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Ligali supports artist - activists and political art through our reviews and recommendations.
We occasionally critique Afriphobic media to provide an alternative perspective to racist cultural propaganda and any supporting anti-African institutions.

Theatre: Statement of Regret

16 January 2008
One of the most persistent grass roots criticisms of African British art and literature has always been its lack of cultural authenticity and its overt penchant to pander to funders who seek only those African artists prepared to emphasise an urban ‘black’ British or a quaint primeval ‘Caribbean’ experience. Throughout 2007, the year Britain decided to celebrate its so called ‘abolition of the slave trade act’, publishing houses, theatres, museums and galleries across the UK focused on presenting a predictable diet of African history and culture locked in a myopic dialogue about slavery and the adulation of the parliamentarian William Wilberforce and British humanitarianism.

Statement of Regret is not a play about slavery. Yes, it does address the legacy of enslavement but it is far more sophisticated than the usual ‘slavery was bad, abolition is good’ fare being erroneously described as art.

By setting the play in a fictional ‘black’ policy think tank, the author has created the perfect environment to critically analyse some of the socio-political issues affecting the failure and success of African empowerment in the UK today.

Statement of Regret is not a play about racism. Although the issue is discussed the central thrust of the play is about the ramifications of disunity in the African community, the British media refers to it as inter-ethnic conflict, in reality it is about the challenges of Pan Africanism in an anti-African environment.

Cast: Angel Coulby (Issimama Banjoko), Oscar James (Soby), Trevor Laird (Val), Colin McFarlane (Michael Akimbola), Chu Omambala (Idrissa Adebayo), Javone Prince (Kwaku MacKenzie Jnr), Clifford Samuel (Adrian MacKenzie), Ellen Thomas (lola MacKenzie), Don Warrington (Kwaku MacKenzie) with music by Soweto Kinch.

Reclaiming Martin Luther King

22 March 2006
African History: Exactly fifty Years today on 22 March 1956, the human rights activist, Reverend Martin Luther King, was convicted of organising an illegal boycott by African bus passengers in the US state of Alabama. The courts abused an archaic law dating from 1921 designed to break trade union action to find him guilty. King was given a suspended prison sentence of 386 days. Judge Eugene Carter said he had been lenient because Martin Luther King had advocated non-violence.

Late 2005, I was invited by the BBC to be an advocate of Omowale Malcolm X in a re-enactment of the ideological battle between his strategies of empowerment and that of Dr Martin Luther King.

It is not a secret that Ligali’s self empowerment ethos is driven in large part by Malcolm’s By Any Means Necessary strategy. So I welcomed the opportunity to share the wisdom of these African American giants in an intellectual debate. The format was interesting if not unconventional and recorded in front of a BBC invited audience at the Drum, Birmingham’s art centre for the African British community.

Two historians would first present the background of Malcolm and Martin and then two witnesses would become advocates. Following this it was to be pretty much an open debate framed by debate over the value of each ideology in contemporary British politics.

Invited to take up the Martin Luther King mantel was Dr David Muir, Public Policy Director for the Evangelical Alliance as his historical champion and Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote as his advocate. I had not met David Muir before and he immediately impressed me with his sincerity. In contrast Simon Woolley and I knew each other and were politically opposing forces travelling loosely in a similar direction.

I considered myself very fortunate when I discovered Malcolm’s historical champion was none other than the esteemed Dr Hakim Adi, Reader in African History and Lecturer in History at Middlesex University. We were all told that through host Allan Little the Radio 4 Great Debate series sought to re-visit great debates of the past.

The BBC had billed this as a “restaging of the debate between two towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement - Dr Martin Luther King and Malcolm X”. They said the intent was to examine the political legacy of these great African icons and then debate the relevance these strategies had to African people in Britain today.

Had I realised that the intent to broadcast it in February was so that it could be used as a part of Dr Martin Luther King’s annual commemorations, I would have recognised that the true objective of the debate was to celebrate King’s ideology by denouncing Malcolm’s.

Birmingham Clashes: Media reports the truth, the whole truth and anything but..

01 November 2005
Many producers chose to bring regular instead of authoritative or authentic voices on to their programmes to discuss the issues surrounding the increased tensions between the African British and British Asian communities.

The Talking Africa show produced by journalist and presenter Henry Bonsu was one of a few which held a quality and informed debate. There was a deliberate focus on the alleged child gang rape and an attempt to seek answers behind the allegations. The panel discussed the background of the tensions between both the African and Asian community but recognised that this was not the catalyst of the violent clashes. The national media misrepresentation portraying the African community as both the instigators and aggressors was exposed by all participants.

