Whispers of Windrush

Last night at 8pm the BBC broadcast Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech on Radio 4, in full.  Weighed down by the prevalent racism in British society and institutions, I decided to dedicate the time of the broadcast to writing a ritual poem: an attempt to heal & transmute whatever energies it is in my power to transform through creativity.  During that time, instead of listening to the voice of hate speaking through our public institutions – again – I devoted my time to listening to the voices and the stories of the people of the diaspora, whose lives are inflected by the brutal and traumatic consequences inflicted by speeches like these.  This poem – a durational ritual performed for one hour from 8pm to 9pm during the time of the broadcast – collages quotations from several recent articles in The Guardian and is interspersed with lines from M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong!.  I’m likely to redraft this several times to give it more shape and greater rhythm, but I present it here now, unaltered, in its first iteration in the form of its complete durational ritual incarnation/incantation.

Whispers of Windrush 

Saturday        14thApril

2018, 8pm:

I           sit

by

the radio

switched / off

not

listening

 

to Enoch

Powell’s

rivers

of blood

speech

 

witness

to:

the racism

of

this nation

: in the

silence :

echoes :

voices :

 

of the

Windrush

generation

– the ship sailed –

 

we thought

we

were British…

 

Albert Thompson, 63

It’s like

I’m being

left

to die

Judy Griffith, 63

It affects

you

mentally

physically &

spiritually

 

the truth is

i felt

like

i didn’t

exist

no

status

no        status

immigration   status

settled            status

disputed         status

Chasing          Status

no       status

no        status

 

virtually

invisible &

nothing to prove

it

still angry that

I have

to prove it

documents to prove

he is

asking me to

prove that

I’m British

British

I am British

I don’t feel

British

I am    British

he is a

British

Citizen

really struggling

pressure she is

under

– weight of

circumstance –

to prove that

she is

British

impossible

without

papers

the rains came

the loss arose

the rains came

the truth was

the aim is

to create

refused permission

hurting me

the most

prolonged ordeal

never

naturalised

renewed attempts

to remove

her

really             hostile

Home

Office

humiliation

newly hardened

brutal                        treatment

this government

I’ve suffered

Paulette Wilson, 61

forced

removal

is necessary

the ship

sailed

the loss

arose

 

the truth is

it broke

my heart

refused           permission

to work

denied

access

to health

hurting

me most

deliberately

traumatised

by her

experience

really hostile

locks

you

out

of the

system

unlawful

made homeless

Renford McIntyre, 64

almost fell

apart with

stress

1971

Immigration // Act

illegal

immigrant

evicted

from

evidence

of

citizenship

unresolved

status

country of

origin

– the ship sailed –

return to

their

deportation

centres

really hostile welcome

to the United

Kingdom

provide

paperwork

divide

nation

not a glitch

in the system

ensnared        embarrassed

encourage      harassment

newly              hardened

worst              heartache

leaving her     homeless

John Clarke, 71

in the

country

is necessary

the subject

in property

the loss

arose

the truth was

black Caribbean

men &

women

being targeted

the negroes   is

the truth was

the loss arose

weight

of circumstance

hostile

environment

made homeless by

the aim is to

took my job

away

disrupted       status

overstayer

no        status

find     no        record

not      on the

system

vulnerable

person

escaped

eviction

worst

heartache

longstanding

right    of         entry

Home Office

failed

Yarl’s Wood

removal centre

cruelty

by design

 

prove his

citizenship

broken

up

& critiqued

unfairness &

injustice

of it.

 

adversely

affecting

black

Britons

 

Paul Tate, 53

refused permission

rules introduced

anger

humiliation

hurt me

most

hostile

the aim is

unlawful

aggressive

pursued

denial

refused

refusal

banned

evicted

leave

the country

the ship

sailed

the rain          came

made homeless

by the

HomeOffice

in less than

the truth is

to murder

is necessary

the subject

in property

the negroes is

etc

to prove it

to prove that

produce

British passport

documents

to prove

Hubert Howard, 61

grew up

here

disputed         status

settled                        status

no        status

Chasing          Status

virtually

invisible &

rarely acknowledged

became depressed &

then homeless

sent out of

the country

in the night &

deported

made homeless

without

papers

produce          papers

to prove

the right

to come here

to be here

to live here

a British

Citizen

produce          documents

to be

told he was

not British

working &

paying taxes

the truth is

is necessary

the aim is

targeted

how much

I’ve suffered

naturalise

naturalisation

disputed         status

no        status

to prove it

the weight

of circumstance

affects you mentally

physically &

pressure she is

under

to prove that

to prove that

to prove that

she is British

I am British

to prove that

i am British

a British          Citizen

aggressively pursued

never naturalised

prolonged ordeal

under the

impression

he was

a British

Citizen

to prove that

with the State

deliberately

doing it

the ship sailed

the rains came

the truth was

the truth is

the truth was

the truth is

the loss arose

the aim is

to create

here

in Britain

a really

hostile environment

for illegal

immigrants

the 2014 & 2016 Immigration        Acts

the Immigration Act

1971

second reading of the

1968 race relations

bill /she presided over

seven

immigration bills

and

45,000

changes

to immigration

rules

to prove it

to prove that

the weight of

circumstance

forced removal

refusal

denied

really

hostile

hugely

traumatic

asking me

to prove

that

I’m British

I’m still angry that

I have

to   prove

it broke my heart

discrimination

60 years after

Windrush

the song that

echoes

in Zong!‘s silences

 

the ship sailed

the rains came

the loss arose

it broke

my heart

the truth is

I don’t feel British

I am British

if i’m not British

then what

am i?

British

Citizen

Settled

Status

he is

British

I am

British

I couldn’t eat

or sleep

I don’t know

unlawful

inflicts

mentally

physically &

spiritually

what am i?

 

 

| 9.02pm

 

 

Click here to watch M. Nourbese Philip performing parts of Zong! at the Globe Road Poetry Festival, 2015.

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