Category Archives: Voice(less)

#353 ~ Silent Gestures Elide My Weapon

You won’t know what I’m capable of until I’ve done it … so I do more and speak less

What is it?

It’s not about whether or not you know if i’m capable…

I spent so long as a child, thighs pressed firmly into the concrete ground, as tiny stones mimicking granite and quartz rose impressed themselves upon my tender

flesh, embedding grooves and disfigured tattoos against the supple tone of my impressionable

skin, and i squinted with lash shaded eyes at the silver disc that hung in the pale blue primary school

sky, dreaming about what I could be

Because it never was who.

I wondered what I could be and whether it would entertain the category of worth that we all seem to perceive, subconsciously aware of the innate deceit that plagues that concept of maturity and with it success, excess –

For speech is an action.

Once again you elide my weapon, specifically chosen, bestowed upon me as a precious sword engraved with golden gilt, bejewelled by the dexterity of a tongue and the intellect of a wit that has surpassed the bondage of chains

that strip one’s mind like a flayed hide of any

power to control this spiralling world concerned and fuelled by the need to attain each individuals selfish desire…

Yet when I speak i declare the power of a word to transform and transfer, my action I bind within my speech as with the sound of my voice I am relentlessly setting the captives free, proclaiming victory and instituting justice. As I flash my teeth I shine down

beauty and a fierce hope – you only wish you could cope with the unbound sounds of my voice as I break your silent action and in the process I don’t bring it but give it life.

What did you say?

I spoke right? You won’t know what i’m capable of until i’ve done it – but if I remain silent you’ll never look to see the gestures that are lost in the blanket of an omnipresent silence

Besides, as I sat staring at that primary school sun, buttocks pressed into the concrete ground cemented for activities that would be ‘fun’, i knew that it didn’t matter if you knew what I was capable of – in my mind i’d already done the action, right now i’m just illustrating the person.

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#146 ~ Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting is defined by the World Health Organisation as the total or partial removal of external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for a non-medical reason. It is a procedure that can occur recently after birth of just before puberty, often without anaesthetics but with a traditional circumcision knife or razor. Occurring in over 26 countries predominantly in North-east Africa, were 92million women are expected to have been affected, it is also prominent in parts of the Middle East, and North America, Australasia and European immigrant communities.

FGM is a process that some cultures administer in the attempts to reduce a woman’s libido and reduce promiscuity. This can be to ensure familial honour, and also reduce the spreading of disease. Historically it has ben condoned to insure female chastity and prevent adultery. This is because the pain of penetration is so great, that the act of sex stops being something to enjoy and becomes a violent, at times excruciating experience which can be magnified in childbirth.

Circumcision is practiced within the three Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) although it is not a precept of any of the faiths, and rather an incorporation of older cultural ideologies into modern social norms. Judaism endorses male circumcision, the removal of the foreskin, but not female. Some Islamic scholars have declared FGM neither an obligation nor a part of the faith, even condemning it to criminal status that has resulted in fatwas being declared on those who’ve practiced it.

There are four types of removal that can occur in FGM.

The first and second involve the removal of the clitoris and sometimes the labia. The third involves removal of all external genitalia. In order for this to heal, the girl’s legs are tied together for forty days. Consider the pain, discomfort and UTI’s that will occur during this period as she attempts to urinate. A hole, which can be as small as a matchstick,  remains for the menstrual blood and urine to exit as the scar tissue that forms is so prolific. The vulva, is then cut open for childbirth and intercourse. Fatal haemorrhaging can occur during childbirth and often results in death. Sometimes the scar tissue and the keloids that form are so thick, penetration cannot occur. In order to enable the penis to fit, over a range of days the scar tissue is cut away until a large enough hole is created. Sometimes scalpels have broken in this process. The fourth type of FGM includes ceremonial cutting of the clitoris which occurs in Indonesia, burning or stretching the labia, and even the forced removal of the hymen.

The cutting devices are rarely sterilised, the process done without anaesthetic and without the child’s consent. I wish to stress the point that this procedure is taken out on children, either immediately after birth, or before they reach puberty, so around the age of nine or so. STI’s as well as UTI’s can be transmitted, and extreme bleeding is common. Cysts may form later in life, as well as severe keloid scarring. Sometimes the cutting required to create a hole for menstrual blood and urine can lead to a joining of the anal hole, causing faeces to seep into the vagina. A higher percentage of women die in childbirth.

