For Black History Month, I wrote about Maya Angelou and what her work means to me for Migrant Voice.
When the government talks about British values, think about deliberate cruelty of Universal Credit:
“Already the evidence from Citizens Advice is that UC is pushing people further into debt. The National Landlords Association has just reported that four out of five landlords are now reluctant to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit or UC. Food banks are buckling under the strain. Child Poverty Action Group has estimated that if all the cuts made to UC since it was first mooted were reversed, up to 1 million children could be kept out of poverty. As it is, they calculate lone parent families will lose a huge £2,380 a year on average by 2020. “
Then consider the hostile environment.
Today the government introduced up front charging for foreign nationals using the NHS. They already pay a £200 surcharge on top of taxes. And they already pay for hospital treatment. Now, this extends to NHS community services and will have to be paid in full before treatment is given.
And who is likely to be targeted, in a country where we don’t routinely carry ID documents? Those with foreign names, accents and anyone who “looks foreign” – whether they are British or not.
Doctors are protesting because they quite rightly want to focus on providing care, not checking people’s immigration status. But Theresa May’s endless border continues to encroach on community life – and what started as a regime primarly targeted at non-EU migrants continues to suck ever more Europeans and Britons into its net.
I will say it again: I love BBC World Service. The programming is of such a high calibre. I still think their coverage of the Ebola crisis was second to none – they stayed with the story months after the headlines had moved on, letting Africans tell our own stories, with dignity.
This morning I caught the beginning of another great programme: I speak Navajo. It starts with the story of a young woman who discovered that her grandfather and great grandfather’s voices were being held in recordings at her university library, the journey she goes on to get them back, and the story of her tribe and that of others.
These are voices you don’t often get to hear, languages I have never heard before, stories and myths from a culture that survived deliberate attempts to obliterate it. It’s a haunting, mesmerising listen.
My first reactions to the trailer, in no particular order:
The TV show Gotham is not without its problems, especially concerning its treatment of women.
Poison Ivy and her accelerated maturity, which seems to have been done to usher in the sexpot aspect of the comic book character at the expense of her intelligence, is just one example. It was entirely unnecessary and the result has a Lolita-esque quality that is uncomfortable viewing, especially in the year of our Lord 2017, with the pussy-grabber-in-chief and Weinstein story swirling.
Poison Ivy is meant to be sexy but also smart – and the latter has yet to manifest. Watching the Selena Kyle character unfold, who will one day become Cat Woman, however, is a nuanced and layered affair that firmly lays the groundwork for who she will become, in a neat parallel of Bruce Wayne’s journey. There are other women, and unusually for a television show, most of them get a chance to be real heel, even if it’s temporarily (and wear some amazing outfits/makeup in the process. I have to say, being bad comes with some great eye shadow and dark outfits with brilliant textures).
But the star, for me, is Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney.
She isn’t canon – she was created for the show, one of the many villains of the Gotham underworld, not one that comes with any comic book mythology, and the show’s resistance to exploring her back story was a bit annoying -but she instantly becomes one of the most memorable.
She is one of my favourite TV characters of all time. Fish Mooney, as played by Jada with a relish that reminds me of Jada earlier in her career, is wily, witty, strong but nurturing. It’s a reminder that although Will Smith gets most of the shine, there are two acting powerhouses in that marriage and quite frankly, I think Jada has more range.
So often, the strong woman in a TV show can be a bit one-note, but Fish is like a jewel turning in the sun that captivates as it catches the light. It’s great writing, of course, but Jada plays the part with ferocity and tenderness that makes her an utter scene stealer whenever she is on screen.
Fish is a survivor in a world where the supernatural rubs shoulder with reality all the time – in fact the one time she does get superpowers briefly, it almost seemed lazy.
It’s no surprise that the character’s constant resurrections are the result of popular demand. My favourite one is at the hands of Dr Strange in a process that robs previous characters of their memory, allowing the Dr to craft a persona for them. Fish, however, comes back to life and instantly knows who she is. She will not be told, owned or controlled.
