source: The Guardian
published: 25 August 2017
Benjamin Zephaniah’s 1998 poem Carnival Days is a lyrical love letter to the Notting Hill carnival, where “We dance like true survivors / We dance to the sounds of our dreams.” Or, more accurately, it’s a love letter to what the carnival once was. He still supports the event, which takes place in London this weekend, and plans to be there on Monday, but reckons it has become less innocent, less spontaneous in the two decades since he wrote his poem. These days, even dreams have to be policed – and ideally sponsored.
“It’s become more corporate and – to some people this might sound positive – more organised,” he says. “Stalls have to pay a fee; sponsors get involved. People used to take to the streets and do it for themselves. They’d say: ‘I’ll sell some food on this corner; you sell some food on that corner.’ It was organised anarchy. There was no big committee. There was a group of people and that was it. Now, it’s all about liaising with the police, which for me takes away the spirit of us really taking to the streets.” Continue reading
Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly.
It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”.
It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy. It is a global movement to honour his life’s work and act to change the world for the better.
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As I sat in the heat of a Jamaican afternoon within touching distance of the Caribbean sea listening to Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Jamaica Kincaid read from their respective works, my mind kept returning to the phrase coined by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “the single story”.
Adichie’s phrase describes the process by which entire nations, even continents, have their reality excised and a single, usually misguided or at the very least limited, image is allowed to become the dominant picture of a place and its people.
I was in Jamaica to record a BBC Radio 4 documentary about Rastafari and to perform alongside the above names at the Calabash International Literature Festival. Founded in 2001 and located in the grounds of Jake’s Treasure Beach hotel, St Elizabeth, this three-day festival is the brainchild of the writers Colin Channer and Kwame Dawes, and the producer/film-maker Justine Henzell. Witnessing the audience of more than 4,000 people, and with homegrown artists such as Jah9 and Jesse Royal, it was one of the most inspiring events I’ve ever attended.