Jenny’s Journey

Empty cradle

“Jenny, where are you? Call me back, now! C’mon, Jenny. I’m getting worried now. Please. Call me.”

There was urgency in his voice. It was the twelfth message he’d left in the last hour. I already miss him. This morning he said goodbye as usual and after kissing my forehead he drove off to work. A regular Tuesday we both thought. But it wasn’t to be.

I want more than anything to go home to Paul, but I can’t. I know that he won’t understand. And, anyhow, I can’t now. It’s too late. There’s no turning back after this.

Paul has been the same since I can remember. He’s the best husband I could’ve asked for. He’s patient and supportive – but then we both are to each other, so that’s nothing spectacular between us, but he’s the bring-you-breakfast-in-bed type of man that you read about in stories, but he’s real. I was always the lazy-I-don’t-like-mornings person. And right now he’s pulling his hair out, well that’s just a phrase really because Paul has shaved his head for the last five years or so. It suits him, the bald head, the smoothness. He does still grow his beard though, which I love – it makes him even more good looking. Although he hasn’t really changed his image much since our wedding. And he can still fit in his wedding suit, because he’s always doing something – football, squash, weight training … I sometimes lose track of all the things he does. He says exercise gives him more energy. It’s never made sense to me, but it works for him.

He stays the same and I change more every day. I didn’t plan this, and I usually plan everything. But right now I feel like my mind has been invaded by alien thoughts that are controlling everything I think or do. I guess it’s just a matter of time before someone says that I’m having a mental breakdown. And they could be right, I’ll check with the overwhelming convictions residing in the core of my brain to find out. I mean I’ll check if I can be bothered.

Opposites attract they say, and where exercise is concerned I guess they are right with me and Paul, whoever they are that say all these things. You see, I lost my will power to exercise, to care about anything, in a packet of biscuits. Bourbons I think they were at the time. I stopped discriminating over packets ages ago – that was when days like Tuesday started and ended in familiar shapes. I eat anything now. Since I’ve got no chance of fitting into my wedding dress again it doesn’t matter. It’s not like we’ve any likelihood of renewing our vows. Paul’s never going to forgive me for this.

I started eating more after we’d lived in our new home for about three years. We were totally settled in, all the boxes were unpacked and the rooms decorated to our own style. We were feeling quite satisfied with ourselves. Even smug, yes, we were smug. I’ll admit to that now. We both had good jobs that we loved, a great circle of family and friends, our beautiful home, in fact back then we had all the things we wanted in our lives.

The people who lived in our house before us had bizarre tastes I think, but we saw the potential behind their decor. They were more1970s style hippies, we’re more clean lines, organised storage and high tech. When we bought that house we were ready to start the next chapter of our lives, but … nothing happened. So I ate more. That was something I got good at, because in every other area my body betrayed me.

“Shall I renew your gym membership? The notification’s come through for both of us,” Paul’s voice was cautious and gentle that evening after we had eaten. We were sitting on the sofa as the TV watched us from the corner of the room.  For months I’d been like an angry bear around him. The energy emitting from me was toxic. I’d had too much time to think between hospital and doctor appointments. After I gave up work my days became saturated with charts, needles, hormones and timing. There was an optimum time for everything. The only problem was my body didn’t get the memo. It remained out of sync.

But Paul didn’t do anything wrong. All he wanted was a family, with me. Children who had his curly hair, and maybe his mother’s dimples, or someone who had my smile – when I used to smile a lot – or my eyes. It’s what we both wanted. Then we started trying. Trying, and repeatedly failing. So, no. I didn’t want to renew my gym membership. That was just something else to fail at. I cut my eyes at him and he turned away unsure what to do next. Then moments later he got up and walked out of the room. I was instantly sorry, but I didn’t apologise.

I lived on the edge of anger every day. At first I blamed it on the injections. I did the ones in my stomach, then Paul took over and did the ones in my butt. My skin doesn’t normally bruise, but repeatedly puncturing myself with hormones leaves dark purple bruises that look like squashed blueberries plastered under my skin. Yet in true Marquis de Sade fashion I continued with the ritual for over two years.

“Is it worth all this pain?” Paul asked one morning, after I burst into tears again. I hadn’t been sleeping as usual, so I snapped at him again, “Just stick it in, please!”

“But, you’re crying …”

“And?”

“Jen, can’t we … you know, stop this now?”

“Paul!”

“Jen, c’mon. We can do something else. We can try …”

“If you hadn’t noticed, Paul, this is me trying! I’m trying to have a baby, your baby, my baby. Just stick the damn needle in my ass, please!”

“Remember … remember all this,” he is hesitant with his words and his movements, he tries to hold me, I reject him again.

“All this,” he is pointing to the lines of medicine bottles and the needles that look suspiciously like an addict’s drug paraphernalia, “it’s no guarantee. They did tell us that.”

“Paul. Are you going to do it or not?” I scream at him. I’m desperate, I don’t recognise myself any more. The only thing I am familiar with every day is fear. The fear of more failure and my firework-style emotions.

In the middle of the experiment to alter the biology of my body I discover that my relationships are all crumbling around me. I don’t accept that I am the common denominator until … well, until I’m surrounded by piles of dust.

Mum, and the aunts give me the look all the time, but they don’t say anything anymore. It’s the same at every wedding, funeral or party. Just two words, “Any news?”

When I shake my head they return to sharing out the food again, or doing unnecessary tidying up. The pity in their eyes is mixed with the shame that gnaws at me from inside. I know that I’m a failure. I can’t make my body be different. They know it’s my fault. I know it’s my fault. You see, Paul had a child when he was younger, a previous relationship, so it’s me that’s not working properly, not him.

“I feel like a fraud.” I confide to my diary because people find it awkward to talk to me now. Or do I find it uncomfortable because I’m checking them checking me? Especially my female friends. Especially my female pregnant friends or any mother. Literally any woman with a child, I feel their eyes bore into my permanently vacant uterus. All the random people I see in the street. I’m looking at them and I feel them judging my because of my emptiness. I’m an outsider now because I can’t do it as easily as they did.

“My body feels hollow, like the bits that are supposed to be there are missing or not joined up properly, and I can’t see what’s going on or move any of it around. I wish I had something else to focus on apart from this. Paul is scared of me now, I see it in his eyes. I’m sorry, but I can’t stop, I have to fix my body. I’ll do anything it takes to be a mother. I never thought I’d have to ‘try’. I thought I’d just ‘be’ pregnant one day, like my sisters. It’s not fair. Why me? Why do I have to be the monster? Frankenstein?”

I was a visitor to the hospital that day. Tuesday it was. I went to see my sister who had another baby. I both wanted to and didn’t want to be there, but because it’s a family tradition and I’m not allowed to be the one who breaks the rules, I went. The babies popped out of Emma like she was shelling peas. Her and Stuart have four children now. Three boys and a girl. The boys came first, the twins Simon and Saul, then Patrick, and finally, well I think it’s finally, Chloe arrived. She’s perfect, and looks a bit like our mother. Beautiful ebony skin and brown-blue eyes. She is stunning, and she smells like all newborn babies. Delicious, fresh and new. The whole family is there. We congratulate Emma and Stuart and then the awkwardness in the room reaches out and grabs my ankles. I excuse myself to go to the gift shop. I need space, and as I leave the room I hear it filled with the sound of them all exhaling relief at my absence.

