• kennedycharlotte56

I cannot stress how important it is for you to watch this collection of poetry which brings together various arts organisations and human rights charities. Fly the Flag, a movement launched in 2018, reminds us of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we are all entitled to. The flag, created as a celebration of these rights, was created by the well-known arts activist Ai Weiwei in the year of the movement's launch.

This year artists come together and response to Article 25: the right to food, shelter, healthcare, social services and security, and the diverse collection of 30 poems are a must-watch.

Although I am spotlighting just a few of the pieces, please do take the time to watch them all - the ones I have chosen have simply resonated and stayed with me throughout the day.

'Universal' by Sonali Bhattacharyya

The sound of a fetal heartbeat - the opening to Bhattacharyya’s spoken word / theatrical monologue performance. Bhattacharyya juxtaposes the nurturing relationship between a mother’s body and her unborn child, against the relationship between the U.K’s governmental body and to those in need. The relationship between mother and unborn child acts as both metaphor and plot device that unravels into a tale of a worker’s rights abuse and child poverty. Filled with raw emotion, it’s a beautiful and heartbreaking poem.

‘Article 25’ by Courtney Stoddart

Stoddart’s delivery generates a consistent rhythm that creates a sort of snow-balling effect. The rhythm and content reinforces the poem’s message as she consolidates national issues such as the refugee crisis, and increasing inequality to ‘Great Britain’s’ imperialist position on the international stage. It is once again a reminder that social injustices our nation suffers from are breed by a global capitalist system.

‘Here to Help’ by Arji Manuelpillai This poem looks back at the visit Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, paid to the British government in 2018, where he concluding that ‘poverty is a political choice’ in the U.K. The formal structure of the poem, and the way the poetic tone of voice effortlessly slips in and out of a satirical tone mirrors the calculated, and vacuous nature of the meet between Alston and the U.K government. Manuelpillai manipulates the language so that it both reveals the performative nature of the meet’s rhetoric against the brutal reality of living under conditions of extreme poverty.

  • kennedycharlotte56

Boots Riley’s directorial debut 'Sorry to Bother You' (2018) is a film in which the natural laws of physics don’t apply to this quasi-version of our world. We begin with the small town Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) living in his Uncle’s garage with long-term girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), who burns to make a name for himself that endures past the life of his children and thereafter. Seizing the opportunity to work from the bottom up at RegalView telemarketing company, Cash promptly reaps the benefits of using his 'white accent' on the phone. In each call Cash makes we see the invasiveness of capital accumulation reified as he is physically transported to the private spaces of potential customers at home. But the undulations of an emerging strike, led by co-worker Squeeze (Steven Yeun), forces him to choose between the rising glory of a 'power caller' and the union. Needless to say, the aptronym Cash literally tells us what our protagonist chooses, but symbolically captures the inevitability of choosing profit in a profit-seeking system.

Riley explores the systemic racism endemic to the capitalist American dream with a sense of comic absurdity that relishes on any kind of corporate stereotypes. A prime example is the brilliant prelude to Cash's job promotion. The transitionary upgrade to the 'office with a view' is ridiculed by Cash’s not-so-glamorous journey in a red-velvet licked elevator, narrated by a hyper-sexualised inter-com voice who hopes Cash 'hasn’t jerked off today'. The RegalView 'power caller' suite is exactly what we expect it to be: an office in which the workers' wages are so disproportionately high that they don’t even need desks or computers for production. They only need a white open-pan space with a panoramic view of the city to gaze down upon whilst they sell the corporation’s, Worry Free, weapons and slave labour. Riley shows the racialization of capitalism's workspaces as Cash is one of the many people of colour from within the lower earning, cramped bottom floor, but stands out in the higher earning power-suite's white walls, floors and workers. Throughout Cash’s journey class division is emulated in both domestic and workspaces and how they prioritise the function of a room over its aesthetic appeal.

Time and time again Cash lets capital forefront his choices, leading him to choose a relationship destroying and vapid path. His reward is the invitation to the high-flyer’s exclusive party, on the request of the king of Worry Free: Steve Lift (Armmie Hammer). This meeting with Steve Lift shows one of capitalism's many duplicitous faces, as Lift states to Cash 'I’m not your boss, I’m your friend’ whilst he offers him a line of what we assume to be cocaine, but is in fact a gene modifying powder that will transform him into an “equisapien” - a half-horse half-man slave. Cash can no longer ignore the underbelly of Worry Free's success, as these mythological-like creatures trapped in one of Lift’s backrooms are screaming in his face. this deus ex machina prompts our protagonist to choose a path of redemption it also marks the film's shift away from a comedic drama to a post-apocalyptic genre.

What Cash represents may seem glaringly obvious throughout the film, but it is the Detroit-led interludes which are most intriguing. On several occasions we see the whacky artist swing a massive sign which reads ‘SIGN' on the corner of a street. Here, both signifier and meaning merge into one artefact. This sign conceptually obliterates representation, and is the embodiment of the literal. Fast forward to when we see more of Detroit’s activist artwork, but this time it is a statue of a man fucking an equisapien which is poignantly placed at the entrance of Worry Free. Her artwork is mulled over by a passing stranger "maybe it's about how Worry Free dehumanises their workers", or "maybe it’s literal" she anonymously proposes. This quick exchange lies at the heart of the film’s sharp wit as Riley gives greater representational value to the film through its astute relationship to the literal.

A melange of psychedelic fantasy and deep political strife 'Sorry to Bother You' (2018) is not for the faint hearted and offers a hyperbolised self-portraiture of the system we live in today.

I might add - if the sight of the equisapiens is the pivotal event that leads Cash to abandon the capitalist dream is ours not a global pandemic?

  • kennedycharlotte56

'Breaking Binaries', hosted by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, also known as @thebrownhijabi on insta and twitter, is a podcast series that deconstructs labels that we often absent-mindedly hear and see in our everyday lives. Manzoor-Khan, a keen educator, helps us critically think about how how these labels have violent consequnces to whom they apply to and why they are so useful for the state.

In the episode ‘legal/illegal migrants, Manzoor-Khan is in discussion with Helen Brewer, a member of the 'Stansted 15', a group of non-violent human rights activists who took action to stop a deportation flight leaving from Stansted in 2018. Their conversation talks about Brewer’s personal experiences as an activist, and her reflections on the legal/illegal binary. They discuss how the labels take on a form of state violence in of themselves, which the media simultaneously propagate.

This summer, we saw Sky news and BBC breakfast capture horrific footage showing migrants crossing the channel in what Labour MP Zarah Sultana described as “some grotesque reality TV show”. But the government’s response to the surge of migrants crossing the channel was an unsurprisingly hostile response. Matt Hancock in a an appalling interview on LBC radio stated there was 'no justification for people to leave France illegally and to come to the UK', his reasoning being that France is a 'perfectly civilised country'.

Think about what that implicitly means. For Hancock, and on a wider level, Western states, this means there are countries that are considered 'uncivilised' and that migrants therefore justly flee from these sort of countries - a violent colonialist perspective that is still embedded within our political system. This abhorrent rationalisation fits into the legal/illegal migrant binary and is something the episode tries to move past.

It’s important to be able to think about the conceptual flip-side of what politicians and the media say, which is why this episode and the whole series is a must-listen. You can listen to the episodes on the Apple podcast app.

And if you haven’t already read it, ’The Good Immigrant’ by Nikesh Shukla is a collection of essays that informs and contributes to this conversation.

I’ll also soon be publishing a review of her recently published collection of poems 'Postcolonial Banter’ (2019). She’s an extremely talented spoken word artist which you can check out on YouTube.