The BBC missed a perfect opportunity to intelligently discuss the issues during Question Time. The programmes chair David Dimbleby spectacularly failed to challenge Edwina Curry’s malicious accusation that the African community was to blame for the clashes because we played the ‘victim card’. Instead he raised the topic of gang rivalry and invited the audience to conflate the issue with that of drugs and guns. Subsequently most of Curry’s blatantly anti-African comments received a round of applause from the non African audience. This was then followed by a stream of uninformed analysis and comment focusing on community tensions instead of the allegation itself, the media misrepresentation of the entire incident and the tragic murder of Isiah Young-Sam.

In a BBC Newsnight debate, Lee Jasper and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown clearly didn’t have a clue about the issues outside what they read in the national media, Brown believes that the African British community is ‘jealous’ of successful Asians. She suggested the way forward was for Asian shop keepers to give more ‘afro(sic) Caribbean’ boys jobs in their shops. Jaspers response was lacklustre, however he deserves credit for raising the issue of the murder of Isiah Young-Sam. The only constructive statement made by Brown was when she admitted the anti-African ideology that permeates the Asian community needed to be addressed.

On the Capital-Choice, Angie Le Mar show the studio guest Lord Victor Adebowale was invited to speak on the issue. He immediately blamed the African community for ‘irrational’ thinking, behaving violently and decided this was all based solely on jealousy of Asian businesses. In his opinion there wasn’t any other substantive underlying cause or justification for what occurred. There was no exploration of the alleged child gang rape or murder of the innocent Isiah Young-Sam. His simplistic myopic belief was that an African community which failed to take advantage of opportunity was the aggressor and that Asians were the poor victims of our irrational hate and envy. Incredibly a caller asked for more media suppression to help reduce tensions as a respected Birmingham community activist in the middle of the fracas was abruptly cut off for using harsh language obviously brought about by his close emotional involvement in the situation.

On BBC West Midlands, presenter Robert Beckford tackled the issue in his affable style. He initially sought to pass blame onto community radio stations and one presenter in particular for spreading unsubstantiated rumours but was exposed for ignoring the culpability of the BBC and its deliberate suppression, misrepresentation and ignoring of local news explicitly relevant to the African community in Birmingham. Whilst there was little focus on the silent victims (alleged child and Isiah Young-Sam) Beckford expertly hosted a heated debate that made for compelling listening despite Michael Davis-Bingham’s repeated claims that we owed the Asian community an apology.

On BBC LDN presenter Geoff Schumann took a different stance. Focusing on the tensions between African and Asian communities his programme looked at gauging the scale of the problem and seeking solutions.

In the Asian publication Eastern Eye they wrote; “Jealousy is definitely the problem. The Afro-Caribbean community are degrading themselves and it is affecting everybody… The people who spread the rumours are responsible for the riots. There is no proof of their claims…I think it is jealousy that has driven them to do this. Maybe they think they can get something back by rioting”.

In the New Statesman, Darcus Howe similar to a horoscope writer who has hit jackpot prophesises that “I was responsible for [a] broadcast on Channel 4 in August 2004. It was titled Who You Callin' a n word? I… have known for some months now that an explosion was imminent and that guns would be involved… I interviewed Pakistanis who waved images of Bin Laden in my face, making claim to territory in Walsall which, they said, would be little Pakistan in a few years' time… The West Indian youths were no less belligerent. They displayed stab wounds and warned of retaliation. When they mentioned guns, it was clear to me that this was not just bravado… A Punjabi businessman spat the most racist bilge about Caribbean blacks, the kind of language I previously heard from the British National Party. Young Asian women, mainly from the lower middle classes, spoke of a hierarchy - with them at the top and blacks at the bottom.”

Whilst More4 interviewed sweet old Miriam Fitzgerald who in relasion to tensions between African and Asian communities made such gems as “the problem with minorities is that they’ve always been there and have been allowed to fester and go unchecked” and with regards to community media outlets said “I think the rumour mill and the way its been allowed to go unchecked is an issue here”. She also disliked the idea of community leaders which she felt was ‘colonialist’. Bless.

The Truth

On a community radio station in South London, the highly respected presenter Bro Kwaku addressed all of the issues with callers who were in Birmingham giving eyewitness accounts of all the facts missing form the national media.

On a community station in East London, the highly respected presenter Bro Hakim addressed all of the issues surrounding the clashes in Birmingham with live eye witness reports, an interview with Minister Hilary Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and a breakdown of the media misrepresentation of the facts behind the entire story.

On a community station in North London, the highly respected presenter Lawyer addressed all of the issues surrounding the clashes in Birmingham with a studio guest giving his own account of what he saw at the Birmingham clashes and a breakdown of the media misrepresentation of the facts behind the entire story.

On another community station in East London, Toyin from Ligali was robustly interviewed by presenter Kubara and addressed all of the issues leading up to the clashes in Birmingham whilst providing a breakdown of the media misrepresentation of the facts behind the entire story.

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