Today I read at Islington Council's black history month end celebration.I was not as prepared as I should have been, hadn't found out who was reading, what was being read or who I was reading to. Just sorta turned up in the blind faith all would be okay. I power walked down Upper street to the town hall and ran the flight of stairs into the main chamber were the event was to be held. A swarm of kids stood fidgeting surrounded by seated adults. I panicked. My work never goes down well with kids, it demands too much attention...
The children turned out to be a choir. Their's was the opening slot of the event. They sang songs I imagine a teacher thought were suited to a Black history events, one about drinking coconut juice and the hit single Disney song from the lion king 'in the jungle'. Ahhh. The sound of stereotype from the mouths of children. but alas, as the saying goes..."Ours is not to question why; ours is just to do or die." Scratch that, I am supposed to. Right? but I won't.
The kids left shortly after their rendition and the real event began. A friend of mine took the stage next and sang a couple of gospel songs, followed by an Education Consultant and a History Major from SOAS who was to me the most interesting and lively of the lot, but I have to say, the most astonishing presence was that of Nkosinathi Biko, the wife of Steve Biko and his son.
(I reiterate, I had no idea who would be present) If you do not know who Biko is/was, fear not. I did not until about a year ago. A year before that I was given a T-shirt with his face on it and the slogan : I write what I like. I wore the t-shirt for a while, just revelling in its beige colour and its bounce of light on hot days... Until someone said to me:
'I have read that book'. 'huh?'I said 'Your t-shirt I have read it' 'yeah, good wasn't it?' I replied
Before googling the name to find out what the hell we was speaking of.
Steve Biko was an anti-arpethide activist in South Africa, a student leader who was murdered in police custody. He founded the Black Conscious Movement. He was a writer. While living, his writings and activism attempted to empower blacks, and he was famous for his slogan "black is beautiful", which he described as meaning: "man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being"empower blacks, us, me.
I was speechless, stood up to clap and wondered if those around me knew who was before us, what sacrifice had been made, what effect it had in South Africa and subsequently, the world. This has an ending seeped in ant climax, as I could not hear the speech well enough, and before I could make my way to introduce myself, they had gone...
All I have is a t-shirt that has become more real to me than ever. This is the global climate, where legacies, people become fashionable, worn for no reason, save style. And I am guilty of such. I wonder how many have donned a Che Guevara shirt without knowing of the man, of his work.
This has no moral, or conclusions, just me... pondering in type.