George the Poet Artsnight

George the Poet

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the meaning of black culture in music, theatre, writing and


I have a dream that the black man will have the hand the white man.


Black lies matter, White lies matter, everybody's lies matter.


Immigration should mean controlled immigration.


Black culture is a term used for people of African descent. Is black


culture a uniform thing or isolated pockets of creativity? East Coast


rap to East London grime. All the similarities, all the differences


and the hybrids come with time. Speaking about black culture, often


young adults and teens come to me, black music has bridged many gaps.


But the Heritage is undermined by the lack of economic ownership. I'm


from a generation that has grown with that, watched our creation,


sliced while our history and spaces are blown to bits. From where I


stand in the UK, it is a shadowy area and I'm keen to cast light in


the form of art mind. Within every community there exists


a range of voices. We create what we become so we can change the choices.


That is the magic of art. It allows us to engage with the story.


Speaking of engaging with the story, meet ritual for it. -- Rachel for E.


I asked why she was writing, it is not supposed to be confidential? Who


will she showed to? She says she is happy to understand things. If I


want to try it I can write stuff down and we can discuss it. I


already understand things and if I want to discuss something I would


just say it. But I would bury my head in my diary is I was hurt,


confronted with this misguided 18-year-old. She kept going on about


it being my session and it is her job to listen. So I thought if I


have these weekly sessions I might as well speak my mind. If it is her


job. I had a show about a young girl from south London. Your writing her


perspective with both admiration and respect for what she sees. It was a


bit tongue in cheek, you see how she will be perceived. She has this


south London kind of stereotype that you sort of right. Her name is


candies but actually she is incredibly bright. I like the idea


of you hearing this attitude and accent and then she starts to save


the we agree with. Did you know black people are more likely to get


stopped and searched by police? And she says it is statistics like that


but make me do what I do. I did not ask you why you do your job. And you


doing this does not change the fact that we live in a world where an


armed police officer can shoot the young boy dead. We do not really


talk about this stuff. And if we do it is like, you have equal


opportunities now, what are you complaining about? I do not think


that kind of stuff, like you cannot say it is not PC. I think that


stands for politely condescending. Like you are coming and telling me I


need your help. Do you feel there is a responsibility of representation?


Initially I just wanted to express myself. To be a pioneer for the


representation of black women. It is important to convey the variations


within black women. When you turn on your TV or read a newspaper, they


always take certain boxes or act a certain way. I want to twist things


and play with stereotype. What does it mean for this thing called black


culture? Where does that story fit in. I'm not here to before black


culture to go this is a global responsibility. Gender equality,


racial equality, we all need to take responsibility. Not how we fix this


as black people. That is explored in the play and it is interesting how


it is received. For some this topic is illustrated through a preacher.


When she starts to speak people laugh. Everyone recognises this. I


get people to clap as if they were in church. Then there's topic of


them and us and how we fix this situation, I start to speak about


that. Wake up black people. I know nobody


going to preach this on a Sunday morning. But God has said you'll


wake up and start making excuses about how we have to work twice as


hard when the truth is we just will not see it. Open our eyes beyond the


physical, so it are sci-fi as individuals and start to focus.


Complaining how the Lord does not here are calls. Kudos. Do you feel


you started off as politically charged? Yes, politics came from my


own experience, people expected me to embody these stereotypes, how


women are perceived and the kind of woman you had to be to succeed. The


kind of things you had to do to be successful. I thought hold on,


switch this up a bit. Your mission initially was not to try to save


these people do not exist and that is just a figment of your


imagination, but to take some existing identities and add a bit


more colour and variation? Exactly. You said you recognise these women


and that is why we are laughing. We can relate to it. All we are


embarrassed because we have experienced something like that. And


sometimes you consent the audience question why they are liking that


character. Because I relate to you, or look down on you, it creates this


discomfort which is also interesting. It is opening dialogue


and people are talking about it. That is more likely to cause things


to happen and change. I know, I'm fully aware Obama is in


office. The dream come true. But the truth is black people, real change


starts with you. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That is


change of the divine kind. You leave that behind and you turn to him.


That makes all things new. Only the grace of God can really change you.


Now I'm saying white folk got to go together, it seems only a few blacks


have got to make the world better. Black is successful, why cannot


black and success befriends? You cannot go to school because you can


hustle for another dollar. Wake up. It is not the world was Iraq fault.


It is not the fault of that white guy who got the job. Wake up. -- not


the world's falls. Do you think there's a difference between racial


and gender politics, that you embody? For me racism always trump


sexism. And within the sexism it is always like, black women are...


Black men are strong and that women are sassy and a bit much and she


needs to calm down. I feel there is always constantly levels within


either inequality. Congratulations again. Talent has messed you up!


