Tag Archives: Facebook

#1 ~ For Colored Girls London

Image by Rosa Johan Uddoh

Image by Rosa Johan Uddoh

November 2012. 11pm. Cambridge. An audience of 50 people, predominantly made up of student journalists and hard-core late night theatre-goers sat in the Fitzpatrick Hall of Queen’s College and waited as an arpeggio in A minor played out to setting blue lights. My production of Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls [who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf]’, had landed. Directing, co-producing and acting in the show had many challenges. Yet, when the four and five-star reviews rained in, and the seats filled up to maximum capacity, I could only smile and get ready for three more nights of incredible action as we made theatrical history.

The first time an all black all female cast had ever graced a Cambridge stage, the play follows the lives of seven women identified solely by the colour of their clothing. A combination of spoken word poetry, physical theatre, music and dance ‘For Colored Girls’ is an evocative social critique that gives a piercingly authentic look at urban life through the brash lens of beautifully unrefined poetry. Tackling experiences of rape, domestic violence, infidelity and sisterhood ‘For Colored Girls’  takes its characters and audience on a liberating journey to the end of their rainbows, all the while coloured by a saucy wink of humour and sass, powerful music, dance and that ephemeral attribute referred to as ‘soul’.

So, with all that underway and with people asking for more, I crazily got the idea to take the show to London, my home city. Why not go for gold? Sadly, though I am a creative at heart, a production requires more than just an artistic eye – it requires financing and budgeting. Teaming up with one of the actress, Ifeyinwa Frederick, we sat up till 4am one  night in March and planned this next step in the story – For Colored Girls…London.

For over 6 months we have been planning, contacting, hustling, designing, straining our eyes at computer screens, sending rapid fire emails, lamenting over Nokia 100 phones that don’t have MultiMedia Messaging, all to bring us to this point: the promotional Launch date of For Colored Girls London.

I know I’ve been quiet for a few months since ending the 365 blog, but today, i’d like to invite you to journey with me once again as I direct, act and co-produce in Ntozake Shange’s phenomenal piece of theatre. It’s going to be raw, bloody, exhilarating, exhausting and inspiring – but we’ve done it before.

So welcome to the Death of the Writer, the Death of the Director, Co-Producer and Actress and the Birth of…For Colored Girls London 2013.

Get Excited.

Follow us on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FCGLondon

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FCGLondon

Or : http://www.twitter.com/Justina_Kehinde

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#349 ~ 9am?

Sleep deprivation, especially when a result of academic study, creates those beautiful moments in life when you realise the banality of an average day. After clocking out at 5.30 am and flying awake  at 8.35, 25minutes before your deadline, just enough time to proof read, print, staple and run to the drop-off place, you then return, vaguely nauseas, to send your work to your partner. You must do it through a social media networking site. And at 9am, sleep deprived, nauseous, and vaguely befuddled, acutely aware how ‘cray cray’, you look with uncombed hair, smeared make-up, 24hour clothes, and the stains of the two Snickers bars and stardust sweets you devoured to keep your blood-sugar working – you see people, sane people, already awake, and more importantly, online (?), posting shit. It’s the morning, no-one has even had time to do anything, let alone utilize that bathroom and maybe grab some breakfast to go – and you are already assaulting my homage with your barrage of nonsensical and unimportant updates about the weather, which no-one needs to know, because if we all have access online, then we can see the news, not to mention look outside our windows? Why, did you think I wanted to oblige your ramblings? Go to bed or go to work?!

Your eyes begin the crazy twitch that sleep deprivation leaves you with…and you notice, when you are for once so thankful for time, because you made it just in time, you then realise how much time is spent being banal, and assaulting other people’s time – and more heinously at 9 am in the morning? On a weekday? 

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#338 ~ Facebook

Escape from the book.

The temptation of the red square

A notification that reminds you that somebody remembered that you were there

here

In the ether of nowhere

Escape from the book, the images which you don’t care about

the lines and sentences which cram your brain with fruitless shit

But it’s the cheapest form of communication

And you don’t have a contract, not yet, #moneyissues

MAYBE THEYRE JUST NOT THINKING ABOUT YOU

MAYBE THEY DON”T CARE

How do you feel now. Does that hurt? Are you sad? Are you going to cry?

Fix up – that’s reality. Maybe if you spent as much time working as you did worrying,

phrasing together witty lines, cool come backs, choosing what to surreptitiously like

Maybe you would also realize – you don’t care.

