Unity Over Comfort: Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement

“Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight as we continue to pull back the veil”. – Adrienne Maree Brown

One of the 35th President’s of the United States, John F. Kennedy, main sayings was based upon an interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s poem titled Inferno. As his brother Robert F. Kennedy explained in 1964, “President Kennedy’s favourite quote was really from Dante, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality”.

Within the last couple of weeks, we have seen a drastic spike in the global conscious awareness of police brutality, systemic and institutional oppression, White privilege and most importantly, racism. The mobilisation of the Black Lives Matter movement has never spread so effectively, nor has the conversation been so widely discussed amongst the general public. For the first time in centuries, the dialogue surrounding these topics are being highly mobilised to the point where Juneteenth is being considered to be a national holiday, new laws have been created and named after police brutality victims, countless artists have released songs to raise awareness and so, now what?

We’ve done our stories, posted the black squares and Martin Luther King quotes, but this movement isn’t just some trend. Black lives exist and matter outside of hashtags. We are here now, but who will stay till the end? When the hashtags no longer trend and the hype subsides, will you still be as outraged and demonstrate a willingness to learn? Will we continue to be anti-racist in a society that has spent centuries becoming accustomed to being so?

As someone who has more or less always been aware of police brutality in America (I even wrote a blog post about it in 2016) alongside the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement following the senseless killing of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, I was outraged as well as felt an extreme sense of hopelessness. I had seen Floyd’s death without watching it, I watched it countless times before, with the deaths of others, too many to name. I was struck by the similarity of Floyd’s death and Eric Garner’s before him, both uttering the same breathless last words, “I can’t breathe”.

I have a Black younger brother, and my fear for him grows with each birthday. I have been reporting on the link between structural racism and toxic stress and the high rates of death for Black mothers and children for three years. I’ve been truly devastated by the reports about how many Black people are dying from COVID-19 as well as police brutality.

With this sudden awareness of continuous injustice towards BIPOC within ALL areas of life, from medical racism, whitewashed history, down to the wedding industry, it’s almost frightening to see how complacent and blissfully unaware (predominately) White people have been towards these problems. This is far more than just “Some guy getting shot” and other racist arguments that tend to get put forward, this is about unveiling many underlining issues within society. But in order to be a real ally that advocates for change, there are a few things that need to be understood.

First of all, as mentioned, this is merely the surface. Be prepared to feel the tiredness, dread, and a lack of hope at a system that takes one step forward and five steps back. There will be more names and it will shock you how quickly more bodies are added to the pile and how corrupt officials will behave. You will grow weary and your souls will tire from what seems like never-ending travesties and exploitation. I want to ask if you are ready. Ready to have continuous uncomfortable conversations with co-workers, with family members, and with friends.Irish-Nigerian writer and PhD researcher Emma Dabiri made a very informative thread on her Instagram titled “Notes on Allyship and Coalition“, specifically catered to those with White and White-passing privilege in order to help ensure that the anti-racist momentum continues beyond quarantine. I’m going to take sections of that thread, re-write some of it and post them below. But please do continue to do your own research as there are plenty of resources out there for you to educate yourself on the issue

STOP DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF RACISM.

A lot of people do this. Not only do they deny racism in modern day society altogether, but they also deny that any form of racism exists within them by vehemently refusing to accept that the world has forced us to see race through a certain lens of supremacy for centuries that no one is immune to. White supremacy isn’t an abstract concept coined by the Left in an ever-evolving society, nor is it a political issue that we must ‘sympathise’ with. It is a very much real yet damaging humanitarian issue that we must interrogate and dismantle immediately. It’s a privilege in itself to learn about these experiences rather than having to go through them yourself. 

SPEAK OUT WHEN YOU HEAR RACISM. CHALLENGE IT.

This might be difficult because a lot of these racist “jokes” are used an excuse to project offensive and outdated stereotypes that most people feel like they have outgrown. Unless you’re a Ben Shapiro listener or you still watch Filthy Frank. Either way, it’s 2020 and even KSI doesn’t let his fans use racial slurs anymore. I’m just referencing controversial YouTubers now. Bottom line, don’t place the burden on Black and ethnic minorities alike to call out racism. It’s selfish and extremely draining, this is just as much YOUR responsibility as it is theirs. 

ABANDON WHITE GUILT.

YOU ARE NOT PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOUR ANCESTORS DID. WE KNOW THAT, OBVIOUSLY. Okay, glad we got that out of the way. However, you are responsible for what YOU and your White counterparts do from this point onward. You are responsible for uncritically accepting all of the advantages accrued to you by virtue of their wealth acquisition, land ownership etc. Oh yeah, and the entire creation story that justifies it. In conclusion, KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT! Keep signing petitions, spreading awareness, contacting local MP’s, staying informed, listening to Black academics/authors/people and understand their experiences, watch documentaries, utilise resources and remain educated. We’ve got this.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

How a global pandemic affected my mental health

Calm in Chaos: a general rambling post from me amongst the uncertain times which are COVID-19 and how I generally stay sane when it feels like the world is ending.

