Dance the Guns to Silence II – 20th anniversary of the murders of Ken Saro-Wiwa & the Ogoni 8


DAY of ACTION on the 20th Anniversary of the outrageous executions of writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 Ogoni men.

8:00 – 10:30am, VIGIL at SHELL, Shell Centre, Waterloo, London, SE1 7NA

Gather at Shell to demand environmental justice in Ogoniland using Ken’s own words, and mark the lives of each of the Ogoni 9. Called by MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People) and Action Saro-Wiwa

19:00 (doors open 18:00) , DANCE THE GUNS TO SILENCE II – music, spoken word, performance, DJ. At Rich Mix. £10.00/£5.00 (adv & concs)

Major celebration with performance poets, writers, musicians, and filmmakers, with an introduction by Lazarus Tamana, Coordinator of MOSOP.

Read more about Ken Saro-Wiwa and the struggle against Shell in the Niger Delta here

Music from Virtual Migrants, headliners Bumi and Dele, DJ Tillah Willah, spoken word from Dorothea Smartt, Young Poet Laureate for London Selina Nwulu, Zena Edwards, Sai Murray and the Numbi family.

Plus updates on live events in the Niger Delta. Dance the Guns is a co-production between Numbi, Action Saro-Wiwa and Sable LitMag. Hosted by Kadija Sesay (Sable) and Kinsi Abdulleh (Numbi). Come and make some noise for Ken, whose people are still fighting for justice.

See you there. Book Now.

Numbi: Film & Arts International Festival


“We come together to mend the crack in the sky” – Somali proverb
This Summer Numbi goes Global following on from our frolic with ‘Youth’ in 2014, this year we are exploring ‘Faith’. With Numbi Seed Events connecting metropolitan communities in London, Atlanta and Hargeisa.
As always and in true Numbi Spirit we have a line up of local, national and international artists and educators; the conversation is Global and the platforms made Local.
With events taking place throughout June, July and August 2015 we invite you to immerse yourself in film screenings, live music, exhibitions, workshops, readings and guided tours. #Findyourselfgetfree

The event will kick-off with films selected specially for this evening in collaboration with Legacy Film UK, followed by a showcase of a formidable line up of NUMBI resident and guests including Elmi Ali, Dorothea Smartt Poetic Pilgrimage, Judy Solomon, Ubah Cristina Ali Farah , Rosamond S King, Hassoum Ceesay, DJ Tillah Willah, Jonathan Andre, Anna Lau, Yenenesh Nigusse, Kinsi Abdulleh and Charity Njoki Mwaniki and many more.

Friday 26th June
20:00 – 01:00
£10, £5 concs from Rich Mix box office

Other events to come…
Join us at New Unity in Newington Green for a day of connection, mapping, realignment and relaxation. A whole day event with live-food from 3MW Health; the Art of Centering and Grounding with Naila Natural Yoga; Soul expression & Integration circle, sound healing session with Judy Yodit Solomon & Hatha yoga with Dunya Ntinizi.
Saturday 27th June, 10:00 – 22:00
£10, £5 concs. per workshop
New Unity, 39A Newington Green, London N16 9PR
The Soul Expression & Integration Circle: helps people to discover and intuitively express the untapped potential that lies in our voice. It is recommended for anyone who wishes to enjoy deeper peace, greater freedom, and mastery of life.
Come and explore your voice and its healing power.
Advance booking essential
The Numbi Kohl Class is a gaze deconstruction workshop where we like to take more than one look. Author and SCARF guest editor Ubax Christina Ali Farah leads an exploration of the connections between the body, self-representation, beauty and faith. Using texts and images as discussion triggers she encourages participants to share and reflect back on experiences and anecdotes connected with the theme. Participants use notebooks to collect and share their voices with sketches, notes, stories and ideas: the notebook becomes an accumulator of ideas and emotions that releases its charge over time.
Sunday 28th June, 11:00
i’klectik Art-lab, ‘Old Paradise Yard’, 20 Carlisle Lane SE1 7LG

Festival pass £30 and full program available at the Numbi Festival Launch @ Rich Mix. Book now!

Put the Mask back in the Mas

Notting Hill Carnival in 2013 Brianna McCarthy Maker + Mender mask.

Notting Hill Carnival in 2013 Brianna McCarthy Maker + Mender mask.

One jouvay morning in Port of Spain a couple years ago, an Egun priest told me that the ancestors were upset because we were playing mas with our faces uncovered. This year for Jouvay I covered my face and at Notting Hill Carnival yesterday I made the transition back to a mask.

I had the pleasure of wearing a piece of art made by Brianna McCarthy, one of Trinidad’s most exciting young mixed media artists.

The politics of beauty in Trinidad is problematic at best. Look at any band launching event and notice that black women, dark skinned Indian or African women are virtually non-existent.

I am really excited about the ways that Brianna’s work confronts this.