Culture provides a dialect, an antidote


An outlet for anyone denied respect.


The medium through which you and I connect.


From spoken aspirations to some commemorations, culture can


Not to see the barriers that we inherit, to see


First you make a sound, then you wait a while.


Then you get the kids trying to emulate your style,


England is a -based culture. Something is seminal as England is a


bitch penetrated consciousness. But your accent and methods were


uncompromising. How was it to be received at that time? At that time


we were trying to do something new with poetry. I was trying to use my


words at the time to articulate how we felt about our experiences living


and growing up, struggling in a racialised society.


The tension with the police in the 1970s and 1980s... It has not


stopped. We are the generation that continues to bear that. But at the


emergence of this cultural setting, how was it coming out and just


clearing space to the cultural in a way that wasn't able to your life?


Still fighting. You're talking a lot of stuff that should get you in


trouble. You made one poll about the SPG. I was vilified by certain


sections of the right-wing press. Which I took as an endorsement. But


I was doing the right thing and saying the right thing.


# Everywhere you go it's the talk of the day #


Everywhere you go you hear people say


# The special patrol our murderer. The demonstration against the


National Front degenerated into a running battle between the police


and demonstrators. I remember being sceptical when I came to the studio


with some of my stuff. There was one in particular, the SPG, you know who


you are dealing with with this guy? And he'd go, well, bass, tell you


what, you don't mind not putting my name on this record!


Their Peach, London teacher and father of two children was hit hard


on the head and died. The pathologist said he may have been


the victim of a Robert Koch. The police say the officers carry


standard truncheons and not rubber cosh is and according to the yard


the police inquiry into Peach's death is being pursued with vigour.


-- rubber cosh. I remember Linton saying to me I'm not contriving


anything, these are things happening around us and I'm just reporting on


it. And I was downward that. It was at the moment what was going on,


being recorded, so that future generations could hear the state of


it. # Is England becoming a fascist


state? # The answer lies in your own state


# And in the answer lies your own fate. #


Interestingly what is spoken about what is the Jamaican influence on


the punk movement, the skinhead movement. Do you feel any affinity


to that? Both music types were the music of the unemployed in the 1970s


and it was black and white working-class youth solidarity.


Expressed culturally. We have to be careful when talking about black


culture. What is black culture? Culture is not determined or defined


by pigmentation. Caribbean migrants have contributed to British popular


culture and it has become institutionalised. But the black


communities had to wage struggles after struggles after struggles


against the police and certain reactionary elements. Do you feel


like there has been some progress in the translation of these different


cultural moments meeting in the spaces we are creating? Even though


we had to resort to riots and insurrections and uprisings in order


to integrate ourselves into British society we have by and large done


so. And we are no longer on the periphery of British society. So,


yes, there has been progress. It should only get better but we will


wait to see. All right then, we will be looking forward to it and my


generation is indebted to you and eternally grateful for your


contribution. We are eternally grateful of the contribution of our


parents' generation because they laid a solid foundation for us for


stop I'm looking forward to your work, I'm sure you have much more in


new. -- I'm sure you have much more in you.


Every culture follows an invisible order and many exist


This one has been on an uncharted journey.


To all the latecomers, this one started early.


Diasporas have hand-picked their moments, unique to


And created many a hybrid form, like the one in which I perform.


But the concept of blackness is relatively new and it gets


It's a mix of ethnicities with separate histories, so black


Two and a half years ago I was sitting at Cambridge doing my


finals, and I had a question on my paper about culture. The question


was: What is black music. And I quoted one book heavily, and that


was The Black Cats And To. -- the black at Atlantic. I'd like to ask


you what the term black culture means? How long have you got? The


first thing we should say about black culture is it is a 20th


century invention, and even earlier it was something called Montenegro


culture and that was always in debate, in dispute. And before that


culture we can say it was African culture. That had to be jam-packed


as well. There were a range of different cultural forms that


matched the linguistic, cultural, religious anthropological


complexities of Africans as they became slaves, and were shifted by


force of violence across the Atlantic. Ultimately you see culture


as alive as its subjects. It is a thing that evolves, breathes, reacts


and adapts? Yes, races and doesn't see culture in the fluid developing


historic way. Races and six to pickle you and capture youth within


a particular specification of the culture that you are supposed to


inhabit. Is itself owned? To suggest it is self owned suggests it is a


kind of property, you either own it or you don't. My next question is,


is it not intellectual property? I don't think it is intellectual


property. It became intellectual property when people put it under


copyright. That caricatured commodified Armagh Hollywood form


arrives in our computers and headphones and that invites us to


join in and plays ourselves in what I would call a generic culture, a


generic black culture. There was a popularisation of


gangsta rap in the 90s. Having been a product of that exact marketing


and identifying with that experience much more than I would have


identified with the wider British experience, these things are


projected so powerfully. Sometimes the music isn't a load of car alarms


and shouting. Sometimes it is really compelling and exciting.


LAUGHTER Does that not feedback into a


cultural question about people's acquisition of information and how


people choose to go about building up their narratives of understanding


the world? Absolutely. But I still think there is something restrictive


about these portals and channels of flowing information, which end up,


or could end up in narrowing our understanding of the richness and


complexity of identity. I would rather that we could find a richer


and deeper sense of humanity. And culture? And culture.


What is the function of a cultural commodity? Is it intellectual


property? Or maybe an alternative to poverty.


When a community creates an economy, are its people renumerated properly


to build themselves and support themselves?


Or are they overcome by the corporate world?


# This isn't music # This is a sport # I


think I'm ready to retire # Something I say to young artists and


rappers, look at rap is one of writing. I wish somebody told the


bat when I was 20 and said you are a writer and rap is one form of


writing. Is wrap something that can take different forms, energy and


life force? Wrapping is writing, environments


Wairarapa-Bush from does not show us the intellectual roots it had in the


first place. By the time I got to university I felt like the cultural


imperialism I was battling with to be respected as a lyricist isn't


worth it and I might as well drop out of the music and deliver it more


conversationally and people received it as poetry. It is an intrinsic


issue people have with young kids from the hood, young black kids


calling themselves poets. Every convention they say makes rap not


poetry is a convention Shakespeare used. He wrote 154 sonnets and every


single one is set to a particular flow and remember either time you


get back to The Tempest, It Is Double-time. He was obviously a very


intelligent guy but so was Tupac. I'm second-generation, black


Caribbean, Scottish, I'm confused by the boxes, they just breed


confusion. It all seems like insanity. Why must I rob you of your


humanity to feel good? When I talk about rock music to


young black kids they say it is white people music. There were


African American musicians who inspired the Beatles, led Zeppelin,


Pink Floyd are named after two blues singers. We have cultural


appropriation, what's the difference between exchange and appropriation


question at exchange is I say I like the culture and I will borrow from


it but I will acknowledge the influence.


# To me that is cool, if urban means street that is called. What they


were listening to. How do we get to a stage where rock music is nothing


to do with black people and Jazz music is only in classical music


venues and there are four black people in the audience? Music is


still marketed on racial grounds. If you fall between the cracks as an


artist, or if you're not easy for all the music industry they don't


know where to put you. That is like their favourite statement, and what


they mean is you don't fall into the stereotypes of blackness but you are


also not white. For me the artist has a tremendous


role to play not just in black culture but every culture as an


alternative source of power. In the case of a world where racial


hierarchies aghast it's incumbent on the black artist to say these things


can be defeated like this, it is really political. But the powers


that be would like music to be apolitical, not just black music.


One thing I say to myself is you are political being black.


Whiteness is political too. Whiteness does not have to be


predicated. It doesn't have to be explained.


Everything else has to be explained but it just exists.


Blackness makes people uncomfortable. There is a bad


history, thinking about black-white relations. IBO asking if I'm a


racist, oh my god, I didn't own any slaves, all of these responses that


are more about the person's and paranoia. But the paranoia goes both


ways. My mum's family is Scottish and my dad's family is Jamaican and


I was waiting for racist abuse. But it didn't come. Even as a


ten-year-old I waited for somebody to say something, I was on guard,


saying where is the races and, when it is coming? And it didn't come and


it was like get over yourself. My Scottish family would have been more


bothered if he'd been English. They thought he is black, at least he's


not English full stop their issues with the English often override the


issues of people with colour. I want to be comfortable just making


money and not having anything to say about the world is. I'm one of the


lucky few that has been able to do both. That is black culture's gift


to the world. And what people come to reggae music for. Why people and


black people. It is that unique insight that only black people can


offer because only black people have had that specific racialised a


stratified class experience. Thank you very much. Any time.


The concept of blackness is relatively new. The tides of change


are rising quietly. We are in different times entirely. We've


already transformed the usual norms expected of chart-topping musical


forms and while our efforts have come to the fore there is a new


generation that hunger for more. They want to mature in the world of


business. It's the age of the young black entrepreneur. UC, black


culture is the umbrella term for works by people of African descent.


But maybe one day the term will mean an overarching pan African ascent.


To end my Artsnight here is my choice to play us out.


# Buffalo soldier # In the war for America #


As a child I used to listen to this song with my mum while she explained


the journey of many black diasporas.


# Buffalo soldier # Said he was a Buffalo soldier


# Win the war for America # Buffalo soldier #


Dreadlock rasta # Driven from the mainland


A slow start in the south-eastern corner of


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