Diversity UK, Ms Mad News and The British Black List

Suggestions for other Black-owned media ventures that we should be supporting are most welcome.

So what are you waiting for?  Be the change that you want to see.

I’m a big fan of Channel 4 news. Each evening at 7pm I sit down to watch it accompanied by my lap-top, ready to tweet about any story that catches my attention.  The show’s main anchor Jon Snow, has a privileged position in my house.  Like Sir David Attenborough, he has the persona of one of those wise old men, in whom you believe everything they say.

Another reason I’m a fan of the show is that they have so many Black and Asian journalists, like co-anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, their Economics Editor Faisal Islam, and sports correspondent  Keme Nzerem amongst others.  But on the evening of 10th October I feel that they let themselves down badly (as did many others, judging by the comments on my Twitter time-line).

The incident in question was around a feature they ran on the new Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips.  The film portrays the true life story of a ship captured by Somali pirates, but as is Hollywood’s way, tells the story from the view point of the heroic white ship’s captain of the film’s title.  (As we are all know by now, even if a story is set in Africa, it must be seen through a white hero’s eyes.)

Captain-Phillips-Movie-2013

Before commencing an interview with the director and star, Channel 4’s Somali-born correspondent Jamal Osman gave a critique of the film, arguing that it misrepresents both how Somali pirates are recruited and how they operate. After this short piece Jon Snow sat down with Osman and the film’s director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks, and I settled down for a good debate about how complex African politics are often mis-represented on film. But that’s not what we got.  Instead, Osman’s criticism were quickly dismissed by Greengrass, and Snow spent the rest of the interview fawning over the director and star, whilst Osman sat there ignored like a pork pie at a Jewish wedding. It was embarrassing.

http://www.channel4.com/news/tom-hanks-captain-phillips-somalia-jamal-osman

Of the four men sat around that table, Jamal Osman is the most knowledgeable about the situation in Somalia.  Not only was he born there, but as a journalist he has reported often on the pirates, and interviewed them in person. But despite this, his voice was the one we heard the least. For those not familiar with the players involved, the situation may seem strange, but if we look at the power-dynamic of those around that table, it all becomes very clear.

Despite his expertise on the matter, Osman is lowest on the totem pole.  Jon Snow is a well-established, well respected journalist, Paul Greengrass is an A-List Hollywood director, and Tom Hanks is an Oscar winning movie star. Osman is just a struggling Black journalist trying to get his feet under the table at Channel 4, thus his opinion (even when it is an expert one) holds less weight.

Jamal Osman

Ironically, at the same time that these events were unfolding on Channel 4, over on African cable channel Oh TV, Trish Adudu on her topical chat show Real Talk, was discussing the recent re-branding of Black music radio station Choice FM, into ‘urban’ music station Capital Xtra.  Former DJ’s Daddy Ernie (who was live in the studio), and Geoff Schumann and George Kay (who phoned in) complained that the white executives who were making all the decisions at the station, had no knowledge of the Black music and culture that they were supposed to be championing.  And according to Daddy Ernie not only didn’t they know, but neither did they care. As veteran DJ’s were sacked, and the long established, well-loved station was re-named and re-positioned, the views of the specialist DJs at the station were not asked for, because they were not valued.

daddy ernie

Ex- Choice FM DJ Daddy Ernie says ‘the management don’t understand Black culture, and don’t care’.

Back over at Channel 4 news I can fully understand if the staff  there were excited to have Hollywood royalty in the studio.  But if they wanted to focus all their attention on Hanks and Greengrass, why invite Osman to the table to sit there like a lemon?

Some people who watched the show  may have seen things differently, or they may not have even noticed. But judging from comments on twitter and facebook, the whole situation resonated loudly with Black viewers. Many of us have been in the same situation in meetings at work.  We may be the sole Black voice in the room, and though we are invited to the table, our opinions are often ignored and side-lined.  And then we face the same dilemma that Osman did.  We can either accept the ‘diss’, and sit quietly there like the unwelcomed visitor at a  family meal, or we can push our viewpoint more forcefully, and risk being accused of being a trouble maker, or an angry Black man/woman ‘with a chip on our shoulder’.

I don’t blame Osman for choosing the first option.  I felt sorry for him.  Like so many of us, he’s just trying to keep his job. He’s just getting established on Channel 4 News and probably doesn’t want to rock the boat and harm his own advancement. I personally find it more difficult to hold my tongue, which is probably why I’ve made so little progress in the white corporate world.  But when even the right-on, racially inclusive Channel 4 News can be guilty of such side-lining, then we know what we’re up against.

The Channel 4 News showed how Black voices are marginalised and ignored

This particular Channel 4 News item nicely showed how Black voices are often marginalised and ignored

So to Channel 4, Capital Xtra, and those predominately white board-rooms up and down the country – its not enough to just give us a seat at the table, you also have to listen to what we have to say.  Try it, you might learn something!!