An estimated 500 British girls will be circumcised this summer. Stoicism is expected. The women of the family and community come to hold the girl down. They can’t tell they’re having periods. With nowhere to go, the blood is sitting in their bodies. Many women are now infertile. It’s not done out of hate or religion, but a wrong concept of religion and chastity.

Recent reports have confirmed that cutters are being flown into Britain to ‘administer’ FGM. No-one has ever been charged in the UK. Some women desire for gynaecologists to be in airports to check and therefore enable prosecution.

This post is ending here because I’m too distressed to continue. Below are links to further your research into this issue.

Home Office Information

FORWARD: Charity for the prevention of FGM

Article by the Guardian and a Video of FGM ‘survivors” speaking out about the issue. 

A Silent Circumcision 

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#143 ~ Pusillanimous

pu·sil·lan·i·mous [pyoo-suh-lan-uh-muhs]  adjective

1. lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted;timid.

2. proceeding from or indicating a cowardly spirit.

Everybody wants some pussy. Everybody wants to own some pussy.

If you don’t fit into those categories, then you are the pussy.

But what is the pussy, I hear you ask.

When we were younger that’s what we called Tom, our cat, whom we loved to snuggle up next to for our afternoon nap.

But if you went to an inner city state school, you soon learnt

That a pussycat stopped being innocent, when it came at you with flailing claws in a corridor attack

perpetrated by the foul mouthed youths who were their own dog pack – not to forget their bitches, who tailed them, spurting self-condemning words that would later maim them.

So the pussy became a term that reverted to its original definition. To show weakness, a lack of courage, a coward, who is inevitably a woman – as courage is masculine, part of the patriarchal plan of world dominance and laddish prominence.

But then we got a bit older.

Learnt about glow worms and blow jobs

Fingering and licking out.

The desired object didn’t hang about

like the agitated youthful energy of the pubescent male member.

It had to be uncovered,

The daydream of Ann Summers knickers smacking into the harsh reality of Tesco’s basics,

Ripped off with the freshly shaved pubic hair

To reveal the pussy, the final evolution of it’s transformative nature

In its bathetic glory as a pornographically idolized creature.

But I’ve stepped on the breaks.

It wasn’t a mistake, don’t mock my driving skills as being an exemplar

Of females behind the wheel – an inferior occupation when placed against the spectacle of males who speedily prevail

There is a difference between pussy and vagina.

Women of worth, born into a class system of educated conditions

We own vaginas.

They are to be romanced, courted, hyperbolically sought after

Sometimes claimed before, sometimes after, the wedding band is slipped over our fourth finger.

Vaginas are special places, where babies are made and babies are born

Hidden under lacy garments, perfume, shorn clean with the wax strips from Veet

Pussy – well that belongs to her.

Driven across the boarder, maybe no older than my cousin who’s a toddler

The pussy initially belongs to a housewife or waitress,

but once that lie is uncovered, and she’s lying their naked

the welts, the scars, the blood mixed with chili pepper

titilating that enlarging male member –

That’s all it is.

The pussy everyone wants. The pussy every young man needs  to experience

as part of his journey through adolescence

It’s legally sanctified for him to seek the pussy, to publicly own to wanting the pussy

Yet we are perplexed when we see it displayed in raunchy texts, on postcards in phone booths, in the red-light districts that wouldn’t have to exist if we didn’t want them to…

Maybe, instead of obsessing, demonizing and protesting about the pussy

We should just make the act of buying it illegal?

Maybe we should cut off the demand for the pussy, and force it back into being a vagina?

Maybe that would cull the sex trafficking industry?

Maybe that would remind us, instead of hating on hoes its the bro’s who obsess about getting some finger lickin’ goodness, that need to be chastised and re-baptized in the waters of a morally conscious, righteous and just humanity?

Maybe we should just confront the fact

That the pussy is everywhere –

But just because a woman has a vagina, it doesn’t make her weak, less courageous, a coward or faint-hearted.

It’s you – the one who thinks they have a right to her genital parts that is, not only a violator and rapist, but a coward with a weak spirit.

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#138 ~ Awkward Black Girl

You can’t dougie. You make up rhymes in your room and pretend you’re a legendary poetesses, or for Issa Rae’s character J, a rapstar. You envision yourself in a music video whilst driving and sometimes (regularly) do the awkward, oh no, I can’t speak to them now, pretend like you’ve never seen them and walk on by…….and you’re black.

Yes. Black. There seems to be something awkwardly funny about Rae’s YouTube based comedy series Awkward Black Girl, simply because it has firmly attached a race to its title. That’s not to say you can’t have Awkward Asian Girl or even Awkward White Girl, let alone Awkward [insert race] Boy. We seem happy to accept gender as being a suitable tag in a title, but race – that becomes a dodgy issue. Having watched the whole series (and laughed very hard, not helping my current cold one jot), I could safely say that anyone who either publicly or privately defines themselves as being awkward, could easily associate with Rae’s character J. After being dumped by her cheating boyfriend she writes violent rap lyrics, cuts off her hair and returns to the job she hates. But it’s not just the story lines that the series follows, it’s the way the character, and her co-stars, are enacted. After watching the first episode, you want to repeat the famous line ‘I get you.’ There’s something very charming, sweet, and quietly humorous about Rae’s honest, bold comedy which doesn’t conform to the typical ‘black comedy’ stereotypes beaten to death by legends such as Chris Rock or Dave Chappell.

Yet Rae seems forced to continue emphasising that Awkward Black Girl is and has been conceived to be a ‘universal’ story for ‘all people.’ The world, i.e. Western media, seems uncomfortable with her stating that actually, it was conceived to represent a part of the black society which doesn’t get ‘crunk’, isn’t sassy with great come-backs, can’t dance, doesn’t have swagger, and is really just awkward. Now awkwardness isn’t confined to one race, but it’s clear to see when networks that have been interested in airing the show have wanted to exchange Rae for a ‘light skinned’ mixed race actress, that it does have a strong impression on marketability and stereotypical conceptions.

Zoeey Deschanel in the popular New Girl show, typically portrays the role of Awkward White Girl. Now, New Girl didn’t need to be called Awkward White Girl, because awkwardness and being white are a given – it’s an accepted commercial stereotype. Rae’s character, like Zoeey’s, is beautiful, does have men interested in her, and does happen to say things wrong time, wrong place, and often in a strange voice. They both have ‘awkward’ singing/rapping habits, and are clumsy.

But Deschanel’s character and that of the awkward girl seem permanently fixed within a ‘white’ concept. We’ve had Princess Mia (Princess Diaries), another Awkward White Girl who didn’t need to be defined that way because it was simply an implied given, Bridget Jones, Andrea Sachs (protagonist of the Devil Wears Prada), and even Ugly Betty (who would probably fit as Awkward Latina Girl, but we rarely ever see her in an explicit Latino context). These are all examples of prominent and well-loved awkward girls who ‘just happen’ to be white, bar Betty. Of course, those from other ethnic backgrounds were forced to interpret their stories as holding a ‘universal message’ in order to assume any affiliation what-so-ever with the plots, but were they conceived and marketed as being Universal?

By Rae emphasising it as the ‘Mis-adventures of Akward Black Girl and Friends,’ she not only provides herself with an immediate cultural fan base, but she gives a voice to the Awkward Black Girl with short afro hair who just can’t transform into the wide-eyed theme-song singing Jess of New Girl, or the klutzy skier Bridget, let alone the need-a-wax and a new scooter Princess Mia. Rae not only provides a space to explicitly re-value ‘black comedy’ enabling us to move away from talking about misadventures in ‘da club’, running away from ‘da popo’, racial profiling and the differences between black people and ‘niggahs’ (Chris Rock), but also sends out a blatant, yet subtle, challenge to our pre-existing network channels.

If awkwardness is/should be such a ‘universal message’, then why can’t, or rather why hasn’t, Channel 4, HBO, Comedy Gold or any other network created a show which stars a black actor/actress not as the loud mouth ‘i’m a cut you b****’, drug shufflin’, mac-daddy, or, if they’re really climbing up the ladder of ‘conscientious media racial profiling’, a member of the police squad or even, the President himself, and instead made a show where a black person could be Bridget Jones, or an equivalent Princess Mia or Jess Day, and not have it angled solely towards the ‘Black Community.’

Awkward Black Girl is a funny, insightful and charming show, which in its short guerrilla style filming, makes you laugh, want to share it, and have Issa Rae’s fantastic smile. It deserves to be on T.V without the characters undergoing the brutal regime of skin gradation to make them lighter and more ‘universally’ accepted, i.e., closer to a white sense of recognition. If you haven’t, check out the first series on YouTube, then click share. (Episode 5 is one of my personal favourites, but here’s the 1st one to introduce you)

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#136 ~ A Silent Circumcision

(A work in progress: Initial draft)

You think you know me?

You think you understand

what it feels like to feel rusty iron shoved up between your thighs

at the age of nine, crying until your eyes

turned rheumy red, mimicking the blindness that endorsed this

abomination masked as

enforced chastity.

You think you hear me?

You hear my cry, my voice, my silent holla

as I wave good-bye to you

standing under dappled streetlights, the pavement creaking under the weight

of my souls bereavement

the face that glares back at me from those sealed windows

tightly bolted doors

the curtains screwed together  – except i’m the better whore

That’s right. I thought you knew me? Or didn’t I give you my name?

Oh, you want to come up all inside me

Get to know  me, as if what counts is on the inside?

Well let me tell you what’s up in here. Twisted fallopian tubes, bruised intestines

pools of congealing blood mixing, mixing

choking, beating

sealed shut with stitches wound tight

dark skin, once soft and fleshy

drawn taut like a stretched leather hide

a tiny hole, not like the orifice you described

Just enough to let the trickle of urine strike the insides

of these interlocked thighs

But shhh – why you laughin’?

Don’t you know silence is the sign of a purified life

As we sit, separated by styrofoam walls

each crouched over porcelain bowls, holes in the creaking, cracking, fecal stained floors

Silence is the sound of my worth. So silently I scream giving birth to Ibrahim, Joseph, what ever it’s called

Silence is the sound of my worth. So silently I piss, not groaning in pain as though my uterus has compacted into a spiked ball, as UTI’s sear through my crouched and quivering form

Silence is the sound of my worth. So silently is how i sit, giving you blank stares as i sit in the clinic for African Mutilation, found in the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Ward off Tottenham Court

road, dumb to your question, oblivious to your silent gestures.

I wanted to cry when they thrust that rusted iron deep into my soul

Seared the pointed needles, kept me drunk on alcohol

I wanted to protest at what they thought was best for me and my chastity

But i didn’t have the words, didn’t have the voice to say, no, this isn’t for me

When you do it, it’s a sign of worth. A symbol of your status as a man of the cloth, a man of honor, virtue, clean and pure,

That scaly foreskin that slips off hardly leaves a dent in your, male principle

Hardly leaves a scar on your manly stature

But when you do it to me…

I am not emasculated – in fact there is no word

I simply cease to exist

I am no more – just a silently screaming hole with a botched up cover holding me together

Till you come to claim me, pin me down, impregnate me

and ignore, this silently screaming horror, like a toothless jaw, wrenched open to envelope your – to envelope you.

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#121 ~ Anonymous Crowds

Her name is Tanya. I didn’t get a chance to ask whether it was with an I or a Y. I met her two weeks ago.

I’m one of those, perhaps rare, or just awkward people, who, unless I know you really well, will just ignore you. We could be friends, we were friends. We’d spent the end of the term cycling together, laughing and ‘gisting’ until the wee hours of the morning. But we’d been on holiday. Unsure of how the atmosphere would react, I decided to walk in the other direction, ignoring him.

But that’s how I met Tanya. Opposite a 24/7 McDonald’s, crouched on the steps of a boutique shop, the slab of concrete a substitute sofa-come-bed-come-chair, she sat huddled. A tattered skirt was stretched over folded legs, her hair was pulled back, and the edges of her face had begun to show the grime of an unwashed body. She was asking for money. I had none, not a penny. So I stopped to apologise.

“Thank you for noticing me,” she said. “Thank you.”

I hadn’t eaten.  I was going home to make a jambalaya of all the left overs our fridge had to offer. I was also cold. But, there was no-one in my accommodation, and I felt bad for ignoring my friend. So, to redeem myself I crouched down next to her.

“Hi,” I said tentatively. There was a group of French tourists looking at us strangely.”I’m so sorry I have no money…how are you?” We got talking. I shifted to sit next to her. She reeked of alcohol. A juice carton was glued to her right hand and made frequent trips to her thin-lipped mouth. It was a special kind of juice – highly fermented. I stretched out my hand and introduced myself. She seemed a bit startled, but shook it, and we exchanged names. She didn’t quite remember mine – but she was Tanya, maybe with a Y, maybe an I.

“What happened…how did you get here?”

What else could I ask? So she started talking. It was an erratic story. She was in an abusive relationship, but couldn’t return to her house because of the memories. Yet because she had a house she couldn’t get into a shelter. She was going to court in May to prosecute her partner, then she was moving in with her Mother. Hopefully she’d get her daughter – Leah – back. And then she began to talk about her boyfriend whom she loved very much. But he was gone, and now she was sick in the head, she wasn’t going to survive.

