Why A Punk Fest Celebrating People Of Colour Is Needed In 2017

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As I write this the first ever UK punk festival created by and for people of colour looms on the horizon; Decolonise Fest is nearly here. Organised solely on the lofty dreams of forward-thinking punks and a whole lot of determination, the Decolonise Fest collective have created a festival that showcases the people of colour at the forefront of the UK DIY punk scene.

The idea for the festival came about when, enamoured with the creativity I saw sprouting in fellow punks of colour and frustrated with the DIY scene’s non-approach to tackling racism (punks can wax lyrical about veganism or anarchy but mention race and you can hear a pin drop), I posted on social media about potentially organising a festival by us and for us.

My post soon came to fruition and on 2nd to the 4th June at DIY Space for London, Decolonise Fest will showcase bands such as Divide and Dissolve, Sacred Paws and The Tuts alongside art exhibitions and workshops all weekend. After a year’s planning and a lifetime wondering why this event wasn’t already here for us to enjoy, the Decolonise Fest team is ecstatic to see our baby coming to life, but we know others may not feel the same way.

Read the full article at The Quietus.

 

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

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Is Britain ready for a mixed-race princess?

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This really isn’t a question we should need to ask in 2017, is it? We shouldn’t get the feeling this could go either way, but as most of us know all too well, in our post-Brexit era every single hard-won social victory feels like it’s up in the air, so let’s get started on tackling this one.

The princess-in-waiting that the country just isn’t sure about is of course African-American actress Meghan Markle. Her relationship with Prince Harry was only confirmed by Kensington Palace in November 2016 when the Palace had to basically tell everyone to cool it on the racism and abuse she was receiving. It was a surprising move from the Palace to issue such a statement, showing just how severe the situation must have been for Markle and her family.

Forbes posed the question, does Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, have what it takes to be a princess? The Daily Mail produced an article that was essentially a list of seemingly obvious facts that all linked to Meghan being black. It read like the writer had just discovered this new-found concept, blackness, about an hour before his deadline and wanted to let the world know what he’d found.

Read the full article at IBTimes.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Crooked Grrrls

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Extract from an illustration by Kelsey Wroten

Originally published in One Beat Zine’s Identity Issue, November 2015

I always knew that I was different. Well, not that I was different but that I was treated differently to other people. From an early age I was used to the different tone, the sad looks, the blank faces my presence would draw out of everyone and anyone I came across. I noticed the difference in the ways I was treated compared to other little girls my age. I didn’t know what exactly was causing this wave of indifference to everyone around me but I knew that it centred not just on me but how others perceived me.

If you don’t know, it can be hard growing up as a little black girl child. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, just stating the facts.  The treatment I received and interactions I had with people were all heavily influenced by how they perceived my blackness and therefore value. The different tone was one in reaction to my perceived threatening nature. The sad looks reflected the pity they felt looking at my unconventional appearance that didn’t fit the rigid Eurocentric beauty standards. The blank faces were from those who do not even rate my existence as worth acknowledging.

Navigating this world is complicated, confusing and requires an ability to both adapt to different identities and to be able to deal with the reconstructed concepts of black female identity imposed on you by society. Like many black women I found myself representing all things to all people. Having a fixed identity during my teenage years to early twenties became secondary to keeping the perception society has about black women alive.

Sometimes I was shy and quiet, easier to get through the day if no one knew what I was thinking; sometimes I was more gregarious, playing the fun black best friend from every sitcom ever; sometimes I tried to over compensate and be better than my white counterparts, knowing that I’d be judged more harshly than them.

Dealing with such contradictory personality traits and expectations it is no wonder that black women can find it hard to find their own identity. But not all is lost. This is the point in the story where every black girl needs to hear political scientist, Melissa Harris-Perry’s theory on the impact stereotypes have on black women’s lives. In her book Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry refers to the ‘Crooked Room’ theory; a post world war two field dependence study that saw subjects placed in a crooked room in a crooked chair and asked to find their vertical. Many subjects believed themselves to be standing up straight in relation to their surroundings even though they were standing at angles of up to 35 degrees.

Harris-Perry expands this theory to suggest that when black women have to confront race and gender stereotypes and are constantly shown warped versions of their own humanity they are standing in their own crooked room. Sometimes we see ourselves purely in relation to our surroundings and adapt to become the Jezebel, strong black woman, baby mama that we see looking back at us. Have you ever acted up and louder than you normally would around white friends and asked why? It’s because that is the way we have been taught to act.

Of course, sometimes we ignore our surroundings, see the damaging images for what they really are and stand tall.  This is not something that every black woman is able to, or feels comfortable enough to do. They may not be at the right point in their life or may not understand how to be once you break down that wall. After all even when you stand up straight you’re still in the same crooked room with the same images weighing down on you, forcing you to conform.

To stand up straight, take a look at the images and stereotypes around us and see how cartoon-like we would have to be to truly meet the stereotype of the black woman. Once we see it for what it is, slowly that room will start to transform. On the walls a space will emerge, ready to create a new identity based on beauty, intellect, and power for each and every black woman.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Article in Intersectional Politics For Punx Zine

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You can order the first issue of Intersection Politics for Punx zine which features my article. The first issue focuses on race and racism in the UK DIY punk scene.

I wrote about growing up listening to pop punk as a teenager in the Midlands and the unintentional violence of white femininity.

The zine was edited and compiled by Cassie Agbehenu, bassist in Fight Rosa Fight, who says that she was “sick of being the only person of colour at shows when she knew of punx of colour sitting at home and not feeling welcome. We’ve got so much work to do and so many conversations to start.”

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Reclaiming rubbish design: eco friendly interiors with 2012Architecten

Originally posted at Design Build Network.

As environmental issues become ever more important in our society, interior designers are increasingly looking to make their interior pieces more eco friendly. While many designers choose to incorporate sustainably sourced wallpaper, clay paints or organic fabrics into their designs, few have taken the route of the Netherlands-based company, 2012Architecten, who merge sustainability and innovative designs using reclaimed materials.

Led by directors Jan Jongert, Césare Peeren and Jeroen Bergsma, 2012Architecten was founded 15 years ago when eco design and sustainability was not as widely known as it is now. This focus on sustainability has led to some unique, mad-cap designs, including a dance floor made out of desks, windmill blades masquerading as a playground and an office decorated with old ceiling tiles and teddy bears.

When you start throwing teddy bears and windmills into the mix many would say you risk being labelled as quirky or kitsch. 2012Architecten certainly don’t worry about being quirky, in fact they wear their quirky label with pride, regarding their innovative designs as a more “playful” way of promoting environmental issues.

Superuse – redesigning waste

To understand 2012Architecten you first have to understand Superuse, their primary concept that affects every aspect of their business. “Superuse is the transformation of wasted materials, components and elements into a new purpose, giving it a secondary not pre-purposed [sic] life,” said director of 2012Architecten, Jan Jongert.

After the initial design period, the team research various sources of material in the local area and plot them on a harvest map, which shows potential materials and their distance from the building site. The aim of the map is to limit transport distance to reduce energy.

Since the final designs of their projects will always be influenced by what building materials they can find at the time, the team have to prepare for the fact that their designs are constantly in flux and may have to be changed once the materials are found. Jongert describes this stage in the project as a “parallel process”.

One of the company’s more complex projects was the design and construction of a residential villa built for a couple to showcase a collection of paintings. Around 60% of the villa was made from reused materials, including the villa’s kitchen drawers, which were made out of old billboards, as well as the curtains, which were made out of greenhouse foil.

Another of the company’s more complex projects was the redesign of avant-garde arts and culture institute WORM. After overcoming various restrictions that came along with the 19th century building, the team created the perfect home for the institute. They used reclaimed parts of an Indonesian Airlines Airbus for the concert hall and reused rolling photo archive cabinets found in the basement as furniture.

Hajo Doorn, director of WORM, said: “We didn’t know when we were starting or how it would look like in the end and that’s a very dynamic way of dealing with architects.”

It seems understandable that many would feel slightly concerned when faced with the idea of being surrounded by used materials. Jongert says he has noticed many of his clients have the same reaction: “In the beginning people react awkwardly … to the idea of using waste, but when we design we always find a new aesthetic and patterns with those materials and components, not revealing their origin in the first instance, but creating a new layer in the new function. People react positively and surprised when they discover the origin and depth.”

Although challenging, the experience of working with reused materials is certainly not something that Doorn regrets, saying: “It is fun to do it and to be environmentally friendly doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

Transforming waste, transforming attitudes

Although the redecoration of interiors for homes or businesses are usually purely for aesthetics, using reclaimed or recycled materials can have as positive effect on the environment as reusing materials saves energy which would have been wasted creating new materials.

On 2012Architecten’s talent for using reclaimed materials, Jongert explains: “Our strength is that we look at what people find discarded and ugly and waste and transform that into new aesthetical products.”

The terms eco-friendly and green design have not always been as popular as they are now. Jongert knows this all too well and reflects on the changes that have occurred during his time in the industry.

“When we started 15 years ago there was not much interest in these thoughts … the whole concept of recycling resources has pretty much changed,” Jongert says. “I think there is a much bigger understanding about this.”

The change in attitudes towards eco issues has seen 2012Architecten’s business increase year by year. “It has also changed the kind of projects that we are involved with so we started with very small interiors and more art-like projects and grew to really big interiors and buildings.”

Taking responsibility for green design

Along with its followers eco design also has its critics. The main criticism of eco design is that it puts politics before design, creating a clash between green and good design. Jongert strongly disagrees with this stance, stating that bad design is not limited to “conscious” designers.

“You have very bad green design and very bad non-conscious design as well and there is also very good design that doesn’t take care of anything. Design, I think, is about creating added value and in every process this is possible, the difference is the responsibility you take as a designer.

“It takes maybe a bit more effort to deal with all the contexts you have to take care of and to understand about it and that’s not something that designers are taught very much about in their education, but I think this is a new way to go.”

Another criticism of eco design is that it can be expensive to buy green products or make your home eco friendly, and in this economy many people may not want to spend money redecorating their homes in a sustainable and eco friendly way when redecorating is already seen as a luxury.

Jongert agrees that for many people, converting to an eco friendly lifestyle can be expensive, but he sees a way around it: “As soon as you find people in your neighbourhood that are a bit handy and you have material to supply, you can, on a very small scale, transform your direct environment, so I think that’s much more interesting.”

The design skills and knowledge of 2012Architecten might seem quite daunting to replicate, but the company wants to make it as easy as possible for ordinary people to make their homes eco friendly and sustainable using reclaimed materials.

“We are working on a digital ‘harvest map’ so that other designers as well can see what materials are available,” Jongert explains. “Because it is connected to superuse.org, you can get inspiration from other products that are being designed and gain the knowledge to make it possible to obtain these materials that would otherwise be hidden.”

“That is something that we think is essential, that materials should not be privatised after they are harvested. They are returned, in a way, to the public.”

Our Plastic Brits

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Originally posted at Black Feminists UK
As someone who would rather sit on a barb wire chair in a locked room filled with the undeniably terrible sounds of Simply Red than do anything sports related the Olympics is a hard subject for me to tackle.
It’s boring, I don’t understand it and seeing all those toned, muscley thighs just make me feel insecure about my podgy, wobbly thighs. It isn’t my thing basically but I’m writing about it today because of a particularly vile brand of ‘othering’ that is being committed at the moment.
The Daily Mail has decided to unleash an aggressive campaign against athletes who will be competing in this summer’s Olympics who they have called, the new xenophobic phrase of the year, ‘Plastic Brits’.
The Mail have been going at the whole “they’re not from round these parts” bit for a while and their previous headlines on the subject include “Why we need plastic surgery”, “Team GB have ended up with a bunch of foreign wrestlers, I wish they would all shove off” and “London 2012 will be ruined by the call for plastic Brits”.
They take particular issue with Tiffany Porter, an American athlete who has dual nationality, and her appointment as the captain of Team GB at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey.
Jonathan McEvoy, Daily Mail reporter, complained: “British athletics played fast and loose with our national identity on Thursday by appointing as captain a ‘Plastic Brit’ who would not — or cannot — recite the words of God Save The Queen.”
Despite the fact that Porter has held a British passport since birth, her mother is British and her father Nigerian, the reporter still believes that she is not British enough, not worthy enough and certainly not one of us.
The use of meaningless, emotive notions of Britishness to show that she is not “one of us” is a cheap shot that I would hope that most people would see through but I fear they actually will not. The whole God Save The Queen line was thrown in so the average man / woman on the street would read it and cry “She CAN’T sing our national anthem. She WON’T sing our national anthem. Well then she’s not British enough, she’s not worthy enough, she’s certainly not one of us.
The term itself is so blatantly xenophobic and anti-foreign that I’m truly shocked that it has been repeated so widely in the media. We cannot accept this blatant attempt to set up an “other” for us to ridicule, mock and blame all our ills on. If Britain perform badly I’d bet a million quid that Porter and the other ‘plastics’ get to enjoy the blame for the British loss all by themselves. How lucky for them. Of course, being a hypocritical nation at our core, if we do well you know who will be the first to get a knighthood. “Our” Plastic Brits of course.