I walk around the hospital grounds for about an hour before I make my way back to Emma’s room. I ignore the ringing phone in my pocket. Acidic thoughts rise in my throat as I reflect that there is scarcely time to get used to each new baby before Emma’s stomach is swelling again, and our family is not even Catholics. I don’t see what their hurry is. But I love the babies, all of them. I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with being the best auntie there is. Maybe that’s my destiny. That could be the way to bury the feelings of constant loss when I instead focus on celebrating the lives of these beautiful innocent babies that have joined our large family, and then I’ll continue to privately mourn the non-existence of my own.

I can smell the sympathy that people have for me when they see that I’m still not expecting. But I’m always expecting, I’m expecting my own miracle, it just doesn’t come to me no matter how many babygros I put under the pillow, what statues I rub, or how full the moon is. I remain empty.

If they do talk to me about my barren womb it’s usually words that I want to grab from their loose lips and stab them in the eye with.

“You’ll have a full, rich life without children,” they suggest. “Imagine all those exciting, different holidays you can go on!”

“You and Paul will have such adventurous experiences now,” my cousin said in a phone call as his children were playing in the background, “you’re not tied down.” Karl won the prize for the most insensitive comment of that week: that’s one of the regular awards that I give out to people I interact with. I have to do something to amuse myself as I mostly pace alone with my thoughts weighed down by biscuits and my internal inadequacy.

Dr Fitzwilliam, one of the line of doctors who stared at charts, then at me, said that it often took time for the drugs and treatment to take hold. I felt like I ran out of time and then I saw her, just lying there, in the corridor. I’d just come back on the ward, on my way back from the gift shop. I had a soft yellow duck for Chloe. 

The nurse had turned away for something and abandoned her.

So, I took her. I had to.

Immediately she filled the hole in my heart. The years of mourning disappeared because I found her. She’s perfect for me.

I call her Jasmine. I’m her mother now.

I’ve turned my phone off so she can sleep in my arms undisturbed. I’ll be her mother for as long as we remain in this linen cupboard.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

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Chasing Status – Short Story

Chasing Status by Marjorie H Morgan © 2018

Rusty chains

“Yes, Sam. What is it?”

“It’s about the paperwork, Roy.” She hesitated, and looked over her shoulder. Then lowering her voice she stepped closer to him. “Sorry to bother you on your way home, but … we, hmmm, we still need your proof of I.D. Can you bring something in after the weekend? A passport will do.”

“Passport? No, not me. I’ve never been the travelling type. No need for a passport – you don’t need one to go to Wales, do you?” Roy’s face wrinkled in laughter and his eyes nearly disappeared in the folds of his weathered face. He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other and with difficulty bent slowly and placed his worn leather satchel on the ground between his feet.

“Well, something official will do. It doesn’t have to be a passport. Just something which proves who you are …”

“Who I am? Sam, you’ve got everything on me in there.”

“Yeah, I thought so, too. I bet you know more about this company than I do! How long have you been here again? 22 years?”

His face smoothed out as he remembered back to the time when he didn’t have pains constantly shooting up his hip and effortlessly ran to the crease of the cricket field to deliver the perfect fast ball for the company’s cricket team.

“Yes. That’s right. 6th of August was my start date here. And before that 13 years at the council. Only nine sick days in all that time. Nine. The flu, you know. The flu in 2010. That was a bad one. Eight years ago? Something like that. Three days off then. In bed all the time. I couldn’t move. Taken the flu injection every year since.”

“Makes sense. My mum takes it too. The doctor recommended it – it’s her age you see.”

“Yes, gotta do what the doctor says. When you’re getting up there, you know, when the grey hairs are more than the black ones, then you’ve gotta listen more. Time to slow down now. Truthfully,” he leans towards her as if in conspiracy, “I’ve got a few aches and pains – especially here,” Roy gingerly touches his left hip as he looks at Sam trying to read her face because he saw her shoulders were held tight and square. “But that’s another matter. I’ll see the doctor when I get a moment. Anyway, a few more years then I’m going to retire.”

“That’ll be nice, I’m sure.” She is looking everywhere except at his face, “The only thing is, Roy, and this is odd, that’s why I stopped you – I’ve never seen this before, the thing is, I know you, but we got this letter saying you’re not registered in the system. It seems strange that they can’t find you.”

“The company?”

“No. The Government.”

“Ha ha! That’s a good one. You nearly had me there.” His laugh sounds like a drink of hot chocolate laced with rum. He picks up his bag and swinging it across his back he turns to leave.

“Um … Um … wait a minute, Roy. Actually I’m serious. Sorry.”

“What? What?!”

“Hold on, let me explain … ummm, your paperwork’s out of date.”

“What does that mean? You’re having a laugh. Sorry. What I mean is this is a joke? Right? Must be.” With a nervous smile Roy glances around expectantly. The lads in his section are masters of practical jokes. It keeps their minds fresh and each other nervous. “April Fools joke?”

“Do you want to come in and sit down so we can discuss this in private?”

“No!” Roy is as shocked as Sam at the volume of his answer. She takes a half step backwards and he lowers his eyes momentarily before catching his breath and continuing, “Everything’s been said in the open, not going to change now. I’m an open man me. Royston Hubert Francis. No secrets. Everybody knows that. Here – ask Jim.”

There is an edge of urgent desperation in his voice as he shouts. “Jim! Jim! Come here a minute,”

“Whassup Roy?” Jim lopes across the wide corridor and comes to a halt beside his friend. Jim slaps Roy on the back and notices that Roy is stiff and upright. He says nothing else and lets his hands fall loose at his side. He’s never known Roy to be tense apart from when he was burying his wife, Maise, six years earlier. He was normally a loose-limbed man with a ready smile and joke for anyone, that’s how he thought of Roy, and how he would describe him in the future that he didn’t yet know.

“Tell this woman about me. Tell her, Jim.”

“Tell her what? Hello Sam. How are you?”

“Tell her who I am.”

Sam steps forward again and raises her hand as if she is about to shut an invisible door between them. “Hello Jim. Sorry. This is a private matter. You all got your own letters. This is between me and Roy here.”

“Sorry. What’s going on? I thought you left ages ago, Roy.”

“I tried to …”

Sam interrupts just as Jim reopens his mouth to speak again after seeing Roy’s rare grief face, “Roy and I are just trying to clear something up. Nothing to worry about, we’ll…”

“You say that now, but you keep asking me for information you already have. It’s been months. Jim, did you get that letter in … in, what month was it? March, yes, March. Did you get that letter …”

Like impatient motorists they continued to cut across each other’s words.

“Yeah, we all got them.”

“… about updating your …”

“We sent one to everyone in the company.”

“… personal details.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I’ve given them everything they asked for and they say they can’t find me in the system! Me!”

“Don’t worry, mate. It’ll be alright …That can’t be right? It’s not right, is it, Sam?”

“As I said to Roy, it must be an administrative error that we’ll sort out soon enough.” Sam’s clipped tones were as sharp as talons and they betrayed her frustration with the situation and the two men in front of her.

“Best do! This is foolishness. See me here!” Roy beats both hands on his chest vigorously knowing that he’s going to regret the intensity of the action later that evening. “Every day for 22 years, right here in this building. Ev-er-y day bar the few days off with the flu. I’m here.”

“That’s right! Roy’s a fixture in this place. Taught me everything I know.”

“Here all the time.” His words feel hollow as he releases them. For the first time in nearly half a century he feels afraid like he is watching the last ship from the port dip over the horizon with all he values on board. Everything in his head tightens and moves to just above his left eye, then it starts banging for release. The pain always veers left. He finds some dry words that scratch his throat on their way out, “I couldn’t teach you dominoes though! You’ll never be any good at that. Bit like me and darts.” The sound that should be laughter cracks and shatters as it leaves him.

Sam clears her throat as she does her awkward two step shuffle nearer the opened door, “Anyway, listen, let’s not get all worked up over  … something that’s nothing right now.”

“If it’s nothing, then why did you stop me again?”

“Just trying to see if there’s another way around the paperwork, Roy. That’s all. I’m trying to help you.”

“Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like it.”

The three of them stand silently for the longest five seconds of that day.

“What am I going to do, Jim? They have everything on me already. What more could they want?”

“I know, mate. Don’t worry. It’s nothing … like Sam said. They’ll sort it out. You will, right Sam?”

“That’s what I was trying to tell you, Roy. It’s just a matter of proving who you are so they can change your records back from ‘no status’ again.”

“What do you mean ‘no status’? C’mon now. Stop the foolishness, it’s been a long week. I’m dying to get home. I’ve got that aching pain in my side again …”

“‘No status’? What’s that mean?” Jim chips in with a three line furrow appearing on his brow matching the one that has taken up residence on Roy’s forehead.

“Don’t worry, Roy, we’ll clear this up,” he hopes he’s telling the truth.

“It’s just an administrative term. Nothing to stress about. I’m sure this’ll all be sorted in the next week or so.”

“I hope so.  You just got me riled up for a minute. That’s all.” However, Roy doesn’t feel calm.

“No problems, Roy. We’re just fulfilling our legal responsibility you see. We’ve all got to do our bit.”

“I know the admin. I’ve my own pile of paperwork over there for month end. Sorry ‘bout that. Thanks, Sam. Sorry again.”

“No problems. Don’t worry. See you Monday – we’ll get it sorted then.”

“Yeh, Monday.  Sorry I raised my voice. I just don’t understand why you … you know, they … can’t find me in the system. Makes no sense.” His shoulders look like the overnight cover on a birdcage as he walks off. He shakes his head trying to release the confusion. After about 10 steps he stops and half turns his head towards the watchful eyes of Sam and Jim, “I’ll leave it to you, right? You’ll sort it?”

“Sit anywhere, this won’t take long.”

“Thank you. Who are you again? I didn’t catch your name just now.”

“Sorry. I’m Susan Thatcher. The Hospital Administrator.”

“OK. Nice to meet you Mrs Thatcher. Are you related to … you know, the old Prime Minister?”

“No. No relation.”

“Sorry. You must get that all the time.”

Susan smiles a wafer thin smile and indicates to the chairs again. Roy moves closer to a seat, but doesn’t sit down straight away. He’s waiting for her to sit as well. She does not. She blocks the air in the room with her position by the opened doorway.

“I don’t know why you’ve pulled me in here. I’ve come to see the doctor.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why we need to have a chat …”

Chivalry is increasingly uncomfortable and time consuming now Roy is in his seventh decade of life, so reluctantly he eases himself into the chair nearest the door in the small side room. Susan, the rotund woman he has just met for the first time, hesitates in front of a chair on the opposite side of the table. Placing a thick file down in front on her with a thud she spreads her fingers like two inverted steeples on either side of it. She looks as if she is about to propel herself into the ceiling. Roy laughs nervously.

“Well, we have a problem Mr Francis. I’m sorry but you can’t attend your appointment today.”

“Why? What? The GP referred me here over six months ago, she said my treatment was immediate and necessary and I still haven’t had any appointments! Why? Why? Now you’re saying there’s a problem? What problem?”

“It’s just paperwork, Mr Francis. Your file’s missing some documents that we need before we can proceed.”

“Everywhere I go nowadays people are asking for old paperwork! It’s all in the system I tell you. I’ve given you everything I have. Everything.”

“Please calm down, Mr Francis. I’m just doing my job. I have to …”

“Listen. Mrs Susan, Mrs Thatcher, I’m sick. That’s why I’m here. The GP referred me, I can’t even work too well because of the pain. You can’t stop me from …”

“Please listen, Mr Francis. I’m not stopping …”

“Barriers everywhere. Everywhere I turn. I’m so tired of it now. Sick and tired.”

“I understand your frustration Mr Francis, but please try to understand that I have to follow the rules of the hospital … and the government. We are required to ensure …”

“You’re locking me out! You’re refusing to treat me … aren’t you? Is that what you’re doing? Don’t you see the doctor’s letter? It’s in there, in the file.” Roy saw that his hands had become fists and were banging on the table. He didn’t remember starting the motion, but he consciously decided to follow the existing beat as if he was reading a music score.

“Look. I’m sick – really sick, for the first time in nearly fifty years – and you’re refusing to treat me? That’s not right! It’s not fair? How can that be fair? I only want what I put it. That’s all. I’m not asking for anyone else’s share. Just what I put it.” Like a deflating balloon he stretches across the table in supplication, “Just what I put in,” he repeats.

“Have you finished?” Her sharp sigh takes up the remaining fresh air in the room. She is not acquainted with mercy. “I’m sorry, Mr Francis. All I can say is that according to your file here there is something missing. We require proof that you are ordinarily resident and legally entitled to live in the UK or you will have to pay for your treatment yourself.”

“What do you mean legally entitled? I’ve been here in England since I was in short trousers. I came in ‘56 with my mother. She worked in this very hospital for thirty two years as a nurse! She’s buried in Highgate cemetery – just up the road.”

“That’s all very interesting, Mr Francis but I need proof for you … In the form of a passport or official bank account details or housing letters to confirm your status, otherwise …”

“Or what? What if I can’t provide a passport?”

“You have to.”

“Or what? Answer me!”

“Please don’t raise your voice, Mr Francis.”

“Keep calm, keep calm! That’s all I hear. Keep calm while I take everything away from you. Keep calm while I take your … life!”

“I don’t think you understand what I’m saying …”

“Oh! But I do. I understands perfectly. You’re saying that if I don’t give you the papers you need – the papers which the government already has from the time I come to this country – if I don’t give you those papers you’re not going to look after me here. That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Well, ummm, yes. Unfortunately, my hands are tied. It’s the law, you see. It’s not me, I’m just doing my job … so, sorry. I had to tell you that you’re now restricted from free access to the NHS unless you can prove your settled status.” Susan knows that her words are like injecting neat acid into an IV yet she doesn’t blink. She sits down at last and pulls the file close to her chest. “But …”

“But what?”

“Well, we can still book you in for your chemotherapy if you pay the charges for the treatment in advance.”

Now they are both gasping like goldfish starved of freshly oxygenated water, the atmosphere is heavy and damp as they stare at each other across the table.

“How much?”

“Sorry?”

“How much is the treatment to save my life?”

“Ummmmmm. Let me see.” The sound of the paperwork moving in her thick hands reminds Roy of a butterfly caught in a jam jar.  The noise suddenly stops. “Ummm. That will be £54,400.

“£54,000!”

“£54,400 to be precise. In advance.”

“I don’t even have £500 pounds to my name anymore. I’m about to lose my job because of … lost paperwork! Maybe my home too, and now … now you plan to take my life away as well!”

It took Jim two weeks to knock on Roy’s door. They barely recognised each other.

The rum is still familiar and smooth as they sit in silence and look at the floor between them.

Roy is the first to speak.

“I’ve got to leave.”

“Where?”

“Here. My house, and … England.”

“Fuck off!” The rum becomes a spray ejected from between his lips and teeth. “Don’t mess about, Roy.”

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

“I got a letter. Home Office. Said I’m not legal here, so I’ve got to go … don’t know where I’ll go.”

“You’re messing, right?”

“Listen, Jim,” Roy had abandoned patience in his speech when he left the hospital weeks before, “I found out I’ve been working all my life for nothing. I’m sick, bad. Real sick. But I can’t get treatment …”

“You’ve had too much rum, old man! Stop with the riddles. When you coming back to work? We miss you in our section.”

“Jim Jones, for the 15 years I’ve known you, when did I ever not come to work? Never, that’s when. They asked me to leave.” Jim poured himself more rum to stop his hand from shaking.

“What the actual fuck?! Sorry mate, you’re kidding right? No, I know you’re not. Bastards! Fucking bastards.”

Picking up the nearly empty bottle he poured another glug of rum. 

“What can I do to help you, Roy? I know, I can talk to …”

“I’ve done it all. I’ve talked to everyone. Night and day. It’s no use. They say I don’t exist in the system. So, it’s like I’ve been working all my life, paying my stamp, and now they say I don’t exist. It’s shit, that’s what it is. It’s slavery. They’ve had me in chains all this time.”

Jim lowered his reddening face to his chest.

“Remember that day when Sam said she needed my passport?”

“Yeah, I thought that was all sorted …”

“I wish … I’ve had government visits here and everything. I’ve got two weeks to leave or they’ll deport me … me and my cancer.”

“You’ve got cancer?”

“Yes. Couldn’t get treatment because of no paperwork. Now they’re shipping me off. To a country I don’t know any more. I don’t know anyone there. This is my home. Well, it was my home …”

“They can’t do that! They can’t! Can they?”

“They’re doing it. Two weeks. So take what you like … I can’t take it with me.”

Marjorie H Morgan © 2018

Black bodies and the white gaze in 2018

Black bodies and the white gaze in 2018.

A personal insight into the destructive societal and political dichotomy of Blackness and Whiteness.

BBWG Final Print2-01

Understanding the social structures of Blackness and whiteness in the 21st century is a mission in a time of crisis. It is important because the human body is a metaphor of social relationships; the body has symbolic significance, and the stereotypes that currently exist must be challenged because specific cultural representations dictate how bodies that exist in either Blackness or whiteness are treated, that is either by social inclusion or social exclusion and marginalisation.

WEB Du Bois questioned, ‘What on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?’ But it’s not whiteness that Black people desire, it’s the treatment of humanity and equality in society that is constantly sought. This inequality in social and political contexts is part of the legacy from the times of slavery and genocide, world wars and the European imperial incursions into foreign lands.

Whiteness, which is a global minority, invented its own supremacy as a means of positioning white nations as a dominant force in the world. Du Bois posited that the imperial consciousness came to equate whiteness with ‘the ownership of the world for ever and ever.’

The cult of Whiteness is arrogance used by white supremacists to offer its members security in a turmoil filled environment, and to replace global human rights and democracy;  it is a foundation stone in the origins of totalitarianism. This social Darwinism continues to seek to expel the Black body from public spaces by organised violence and / or controls that pacify the disaffected.

In the 21st century, this destructive logic of lawless violence has corrupted both public and private morality in the heavily racialised war on the Black body. This assault on the Black body presumes a sub-human ‘other’ who must be systematically destroyed and eliminated at every opportunity – and it has licensed the use of torture and extrajudicial execution, even against a country’s own citizens if they are ‘living while Black’.

This racism must be eradicated by the reversal of the European imperial imagining of people into master and slave dichotomies that first arose during the invasions of Asia, Africa, America and Australia; this will mean a new division of land, food and raw materials amongst all peoples for global and national progress and prosperity.

The cult of Whiteness resists equality because it is fragile and afraid of the decay of individual identity and collective history of European countries that existed before Imperialism and invasion. Whiteness has been incorrectly inscribed as a historical signifier of humanity.

Humanity is not a narrow spectrum of society, humanity is common and cosmopolitan. Blackness was historically pathologised by imperialism, slavery, colonisation and repeated negative media representations. When Blackness is seen as ‘other’ or deviant it creates reinforced disparity along racial lines.

This error has to be faced and corrected. Black people live this dichotomy every day.

James Baldwin, in 1962, said “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It is therefore necessary to look at the social and political structures and constructions of Blackness and Whiteness.

In an attempt to understand the framework of the violence perpetuated on the Black body I am using my Black privilege to view this subject. I have double- sometimes triple-consciousness as a Black woman in a predominantly white society – this is my privilege, and my skill set to understand the interactions between Blackness and Whiteness. As Lili Loofbourow says,“The further you move away from white cis masculinity the more points of view you have to juggle.”

The objectivisation of the Black body means the simultaneous subjectification of the white body. The surveyor of the Black body by default becomes the white cis man.  By objectification the person who takes on the role as subjectifier does not engage in any exchange or communication with the object class of people – in this case the Black person, the Black body.

Without communication the objectified person is designated mute, they have no voice, and thereafter no subject position in society.  This is because social relations are relations between subjects – between agents of action, speech and communication; the roles are reciprocal. Without communication there is only domination and absence from one another.

With limited or single direction communication Black lives are framed by the white imagination. And because the white imagination cannot be contained, Black people in the 21st century are dying in numbers that match the number of Black deaths in the times of lynching – the only difference today is that instead of a rope, Black people are being killed by guns, prisons, structural and institutional discrimination that are mainly controlled by white sections of society. As Claudia Rankine, writes in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’: Because white men can’t police their imagination, black men are dying.

The white imagination uses negative thoughts about Blackness to disrupt attention from everyday racial inequalities by symbolising Black people as undesirably culturally different.

Whiteness has become a dangerous cult, a religious cult even. This religious association with whiteness started over a century ago during the economic and social uncertainty that preceded the violence of the Great War of 1914. Now in the 21st century, the incumbent President of the United States is using this combination of the cult of whiteness and religious fervour to exercise perceived racial supremacy over all the citizens of America and the world.

In America and Europe, particularly in the UK, the whiteness cult, the Anglo-centric world view, is evidenced in the historical legacies that started in imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and segregation, and today continues in the forms of ghettoisation, mass incarceration, unfettered extrajudicial executions by the police force, and militarised border controls. Historically, Black people have not been paid appropriate human attention by the white gaze, or the snap judgement of the white glance. The white glance is a quick diagnosis – at speed – which does not analyse individually, but goes on learnt intuition that is based on historical inaccuracies. It’s a ‘point and shoot’ response rather than an ‘investigate and discover’ response.

This ‘point and classify’ response to Black people is the result of white people remaining focused on perpetuating continual racial violence on Black people by incorrectly centring Blackness as undesirable, low status, criminal, dangerous, and inhuman while white bodies are generally classified – by white people  – as worthy, interesting, valuable and human.

It is my Black privilege to debunk these false Imperialist theories and properly identify my Blackness as something to be admired, and outlined so other people will see it as well. As Lili Loofbourow states, “Once you point it out, we’ll never miss it again.” The recent Black Panther film has added to the global celebration of Blackness.

We still have to inhabit hope that this separatist situation of Blackness and whiteness will change. That does not mean naively denying reality, Rebecca Solnit, in her book ‘Hope in the Dark’, posits that,  “Authentic hope requires clarity and imagination.” And she continues to say, “Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.”

We have to do something, to take some action because hope is a belief that actions have meaning and that what we do matters. As Angie Thomas says, from The Hate U Give (THUG), empathy is more powerful than sympathy.

This blog post education is so that people understand the social and political structures of racism, not so that they feel ‘sorry’ for a past event, but that they will understand the ingrained inequality, then effect change.

As Reni Eddo-Lodge says in her book, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’, “Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.”

Will you be a part of the change? This is your time, this is your opportunity to speak, to act, to change the system. Image the situation conjured up by the following rhetorical question used by Barack Obama, among others, ‘Can I face myself when in 20 years time my child will say to me, wait a minute, you knew this was a problem and you didn’t do anything about it?’

I am using my Blackness, my resilience, and my revolutionary spirit to continue the resistance. I am facing this error of social inequalities head on, and I will continue to write and speak about this situation to effect change and the erasure of the existing societal and political dichotomies of Blackness and Whiteness.

What will you do? I ask this because, sadly, racism is a contemporary issue.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

 

Review – Nina: A story about me and Nina Simone

Nins amd me jbm Page_Headers_ninapage_1Tuesday night (20th March 2018) in Hope Place, Liverpool at the Unity Theatre was where audiences witnessed Josette Bushell-Mingo channelling the revolutionary spirit of the immutable Nina Simone.

In an act of mesmerising alchemy Bushell-Mingo ensured that both women were present on the stage and weaved their personalities and sections of their individual life stories together.

Revolution, resistance and resilience were common threads in the performance that concluded with standing ovations for the live band and Bushell-Mingo.

Through seamless storytelling the audience discovered that Nina, as a young child, learnt an early lesson of the power of her musical presence in combination with her blackeness, and how she utilised that influence to ensure her parents could be present and seated in the front row of her first classical piano recital in the 1940s; in a similar way Josette Bushell-Mingo corralled her own musicality and Black presence on the stage to present a multi-disciplinary exposition of the reality of ‘living while Black’ in the 21st century.

The audience was captivated by the mixture of an emotionally charged spoken treatise aligned with the intense and powerful civil rights songs of Nina Simone.

The evening was filled with moments of laughter and audience participation along with the well-known songs of Nina Simone, as well and times of deep sorrow when a list of names and locations of many Black people who were murder were recited and remembered.

The essential silences of the performance were just as powerful as the liveliness of the music that continues to enchant listeners with its genius combination of classical, jazz, soul and blues melodies.

This complete stage performance invited the audience to think about the treatment of Black people in society and to start a new conversation on #BlackLivesMatter while celebrating the genius and skill of Nina Simone, and the amazing craft of Josette Bushell-Mingo who captivated the entire audience from the moment she walked in the auditorium, with typical Nina Simone style, and announced with aplomb, “I’m here now.”

Nina Simone would be proud.

 

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Legal Ghosts

the_terminal legal ghostsIn the previous blog I shared some thoughts, and facts on the situation facing British people who have been categorised as having ‘no status’. I mentioned that many older British people with Caribbeans backgrounds have been affected by this, but they’re not the only ones.

Younger people are also affected – depending on their date of birth and sometimes the relationship of their parents – I mean if the parents were married or not at the time of the child’s birth, and also the parents’ nationality at the time of the child’s birth.

Take for example the London middleweight boxing champion 29 year old Kelvin Bilal Fawaz. Fawaz has boxed and won matches for England six times and spent more than half of his life in this country.

He was head-hunted by Team GB for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but he was unable to join the British Olympic sport endeavour on these occasions because he didn’t have a valid passport, and he has had numerous applications for a British passport rejected by the Home Office for more than a decade.

His first application for asylum, when he was eighteen, took over four years before he even received a response from the Home Office. More on that and Bilal Fawaz in a moment …

I also want to have a look at the case of Cynsha Best. She’s 31, born in Hammersmith and she’s lived in London all her life. You’d think that makes her British, but not so according to the Home Office and the changes in immigration laws.

Well, five generations of Cynsha Best’s family are British, yet when she went to register her impending marriage early in 2017, she was detailed by the Home Office and told she’s not a British citizen and that she had no right to stay in the country and that she should leave or she would be deported. Not exactly what you expect when you are planning a wedding, but that was just the start of her living nightmare. I’ll come back to Cynsha Best in a little while.

Right, now let’s go back to the case of  Bilal Fawaz, also known as Kelvin Bilal Fawaz.

Fawaz had travelled to the UK from Nigeria with his uncle when he was a teenager – he’d been told he was going to meet his father who was apparently in London, this was after he’d been raised by relatives in Nigeria for six years following the death of his mother.

Unfortunately, he was abandoned by his uncle and exploited for a couple of years where he was locked in a house and forced to work for the family he was left with.

This appears to be a straightforward case of human trafficking – when a person is forced to travel on false documents and then made to work against their will. 

Anyway, eventually Bilal Fawaz escaped from the place he was being held against his will and he was then taken into the care of Social Services – during the time he was in the care of Social Services Fawaz recalls that he mixed with the wrong crowd, and got into trouble with the law for the possession of cannabis and graffiti offences – then he discovered his skill at boxing, and he turned his life around and focused on making his new home country proud. He rose to the top of his profession as  an amateur boxer to such a degree that the boxing promotor Frank Warren offered Fawaz a three year contact worth £240,000 but he was unable to accept it because he doesn’t have a work permit – you see, the Home Office has refused to issue one to him.

This apparently great opportunity arose for this young man, but he couldn’t take it because if someone works in the UK without a valid work permit or citizenship they can be imprisoned – so, as mentioned in the last podcast –  he is another person in limbo: he can’t work even when he has  the skills and lucrative offers of work.

The Home Office has also attempted to deport Bilal Fawaz to Nigeria, but the Nigerian High Commission have refused to provide him with travel documents because they claim he’s not a Nigerian citizen, despite being born there. Fawaz’s mother – who  – as I mentioned earlier – died in Nigeria when Fawaz was eight – was from Benin, and his father was from Lebanon. This means that Kelvin Bilal Fawaz is effectively stateless – that means no country recognises him as a national citizen: he’s what’s known as one of many “legal ghosts”.

So, late last year, 2017, on the 29th November, Bilal Fawaz was training at his gym in Harlesden when he was snatched by undercover Home Office officials and held in a Tinsley House Immigration Centre – a detention and removal centre at Gatwick airport – he was held there for 34 days. He was only released following a public petition that collected over 115,000  signatures and appealed to the Home Office on his behalf.

He has now been released on bail from that Immigration Centre – sounds like prison conditions, doesn’t it? Anyway, he is yet still unable to work despite being back in the wider community.

For over 15 years Bilal Fawaz has been existing in a state of limbo.

Several unsuccessful appeals for British citizenship have been made to the Home Office on his behalf by England Boxing and John McDonnell, the MP for his constituency – Hayes and Harlington.

Bilal Fawaz, the no. 3 middleweight boxer in England, is seeking a judicial review of his case – as I mentioned in the previous podcast recent figures have shown that the Ombudsman has upheld 75% of complaints against the Home Office decisions. So, there is a fighting chance (forgive the pun!) that he will get his application for citizenship reviewed and possibly accepted – granting him a nationality, and a confirmed home, at last.

He was seen as good enough to compete and win titles for England against countries like Germany, Ireland and Nigeria, so it follows that he should be considered good enough to be classed as a citizen of the country that he’s represented so many times.

This reminds me of the case of Zola Budd, the South African runner, who had her citizenship application fast-tracked so that she could represent England in the 1984 Olympics. The outcome was different, of course.

17 year old Zola Budd registered as a British citizen on the 6th April 1984 – on the strength of the fact that her grandfather was British, then she moved to Guildford and soon after received her passport allowing her to run in the Los Angeles Olympics that summer.

Sounds improbable, but it’s a fact. Recently released files held in the National Archives, reveal the government row that arose over this case based on the fear that other immigration enquiries would be made from people with similar familial backgrounds and connections.

As you can see, the difference in treatment of these two Olympic standard athletes is stark.

In 1984 the Home Office justified their ‘special treatment’ of Zola Budd when they stated that her ’talent’ made her particular case a priority. Six time boxing champion Bilal Fawaz has not been viewed with the same care and sensitivity.

So, Budd competed for Great Britain in 1984 then reverted to her South African nationality to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics after South Africa was re-admitted to international competition following a referendum vote to end apartheid and hold a fair and free national election – resulting in the landmark nomination of Nelson Mandela as the first Black South African President.

Bilal Fawaz has no other country or nationality to revert to. His home is London, England. He is not recognised anywhere else in the world. He has ‘no status’ anywhere else – this is his home, he has lived here for over half of his life and has represented the country on an international stage.

One’s nationality is such a minefield of emotions and shifting laws. There seems to be an endless list of people whose lives are devastatingly affected by citizenship and border regulations.

Right, now back to Cynsha Best who I mentioned at the start of this podcast. When Cynsha Best was born, her Barbadian and Guyanese parents were not registered as British, despite migrating to Britain under the British resettlement scheme that existed between 1955 and 1966 – in fact, around 27,000 Barbadians travelled from the Caribbean to Britain under this scheme. Her mother has Indefinite Leave to Remain in Britain and since her birth her father has been registered as a British citizen. However, Cynsha Best’s nationality status did not change when her father was naturalised as British.

The news that she wan’t British was obviously a shock and an unpleasant surprise to Cynsha Best.

This is because a change in the law meant that even though her migrant grandparents, who travelled to England in 1956, even though they were British citizens, the law had changed to specify that after 1983, even if you are born in the UK to British grandparents, you were not automatically British.

Cynsha Best fell in this grey area. So, after being detained and answering a few questions in the Home Office building in Croydon, she was told she wasn’t British – as she’d believed herself to be all her life – she was told that she was Barbadian and also that she was an illegal immigrant. Remember, she hadn’t migrated from anywhere, she was born in  Hammersmith and had lived in London her entire life. Strangely, all her siblings were still classified as British citizens, and her two children are British citizens – it’s just Cynsha Best who was identified as the only illegal immigrant in her family, and the Home Office were ready to detain her and immediately deport her to Barbados – in fact they only let her leave the Croydon office when she was initially detained and questioned because she became distressed and expressed safety concerns for her two young sons who had to be collected after school that day. At that interview she was told to leave the country voluntarily or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain at a cost of £2,993 (without the extra addition of solicitor’s fees).

So, early in 2017 the Home Office told Cynsha Best that they would give her £2,000 each for her and both of her children (who are both British citizens remember) to leave the country voluntarily. According to the Home Office records she didn’t exist as a British citizen and therefore would have to be removed from what she has – for her 31 years of life – known as her home, family and country.

Fortunately, after nearly a year of uncertainty and turmoil, the Home Office granted Cynsha Best British citizenship. This was after yet another public campaign, and a collection of nearly 60,000 signatures that raised awareness of the trauma and distress that Cynsha Best and her family had to go through.

She was then told that the next step was to take the citizenship test – at the cost of £1,282.

Best’s MP, Sarah Jones, who lobbied the Home Office on her constituent’s behalf, stated last year – in 2017- that she was concerned that “this is not uncommon – only today another constituent has come to me who has been in the UK since she was 2 in 1961 and has just been told that she has no right to live here. This is not the commonsense, fair and managed immigration system we need.”

I agree with MP Sarah Jones’ assessment.

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz and Cynsha Best are just a couple of cases that have had some media coverage, others have not been as fortunate, despite being in the same or similar situations. Many British citizens have effectively been reclassified as illegal immigrants – because they are ‘lost’ in the system, and summarily deported to countries where they have little or no connections.

Every similar case shocks me as much as the first one that I uncovered. People are having their lives turned upside down and are not often given the chance to appeal or have their case humanely considered before they are detained and then deported from their homes.

These are individual people, like you or me, with family networks and cultural histories linked to their English roots and communities. They’re being torn from their homes and ejected from the only countries or settled environments that they’ve ever know.

I think it’s the responsibility of every British citizen to ensure that justice is done for each and every member of society. So, I’m asking you to share this information and help those in your local communities who may be inadvertently affected.

We all have to seek justice and equality of access and outcomes – it matters. These people and their lives matter.

So, once again I’m seriously asking you to reach out and make sure those you know are protected. Please, do it. Don’t just think about it. Do something to help someone – it could be you that needs help tomorrow.

On that sombre note, I’m going to end this part two of the ‘no status’ blog posts. I hope the information that I’ve shared has been useful to you, and that it’ll help to save someone you know or hear about from the potential distress and trauma of unwelcome Home Office intervention in their lives.

No Status

Settled statusYou may, or may not have recently become aware of the increasing plight of a certain section of British society.

There’s this group of people, many of them Caribbeans, but some from other backgrounds as well, that have been apparently targeted as suddenly having ‘no status’.

This phrase, ‘no status’ was new to me a short while ago, so I did a bit of research to find out more.

As an aside – by reading this blog post you will be partaking in a form of telepathy. It was Stephen King, the prolific author, who suggested that writing is an act of telepathy because someone somewhere has ideas and thoughts, writes them down and then they are transmitted via the form of a book to the mind of another person, in a different time and space.

Stephen King also said something like even though the writer and reader may not even be in the same year together, or the same room, they are still together. They’re close because the very words used are the means of telepathy – they have effectively engineered a meeting of minds. So, I’m hoping that in this blog, and others to come, there will be occasional meetings of my mind with yours.

So, back to the ‘no status’ situation.

Following the Brexit vote there’s been a recorded increase in overt racism.

There have been over 45,000 changes to immigration rules since Theresa May became Home Secretary on 12th May 2010 – and I’m positive many more are on the books now that she’s Prime Minister – a position she’s had since July 2016.

The point is, with all these changes my concern is how the people affected by them have been informed about the changes to their personal circumstances – or not, as the case may be. 

Many people only know that things have changed for them when they get a letter from their employer, as in the case of 64 year old Renford McIntyre who has been living in the UK for almost fifty years.

Little over a year ago he was told that he’s not British and consequently is no longer allowed to work or receive any government support in the form of any social benefit at all.

So, after arriving by plane in England in 1968 – and going through passport control and all the other legal requirements of entry into a country, he settle down to study and later work as a British Citizen – just as his parents had before him: his mother was a nurse and his father was a crane operator.

Anyway, in 2014 his employers asked him to update his paperwork and when it was discovered that he no longer had a valid passport or naturalisation papers, he was sacked. Of course, he couldn’t get a new job without the papers, so he became depressed, and eventually homeless because his local council, Dudley Council, in the West Midlands, said he was not eligible for emergency housing because according to official records from the Home Office he had no right to be in this country.

So, in an effort to prove his status as a British citizen, Renford McIntyre gathered 35 years of paperwork showing –  among other things – his National Insurance contributions, and sent an application to the Home Office for his retrospective citizenship. Despite this bundle of evidence of his life, his work, his contributions to society and the British infrastructure, the Home Office rejected and returned the application, requesting yet further evidence.

Renford McIntyre is part of a group of people who have lived and contributed to society as British citizens, yet now they are reaching retirement age, after being settled in this country for the majority of their lives, the Home Office is re-classifying them as illegal immigrants with ‘no status’.

The cost of making an application for a visa and citizenship continues to rise. It can now cost £2,297 to become a permanent resident and an additional £1,282 for citizenship – that’s where you have to take a citizenship test that has the most obscure questions that even the majority of people born and bred here would be hard pushed to answer without the use of Google!

Bear in mind, accord to a Freedom of Information request,  it costs just £264 to process an application that is currently charged at £2,297. Let the sink in for a moment.

The Home Office released their own figures in September 2017 that stated it costs £135 per citizenship application, yet they are charging up to 900 per cent more on many applications.

900 per cent profit on a single citizenship application!

In response to the FOI request the Home Office stated, “When setting fees, we also consider the benefits that a successful applicant is likely to gain and believe that it is right that those who use and benefit directly from the system make an appropriate contribution towards meeting associated costs.”

Remember that the people I’m discussing have already spent their lives paying into the British system through National Insurance contributions and taxes on their income.

Additionally the Home Office is now charging £5.48 (payable in advance) for each email it sends in response to customer service enquiries from overseas’ visa applicants. So applicants have to pay to enquire how to make an application! Confusing? I think so.

This is a result of the ‘hostile environment’ that Theresa May said she wanted to introduced for illegal migrants with the Immigration Act that became law on the 12th May 2016.

I understand the need to monitor illegal migrants, the problem I have with the cases I’m talking about today is that they are not illegal migrants, they are British citizens. People who have been born here in Britain, or who have come here legally and have somehow, by some mysterious bureaucratic shuffling behind the scenes, unbeknown to them, been reclassified from British Citizens to people with ‘no status’.

The Independent newspaper, summed it up quite well in an article published in … September 2017, when they stated, “The Tories’ immigration system is based on a reactionary agenda, not reason” … the paper goes on to note that Paul Blomfield, MP, has said that the failures of the Government is endless – examples of this assertion can be shown in the way the Government enforces inhumane mass deportations, and how they don’t assess asylum claims in a fair and timely manner.

Paul Blomfield also confirmed that the Ombudsman upholds more complaints against the Home Office than any other Government department.

In 2015-16 the Ombudsman upheld 75% of complaints against the Home Office, compared to 36% about the Ministry of Justice and 10% about HM Revenue & Customs. The 2015-16 figures represent a rise – from already high figures – it must be said– of 60% in 2013-14, and 69% of complaints against the Home Office in 2014-15.

Anyway, figures aside. Let’s talk about real people.

Renford McIntyre who I mentioned earlier – who had provided proof of his 35 years of National Insurance contributions and other information with his formal citizenship application – finally received a verbal acknowledgement from the Home Office that he has ‘settled status’ – but he’s still waiting for written confirmation and is therefore still in limbo because he’s still homeless, and unable to get another job because he doesn’t have the official paperwork in his possession. Of course, it’s natural that his stress continues to rise, and he’s afraid that he’ll remain vulnerable and may be forced to leave the country to go to and live in a country that is as strange to him as he is to it.

My concern about this situation is that many people will fall back on the stock phrase – too well used by politicians and others – that they are sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ for Renford McIntyre, Hubert Howard, Paulette Wilson, Albert Thompson and many others like them in similar situations, my point is that thoughts and prayers may well be useful for those offering them, but the people I’ve just named need reparative action not thoughts and prayers.

Take for example, Albert Thompson. Albert Thompson – not his real name – for legal purposes you understand – is a Londoner. He is 63 years old and was a teenager when he arrived in the UK in 1973. Albert Thompson has been diagnosed with cancer, but he has been refused continued treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London because they are not satisfied that he’s got  enough evidence that he has been ‘ordinarily resident and legally entitled to live in the UK’.

Well, they didn’t refuse him treatment outright, they offered him the option to pay for it. Upfront. In full. All of it before he could start to receive the chemotherapy for his diagnosed cancer. It’s just a small matter of paying £54,000 in advance they told him. I’ll leave that there for a moment so you can pick up your outrage of the floor.

So, there it is, pay £54,000 or bring your British passport to the hospital as proof of your status.