You need to get a life

Outside of the book

the ether

nowhere

Come back to Here – maybe thats where you’ll find him

Waiting

In the reality that exists

once you escape the book.

Can you find me there?

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#176 ~ Dayuuumm Guurrrl…

..you look hawt (insert numerous emphatic exclamation marks).

Every girl wants a comment like this. Deep, deep, deep down where it really really counts, even the guys want it too. It gets to another level of appreciation when someone has to physically say the words, to ensure one understands the amount of emphasis needed on the previously categorised expletive. It’s not a damn. Not even a daymn. But a Daaayyyyuuuuuuummmmm (hold the ‘M’ for as long as possible, but try not to make it sound sleazy.)

Except, the funny thing is, once you get a comment like that, it doesn’t make you feel ‘hawt.’ For a split second there’s a surprised, shocked, acceptance – someone thought that? About me?! A little glow begins to blossom in the place in your heart which deals with low self-esteem. And then you smack into a concrete wall, which, graffitied in bold spray paint, asks the rhetorical question: What the [insert unnecessary expletive that has slipped into modern communication like an eel (?)] do I normally look like??!!!

 Do I genuinely both dress and look, like an unwashed, homeless, street urchin whose suffered from the bubonic plague?

Whilst the above is a humorous, sketch, it made me really question my sense of perspective, especially my sense of self. Sure, one looks in the mirror every morning when their face is lopsided, at night when it needs to be detoxed, and occasionally before a night out when it “needs” to be painted, but generally, at least for me, I believe my features remain the same. Same nose, mouth, eyes, eyebrows (depending on them being plucked or not). The skin is pretty much the same colour, the facial likes and dislikes seem to have settled – so it’s surprising when other people are surprised at an image of you. On a superficially vain level, I was mildly concerned that, to elicit such surprise and shock from friends, I genuinely both dressed, and looked, like an unwashed, homeless, street urchin who suffered from the bubonic plague. Now, I know my style of dressing is [insert most elaborate euphemism: uncoordinated, unique, individual, poor…], and I’m not a slave to make-up, but I had assumed I was at least recognisable. That my potential shone through irrespective of whether my MaxFactor with reflective pearl droppings had lubricated it or not.

On the other hand it was a beautiful and surprising compliment, that reminded me of the potential I often forgot lay hidden. Whilst this may seem like an extremely facetious and self-centred musing on one’s external being, it does have a message that isn’t just skin deep (ah yes, extended metaphor, the degree is coming in handy).

Daaaaaayyyyyyuuuum  girl, you look like [ faeces].

I take this physical experience as an allegory for mental, emotional and spiritual situations. Having finished my first year of University, I can look back at myself and recognise my many failings, just as flicking through old Facebook photos really made me aware how much the above statement of flattery could have been inverted into a: Daaaaaayyyyyyuuuum (no long M, this is not a tasty appraisal) girl, you look like [ faeces].

Yet at the same time, I took a slow joy in realising aspects of myself that had really grown, and on occasion, flourished; the petals radiating the light and potential that had always been there, but which I only noticed in retrospect.

To have the strength to look at oneself critically but not in a judgemental or in self-deprecating manner is a true skill. To be open to allow other people to guide you into that perspective can be both a shocking experience, potentially eliciting a wave of doubt, but also a humorous way of beginning to recognise the image that is forming in your reflection.

Daaaaayyyyyuuuuuummmm guuurrrll, you’ll get there in the end.

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#69 ~ Invisible

Nothing is more powerful than an Idea whose time has come


Exposing the injustice and immorality of child soldiers is a commendable action. Reminding an apathetic world that communication can be a  tool for liberation is an empowering and much-needed message. The talent to galvanize a generation of future world shapers through a single film is mind-blowing.

The work of Invisible Children and the production of their viral short-film KONY2012 has achieved all the above. They have highlighted to the communicable world the atrocities that have scarred Northern Uganda for the past two decades at the hands of guerrilla leader and head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony.  I do not want to dispute these simple facts. However, what I do want to suggest is that what has made KONY2012 such a ‘hot’ topic right now in fact has nothing to do with what is going on in Uganda, DR. Congo, the Central African Republican, Southern and Northern Sudan, all countries where the LRA has and is operating. I want to emphatically state that the righteous indignation that is spreading like wildfire across social media sites has nothing to do with the mutilations, rape, forced conscription and ethnic genocide which characterize this militant organization. I want to say that the reason we are all getting ready to paper every major city with Kony’s face in a month’s time, is because this video has highlighted how Invisible we are – and it scares us.