Her website says:
‘Her work takes on the intricacies and dynamics of representing Afro-Caribbean women who are portrayed as being strong, long-suffering, exoticised and picturesque beings against a backdrop of poverty, hardship, abuse and/or scorn. McCarthy’s constructions and representations revolt against and subvert the stereotypical trends of representing the black body.’  

Once upon a time Carnival was a space for women to claim power. These days I can’t tell if Carnival is a space of power or – given the size of the costumes, the expense of the make up and increase in gym membership from October to February – a space where women are forced to seek approval under the gaze of a society that is male and judgemental. 

So the mask is part of that confrontation that needs to take place.  I loved the fear, awe, intrigue, attraction that the mask caused. Men begged me to take it off, children cried, old people smiled and bowed.

Culture should never be fossilized fragments. It should always evolve to serve the needs of the people who practice it. 

But we always need rituals. And performance as ritual – we’ve lost that from our Carnival with the loss of the mask.

And that is what I loved most about about wearing Brianna’s mask – it was a very contemporary take on a very ancient practice of masking – for the purpose of healing, for the purpose of transformation, for the purpose of liberation.

It’s a key part of the obeah that is Carnival and it occurred to me yesterday that half of the reason why the Carnival has lost its power is because of the removal of the mask.

London is the Place


I still smile every time I come out of the Brixton Tube station and turn left, and it’s like being in Africa and Asia and the Caribbean all at once. The incense man outside the supermarket is really from Barbados, though he pronounces “incense” like a Jamaican. A car passes, blasting the latest funky house summer scorcher, the unholiest of combinations of high life’s easy groove, dancehall’s driving bass, and soca’s call to wine.


Piece I wrote for Caribbean Beat Magazineon my ongoing love affair with Babylondon.


Vedanta AGM Protest. London August 28, 2012

Please join us for the eighth annual protest at British mining company Vedanta’s AGM on 28 August, 2.00PM at THE LINCOLN CENTRE, 18 Lincoln’s Inn
Fields, London WC2A 3ED

Vedanta plc is a London listed FTSE 100 company dubbed ‘the world’s most hated mining company’ which has brought death and destruction to
thousands. It is owned by billionaire Anil Agarwal and his family through companies in various tax havens. It has been consistently fought by
people’s movements but it is being helped by the British government to evolve into a multi-headed monster and spread across India and round the
world, diversifying into iron in Goa, Karnataka and Liberia, Zinc in Rajasthan, Namibia, South Africa and Ireland, copper in Zambia and most
recently oil in the ecologically fragile Mannar region in Sri Lanka.

* Vedanta is the second most tax evading mining company in the FTSE 100. Billionaire company chief Anil Agarwal is one of the richest men in
Britain with a £20 million home in Mayfair. His family own 62% of the company through various tax havens.

* At their Korba aluminium plant in Chhattisgarh, India up to 100 people are suspected to have been bulldozed into the rubble after a factory
chimney collapsed on them. Vedanta claim only 42 died but between 60 and 100 are still missing.

* At the Jharsuguda aluminium complex in Odisha, an estimated 10,000 people displaced by the plant are forced to live in polluted conditions
under constant surveillance rather than be rehabilitated.

* In Zambia Vedanta’s Konkola copper mines polluted the Kafue river so heavily that it turned green. 100 x acceptable levels for copper and 7,700
x acceptable levels of manganese were found in water depended on by 50,000 people.

* In Odisha, indigenous movements have opposed Vedanta’s bauxite mine on the Niyamgiri hills for seven years and so far prevented it. The whole of
the Dongia Kondh tribe would be affected detrimentally if the mine went ahead.

* Despite protests, environmental disasters and human rights atrocities everywhere the company operates, the British Government have continually
protected and supported Vedanta.

This is what it sounds like when boys cry.

It is an awful sound.  Guttural and raw.  A teenaged boy sobbing.  It is the worst sound and it twists my insides and I am fighting back tears.  Not for the boy these boys are weeping for. I did not know Zac Olumegbon.  Or more correctly, I do not remember him.  He was the little brother of my little sister’s best friend.  She had the most serious face, I remember. I always wondered why children here always looked so serious. Like they had the world of worries.  Perhaps they do, living in this corner of Babylondon.

And if I have run away from Trinidad hoping to escape the endless statistics of little black boys killing each other for honour, to regain their misplaced manhood, I have run to the wrong place.

Brixton, despite the gentrification and the nice gastro pubs and the belligerent foxes, is one of those London places where crime happens.  I don’t see the Eastern European whores in the park anymore and outside the Library they’ve made it all shiny and new.  But there are still old homeless people and young drugged up people and sad drunk people of all ages.  They do not go away despite the shiny new surfaces.

The sight of crying children is unbearable.  I guess because I take such a pragmatic view of death. It happens. It is natural.  Zac’s life as one of the speaker’s says, has been stolen.  Like a chain from someone’s neck.  Like the childhood of all these young people who have to say goodbye to a boy who has not yet lived.

They stabbed him.  Children stabbed him.  Children like him.  What can they possibly know of life to warrant killing a 15 year old.  What could they possibly be so sure of that they can take another life?

I look at the faces of my sisters’ friends.  They are young and old at the same time.  Too much living too soon.  I cherish my own sheltered childhood.  That I got to doubt myself and make believe and wish and dream and never once wonder if someone was going to deny me the chance to make mistakes.

My fought back tears are not for Zac.  They are rather for his friends and family.  Hundreds of them.  Gathered in grief on this bleakest of summer days.  There are long silences punctuated only by half stifled sobs and sniffles.

The police stay a respectable distance.  No profiling now.  No microwaving of leftover sus laws.

A young man read/raps Psalm 37 in the rhythm and truth of his Sath Landin twang.  The cheeky boys from the bus hold each other and cry silently, and then wipe the tears away as if they are angry with their leaking eyes.

My fought back tears are for them.  For their anger and grief.  For his mother and his sister and my sisters and all the young women here who will have to find a way to keep loving these men who are at war with themselves.

What war the Pastor asks. What war can they fight when they own nothing? What post code, what block belongs to them?  What property do they own when they live in state provided housing, are second generation immigrants? Where do they belong? Not even to themselves.

These children cry and my mother instinct moans helplessly.  There is no consoling for this kind of grief.  You can’t stick a dummy in the mouth of a generation that is becoming accustomed to burying their own.

I leave before it is finished.  Leave his mother reading the mountain of tributes.  Leave behind  Zac Olumegbon, who was the little brother of my little sisters friend.  They hope he has not died in vain.  All these people who have come to weep for him.  They hope no more will have to shed tears like this again.  Still, sirens wail in the distance, louder than Zac’s mother, louder than the thud of a boy fainting from grief, louder than the shaky voices of his school friends crying out to Christ for mercy. On this bleak summer day.

Here and now
You free as the wind
You de earth
You de fire
You de song that I sing
You the beat and the feeling
The living proof that we in.

Here and Now, Andre Tanker

In the countdown to the new year I am in the centre of Babylondon meeting up old friends with their new babies.
In a way it is the best way to ring out the year. In the company of little ones, eyes bright and dancing and hopeful.
It wasn’t so long ago that we all lived here and love and marriage and babies seemed like distant far off things.
On New Year’s eves past, in the bite of winter cold in Babylondon we would get together and dream big dreams.
And then some of us grew up and got married.  I remain an avid resistor of this fate, much to the delight of my friends who imagine that at some point I will give up and turn into super mommy with a little dread string band dragging behind me all over the place.
In truth Micaiah and Kimani are ovary activatingly sweet.  They regard us adults with wry smiles.  Like they’re thinking, look at them nah, they think they know so much.
For all our growing up we are still over-excited and loud.  Still making a scene, oblivious to the scandalized stares of the nice English people who can’t make sense of our banter.
We revel in the familiarity of our newness.  Knowing that children are the continuation of dreams, the fulfillment of a desire to bring hope into the world wallowing in extreme hopelessness.
There is a wisdom in babies that I feel I have lost somewhere along the way.  In the loss of innocence and wide-eyed wonder at the world’s shiny beautiful things and people, I guess I miss that way of the seeing the world.  A way that isn’t tainted by bitterness and cynicism and too much knowledge of the wickedness of people.  They know nothing of heartache and betrayal, Kimani and Micaiah.  They know nothing of credit crunch or climate change or the disappointments of a life not fully lived.
We skirt the politics and the uncertainties.   This is celebration time.  This is regeneration time when we put aside the weight of the world for a hot minute to remind ourselves of why it’s so important to fight in the first place.
We hope that the next generation only gets the good things from us. Not our neuroses and our short-comings.  Not our occasional self-doubt and our frequent frustration for the place that we love that sometimes doesn’t love us.
That we all run from but must all return to. Because what are we if not cascadoo eaters, who miss our mothers’ mango trees and streets that hum with our own sense of rhythm.
All of these things we discovered on endless troddings.  Alone and together.  With the music and laughter and the memories echoing in our half-frozen ears.
We are reunited in Babylon-don on our way back home.  Knowing that home is as much in us as it is in Trinidad.  Home is where you set down your georgie bundle.  Where you open your grip bursting with red mango and Sookeo’s whole channa.
The new year is fast approaching and for once for the night I don’t feel a deep and silent desire to have my own bright eyed popo.  Because joke is joke but a sleepy baby is not to be reasoned with.
Neither chick nor child means I can head on to more parties with more friends.
We say our goodbyes in the Underground surrounded by drunken yobs and stoned chavettes wearing pink shifts and feather boas.  I head uptown and watch as the madness takes hold.  Remembering Kimani and Micaiah and the certainty of newness, the inevitability of change.
Thankful that this new year meets me surrounded by love and light and that I am constantly reminded that I have the power to create what version of the future I want to live in.