What if you don’t travel, have no intention to travel and have therefore have never held a British passport?

Is this information only required from Black people seeking NHS care, or from all people regardless of ethnic origin or skin colour?

Just some questions I’ve posed to myself after my research and reading.

Anyway, since this particular case was reported in the national press the Royal Marsden has issued an apology to Albert Thompson, but they haven’t started his chemotherapy treatment yet. They need take positive action, not send a mere apology – their apology is as much practical use as offering ‘thoughts and prayers’.

You see I think Albert Thompson needs life-saving treatment to start. It needs to start now. Not when the missing paperwork is correctly filed. The evidence that he’s been living and working in London for 44 years is there – we know it’s there. The government has records of his employment and national insurance contributions, and, of course, his tax payments.

This man needs to be treated properly, like the British citizen he is and has been for all the 44 years that he has been working and paying taxes.

My personal opinion is that Albert Thompson has effectively been used as free labour for over four decaded, and now that he’s ill and unable to work he has been discarded and denied assistance that is due to him. It makes me think that another form of slavery is alive and kicking, right here in the UK. I believe that we are still in chains after all these years. The system is still stacked against Black people.

It’s not news that there is institutional racism in establishments like the police force, health care, and schools – to name a few, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and accept it.

Too many people like to say that racism is a thing of the past, it’s not. Ask the school boy in Bath this past week, who was allegedly chained to a lamppost and whipped in a ‘mock slave auction’. There’s no humour in this.

Being prodded with sticks and called extreme racist names is not funny no matter which way you look at it. It’s abuse. It’s racial prejudice – plain and simple.

As is the racist chanting as directed at a student at Nottingham Trent University, and a similar incident at the De Montfort University in Leicester. Experiencing racism is an everyday occurrence for many Black people, ranging from micro aggressions to death.

Yeah, death. It’s that serious. Ask Albert Thompson.

My point is, these ‘no status’ cases are predominantly affecting Black people, and especially people from the Caribbean – members of the Commonwealth, many of whom migrated to the UK to help rebuild the country after the devastation of the second World War. It’s affecting the health of those on the receiving end of this treatment – some of whom – like Albert Thompson – are already facing serious health issues.

This is not how we should be treating British citizens. There’s no other way to describe it except to say that it’s wrong. Commonwealth citizens who are also British citizens are being dumped by the British Government after a lifetime’s work – they are being treated like rubbish.

As I mentioned before, I think the use of the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ in terrible situations needs to be backed up with action. My part is to spread awareness of the situation that’s affecting this group of people.

I’d like to suggest that if you know any one who is in a similar situation, please reach out and help them to ensure that their paperwork is up to date so they don’t end up being deported to a country they have no current links with.

Feel free to contact me via this podcast and I will share all the information that I have to help those in need. I’ll signpost you and them to organisations like Praxis Community Projects, Southwark Law Centre, and the solicitors Duncan Lewis.

So, there we have it – serious talk.

No status. Settled status. British citizen. The last two should be synonymous. It’s a terrible and distressing situation that so many people are suddenly discovering themselves to be in. We’ve got to do something to change this unfair system.

Of all the few names I’ve mentioned remember there are hundreds more who go overlooked and are subject to the Tory Government policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’.

Think about it, how would you like your sibling, your Mum, Dad, Grandad, cousin … the list goes on, how would you like to have your only interaction with them via international social media? There’s even an official term for it, ‘Skype family’. It’s destructive and inhumane.

Let’s hope more coverage and awareness of this situation will make sure that people have their rights protected as the British citizens they’ve been for decades.

I could go on … but I’d better stop now. There’s lots for you – and me – to think about. And to do something about. Let’s not leave it at ‘thoughts and prayers’, let’s make a difference to the people we know in the communities we live in.

Seriously, reach out and make sure those you know are protected. Do it. Don’t just think about it. Do something.

Dawn Walton: Northern Star Changing the Narrative

“To define black British theatre in terms of race alone is to miss the point…. Black theatre is as rich, varied, complex and contradictory as any other theatrical form, but it is also able to engage regular theatre-goers at the same time as attracting a new audience. Who else can do that?” Dawn Walton, 2008

Dawn Walton - Eclipse

Dawn Walton is from Brockley, South London, where she grew up with very little personal exposure to the world of theatre. However, she is now the artist director of the Eclipse Theatre Company based in the Crucible, Sheffield. Eclipse was launched as a response to the Arts Council’s Consultation Report, ‘Whose Theatre?’ (2006) which clearly identified institutional racism in the theatre industry. Eclipse is a National Portfolio Funded Organisation (NPO) with Arts Council England, and is the only Black-led NPO to deliver an annual middle-scale tour to regional theatres: the Eclipse production of Black Men Walking is touring the country from January – April (2018).

Walton’s move from the south of England to the North has taken her across many stages and screens as a theatre and film director in the past 22 years. She began her theatrical career at the Royal Court Theatre following time in sales and marketing for Apple, where she said, “my soul wasn’t satisfied”. After time at Royal Court Theatre, Walton became the first winner of the Jerwood Young Director’s Award at the Young Vic. She spent 2006 at the National Theatre Studio as Head of Studio before her move to Sheffield and the creation of Eclipse.

As the Founder of Eclipse Theatre, Walton is passionate about further opening up the discussion regarding the definition of ‘black theatre’; she argues ‘black theatre’ is not a fixed idea within the immutable boundaries of a totally black cast, black directors, and themes and subjects that are ‘overtly black-issue led and contemporary’. For decades in Britain contemporary narratives in ‘black theatre’ were generally only allowed in the ‘three spaces’ of immigrant, slavery and teenage gang stories. Walton observes, to “ … define black British theatre in terms of race alone is to miss the point. Black practitioners are uniquely placed to deliver an incisive view of Britain today because we view it from two perspectives – black and white. We ask more questions, we challenge perceptions, we stimulate more debate. And this approach can only enrich the canon of British theatre…. Black theatre is as rich, varied, complex and contradictory as any other theatrical form, but it is also able to engage regular theatre-goers at the same time as attracting a new audience. Who else can do that?”

Eclipse uses a portion of the Arts Council England funding to support over 1,200 black artists and develop and sustain black theatre professionals – ‘Enablers’, working in the North of England; this programme is designed to create and maintain long-term careers in the independent sector. Eclipse, under the artistic direction of Walton, is keen on introducing change in the theatre. This involves commissioning and producing plays that she believes ‘should be reflective of the diversity’ of modern cities and thereby will challenge the unconscious prejudice that previous theatrical gatekeepers have ignored. Walton suggests that if ‘19 per cent of your population is BAME (as in Sheffield), at least 19 per cent of your programme should be by BAME authors,’ because it is her contention that the theatrical offerings of an area need to be aligned to the community in that particular area.

Walton’s goals include attracting more diverse audiences to the theatre with the increase of BAME representation both on and off the stage. Dawn Walton is a continually rising Northern Star who has contributed to steadily changing the national theatrical narrative since her appointment as Artistic Director with Eclipse in 2009.