Her unapologetic realness is a #Blackgirlmagic all day long.
This has not been a good year for blogging. But I haven’t been dormant; far from it. I have done some great panel events at Universities, I have written some new work coming at politics from a slightly different angle and I have been working on (supervising the building of) a new website.
So, here is my new (est) ting:
I will keep working out my thoughts on here, like a newsletter into the ether, but I will start collating my work on the new site and hopefully showing my portfolio in a more holistic way.
A moment of nerdery that is also close to home: scientists have a theory about why we don’t recognise or like hearing our recorded voices played back.
The answer is interesting (and my title is a spoiler alert) but it’s also something I struggle with. I find it so hard to listen back to my speeches or interviews, but I know it’s one of the best ways to improve and to learn what you do well too.
So, grit your teeth, listen back to yourself and learn to be a better public speaker. And if it sounds like a hot mess, it’s probably all in your head.
2017 is many things so far, but for me personally, it’s the year (ok, I started this towards the end of last year) that I take care of myself.
Not in a New-Years-Resolution-Fitness-Craze sort of way; more of a commitment.
Committing to my health spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.
Committing to living the life I have, not looking backwards and being trapped in nostalgia or straining forwards waiting for it to “begin”.
Committing to the people in my life by showing up and allowing myself to be seen; and taking the time to see, listen and love my family, friends and colleagues.
Commit to doing all the things that I’ve been putting off out of fear or waiting to have someone to do them with.
Aside from all of that, I’ve been watching, listening to and reading some new stuff – new to me, so don’t stone me for being late to many proverbial parties.
Baggage Reclaim: A site that’s about all things relationships. Not just romantic relationships, I hasten to add. Natalie Lue writes with wit, kindness, humour and directness about self-esteem, love and life. It’s therapeutic.
Very Smart Brothas: Sharp commentary that makes me laugh darkly at least once a day because: truth. eg Dear White People Who Write Things: People Who Voted for a Blatant Racist are Fine With Racism (It’s Not That Hard).
Tiny Letters: Yes, I know everyone has been all about this for maybe two years but it’s a great email newsletter from all your faves. Bim Adewumni, whose own one (entitled …fuck is this? ) is fantastic and here she’s compiled a handy list of some other good ones. 2017 may be the year I start my own.
This Is Us: Listen. I am not a sappy person. (start of this post notwithstanding). I like to think of myself as a soft boiled egg: yes, a little gooey on the inside but there’s a robust buffer and a resilient shell to crack through first. I like my TV sharp and either funny and dark (Crazyhead), action-packed and dark (Banshee) or somewhat creepy and dark (Penny Dreadful). Throw in the odd trashy drama (Nashville – but I blame my love of country music for this) and I’m set. What I do not do is sweet. This is Us is sweet and funny and has me all up in my feelings every damn episode. It’s about a family and all the frustrating/beautiful/slightly bonkers things that families do. It’s also a wider commentary on society, race… there’s a lot, okay. And it undoes me every time.
Podcasts: I’ve added Melanin Millenials to my listening mix. Right now, my favourites are the Baggage Reclaim podcast (linked to the aforementioned blog), NPR’s Code Switch podcast (filling that chasm left when Melissa Harris Perry departed our screens) and Death, Sex and Money (Presenter Anna Sale has a gloriously intimate interviewing style that draws the best out of her subjects and one of the loveliest presenting voices to boot).
Music: Lee Moses is on repeat for me right now. His track Bad Girl is raw soul.
I don’t have a hot take in me for the events of today: the Turkey attack. Germany’s. The news that UK-made cluster bombs are being used in Yemen. Amnesty’s report accusing the Burmese military of perpetrating crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.
Right now we need the arts more than ever: poets, comedians, artists, sculptors, writers, painters…
So a poet then, with the words for these times:
“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
everywhere.” – Warsan Shire
I’m on a break, winding up the year and preparing for the next. This Kermit meme just slayed me: