News

Azealia Banks’s rage is understandable, but not when she’s using the rhetoric of white racists

azealia-banks

Shade is a hell of a drug. Once you take it you just can’t get enough.

The line between hilarity and pain is so fine it’s barely visible, but it’s there. That line got crossed once again yesterday when Azealia “the walking definition of the phrase ‘your faves are problematic'” Banks launched a vitriolic racist and homophobic attack on former One-Direction star Zayn Malik.

The Twitter rant was prompted by Azealia’s belief that Zayn copied her music video. When Zayn seemed to respond to her on Twitter stating, “I see you reaching but I don’t care” and “My @’s too good for you”, instead of Azealia replying with a quick, catty comeback, all hell broke loose.

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

crooked gurls kelsey
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

international punx of colour

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.

How Casting A Black Hermione Challenges Storytelling

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Waking up on Monday to a feed full of tweets about a black Hermione Granger, my first thoughts were that maybe some Potter fan boys and girls had taken over Twitter. On second glance, I realized it was all true: There is a black women in a prominent role in a fantasy drama that was previously portrayed by a white actor.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play that focuses on Harry and the gang years after Hogwarts. When the play opens at London’s Palace Theatre in July 2016, Hermione will be played by the astounding Noma Dumezweni, a 45-year-old Swaziland-born actress.

The announcement of Dumezweni as Hermione is, of course, a double-edged sword. The movement to widen the film and drama industry’s concept of diversity and represent the world as we see it has taken one step forward—but the fact that we’re celebrating shows how far we have to go.

Read the full article at Newsweek.

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.

New position at YouthNet

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I am happy to announce that I am the new Editor of TheSite.org, YouthNet’s help and advice website for 16-25 year old.

I am responsible for updating the website, writing new content and researching new ideas that could help and support young people who use our service. I started the position in November 2015.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about press releases on topics that are relevant for 16-25 year olds.

For more information please visit TheSite.org.

 

Essay in One Beat Zine’s Identity Issue

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You can pre order the Identity issue of One Beat Zine which features an essay I wrote on finding black female identity in a world that distorts who we really are. It was illustrated by the brilliant Kelsey Wroten. The zine is A5 and will printed in full colour.

Identity will make its debut at the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds on 14th November but for now you can pre order your copy here. Profits from the zine will be donated to The Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity that helps young LGBT people, and The Feminist Library.

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.

Review | Dark & Lovely at Ovalhouse Theatre

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“Hair is just hair.”

Leeds-based artist Selina Thompson opened the London leg of her new interactive performance piece Dark & Lovely with this stark revelation. Dark & Lovely examines what it means to be a Black British woman and how the politics of hair have a part to play in our identity.

Standing outside a giant ‘tumbleweave’ home, built from abandoned weaves and leftover hair extensions, Thompson beams and smiles in a shoulder length weave and a silk dressing gown. She welcomes the audience to come closer to her as she hands out rum punch and repeats, “Hair is just hair”; that dismissive phrase black women hear so often from others. You see hair is never just hair for black women, and Thompson knows this all too well. She details the times in her life when friends joked about her hair, made her feel lesser, cheapened or not worthy. Black women’s hair is never just hair.

Read the full review of Dark & Lovely, a new play showing at Ovalhouse theatre, at Media Diversified

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.

BBC Local Radio Interview


I was interviewed on several BBC local radio stations on Sunday 27 September to discuss Viola Davis’ Emmy win, lack of roles for black women in TV and my Media Diversified article arguing why Empire’s Cookie Lyon is one of the greatest black characters on TV.

You can listen online here. The interview starts at 1:20.

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.

If Cookie Ruled the World

Imagine if Cookie Lyon actually ran the music industry. Just imagine. Everything would be at least 50% more fabulous, leopard print fedoras would become the standard industry uniform and there would be no more Andy Coppings spouting their uneducated views on women in the music industry. Yes if there were more Cookies the world would be a more straight talking but never the less more efficiently run place.

In fact, alongside its diverse writing room, Cookie has been named as one of the reasons that the new FOX soap opera series, Empire, has become such a big hit and also why Cookie is everyone’s new favourite character.

Read the full article at Media Diversified.

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.

Interview | More Than “Just” a Singer

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The human voice has always been an enthralling and powerful instrument to me. The sound that escapes through parted lips can tell the deepest truths in a world where honesty is sorely needed. It can also open up the singer to a world of criticism when the truth becomes too much for the listener.

The insidious trope of a band of average white dudes fronted by a prop-like, traditionally pretty, female singer pervades the music industry. Despite the many calls for the music industry to take female musicians seriously, old-fashioned ideas about female performers, such as them lacking in technical skill, still persist in every crack and crease of this business.

So many female artists have experienced this demoralising treatment that it has almost become a grotesque routine. Former Joanna Gruesome vocalist, Alanna McArdle, wrote a brilliant article on the perils of being “just” a female vocalist in a world that lessens the validity of your role. Vocalists rarely get the full praise they deserve. The power and pressure that comes with being “the singer” is something Raphaelle Standell, from Montreal-based band Braids, knows all too well.

Read the full interview with Raphaelle Standell or Braids at The F-Word

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.

Review | Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Fortuna Pop!)

jgrupeanutbutter

Despite what many a cantankerous punk will tell you it really doesn’t take too much to start a DIY band. It’s easy enough to find like minded, rough and ready members with a similar disliking for authority; it’s easy to put a middle finger up to the concept of the music business and scrawl ‘DIY or Die’ all over your organic, fair trade shirt before heading out to devour vegan hotdogs at the local punk show. It’s easy enough to do all of that but what about when the music industry comes to your doorstep, when the national press start to sniff fresh meat and the big guys want a piece of the DIY pie. So DIY or die; what do you do?

After the success of their debut album Weird Sister, Cardiff’s finest, Joanna Gruesome, surely must have been contemplating the very same thing. Well I assume, I’m not in their heads. What I do know is that they have had a whirlwind brush with the music industry that must have had an effect on their outlook as a band.

Read the my full review here at Collapse Board

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.

The State of the British Media Panel Discussion

Copyright Consented TV
Copyright Consented TV

I recently spoke on a panel put together by Consented TV about the state of the British media. The panel featured Peter Yeung, Josh Kitto, Sunny Singh, Sirena Bergman and Maurice Mcleod.

In the discussion we covered diversity, access to opportunity, media ownership and advertising.

The panel was the first in a series of discussions by Consented TV.

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.