“If you want to see how the poor die, come to Grenfell Tower”

No truer words spoken in this time of mourning where almost a hundred people have died in Grenfell Tower. Each passing day fuels me with anger and sorrow for the Grenfell victims. This didn’t need to happen.

This shocking incident highlights the injustice and negligence practiced by those in high positions, those who seek to cut corners in order to fill their pockets, and do so at the expense of innocent lives. The government and Theresa May’s reaction has been nothing short of useless and beyond disappointing, a “failure” as quoted from the Prime Minster herself. If that building was a multimillion pound luxury apartment full of wealthy people, the fire would have been put out in a blink of an eye. In fact, there would have been fire extinguishers on every floor, sprinklers fitted, fire alarms up-to-date and working, adequate fire escapes and there certainly would’t be flammable cladding on the exterior of the building.

These people like you and I, died long before they actually met their horrific deaths, they were dead to the council and the government, it only just manifested itself on the 14th June 2017. They died the moment their pleads for safety were ignored.

The events that lead up to this incident, during and after plays into the idea many of us have held onto for some time now. London is undergoing a social cleansing, this has been the agenda of the Tories since coming into power, profits over people is their motto. Evidence unfolding from this tragic event only prove this once a speculative idea, to be in fact true. Day by day more incriminating details emerge, from the constant complaints and worries voiced by the tenants ignored by the authorities, the use of cheap flammable materials to make the exterior look less of an eye sore to its wealthy neighbours, today we found out that many of the victims were poisoned by cyanide, a toxic gas given off by the burning insulation, the same lethal substance used during Nazi Germany’s gas chambers. In the words of MP David Lammy “this was criminal”, an accident waiting to happen, arrests need to be made and quick. We need justice.

What pains me is that these were ordinary people and could have easily been anyone. Many on the brink of a breakthrough like the talented artist Khadija Saye, 24, who lived on the 20th floor with her mother. Her beautiful work is on show at the Venice Biennale. Syrian refugee Mohammad Alhajali, 23, was studying civil engineering at the university of West London, lived on the 14th floor of the block. His brother Omar, 25, managed to escape from the fire after becoming separated from Mohammad, who was unable to get to safety. They fled from one tragedy just to meet another. Many untapped talents, if given the opportunity to reach their potentials could have easily been able to move out of Grenfell and into one of the million pound houses that the tower overlooks. Now we will never know.

“In this age of austerity, the poor die for other’s prosperity” – Ben Okri 

#JusticeforGrenfell

 

The case of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Rohingya minority has left us thinking is she a Hero turned Villain?

Her silence on the issue of genocide and persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar was questionable, with widespread violence and terror against the Rohingya and other minorities in the Rakhine state, how could Suu Kyi not be aware that her people were being persecuted and still not do or say anything to condemn these actions? Why was she choosing to stay quiet? From the outside looking in it appears as though her first year in power is not going too smoothly.

With mounting pressure from the international community as to what she was going to do about the situation, she finally broke her silence in a recent interview with the Guardian and gave us all an insight into her stance on the problem in Myanmar:

“I don’t think ethnic cleansing is going on, I think ethnic cleansing is too strong of an expression to use for what’s happening”

I guess from that we can infer that Suu Kyi is very much aware of the current state of things in her country, but just doesn’t perceive people being targeted for their ethnicity and religion and having to flee for their lives into neighbouring countries as ethnic cleansing, it’s apparently “too strong of an expression”. Disappointing and shocking are just a few words that come to mind when I hear these words coming from the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. These words were enough for me to question her credibility, for someone who had been through a struggle (put under house arrest for just over a decade under former dictatorship rule) and been oppressed its funny how quickly she forgets what oppression looks like.

Although a year into the new diplomatic government the problems Myanmar faces today have been around for decades and realistically speaking can’t be solved in a year, Myanmar has always experienced conflict between its ethnic minorities, it almost runs through the veins of Myanmar.

Rumour has it that the outburst of violence against the minorities in the Rahkine state is over land, the Rohingya minority occupy land that the government and investors want to use for development and their refusal to leave has resulted in an outburst of violence and forced expulsion. Whatever the reason may be I think we can all agree and say something needs to be done to stop the discrimination and killing of innocent people.

Has Aung San Suu Kyi turned into a villain? If I’m being honest, I’m on the fence, the woman she is today seems to be a shadow of the woman I grew up reading about and admiring. Nonetheless, as much as I don’t agree with her treatment on the matter I need to bare in mind that things are never as they seem for that reason I’m still waiting to see how Suu Kyi will solve this problem and bring peace and unity into Myanmar in the next coming months and years, it is going to be an uphill battle that is for sure.

 

#SpeakOut: Yes, ‘Big boys’ do and should cry.

For all who tuned in to watch last nights BBC One programme ‘Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad’ it was no doubt highly emotional. Rio took us all on a journey to finding solace as opposed to pain in remembering his wife Rebecca who at the age of 34 passed away in 2015 due to cancer. His honesty in admitting his struggle with coming to terms with her sudden death and adjusting to now being a single parent to three young children, who are also coming to terms with the loss of their mother all came to light.

Using his status and own personal experience Rio has sparked a long overdue conversation about men, emotions and how they deal with hard realities of life. Towards the end of the programme we witness a shift in his approach and outlook as a result of seeking advice from other men who were widowed and the children who lost their mothers at a young age.

This idea that boys don’t cry is so ingrained in society that when boys become men they become emotionally unavailable, end up not knowing how to grieve and deal with the realities of life. Being told to “man up” at the slightest hint of human emotion. Suppressing feelings can be detrimental to society on the whole, for many these issues can be traced back to childhood upbringings where children have been brought up in homes where they are never shown affection from male role models, their fathers. It then becomes a cycle as shown in the scene where Rio visits his childhood estate with his father and recalls his father never really being there for emotional support, that’s probably the reason why Rio finds it difficult to speak about his problems. Having to suppress emotions and not talk about traumatic events can not only take a toll on ones mental health but can also be physically damaging. With a life time full of so much pent up anger, sadness, grief and guilt, perhaps this is why men generally die earlier than women?

We should not stop boys and men from expressing their emotions and talking about their feelings.  The myth that you are less of a man if you show and speak about feelings continues to be debunked and challenged in our society. With role models like Rio Ferdinand being open about the long healing process we can hope that society overcomes gender stereotypes and allows men to be humans.

The programme only touched on a few aspects of the past and was overall very much forward focused. I have so much respect for Rio and the people who shared their stories. By doing so I’m sure they have helped so many people in similar situations by letting them know they are not alone and encouraging them to seek help as help is available. I wish nothing but the best for Rio and his family, although they have suffered such a great loss and the memory of Rebecca will live on they can be assured that better days are coming ahead.

 

 

Samuel L. Jackson needs to take several seats.

To say I’m disappointed with Samuel L. Jackson is an understatement. With all that money and travelling you mean to tell me he still doesn’t know or understand that issues of race are not exclusive to African Americans? Really Jackson?

In a recent  interview with Hot 97, Samuel L. Jackson made some rather bitter remarks about Black British actors who take on African American roles in the American film industry. It all came out when asked about Jordan Peele’s hit horror film “Get Out” which stars Black British actor Daniel Kaluuya. He went on to say some things that I thought were unnecessary, ill informed and down right ignorant.

Daniel Kaluuya played an African American guy whose white girlfriend has psycho parents (in a nutshell), Jackson said “I tend to wonder what that movie would have been if it were an American brother who really feels that…some things are universal but not everything”.

Pause. Take a deep breath. Yes, Samuel L. Jackson did just insinuate that because you as a Black British/French/Italian/Brazilian person are not African-American you couldn’t possibly understand what it feels like to fall victim to racial discrimination and prejudice, even if you did it’s not legit because you’re not African-American. Now, the struggles we face as Black British people do differ to that of African Americans, I agree, but nonetheless the fight for equality and diversity for Black people is global. It is not just a US problem, it’s here in the UK too, in other countries it’s even worse!  *cough cough Brazil*

If you really want to talk about everyday struggles and hurdles we face as Black British people let’s do that: It’s been reported that some people have had to change their ethnic sounding names to stereotypically white names so that their CV’s don’t get thrown in the bin. He insinuated that everything in the UK was all dandy and fine because… we’ve supposedly “had interracial dating for a hundred years”? Wow. You want to speak to interracial couples who were around 5, 10, 20 years ago, society is only now coming round to the fact that love has no colour. About the same time you were seeing signs like “No Blacks” littered across America, over here in the UK we too were seeing the infamous “No Blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ sign across the UK, being beaten, harassed, murdered all because of our skin. Not too long ago an incident involving an unarmed Black man and the police sparked the London Riots, resulting in days of unrest and confusion. Not too far from where I live I was shouted at, called a ‘Black monkey’ and ‘told to go back to Senegal’, even though I’m of Nigerian heritage. I know of innocent young Black men that were framed and locked up for no reason. The list goes on.

Why do we have to justify and prove that we have hurdles to overcome as Black British people just like you do?

My dear African American brothers and sisters you are not alone in this fight for equality and diversity in the film industry, if anything you are much better off, at least you get to have your stories heard. Who on this earth doesn’t know that African Americans are the biggest exporter of culture, you dictate how the world sees Black people. You dictate what the world deems cool. If only you knew how much power you have.

We’ve had slavery here too, like seriously what country was heavily involved in slavery and colonialism (Hint: The UK). You produced the phenomenal movie ‘Roots’ showcasing the harsh treatment of Africans in slavery, despite it being common knowledge to many that slavery was rampant here in the UK, we’ve had…nothing.

Contrary to popular belief Black people had been in the UK long before the Windrush but our stories aren’t heard and our contributions are heavily downplayed.

The films Hotel Rwanda and The Last King of Scotland were lead by African American actors Don Cheadle and Forest Whitaker, many Africans didn’t care about the fact they were American, we were just happy that the best people got the job to tell such compelling stories. Now, when we had a problem with African Americans playing an African character, Nigerian for that matter, was with Will Smith’s movie ‘Concussion’ (That accent…LET ME NOT EVEN START).

I grew up watching African American films like Love & basketball, Best Man and the episodes of Fresh Prince, The Parkers, Kenan & Kel, One on One, My Wife and Kids the list goes on, it was the only time on TV where I’d see faces that looked like mine. Why do you think we do the American accent so damn well. The point is YOU get to tell your stories, for us Black British people we don’t often get the opportunity but through you we do.

Black British actors are going over to the US should tell you that the UK is still struggling with the idea of diversity in the film industry. Oh, you didn’t hear about the whole Idris Elba and James Bond thing? Or the time when racists attacked Noma Dumezweni for being casted as Hermione in the West End play Harry Potter and the cursed child?

To my dear Mr Jackson, the struggle is indeed universal and the sooner you realise the better. Your stories are ours too and ours are yours. From America to the UK, the struggle for opportunities, equality and diversity remains. Don’t pit us up against each other, we need to work together.

I will not dispute the fact that as a country, here in the UK we have made progress overall, slow but nonetheless progress, we can only hope that it gets better even in the midst of this tense political atmosphere and Brexit. I love the UK, London is home I was born and raised here, and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else (…not going to lie Lagos doesn’t sound too bad though, need a bit of sun).

For someone who has built a legacy and is all about Black Power, rather than being divisive, Jackson should use his influence to help. There is no obligation but it would be better if he used his voice to address this issue of diversity in the film industry rather than pit us Black people against each other and call our talented and hardworking Black British actors “cheap”.

Instead of talking about people like David Kaluuya, David Oyelowo, John Boyega, Naomi Harris, Thandie Newton, Sophie Okonedo, Idris Elda (hey boo) ‘taking’ roles from African-Americans you should rather see it like this, they are coming over to the US for jobs, man, how bad must it be for a Black person to get a break in the UK? As Idris Elba will tell you it’s quite bad.

Besides all that what it ultimately boils down to who is right for the role. Forget about the whole Black British vs African American debacle, in the words of the great John Gboyega it is a “stupid a** conflict” that we just should not entertain. The person who gets that role has done so out of sheer talent and suitability for that role. So Mr Samuel L. Jackson needs to take a seat, several for that matter. Our Black British actors are more than worthy and qualified to take on these roles at the end of the day its not called “acting” for no reason (SO IN YOUR FACE!)

I could go on and on but I’ll leave with this, racism is a global disease that doesn’t just start and end in the US, we all need to unite and uplift one another not have a competition of who struggles the most and downplay one another.

The worlds irrational fear of diversity is just that, irrational. This myth that Black actors and directors don’t sell films continues to be dispelled and proven wrong. Over and over again. Writer and director Jordan Peele has just smashed the coveted $100 million box office sales. But I guess like the US, it seems like the only time society doesn’t have an issue with diversity is when it comes to who is filling up their prison cells. *Sips tea*

Donald Trump: The nightmare that became a reality

Just when you thought America couldn’t have elected a worse president than Nixon and Bush, as of the 20th January 20th 2017, they proved the world wrong and swore in a twitter troll as a president, Donald Trump. Indeed it does not get any worse than that. Well I can only hope it doesn’t. I am sure for many of us the past month and 2 days have been nothing short of exhausting, confusing and emotionally draining. The 90-day Muslim ban, the ban on federal money going to international abortion groups, the spewing of lies upon lies by his scrappy administration, the protests…for goodness sake its only been a month.

From my understanding a president is a leader that genuinely has the interest of ALL people in his/her nation at heart no matter their colour, heritage or religious belief. A person elected to serve the his or her people and meet their needs, not have the people serve him/her and stroke their ego. A person that also considers those beyond its borders and seeks to bring about peace not conflict and despair. Trump is a troll and bares all the traits of one. Donald Trump has proven he does not acquire these ideals, not a single one and therefore not fit to carry the title of a president in my eyes. So I’ll continue to call him Donald Trump, leave out the title ‘President’, that should only be reserved for an actual man (or woman), not a 7 year old child trapped in a 70 year old body. So it looks like I’ll have to wait another 4 years (or shorter, hopefully) to use that title.

His pompous attitude and narcissistic vain obsession with himself and women has made him the least popular president to take office in 4 decades. Ouch. Brought up with a golden spoon in his mouth (explains his taste for all things gold) he is a businessman that is all about making money. It puzzles me that people were rooting for him, if they were truly serious about wanting change and wanting someone that was anti-establishment surely Bernie Sanders was the best candidate throughout the whole election. Think about it, they now have a businessman in office, a man who was always rich and essential part of the establishment he claimed to be against, he was a friend of the Clintons for years!

Generally speaking, the number one priority for a businessman is to make money and maximise profits, not people. People aren’t really a priority unless they’re making you money. Let that sink in for a bit. To put it plainly, Donald Trump would do a David Cameron and sell his country in a heartbeat if the right Saudi Arabian investors came along, he does not care about the average American at all, how could he? He doesn’t know what it’s like to be average when he’s always been wealthy. As the days go by it becomes more and more apparent just how outlandish and out of touch he is.

This boy man speaks like a child. His description of serious events and people do not span beyond the words: bad, good or very bad and very good. Now he is in office someone needs to introduce him to something we call a dictionary. All that money and he won’t buy English speaking lessons? Unlike the eloquent Trudeau, Trump sounds like an uneducated brutish old man every time he opens his mouth, entertaining but scary when you remember he is actually in office. The English language has a plethora of adjectives that can be used to describe things. Sometimes the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ just don’t cut it.

I say to people over again that if you strip Donald of his money and wealth and what do you have? To put it bluntly: An angry old racist white man.

My issue is that the love of money is leading people astray, rather than follow the people who want to liberate and help them, the world is worshipping those who have money but seek to harm them. I believe America, the media, opposers of Bernie Sanders have shot themselves in the foot. Clinton was never the right Democratic candidate but rather Sanders. If it were a Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump election, Sanders would have won by a landslide. If you can’t already tell by now I’m still feeling the Bern, yes indeed.

Overall it’s disturbing for the world to witness America’s leadership to go from the Obamas to the real life Addams family. A massive downgrade by anyones standards. The Obamas brought class to the White House, if there were ever a time to be proud to be American, it was in the last 8 years. Now, not so much.

Nonetheless, as history has shown, so-called leaders like Donald do not last long and even if they do last the whole 4 years their legacy will be one that brings nightmares to many. So let’s fasten our seat belts and get ready for a bumpy tumultuous ride. It is going to be a crazy one.

The floor is yours President Barrow.

Last week Gambia’s former president Yayha Jammeh at last agreed to step down officially ending his 22 year long reign in the country. Shortly after conceding he headed for Equatorial Guinea where he will remain in exile.

Just as all seems to be going well and we’re about to pop the champagne, it is revealed the in the weeks running up to his exile Jammeh stole $11.4 million from Gambia, spending the money on luxury cars and other goods. Of course, how could he possibly leave empty handed and without further crippling the country’s finances?

The 2016 Gambian elect saw it’s youth come together to oust it leader and elect Barrow into power. If its one thing this has taught me it is that when the youth exercise their rights to vote they are able to take back control from the hands of those who see them as disposable and decide their own futures for themselves. It gives me hope, although not always possible, this situation has shown it can be done.

So now the floor is yours President Barrow, let’s see what you can do for your country and its youth, men and women. Let’s see if you can do better to stop your people travelling through desserts, sea and foreign lands to get to so called greener pastures in Europe.

No pressure.

Your time is up Jammeh!

The political tension in West Africa is growing as Yahya Jammeh is yet to step down as president following defeat in last year’s election. 

In December 2016 the Gambian people cast their votes for a new leader and democratically elected the former Londoner Adama Barrow. Problem is the current leader Yahya Jammeh has rejected the results and is now refusing to step down. Here we go again.

Yayha Jammeh former military coup member has been Gambia’s president since 1994, his refusal to concede has caused tensions in the region resulting in an estimated 26,000 people fleeing Gambia to Senegal and other neighbouring countries.

His feeling of entitlement and pride has led to this situation that could very easily take a turn for the worst if he does not leave by 19th January 2017. The same day that is supposed to be the inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow. Talk about raining on someone’s parade. 

Such leaders profess their love for their country and its people yet disregard their voices, democratic rights at such a crucial time. 

Your 22 year reign is up Mr Jammeh, the people have spoken.