In and amongst her ramblings I tried to comfort her. Tell her justice would be done. It would be ok. The cynic inside branded her a liar. The kid who’d just returned from youth group said – offer to Pray. The Kid won. I laid my hand, after asking, gently on her leather coated arm. Her flesh dimpled underneath my fingertips. I prayed a simple prayer. She began to cry, shake and cry.

She was a Catholic. She knew the faith, she believed, but she was going to die. Nothing could save her situation.

In between talking to me, she called out, cheekily, to passers-by. For some reason, with my legitimate presence people started to pay attention. One student, she’d mistaken her for a boy, went into McDonald,s and came out with a hamburger for her and vouchers.

Tanya offered to share. I was starving, but refused. It vanished pretty quick. Another guy leaving McD’s offered her his coppers. He walked away. Then returned. He gave her a crisp tenner.

“You know I’m just going to spend it on drink don’t you?”

He didn’t care. He’d felt convicted but didn’t want to get involved. We said God Bless. His good deed was done. I tried to convince her to get food. In the end she acquiesced – but she was still going to get that Vodka. At this point your rolling your eyes saying typical. If you’d done GCSE biology or chemistry you’d know a few things about alcohol:

It can generate warmth

It dulls pain

It dulls memories

It dulls hunger

I could understand why she wanted that Sainsbury’s Vodka. But now I was hungry, and cold. I prayed for her again, told her to get some food. She smiled, I smiled. I promised to pray for her and Leah. Then we parted ways. She wasn’t there the next morning.

Yet – they are there in the evenings. The Anonymous Crowd that haunt our streets, the edges of our vision, the distant boundaries of our senses. They have names. They have a story. They’re also human. Look down – even if it’s only to say Sorry – at least once in a while.

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#111 ~ I speak Ken Saro-Wiwa

If your message isn’t pure, then you are feeding the masses poison.

I have battled within myself about the duty Art has to truth, to the human struggles for liberation, freedom and justice. Surely we place the artistic form on a pedestal which, in itself, lacks the sufficient structures to stand tall and support it. Surely art is not the domain for political activism, but aesthetic beauty, and financial prowess.

Yet time and again Art has become the gladiatorial ring within which the underdog, the slave, the minority gains a win, to the detriment of ‘the man.’

Nneka is an artist I have greatly admired these past five years and her music became the initial structures of my bridge back to Nigeria. Her music spoke to me because it spoke outside the boundaries of what I had come to define modern music by. She is militant in her desire to use her music to illuminate to the world the plight of the Niger Delta, and to galvanise Nigerians, galvanise Africans, to stop wallowing in a miry history of colonialism but to reclaim what is rightfully theirs – their dignity and their role in this vastly changing world.

To proclaim to speak Ken Saro-Wiwa as she does in her new song ‘Soul is Heavy‘ is to state that her message, embedded in the body of Art, is intrinsically tied up with a message of social-justice. Ken Saro-Wiwa fought against the injustice of the Nigerian Government and their treatment of the Niger Delta post-oil discovery. A peaceful environmental activist, he campaigned tirelessly against the extraction of crude oil from the Delta which was making the Ogoni people homeless, destroying the environment and challenged the reluctant position of the Government in their dealings with Multi-National Companies such as the Royal Dutch Shell Company.

Executed under President Abacha on presumably (unfounded) politically motivated (and therefore economically instigated) claims, his murder provoked international outrage. Yet the delta is still being used for extraction and the environmental conflicts that have arisen has seen a revival in guerrilla warfare, especially against MNC’s, neither helping the political, social or economic stability of this naturally rich West-African Nation.

Nneka‘s voice rings loud and clear declaring to the world, declaring to the artists within us, that the creative is a form within which  all struggles, all desires, all voices can conflate and endure. Ken Saro-Wiwa came alive to me, his mission birthed before me and his voice spoke to me, through the power of her music.

Which voice are you speaking? Which struggle are you embodying? Which art form are you manipulating, controlling, and using to educate and feed the ‘masses’?

I am, the voice of Isaac Boro,
I speak Ken Saro Wiwa
I am, the spirit of Jaja of Opobo,
fight for right, for our freedom
You? A power hungry class of army arrangements,
stealing money in my country’s plight
A soldier pretending to be a politician,
you teacher who no nothing do not teach
me lies

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