Facebook is a cyber world inhabited by the West’s version of its own invisible children.

KONY2012 opens with Jason Russell, the director of the film and innovator of Invisible Children, reminding us how humanity’s greatest desire is to see, be seen, and in that acknowledgment form a connection, a bond, a relationship. We are defined by how we are perceived. Facebook has become the ignition fuel, the catalyst that has caused an exponential growth in the awareness of this video. It is the means by which IC hope to get ‘Kony’s face out there, his infamy globally known.’  Yet Facebook is a cyber world inhabited by the West’s version of its own invisible children.

Throughout the film Russell vaguely alludes to his ‘work in Africa,’ once again making the specifics of Uganda in to the generalizations of a continent. There is a pervasive yet subtle act of censorship that permeates the execution of the video, which is what this article is criticizing. Banners are held by youth in America claiming statements like: ‘We Have Seen these Children, We Have Heard their Voices, They are Not Invisible.’ Yet which children, apart from the now mature Jacob whom Russell befriended on his first trip a decade ago to Uganda, have we seen? We’ve seen Russell’s son Gavin. We have seen the western youths who have been moved into action. But we have not seen these 30,000 plus children that have been forced to carry guns and obliterate their families, their friends, their countrymen under the eye of the LRA. Why do I bring this up? Because we live in a world where the transient remains transient but the physical has an impact. If I cannot see you, I don’t know you. If someone were to be shot in front of us, we would be moved into action. Yet we cannot see the hundreds of thousands of Ugandan’s who are being shot and massacred, and so we do not care about them. It is not that we don’t know. We know child soldiers exist. From the Biafran war of the 60’s, to the conflict in Syria it is the young who either volunteer or are conscripted. There is an innocence in children that when perverted is more sickening, more disturbing than the actions of mutilation they leave behind.

There is an innocence in children that when perverted is more sickening, more disturbing than the actions of mutilation they leave behind.

It is not ignorance that has allowed Kony and his regime to survive, just as it was not ignorance of Gaddafi or Hussein’s ‘reigns of terror’ that allowed Al Qaeda or the Libyan dictator’s regime to exist. It is choice. We have chosen not to connect ourselves with these stories, these truths. Russell freely admits that the American Government has seen, until this point, no reason to involve themselves in Uganda or against actively finding Kony because it presents  no benefit to the country.  It would seem to me the abuse of human rights does not stem from a rebel leader’s bloodthirsty desire for power. It flows from the self-centered capitalist structures of the democratic world. If IC believe that with more US soldiers Kony can be found – hence why the pressure to get as many people involved in the campaign before the end of 2012 – then it means Kony could have been found, we just haven’t wanted to find him. We, our Western pro-human-right’s governments, have not wanted to make these children visible, because it is of no profit  to our lives, our politics, our way of living. Until our ‘national security’ is at stake, the lives of these ‘invisible children’ are of no consequence. That is the reality we live in. And it is that immoral, horrific and unjust reality that allows for people like Kony to rise to power. He is not the first. He will not be the last. The post-colonised world has been and is littered with figures like him. The colonizing world have their own, they are only better hidden under the rhetoric of democracy.

The difficulty with this ’21st century mark on history’, is that it is transient and not physical. By rooting it in the domain of Facebook, by surrendering the integrity of giving a voice to the voiceless to the realm of over a million cyber produced ‘voices’, we have consigned this idea whose ‘time has come’ into the memory of an update that will last as long as that status is on our homepage.

the abuse of human rights does not stem from a rebel leader’s bloodthirsty desire for power. It flows from the self-centered capitalist structures of the democratic world.

The process of rehabilitating Uganda and the other central African countries that have been infested by the darkness that comes from guerrilla warfare is not one that ceases when a leader has been captured. The death of Saddam Hussein did not stop the ferocity or growth of Al Qaeda. Dare I say it perpetuated it? The removal of Mubarak from Egypt didn’t bring peace and democracy. It turned the largest muslim nation in Africa into a military controlled state. The Arab Spring which thwarted the impending Gaddafi dynasty has seen more bloodshed line the Libyan streets, more despair and rampage overflow in Syria, more civil unrest, than we naively thought when we did our street protests, shared videos and removed their dictators. Yes, removing dictators, people who flaunt their people’s human rights and retaliate with unprecedented violence is a bloody good thing. Yet the institution of peace, the restructuring of a nation from anarchy to democracy, from accepted injustice to consciously implemented justice, is a generational, life time process. Nigeria gained independence and ended it’s own civil war fifty years go. Yet the North and South, Muslims and Christians are still wantonly killing each other. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are recognized separate states, yet in the name of a different branch, a different practice of the same religion, are still bombing their own people.  You see, this is not an ‘Africa issue,’ as we are too quick to assume. This is a human issue.

