Tuesday, 16 September 2014

October 2nd National Poetry Day at Southbank featuring Jean Binta Breeze, Kei Miller, Joelle Taylor & more....

I'm back at the Southbank Centre for National Poetry Day, do pass through, the quality of poets is too high to miss, and it's FREE. Details below


On 6th October I'll be attending the Complete Works II event, also at Southbank. I recommend this highly. http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/the-complete-works-85993

If you can't wait until October, Chill Pill is on Monday, 22nd September at Soho Theatre, hopefully see you then. http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/so-chilled-afrovibes

Do stay in touch with what's happening at Keats House Poets Forum, myself and Simon Mole are running a workshop on Sunday October 28th. The theme is 'Our Place Within It All', join us for a afternoon of writing.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Hackney Carnival in pictures

This man was run out of his caribbean shop on Boardway Market, his name is ironically 'Spirit' 
This child has a solution 
This woman is going into trading
This is determination
Who said Hackney was rubbish?
Dress this man in white and he is happy to be alive 
This man had no idea the carnival was on and he fitted right in...

More photos here


Am I Born Again?

This morning my daily meditation took place on a bench under the sun in London Fields. I sat out of the shadows, facing a tree. I closed my eyes and focused my breath. Allowing myself to be present, feeling the bench planks hold my weight.

After twenty minutes of meditation I open my eyes to see a black boy, about ten years old, in a tuxedo suit, holding a leaflet that read "Are You Born Again?"

I sat still in a kind of semi-zen fuzz, the sunlight gathering the day into focus, "this is for you" said Tuxedo Boy, and I took it, and thanked him as he skipped away, happy to have something to offer the world. I was left alone with the leaflet’s question, Are You Born Again?

Well, firstly, I'm not religious, so my usual mind would be to ignore the leaflet and assume someone has told Tuxedo Boy to place the leaflet in front of my closed eyes and wait for them to open on a staged epiphany. But meditation allows the mind to push beyond assumptions, so I asked myself the question... Am I Born Again? 


A few years ago my mum showed me my school report cards from primary school that read “Raymond finds it hard to focus. His reading and writing are below what’s expected of his age. He seems more interested in what’s happening outside the window than what’s in the classroom”.

I still recognise my "outside-the-window-thoughts", and it’s a shame for this to be picked up in a learning environment as a criticism. I was also partly deaf and this wasn’t picked up yet, but the signs weren't spelled out on conventional leaflets for teachers. The truth is, I was in the wrong place for development and teachers blamed me for not tuning into their classroom expectations.

When I think about myself as a child in that class, I don’t feel I have out-grown him completely. The person I am today is not “born again” if that means a death of a previous self has occurred. My growth as a person has all been gardened in the same bed of earth. Reading my report card, I feel proud that I was able to express something that is still aligned with my true self. Therefore, I am not "born again", rather, I have been born and have kept myself open to change, growth and transformation. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

On Ebola

As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. – Natalie Goldberg

I was teaching a class on challenging stereotypes and perception with year 8 this morning. I asked the class what perceptions they feel are projected onto them. A boy raised his hand and said, “Ebola". The outbreak of this word seemed to hold breath.“Yeah" he continued, "because I’m from Nigeria, people be saying I got this disease, like it comes from me, like we carry it, some people stopped opening their mouth around me… I’m not spreading anything”, and I can't remember what I said, but I didn't say, "Why does a bigger killer like meningitis, malaria, chicken pox, measles, even flu, not inherit this level of fear mongering?" I didn't say, "Some people's words are viruses!". Perhaps then, in this one classroom, I would have quarantined some kind of sickness.

Monday, 1 September 2014

DO NOT MISS Chill Pill at Soho Theatre (September 22nd)

Inua Ellams 
Chill Pill returns to Soho Theatre after our UK and Ireland festival tour! We have one of the most prominent and important names in Spoken Word, Nigerian-born weaver of words, Inua Ellams.
Having repeatedly sold out The National Theatre with his one man shows, his first book 'Thirteen Negro Tales' is a top selling poetry collection and he's the curator of The Midnight Run. He is also a graphic designer (who happens to have created our pill in an ice cube logo).

Nuala Honan
Be prepared to be charmed by the grace of Australian-born, Nuala Honan. She's a singer-song writer and toured as Folly with poet Sally Jenkinson. You know Chill Pill bring the most poetic of musicians! Nuala will satisfy all you wonderful word appreciators! she has appeared on BBC Introducing and music festivals all over the country! You'll love her!

and of course, us, the Chill Pill Poets will be in full swing! (Mista Gee, Raymond Antrobus, Deanna Rodger, Simon Mole and Adam Kammerling) 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hard To Hate - The Israeli & The Palestinian

Had a very enjoyable day yesterday performing poems and workshops for children visiting the Queen Elizabeth Park for National ParaOlympic Day with Apples & Snakes.

My conversation of the day was with storyteller Sef Townsend who spoke of running storytelling workshops in Israel and Palestine, workshops that ended in each person in tears and hugs, "tell your story, share your humanity and you will be harder to hate."

Friday, 29 August 2014

The Black Cultural Archives In Brixton #RayRecommends

Today I visited the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, a fascinating insight into some notable African and Caribbean descended men and women in Britain. 
Calling these people "survivors" is an understatement
After reading through the archives and browsing through books such as Staying Power (The History Of Black People in Britain) by Peter Fryer, Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams, Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire. Also, the testimonies about the experiences of slaves in Britain such as Mary Prince and Olaudah Equiano. It's hard not to feel how severe the injustice is, not just in this particular part of history, but in the re-telling or in this case, the convenient- under-telling of this colonial shame in History classrooms to this day. 
Eric Williams
There were many slavery abolitionists (white and black) who campaigned for hundreds of years and this shouldn't be overlooked, but anyone studying economics should be under no illusion that slavery was abolished not only because of slave rebellions and the slave-owners difficulty in sustaining their slaves with housing, food, clothing, education etc. Many of them were dying from disease and ill-treatment or rebelling and ending up whipped and shot to death. Capitalism needed to adapt new systems. 

The idea of building factories and cramming people in sweatshops is the re-modelling of what is still a despicable example of human exploitation, which we, in the west are still pedalling as a viable economic system. We still live in a society where money is valued higher than life. The most direct example of this is in the food industry,we're being poisoned (nutritionally and psychologically) by the corporates but that's another story, just follow "March Against Monsanto" on facebook.

Anyway, I digress, I firmly believe that teaching black history and colonialism is a minefield, particularly if you're Conservative (or as I call them, Preservatives). Look head on at this history with just an ounce of compassion and it's unjustifiable, the idea that "well that was the mentality of the times" doesn't cut it. (Read Chinua Achebe's essays in 'Education Of A British Protected Child' for an eloquent take on this)
I walked out of the Black Archives Museum today feeling let down by the education system in England. I remember my history teacher at my secondary school in Muswell Hill describing the English as having "the greatest history in the world", he barely skimmed over slavery with an insensitive naivety. He sat on the desk with a diagram of the insides of a trans-atlantic slaveship projected brightly behind him as he said, with his chin held too high, "slavery was bad but at least everyone is equal now".

That is the failure. If every young person in the country had access and meaningful engagement with history, which is accessible at the Black Archives Museum, I believe we would be working towards a cultural shift for better understanding of each other. I think there would be less undermining of each others pain, still raw beyond plantations, unlawful deaths in police custodies, random-stop and searches and the backward connotations of black skin and poverty.

After all, history offers perspectives.

Visit the Archives, the exhibition on black women in Britain feels too brief but there's still a wealth of information to take away and do your own reading on.
Mary Seacole
Here are more blogs and facebook pages I have found equally educational. 

People Of Colour In European Art - http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com/

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Before I Write, I Dance...

These are my pump up songs before I hit that desk. Love them.

Smile Jamaica

Gimme Likkle One Drop

When I Find That Girl

Stayceyann Chin... Hear her out...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What We Learn & How We Learn

This past weekend I performed in front of two thousand people across three different stages at Wilderness Festival. One of my favourite support teachers from my school days was in the audience for the show I did with Tongue Fu. We hadn't seen each other for eleven years, she saw me through so much growing up. She is one of the main reasons I left school with at least one B. I thought about her throughout my first year teaching, telling myself that I want to give my students something equal to the power she gave me. Acknowledging the impact she had on my life as I came off stage (in front of one of the largest audiences I've had) was a privilege and testimony to the power of what we learn from speaking and listening to our best teachers.