As I’m writing this, I can hear at least three different species of birds chirping, couples laughing and friends gathered together basking the glory of the sudden sunshine. Despite this, the context shows an entirely different tone. It’s March of 2020 and the world is in an incredibly strange state right now, just two nights ago Boris Johnson had announced that the United Kingdom was officially going into lockdown for the next couple of months, which basically means that everyone needs to self-isolate and remain in quarantine apart from “essential” workers. Understandably, everyone is freaking the fuck out. With thousands of events getting cancelled like weddings, holidays, festivals and even educational institutions having to shut which means exams have been cancelled for the time being and teaching has been transferred online. Right now, we really are living in the midst of a historic moment which will affect millions of people across the world. A real dystopian Black Mirror episode, if you will.

Despite this, this is the happiest I have felt in months. I know, I’m not making the best impression so far. I’m sat in a large nature park right now where other people are when I’m meant to be isolating (Sorry, dad) and I just said that a massive pandemic is making me happy. Well, allow me to justify. I use the term “happy” very loosely here. I know 2020 has been shit show from the get go; from shock deaths (RIP Kobe and Brianna Bryant), floods, wildfires, potential world wars, nation-wide drought, Brexit (which commenced on my birthday for fuck sake), climate change acceleration and now an international pandemic. And it’s ONLY March. I can understand why you’d read my naïve indifference as arrogant.

It feels like everywhere you turn, there’s bad news after bad news. Like, not to be dramatic, but life is feeling a lot like that time Edward broke up with Bella in Twilight and Stephenie Meyer made all the chapters during the break up empty pages with just “September.” “October.” “November.” written at the top. All of the days are blurring into one and are filled with uncertainty. Every social media platform that you log into, including Instagram which is usually a form of escapism, are only constant reminders of the virus as well as productive things we’re meant to be doing throughout this period of isolation, even though I’m fully aware that I’m meant to be chasing a degree (I know, what the fuck) while constant stats remind us about how deadly and scary this virus is. It truly is overwhelming and I do not blame anybody for feeling especially scared and anxious in this time.

I rarely get personal on this blog, despite the fact that it IS my personal blog. I’m usually quite general, but I’m going to share how I’ve personally felt the calm in all of this. I mean, I speak from a place of general privilege. I’m not exactly calm about the death, collective grief, global poverty, deadly exploitation of working-class people of colour, financial ruin and ever-callous leadership that sets the scene for this time. Furthermore, circumstances for a lot of people are desperate and financially there’s bound to be some kind of crash, I understand that this is a scary time for us all. Yet, for some reason, I find the collective feeling of worry, the resentment of this current year, holding billionaires and the 1% to account for their greedy money hoarding as well as everybody’s combined efforts in improving our circumstances to be extremely reassuring of humanity. Even the NHS has had over 400,000 people offer to volunteer to help those directly infected by the virus when the government were merely expecting half of that. That’s something to celebrate within itself.

Overall, my person issues pale in comparison to refugees and more vulnerable groups who are far a lot affected by this this virus than me personally. This isn’t ideal for anybody. However, if I’m too think in a way that makes the glass appear half full- I’d talk about the environmental impacts, for example; did you know that air quality has improved significantly in major cities since tourists have stopped occupying them? And think of all the free concerts all of your favourite artists have intimately live-streaming!! From Chris Martin of Coldplay, John Legend, James Blake. Miley Cyrus has started a cute livestream platform where she interviews celebrities and medical professionals on remaining positive while being aware of your surroundings. The sheer quality of MEMES that have come out of this are…incredible. And lastly, the newfound respect the general public now have for service workers and our community.

Apologies if this blog post seems lazy compared to my usual work, I’m still adjusting. I know this is hard, I’m scared too. I’ll probably add more positive outcomes and more informed updates of this in due time. But for now, I know it’s easier said than done- but do try to make the most of this time of peace and quiet. Get creative, contact people you’ve grown distant from due to busy schedules. Whatever you want. There’s bound to be some form of humanity to come out of this and it’ll be beautiful. We can’t see it now but we will. There’s no telling what’s ahead but I do truly believe that in spite of everything, we’ve got this. Look after yourself reader.

