Big People Talk #Timesup

Big People Talk

WI front room

When I was a child I remember my parents used to go into the sacred ‘front room’ and close the door when we had certain visitors. Well, I mean when they had visitors. Their friends and relatives would be shown into the best room and we, as children would be left outside.

If we dared to venture in to the room while they were talking we would be shooed out again especially if we dared to speak. It paid to be like the embossed flowery wallpaper – obviously there, but after a while unnoticed.

When we spoke it was like being at a tennis match, all heads turned to us and a chorus of dissent reached our ears. This was sometime accompanied by a slap if the interruption was way out of place.

The words that were slapped into our bare legs were invariably some variation of, “Big people are talking!”

As we retreated to the dining room or garden I think we children wondered how the ‘big people’ always got their own way and got to make all the decisions.

It came to me the other day that all those people are now gone or going. A friend was talking about the death of her father’s best friend. I recently attended the funeral of another friend’s father, there is death all around and it has sadly become an intimate associate in recent times. All the ‘big people’ I knew have gone or are currently going.

It hurts. It really hurts.

The most recent departure of a loved one has made me realise that we are the big people now. We have to support and comfort each other as we journey on. We have to make the decisions.

It does hurt, but we will make it through. Together.

*

At social family gatherings there are natural divisions between the youngest and the more mature folk. I now fall above the division line, and it reinforces the fact that I am seen as an adult who has to do adult things. This is a responsibility I was hidden from as a child. I did not have a rite of passage where I was inducted into adulthood by my parents.

My mother left abruptly, as death snatched her from my teenage life. My father lived a secluded existence in the remnants of the family where he limited his communications to directions and corrections.

As with most of my siblings growing up was a DIY affair, we didn’t have the assistance of self help manuals from books stores, we were tutored by the scars of our own mistakes. Our aunts and uncles faded away from our lives when their visits were frequently curtailed by the cold front erected by my father.

The coin has now flipped, I am on the other side and I see things I didn’t notice or have the words to speak about when I was younger, and so it’s time for this big person to talk.

That uncle who drinks too much and still has wandering hands, that aunt who wears too much perfume, always gets a food hangover after a party and exposes herself on purpose, these are the people we need to talk about, these are the people I need to talk about and thereby smooth the path for the new big people who are in line behind me.

I am responsible for what I see, I have a responsibility to talk now and not to bury the family secrets for another generation, for the next group people to personally and painfully uncover.

#Timesup

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Advertisements

Black Panther

panther-picture-5

I am a black panther. I have always had an affinity to this animal. I sensed its majesty ever since I was a child reading the discarded National Geographic magazines that my mother would bring home from her office cleaning job.

This is odd for me because I have never had a close acquaintance with domestic cats. I am now able to be in the same room as them without flinching as I did as a teenager. I’ve even held a cat or two for hours, but they are not my first choice of a favourite feline.

The black panther spoke to me from the first day I set eyes on it. If anyone asks what animal I align myself with most closely, it is always a big cat. Because of the time of my birth some assume I would choose a lion, but I always choose a black panther, always.

And now many people around the globe are choosing to identify with the Black Panther.

I knew this day would come. It was foretold by the spirits.

The spirits are never wrong.

The Black Panthers of American history were a foreshadow of the recently released film of a similar name. They resonated with the souls of black folks who, with single consciousness, saw themselves through their own eyes (W.E.B DuBois), so it is with this film, the Black Panther movie is a joy, a happiness, a homecoming.

I know this, and I haven’t even seen it yet.

I sense it, the way you sense that someone is looking at you. You know. You always know.

When you see the essence of yourself anywhere, you smile in recognition.

These past few years of cinematic offers have had me grinning from ear  to ear like a Cheshire cat, no, more like a black panther. The choice of films that see me, people like me, has risen. The stories, like life, are not always singing and dancing in the rain themes, there are real moments of the darkest sadness and contrasting beautiful times of sublime joy.

I won’t review all of my favourite films here, but I will list a few of the most memorable ones for me in the last five years:

Fruitvale Station (2013)

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Selma (2014)

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Creed (2015)

Fences (2016)

Loving (2016)

Birth of a Nation (2016)

A United Kingdom (2016)

Moonlight (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Queen of Katwe (2016)

Lion (2016)

Get Out (2017)

Kidnap (2017)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017)

Girls Trip (2017)

Mudbound (2017)

Hidden Figures (2017)

Black Panther (2018)

I have seen myself, I have met myself and my family on the road as I watched these films. In the moments that have flashed across the screen I have recalled the whispered stories of relatives who have passed on, the proud chest-bursting tales of achievements that only a few will ever know about (until they are shared more widely), I have recalled the names and the lives of the others who were not othered by me. These stories have always been told, but not always in the public arena.

To this end I have watched most of the aforementioned films many times. I will watch Black Panther more than once. This much I already know. I will revel in it as if I was Queen Cleopatra bathing in milk and honey. Luxuriating in the blackness of it all, in the oneness of being continually visible to myself.

People who are ‘other’ than me may view these films as ‘other’ but to me they are normal, like me. My blackness is normal, and I do not need anyone’s permission to repeatedly view this normality or honour it.

“Wakanda. We are home. My son it is your time. You get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.” (Black Panther, 2018)

I’ve waited my whole life for this time. I knew it was coming, it had to.

The black panther has a keen sense of the right time to make a move.

The time is now.

Wakanda for ever.

N.B. To those who complain that there are no or few white people in these films I have mentioned, please tell me where your indignation was hiding when the people of colour were missing from the screens and stages of the world in the all too recent past.

This is the present and it is good. I am Not Your Negro (2016). I am a Black Panther (2018). The time of Hidden Figures (2017) must fade.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

A Love Letter

Our-Enduring-Love-of-Pen-and-Paper-feature-1024x581
I’ve had a long love affair with pens, paper, and books in particular.
Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by paper in many forms. My home is filled with books – many of which I have read a number of times and even more that I haven’t got around to reading yet. Nevertheless I will still buy new books because I plan to get to them all at some stage, and because I like to look at them, to touch them, to be enveloped by the quality of the paper, the sound of the pages as they turn in my hand, the image of the different fonts on the page, and yes, the smell and intense sensual experience of older books.
Associated with my love of paper is my adoration of pens and other writing implements. I have a vast collection of both. They go together like hugs and kisses.
I have been known to swoon over the texture, weight and colour of paper and to wax lyrical on the smoothness of a certain fountain pen as it flows across the page in my hand. But love is like that, it’s unique to the person experiencing it and from the first flush of adoration it creates a lasting impression on the heart.
I still own books from my childhood. A few of them are now fragile but they will never be discarded for newer versions of the same text. I don’t need to say all the reasons why this is the case, suffice it to say that nothing can replace the first love. That’s a truth as old as time. My books have aged with me, and when I go back to them – although their words haven’t changed – I learn different things each time I visit their pages. Like lovers we fit together more comfortably as time moves us down the road of life.
Each book I have has its own story of creation from imagination to physical manifestation in my hand, and all the books I have are part of my life story. They have helped to shaped me into who I am today, some of them have affected me before I have read a whole chapter inside the covers that I hold in my hand. The words inside each book, the words on the carefully selected paper, the cover and binding, all these things add up to the physical weight of the volume that I have made part of my life’s journey; yet the particular arrangement of words on each page has an intangible weight that has the immense power to alter my whole way of being in the world, for with the consumption of each word I am changed.
Love does that, it changes a person.
Paper, books, and writing by hand are powerful lovers who have been faithful to me since I first met them.
I must admit that I occasionally have a dalliance with a keyboard or two, but I always return to my first solid loves who ignore my fleeting interests in the electronic imposters that flit in and out of my life. Books are faithful, they will allow you to pick them up where you left them and continue the intimate journey without personal censure or even a glance of disappointment.
The combination of paper and ink to form a book has a sense of being more permanent and faithful than an electronic version of the same information. As an information junkie it may seem strange to hear me say that I feel I can trust the physicality of paper forms more readily than I do the electronic information, but I’m sure you know that you also would rather a physical hug and kiss than an emoticon in a text message – that’s what books give: always more than you’d imagined, and they don’t hold back or leave their message open to misinterpretation. Everything they have to say is there, in front of you. Always available.
Birthday cards, letters in a lovers’ handwriting, certificates, ticket stubs and many other pieces of printed material appear in our lives and become keys to memories that can transport us with the merest touch.
Paper has the power to elicit emotions.
Think of a message in a bottle, a note tied to a balloon, a post card, or any scrap of paper with word-shaped images of the soul on them, and you’ll begin to remember, to understand the depth my love affair with paper.
I feel emotional when connected to paper, and I’m not ashamed to admit that when surrounded by books that I am in a blissful state.
Yes, paper, I love you. Thank you for being a constant in my life from childhood to this time. I am excited because I know we have so much more to share and experience together. You always reveal more than I could ever anticipate – even from myself. Thank you for making yourself open and available to my thoughtful meanderings and questions. You have helped me to find myself, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.
I truly adore and am always enamoured by you,
Marjorie xxx

Tweet. Reflect. Delete. HM Treasury tweets #FridayFact to celebrate tax payers contributions to ‘end slavery’

Tweet. Reflect. Delete.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 12.44.15Friday 9th February 2018. HM Treasury on Twitter: “Here’s today’s surprising #FridayFact. Millions of you helped to end the slave trade through your taxes.” @hmtreasury

“Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40% of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means that living British Citizens helped pay to end the slave trade.” @hmtreasury This tweet was posted on Friday 9th February 2018, and deleted overnight on Saturday 10th February 2018. HM Treasury quickly re-thought their position on sharing this data.

In a rapid backtrack the government department of HM Treasury appears to have decided that they were not, in fact, ready to open the debate on the colonial legacy that is the backbone of the British country. There has been a continual thread of unease and sensitivity about the role of the British Government and the British aristocracy in the slave trade. The 1833 Slavery Abolition Act was not the end of slavery, merely the means to introduce a way to end the abominable trade in enslaved human beings.

Historical records released in 2013 showed that some of the compensation paid to thousands of wealthy aristocratic families for the loss of their “property” was utilised to buy, build and refurbish many of the greatest properties currently found in the British countryside. The searchable database at University College London http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/ holds information on the estates and plantations in the British Caribbean and also traces ‘the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain’.

The #FridayFact tweet from @hmtreasury highlighted that £20 million of public money was paid as ‘compensation’ to ensure abolition. This was being paid by British Citizens until 2015. (£20 billion in current value.) Therefore this means descendants of enslaved people, amongst others, have been contributing to the wealth of those who enslaved their forebearers.

No reason has currently be given for the removal of the tweet, however it is not unreasonable to suggest that it was probably removed due to embarrassment following negative feedback of the ‘celebratory’ tweet.

This tweet, reflect, delete incident is relevant now for the same reasons the article on the H&M advert was written: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2018/jan/20/secret-teacher-uk-history-of-race-bloody-racism, and it again raises the question about government payments for reparation: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/30/should-britain-government-reparations-slavery. This, now missing tweet, reminds us of the scale of the British involvement in the trade of people as commodities: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/12/british-history-slavery-buried-scale-revealed

Even with the recent revelation that the first Brit, aka ‘Cheddar Man’ had dark to black skin pigmentation, blue eyes, and dark coloured curly hair, the overall audience of ‘celebratory’ tweets like this one is aimed at the group of people with lighter pigmentation, that is now considered to be the defining feature of inhabitants of the northern section of Europe and America.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0218/070218-Face-of-cheddar-man-revealed

I have to wonder if the impending marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry on the 19th May 2018 will encourage the press to reflect before tweeting and commenting with impunity or if this union is another reason for the increase in insensitivity of Government officials and press worldwide, as evidenced in the recent tweet of the Wisconsin’s Republican candidate for Congress.

As a British born descendant of Caribbean immigrants (with West African ancestors) I am incensed at the insensitivity of the original tweet as I have been a tax payer since 1977, and my parents were tax payers from the time of their arrival in the UK in the late 1950s, and have unknowingly contributed to the wealth of the oppressors of my own family and generations of ancestors. This perverse fact cannot be a cause of celebration for anyone with a similar ancestry to my own. This tweet is an affront to all BAME people in the UK, not just those with a Caribbean history.

Growing up as a minority in the UK racism was an always present, sad part of life. This incident shows that the history and sensibilities of the whole of the British population has not been considered before this tweet was shared. Black History Month does not just take place two months a year (February and October in some countries), it is a fact of life every day of the year for BAME people who are an integral part of British life, because we are British, and Black. We are not an enigma and it’s about time the Government realised this.

This tweet and the sharing of information about British taxpayers’ contributions to ‘end slavery’ is indicative of the overall tone of the incumbent hard right-wing Conservative Government who generally disregards and ignores the daily realities of people who are as British as the majority of them are, yet who largely remain invisible in thought and policy decisions because of their Empire origins.

The tweet, reflect, delete situation from HM Treasury is a perfect example of the depth of misunderstanding relating to the impact, legacy and the intersectionality of discussions on the subjects of colonialism, racism, reparations and slavery.

It is evidence that the perspective of marginalised citizens were not considered. This tweet was exclusive and offensive and the contemporary and historical nuance of it can be difficult for people to understand without considering the links of history that have created and contributed to the forced worldwide migration of millions of people.

cf.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/hm-advert-racist-hoodie-fashion-industry-retail-white-black-h-m-the-weeknd-a8149306.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britains-colonial-shame-slave-owners-given-huge-payouts-after-abolition-8508358.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-stately-homes-built-on-the-back-of-slaves-8518002.html.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/07/first-modern-britons-dark-black-skin-cheddar-man-dna-analysis-reveals?CMP=share_btn_tw

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Victimised x 2

My refuge is in the centre of silence

because

outside

of me

in the place of words

I remain isolated and alone

as

there is no belief

in

the unimaginable event

I

used strings of syllables

to describe

for

they disturb tender ears and hearts

after

the physical (act)attack damaged my body and mind

 

your shock

behind the wall of your doubt

was the second violation

of me

 

so

 

it’s now

that I am

again

helpless, powerlesss

and mute

 

like when I silently negotiated

the theft of my sex

for my life

 

but you can’t hear me

because you are judging me

for surviving

 

© Marjorie H Morgan 2017

#metoo – a letter to …

A letter to …

I have learnt a lot about the use and misuse of power since I first met you. I was not a child at that time, but I was still innocent, in the ways of the world at least. I was unfamiliar with the art of seduction, you obviously had an advanced degree in it, and you used it on me.

Why was I taken in by your flowery words, and chivalrous acts? I often wonder why. I didn’t see through the sheen of your lies, they were disguised by your patina of kindness, concern and thoughtful acts. Yes, I was naive. You knew that instinctively. It seems like I was a game to you. This is my life, not a game. I later learnt that I wasn’t the first one that you abused, and sadly, I’m pretty sure I won’t the last, either.

I have avoided anything to do with you, or the church you serve, for many years. Then, other people started to speak out and I silently whispered, “Me, too.”

Now, I’m not hiding.

Today, I decided to look for you. I wanted to find out what you are doing. Sorrowfully I discovered that you are doing the same thing. I’m afraid that you really are doing the same thing, to other people like me. You are a predator; there are no nice words to describe you, just the plain truth. When asked, the church says that what you do is normal, they accept the predatory sexual proclivities from its pastors. They reject people like me who rock the boat. People who they don’t see as normal – anyone who doesn’t tow the official line in silence.

I will no longer be silent. The church organisation is your scaffolding, so you continue to collect trophies and destroy people’s lives’ as you go. I know you are in America now, and I fear for the vulnerable souls in your path of destruction.

I thought you were different, being a man of the cloth, but I was wrong. No, you were wrong. You knew what you were doing, you had a plan and, with practised perfection, you carried it out with a smooth smile, a twinkle in your eye that matched with your designer suits, silk ties, and pocket handkerchiefs.

Hundreds of people were enchanted by you. You could control a congregation like the conductor of an orchestra. I was also fooled by your act. I was taken in. I was taken, without knowing what was happening until it had. Without having a voice. Without understanding how this could happen to me. Again.

No. You weren’t the first who saw my vulnerability. You were one of a few who have peppered my life with incidents I have hidden away, because I felt wrong. Yet, I wasn’t the perpetrator of the crime. Yes, you are a criminal. You all are, because you took what wasn’t yours to take. You stole innocence, childhood, and peace along with the remnants of trust that still existed in my young life.

What you left was a rawness. Physical pain, aligned with an everlasting doubt about myself. And because I couldn’t believe it, especially in those early days, I frequently revisited the timeline of knowing you. I analysed it from every angle and tried to see what I didn’t see before; a way out, an opportunity for the unspoken words that I now know how to speak.

You are evil, selfish, wicked and destructive.

You are wrong. You did me wrong.

You did me wrong.

I’m not staying silent any longer. 

You no longer have the protection of my silence to continue your crimes.

Marjorie

Mini rulers

the children in your circles –

especially newborn babes

are the ultimate

power lords

and they rule wearing nappies

they dictate the hours you sleep,

the noise you may make,

they have sway over the type of work you do,

they influence the area you live in,

their future, perceived happiness, decides when, if, and where you go on holiday

and they manage it

all without saying a word

their speechless rule

begins

with

their first act of control

the physical rearrangement of the anatomy of a mother’s body

then, like aliens, they

separate from their temporary host

and extend their reach into every part of the family’s life

they are

mini wordless rulers with maximum power

© Marjorie H Morgan 2017