Whilst KONY2012 has been quick to tell the nameless world of the internet that this is about us coming together as people of the world to demand justice, the focus is very much American based. Culture makers, like the not-yet-adult Justin Bieber, or the just-returned-to-an-abusive-relationship Rhianna, are to be the voices of this protest. Why? Because, we the public, we are invisible. And this video has reminded us of that.

He gives him an identity outside of the pistol he is holding, and the blood that his body and soul are caked in

The hype that consumed us like influenza or swine flu, was so contagious because suddenly this reared its head as a moment for us to be part of something, to have a voice and be recognized. This wasn’t about giving a voice to those nameless people of the Acholi tribe, it didn’t stretch to the invisible children in the favelas of Chile who are being exterminated by the local police, it hasn’t stretched to north korean girls who are being smuggled into China as brides to fill the gap the female infanticide generated. These are all cases where ‘children haven’t had the right to a loving childhood.’ This protest stopped short at the name Kony. And when he goes, those children he stole, abused and brainwashed, those children we are ‘fighting for’, they will take his place – because that is the reality they know. How are we going to fix that? Is this about Kony, or about reaffirming to those who have watched and shared the video that we are autonomous human beings with an active voice? Is this just giving our passive generation a fleeting wake up call that there is more outside the confines of our LCD screens?

In the film Blood Diamond there is a beautiful scene, where the father stands before someone who is about to kill him. It is his son who has been turned into a child soldier. Instead of running, or fighting the father stands still. And he tells the child his name. He gives him an identity outside of the pistol he is holding, and the blood that his body and soul are caked in. And then he goes further. He reminds  his son/child soldier what the smell of his mother’s cooking was like. The sounds of rain falling on the roof, coming home from school, playing with his siblings. He returns to him memories of a life that didn’t know the horrors of his infant war. And after some persuasion the child chooses to remember.

Who will give these invisible child soldiers that opportunity? Who will recount their memories to them, and re-identify them? Will IC? Will you? Will I? Do we care enough, are we really  prepared to invest that much? Because, as at now, the people that we are advocating for, are themselves little Kony’s. And this is the point I am striving to make. We cannot make this issue about the man. Because the man is also one and the same with the children he has made invisible. Dare I say this: It is the act of the Holocaust that reminds us how evil Hitler is. There may come a time when his name fades into the recesses of history books just as the names of other evil men down the ages at some point or other do. They become a figure of history. Yet the experience of the Holocaust will never leave the Jewish people or the Western world, just as the memory of slavery has come to the define the black Peoples of America and the Caribbean. If we did not continue to explain the vile act that was the Holocaust, then Hitler’s name and infamy would soon fade away. IC place Kony beside Hitler, yet they do not give us an experience to really remember him by, only a name. And as we know, names, identities can be taken away, made invisible.

To give critical acclaim to Kony is to give him the power he desires, the power of entering our lives and taking over them. The power of brainwashing us into a militant frenzy that is directionless, purposeless, and perhaps even becomes senseless.  We, instead, need to be venerating and giving a public voice to the children whose lives he has prematurely aborted in forcing them to become killing machines.

Do I believe people should support IC? I believe that if people want to invest in charitable work, in making a change and giving a voice to the voiceless, they must realize it is not a year commitment, it is a life commitment. It is their life, their lives, the lives of their children and grandchildren that you must understand you are investing in. The damage that has been elicited won’t disappear in 2013 – it will most likely get worse. Oh – and then, if you really  care about child soldiers, girls being forced into the sex industry, you have to remember, it doesn’t stop with Kony. You have to take that action around the world. Are you ready for that commitment? Because to stick up a poster, share a video and promptly move on with your life is to do a disservice to the very real human beings you are right now advocating for and whose situation you are lamenting.

If you don’t want to be invisible yourself, than stand up, shine a light, let us know you’re here, and use your voice for the rest of your life, because that is what it will take to make this issue become  valuable  enough that those of us, our countries that can help, will think it profitable enough to help. It’s not about whether you can shout loud enough. Can you, can IC, can this cause shout long enough?