Best Movies of the Decade (personal faves)

Considering I study film and everything surrounding it, you would think that I would have more blog posts dedicated to the topic; though there are a handful on the site already. Up until I decided to start pursuing the subject as a degree full time, I always saw films as time-fillers. I know, I can sense film fans and students alike cringing at that statement. But it’s true, I’m afraid!

When I think back on my experience with films, I remember those awkward pre-adolescent sleepovers where we’d stock up on all kinds of junk food, wearing the craziest clothes just to sit in your best friends bedroom or lounge, where everyone would gather round the television to watch Mean girls, Wild Child, Bridesmaids, Juno…or something of the sort. As I write this, I suddenly realised that a lot of these “girly” films that we’d watch have very similar themes. ANYWAY, besides the point.

What I’m saying about this list is that it has not come from a critical point of view, by all means necessary you don’t HAVE to agree with whatever I put on this list. Most of my considerations are personal, for example, I could have grown up watching it, or it could have been the first film to really make me feel something, or it could have even been the first film to make me really appreciate the art of cinematography aesthetics. Etc.

Most of these reviews initially appeared on my contribution to Outtake Magazine’s 100 Top Films pf the 10’s, but I thought I’d condense them down to just a few of my decade-defining films that I consider to be significant. So without further ado, (within no particular order) here they are!

Coco (2017)
As far as 3D-animated Spanish fantasy films go, there aren’t many of them. However, if this was a common genre, Coco would still make it to the top three. In more areas than one, Pixar seriously stepped up their game with this one; this is more than a story of a boy chasing his dreams. There’s something more refreshing about this film besides the typical Disney tropes used within Coco with it’s engaging, vibrant and neon-lit boroughs that creates an overall spectacular motion picture. I’m not usually an animation fan, but this film certainly made me more open to them.

Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan is consistently known for his thrilling and complex concepts that can just about send anyone into a state of mental vertigo. Inception in particular, is the pinnacle of all of this- this fantasy thriller shares a mixture of his iconic action scenes of Batman- The Dark Knight and the layered examination of The Prestige. Christopher Nolan actively weaves a mysterious dreamworld with a dream cast, with a plot so complex that it leaves the spectators contemplating the films reality as well as their own for weeks. Just watch it. Lord knows I have, too many times. Shoutout to my big brother.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Liberated filmmaker, artistic visionaire, colour-coding genius, symmetrical mastermind…you get the gist. These are just some of the many descriptions that come to mind when you think of Wes Anderson and are very much justified. Amongst this, you’ll find that his filmography follows suit- if you don’t know where to start in the catalogue, watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. From Bill Murray to Tilda Swinton, cast members are near unrecognisable once they’re stepped into Anderson’s vision. It’s not just all aesthetic, though part of its appeal, there’s an exciting cat-and-mouse chase, a deadpan but humorous script and an engaging story line. Check-in to The Grand Budapest Hotel!

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson

Get Out (2017)
2017 detected a real shift in the horror landscape, Jordan Peele being the instigator to this. Earlier this year, Jordan Peele said that he’s seen enough White-led horror movies. This was met with plenty of criticism (as expected) but he had a point and he made it masterfully. As a comedy king, he was one of the least likely to come out with such a multi-layered and clever horror masterpiece. Yet, he did. As well as being a horror, Get Out exposes a far more stealthy motive behind the eerie characters and the United States as a whole; hyperbolic or not, Get Out does a wonderful job at exposing the racist underbelly within the third world and every ethnic minority’s unspoken worst nightmare.

Shoplifters (2018)
Shoplifters is a devastatingly beautiful film, a cinematic embodiment of the phrase “The Rose That Grew from Concrete”. Living in the poverty invested fringes of a Japanese city, Shoplifters is a fine blend of a family comedy and a crime thriller, exposing a harsh reality that isn’t always tragic despite it’s circumstances, exhibiting intimacy and tenderness in a dog-eat-dog world. Writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda exposes subtle compassion in each line and frame,yet never creates one dim moment as it rightfully earn it’s 99% approval rating.

Moonlight (2016)
As soon as A24 (every film they do is a masterpiece to be frank) dropped its intense yet beautiful trailer for Moonlight four years ago, viewers and spectators alike were instantly engulfed in all things Black and Chiron. Winning best kiss at the MTV Movie Awards, it becomes evident as to why. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, this stunning picture is an emotionally devastating quagmire as it intersects the unlikely subjects of black masculinity, homosexual relationships and vulnerability. Barry Jenkins’s direction allows room for the entire cast to embody their roles and interact in a way that is brutally real. Illuminating, heartbreaking and everything in between- a must see.

