At first I was going to do a great post reflecting on the books I’d read last year but considering that probably only two or three of them were pretty awesome, I’ve decided to do something a little different.
These past couple of years my school has been holding a public speaking competition. This is one of the speeches I’d prepared for the finals. Heads up: The Aunty Chronicles will be launching officially very, very soon so keep your eyes peeled.
“Son of a bus driver”, a black man featured on a literary news outlet with his display picture: him in the forefront and graffiti in the background – obviously – watching Macbeth with the baddie in a cockney accent, and finally Skepta’s Shutdown: they are all evidence of how our work is undermined because of where we come from.
At a launch party to kick off National Hate Crime Awareness Week the MP of Tottenham remarked that we should look on the positives. That at least there’s progress. He said “Look a hundred years back. People then could not escape the circumstances of their birth. They were stuck in their backgrounds. Now, we have moved past that,” he said.
According to him we are no longer defined by our backgrounds.
Well, consider this:
We, students, are filled with awesome aspirations. We are do-gooders, get-goers, people with promise and potential and brilliance.
Council flat kids.
For us, success is a double-edged sword. Why? Because every role model out there whose great achievements had proved to us that we could aim to be great as well – those brilliant role models of ours? They’re despicable.
Sadiq Khan, you demon. Why did you show me how tolerant London can be? Because despite your ambitions, despite your title as Mayor of London – you have taught me that if I try as hard as you did I will end up known as the son of a bus driver!
Sabo Kpade, how dare you work so hard on your writing talent, curating beautiful pieces so great that The Literary Consultancy appointed you Showcase Author of October 2016 – with a picture of you, Nigerian man, and graffiti in the background! Thank you, Mr Kpade, for teaching me that I can write the best book out there and end up with a profile picture of Yaq21 sprayed in the background – an East London signature justifying my very existence.
Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I mean while everybody else is stuck with the bland beige wall you get a personalised background for free and a chance to represent your beautiful slummish culture.
A culture that is best appreciated by the posh dudes at the art studio over at Tottenham Court Road, where one of my street’s best graffiti pieces was placed behind expensive polished glass, permanently barricaded from my viewing. They, who regarded Banksy’s vandalism as so exquisite an artistic expression, might just photoshop me out of my own profile picture so that they could cuddle that little piece of Banksy background to themselves.
See? This is not all that bad having my existence justified by a cockney accent on one of the dumb mercenaries in a production of Macbeth at the Globe. He, as the stupid cockney lad with the fake leather jacket and the slack jaws. You get me, fam?
We can joke about this, right? It is no matter how hard we have worked to get to where we are. Our cultural literacy will always be lacking, our view on the world always blinkered, and our worth always ridiculed for where we come from. Yet this ridicule solely exists on paper, and in fear, and in politics. But thankfully not in the day-to-day goings about of people, and definitely not in our humanity. It is clear that I think the MP of Tottenham got it wrong. We are defined by our backgrounds – but it is up to us to give this definition meaning.
Let’s think about Grime MC Skepta whose most recent music album is now the object of my obsession mainly because BBC News did a feature on him after that album got the Mercury Prize. Gave it a sense of legitimacy and all that.
I’m kidding, I loved Skepta’s new work way before that because in his song Shutdown he had an excerpt from a woman who enunciated her words very well, saying:
A bunch of young men all dressed in black
Dancing extremely aggressively on stage
It made me feel so intimidated and it’s just not
What I expect to see on prime time TV
And following on from that spectacular piece of social commentary, Skepta elevates his redefined background, asserting:
“I’m in a different class.”