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#67 ~ Hype

It takes over. It’s gone viral. This sense of being part of something, leaving a handprint in the sands of history that we hope will solidify as a memento, but which we know will disappear as a new wind carrying a new story blows its way over our ‘pause for thought’. We are built, as human beings, to be relational, to be inter and intra relational. Even though we profess the desire to be individuals, we crave unity. That is why we live within nation boundaries, form communities, search for establishments of bondage and familiarity. We want to be part of something, to know that we didn’t just drift by but we had our words heard, our voices were used and a change was elicited.

But real impact comes from years of study. A successful war is often won in the same way one wins a game of chess. You study the pieces, you study the board, you study your opponent but must importantly – you study yourself. You find out how you work, what makes you tick, the patterns of your mind, how you react, how you think and un-think. And when you’ve mastered your conscious, you prepare to overpower theirs. Yet study is the key. Because if you don’t study yourself, and study the battlefield, then you’ll take the feint, you’ll assume a different scenario and you’ll find yourself fighting a battle you weren’t aware had begun.

Yes KONY2012 has taken over our lives. It’s spread itself like an expanding octopus over every facet of the social media world, and is sucking anything not related to it into a void of censoring ink. You can’t avoid it, and though I feel like doing so, I won’t. But I’m not going to rush blindly into it either. I’ve seen enough short film appeals to not have the emotional whip tear grooves into my human-rights-sensitive heart – believe me, i expect to be making films or writing articles on such matters very soon. In terms of emotional or information fulfilment, KONY2012 falls short. What stands behind its pervasive power is the sheer number of ‘Facebook shares.’ People are watching it because when they log onto their homepage they can’t escape it. Having the video as a status update has become the norm, so those of us that don’t feel excluded, and considering as humans we want to be included in this ‘global community’ we also click attending and share, telling everyone else to get ‘in’ on it.

But what are we getting ‘in’ on. How many of us have independently gone off and researched the history of Northern Uganda. Who knows what the LRA stands for. Who knows when it was formed, why, which countries it operates in? Who knows who Kony’s right hand man is? Are we really that concerned about child soldiers which have been the norm in every global conflict since the term was coined – At 16 people were allowed to fight in the World Wars, but i guess they weren’t child soldiers then… Are we really concerned with children being abducted from their homes, or does being forcefully conscripted sound better? Is that also a violation of human rights? Do we really care about girls being taken as slaves and prostitutes – no one seems to mind too much in Soho.

I’m not saying these things aren’t serious. My word they are. But I’m asking why now? We may have been ignorant about Kony, but we weren’t ignorant about the standard issues that are surrounding this conflict. By the way – does anyone know what this conflict is about? What started it, and who, apart from Kony, is involved? No? This is the hype I’m talking about.

Are we convicted by the injustice of children being forced to kill? If we are then this protest needs to move away from the man and focus on the issue. Are we convicted by the fact that world powers are only interested when their country’s welfare is affected? If so, then we need to not just be canvassing the American Politicians and ‘Culture Makers’ but all politicians. We need to be challenging our Foreign Policy and the way our ‘democratic’ systems are run at the expense of ‘the dispossessed third world.’ Are we interested in stopping Kony,  or rehabilitating the hundreds of thousands of child-soldiers and prostitutes, many of whom are now adults and key members in the LRA and other affiliated or tributary militia groups. Kony is neither the beginning nor the end. He is simply a by-product of years of ignorance and apathy. And he isn’t alone. What plan does KONY2012 have in mind once he’s been captured, if he’s captured?

What will you  do once the Facebook hype dies down? When April 20th passes by with a sprinkling of rain? After you’ve worn your bracelet, which is similar to the Make Poverty History – do you know where yours is, is it still an issue for you, have we made it History, do you support a charity, or did the white plastic arm band just seem like the ‘in’ thing at the time?

Don’t join the band wagon of propaganda because thousands of other people are sharing an expensively made well shot video. We criticise people who profess having a belief in God simply because 2 thousand years of human history or more has believed in a God. So why are we professing a desire to stop Kony – and not the many other dictator/militia people like him the world over – simply because thousands of people clicked ‘like.’

Let’s do some research, sit back and ask some questions. Because when the Hype dies down, in 2 months, 6 months, a year, a decade from now, those child soldiers, those militia men will still be fighting, recuperating and suffering from what they experience today, now. But you will have forgotten. His name is Jacob, he is from the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda. He wanted to be a lawyer. Did you remember that?

It’s more than Kony. This is about you.

(A post assessing the work of Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 movement is coming tomorrow.)

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