Moonight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins
Moonight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins

An album guide for when you’re going through it

This is more of a laid back July post. So right now we’re sitting in my least favourite season, summer. Yes, you read me correctly- summer is my least favourite season as I’ve mentioned previously in other blogposts. Anyway, the last couple of months have been rather tumultuous for me to say the least. There have been significant changes going on in my life and everything is spread messily like when you’re rearranging clothes in your closet resulting in a huge mess across your bedroom but then you know it will be tidy again, eventually? You understand what I mean?

Even as we speak, I’m writing this at a hostel in central New York after a totally bizarre yet fun night with a few strangers that I met along the way, but whatever it is that’s going on in your life that is making you feel anxious or stressed, one of the best methods for recovery (at least I have found) has always been through music. Corny and unoriginal? Sure, but it’s totally true. Whether it’s a tough break up or rejection from an opportunity that you really wanted, music is a brilliant way of helping you go through the motions of false confidence, happiness, sadness and everything more.

That being said, I have curated a playlist of just some of my favourite albums that I play for when I’m “going through it”. In other words, the phrase is a vague yet also a very specific way of referring to the aftermath of a temporary yet crappy event that’s taken place. As a mUsiC jOuRnALiSt, I decided to include various album genres from different eras that are important to me and my overall personal healing. Listen away folks and I hope this helps you too in some shape or form !!

 

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

In his review, famous music YouTuber The Needle Drop described Tyler, the Creator as polarising and uncompromising. However, within this latest album IGOR– Tyler single-handedly debunked all of that. With heart wrenching lyrics and nostalgic riffs, Tyler not only compromised, but unashamedly gave himself way entirely. Facing the aftermath of an emotionally tumultuous relationship, he’s exhausted- which is a universal feeling. I get that this album is recent. Like really, really recent. So it’s a little soon to place it in such high esteem as one that makes you feel better above others, but it really does. This album got me through my personal troubles in more ways than I can describe as well as being one of the only albums I can listen to in full- front to back. And trust me, that’s a big deal for someone with ADD.

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

 

Best Coast- Crazy for You

This is an album that instantly takes me back to my over-journaling-teen-angst “no one understands me” filled days. That was a lot of words in one sentence, but you get the drift (I’m functioning on little to no hours sleep here so please bare with me lol). What I would like to say about this album is that despite some of its themes, the instrumentals are playful and overall rather euphoric. I know the title says that the albums listed are for when you’re going through a tough time, but in my eyes it’s important to not entirely indulge or fetishise negative emotional anguish and rather just revel in the more positive ones. Crazy For You absorbs all the simple pleasures that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s fills her life- from her cat, to snacks and the overall feeling of being in love, but through a dreamy 60’s lens. I think we should all take note and do the same.

Best Coast- Crazy For You

 

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

As well as the being the debut album of the indie-folk band Bon Iver; this was the first Justin Vernon record that I listened to in full. The project in it’s entirety oozes with feelings of isolation, loneliness and longing through acoustic strums and nature, while mirroring these are common emotions that are- especially throughout the summer. Especially during a break up. For context, taken from Pitchfork, which is what mostly inspired it. In 2005, Vernon’s former band DeYarmond Edison moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to North Carolina. As the band developed and matured in its new home, the members’ artistic interests diverged and eventually the group disbanded. While his band mates formed Megafaun, Vernon– who had worked with the Rosebuds and Ticonderoga– returned to Wisconsin, where he sequestered himself in a remote cabin for four snowy months. During that time, he wrote and recorded most of the songs that would eventually become For Emma, Forever Ago. Anyway, in summary, the album relishes in feelings of melancholy that replicates hope and joy, and feels just as vivid.

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

 

Lorde– Melodrama

From the moment I came across Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, I listened to it in it’s entirety throughout the challenging years which were my adolescence. After that, I spent the next four years thinking “When is Lorde gonna drop another album and save me from this hell…..its been 84 years……don’t get me wrong i would listen to 400 Lux till the end of my days but damn gurl where u been”. Then finally, something amazing happened- around this time two years ago, Melodrama dropped and so I haven’t been the same since. At least, emotionally. There is a consistent tenderness in Lorde’s vocals that transcends you into a calmer place of healing that you never want to return from, a state that is between tender daydreams and brutal awakenings. It’s an album that sends me to and from therapy, it’s night and day, an album that hits you then hugs really hard. I know I’m being dramatic but it is so, so true.

Lorde- Melodrama

 

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to add the ‘going thru it’ super group themselves… Fleetwood Mac. Prior to the albums release, there was a shed ton of drama from cocaine, to heartbreak and totally lunacy. The context to this body of work is as tumultuous as it’s content, but a beautiful one at that. The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to Rumours become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess. Drama aside, Rumours is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, quote- “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt”. I’d conclude with a positive quote about learning to dance in the rain or something but we’ve gotten the general consensus now of this post. You’ll be fine.

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours