Monday, 28 June 2021

Remembering Stonewall


Today marks the  anniversary of the Stonewall riots. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the New York City  police department carried out a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a  popular Gay Bar in the Greenwich Village .The move was a clear condemnation by law enforcement officials of the city's underground gay population Yes it was a dive bar, but even that characterisation was optimistic, since it couldn't get a ligour license. It's drinks were bootlegged and heavily watered down. The contents of no bottle ever matched its label. There were no fire exits and there was no running water. But in that Greenwich Village Tavern, there was music, there was dancing, and there was freedom. It was a place of sanctuary, and one of the only places for New York's gay community to socialise and truly be themselves.
Pror to 1962, same sex relationships were a felony in every state, making it illegal for people of the same sex to show affection towards one another, dance with each other or even just be together. often punished by lengthy prison sentences. Same-sex loving men and women met in secret, fearing the long-term consequences of exposure. Gender nonconforming indiiduals and cross-dressers might find themselves shunned to the fringes of society. Early efforts at LGBTQ activism had smoldered for years before Stonewall. There had been riots in other gay spaces before. And there had certainly been plenty of police raids at the Stonewall in the past. But the anger that erupted on this day when police attempted to arrest patrons of the Stonewall Inn, sparked a uprising that galvanised the  LGBTQ civil rights movement as we know it today.
It was a raid like so many others, but this time after some patrons and local residents witnessed  police barging into the bar, slaming people against the walls, calling them derogatory names, and then taking money from their wallets. When police finally let patrons oout of the bar and ordered them to disperse they refused, and after an officer struck a prisoner on the head, they spontaneously fought back against years of oppression by hurling rocks and bottles at the police, anything in fact within arm's reach.A number of people even wrestled a parking meter from the ground and tried to use it as a battering ram. The police, fearing for their safety, locked themseles inside the Stonewall Inn as the angry mob outside grew into the thousands. Some were attempting to set the property on fire.Following media coverage of the event, thouusands protested and clashed with riot police over the next six days,.Reinforcements were eventually able to get the crowd under control, well for one night at least. But people had discovered a power that they were not even aware they had, releasing a sense of pride and liberation.

Shouts of 'gay power' and 'we shall overcome' could be heard down the street as support spread.It was a watershed for the worldwide gay rights movement, because it was the first time LGBT people had forcibly resisted the police. On Saturday, the windows of the Stonewall were boarded up and painted with gueer liberation slogans like 'We are Open,' 'Support Gay Power- C'mon in girls.' Hostile press coverage was also pinned to the boards, That night the crowd of protestors returned and were led in 'gay power; cheers by a group of gay cheerleaders. There was sustained handholding, kissing, and posing which had appeared only fleetingly on the street before.
Soon the crowd got restless "Let's go down the street and see what's happening girls," someone yelled. They did and were confronted by the Tactical Patrol Force, (originally set up to stop anti-ietnam war protests) Howeer, the TPF failed to break up the crowd, who in defiance sprayed them with rocks and other projectiles. The third day of rioting fell five days after the raid on the Stonewall Inn. On that day 1,000 people congregated at the bar and again took the cops on in the streets.
Once the riots had subsided, protestors were filled with motivation to organise for their rights, th aftermath saw an explosion in gay movement organisation, pride and political activism. A year after the  riots, residents began marching on Christopher Street and Sixth Avenue. The date, June 28 was dubbed Christopher Street Liberation Day. Thousands of people marched the street while thousands of other people lined up alongside them to protest the treatment of the LGBT  community at the hands of the law. With Stonewall, the spirit of 60's rebellion spread to LGBT people in New York and beyond, who found themseles liberated and part of a community, sparking a new sense of urgency about demanding tolerance for persecuted communities.Inspired by New Yor's example, actiists in other cities including Los Angeles, San Fracisco, Boston and Chicago, organised gay pride celebrations that same year. The Stonewall uprising changed the state of play, and sent out a clear message that enough was enough and that it was time fir the harassent and discrimination to end.
It is important to recognise the fact the gay rights movement did not begin at Stonewall, there were gay activists  and calls for "gay power"well before that early morning of June 28, 1969. What was different about Stonewall was that gay activsts around the country ad the world were prepared to commemorate it publicly. It was not the first rebellion, but it was the first to be called "the first" and that act of naming mattered, the uprising did mark a turning point, igniting a new atmosphere of militant gay liberation. Radical groups like the libertarian left wing Gay Liberation Front (GLF)  and the Gay Actiists Alliance (GAA), were formed  in New York and beyond who sought links with the Black Panthers, the Womens Liberation movement and anti-war organisations. Similar organisations were soon created around the world including Canada, France, Brtain, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealandin, becoming a lasting force that would carry on for the next half-century and beyond.
Stonewall marked a sharp break from the past and a qualitative turning point in the LGBTQ movement ,not only because of the continuous rioting in the streets against police, but because activists were able to seize the moment and give an organized expression to the spontaneous uprising that encapsulated the militancy of the era. While the homophile movement made steady, if limited, progress throughout the 1950s and 60s and laid the basis for the gay liberation movement, Stonewall broke the dam of political and social isolation and catapulted the gay movement from the margins and into the open.


The Stonewall Inn made headlines again in 2015, when its story came to the silver screen,  but critics at the time said that Stonewall depicted brave, cisgender white males as the unsung heroes of the moement, but in reality it was trans women of color, homeless queer people, sex workers, gay bi and pansexual people who were the riots heart and soul.
 The uprising was multiracial, diverse, and reflected a broad spectrum of the LGBTQ community. Many eyewitnesses commented specifically on the important role played that night by the most marginalised sections of the community — street kids, trans women, and queer youth of colour.

The resisters who stood up to the police on this day could hardly have imagined that within 50 years, the United States and other Western countries would go from criminalising homosexuality to guarateering the equal right of same sex couples to marry. Despite the gains made since and why we celebrate Pride in June, ( beyond the sequins and the glitter, it remains a protest, not just an excuse to party) half a century on from the Stonewall Riots, the global LGBT community still faces significent problems.
It was only as recently as 2017 that the UK Government finally issued a posthumous pardon to all gay or bi men who were convicted under pernicious sexual offences laws in the last century which enabled police to criminalise people for being gay or bi. In many South Asian and Middle Eastern, in fact around 70 counties  homosesxuality is still illegal and in around 70 countries ,as far as the law goes punishable by death.Anti-gay bullying is still prevalent in schools and workplaces and ati LGBT sentiment is still being combatted across the world, Sadly there is still to much stigma attached for being who we are. But for many that fight has its roots in those dramatic riots in Greenwich all those years ago.
The LGBT  movement is still a work in progress, so any single acronym is just a working title. Many other groups could be added to the acronym, including queer, intersex, and loving people of all kinds who just don't fit in the conventional pink and blue boxes of gender. This movement is a rainbow coalition of communities.The struggle will continue as long as governments do not fully respect and protect the "inherent dignity" and "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" , as the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so eloquently pronounces, regardless of their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
When we remember the Stonewall Rebellion, we should also commit to common memory, think of the many rebels who thought they might be alone but found common ground in movements of popular resistance.We still have so much further to go in the fight for equality. With on going solidarity with other oppressed people across the world, with rage and love we can firmly find  our pride. 
 The Stonewall uprising began a process of militant LGBTQ struggle that continues to this day, whose early years were characterized by an anti-racist, anti-war and anti-capitalist, fightback against both heteronormative patriarchy and transphobia. The legacy of Stonewall remains as important as ever  reminding us that rebellions work. Much like today’s anti-racist uprising, Stonewall marked a pivotal turning point in LGBTQ history. Change does not come because politicians introduce piecemeal legislation or because NGOs organise black-tie fundraisers. It happens when ordinary people take matters into their own hands, when we continue to  challenge institutions of state repression and become active participants in shaping their own world,  By  necessity, we  must  keep  striving  towards a  future grounded in human liberation and solidarity and love.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Farewell to Poet 'Dave Datblygu': David R Edwards, a unique voice of Welsh music (3 September 1964 – 19/20 June 2021)


A very difficult post to write it is with much sadness to announce my dear friend, Poet and musician David Rupert Edwards, the frontman of legendary Welsh band Datblygu, has died. I heard the tragic news last night that he had passed away in Carmarthen over the weekend, aged just 56. He had been suffering from health issues including epilepsy and diabetes.
David was born in Aberteifi Cardigan and became one of the giants of modern Welsh culture whose uncompromising, challenging and individual talent as a poet, vocalist, and musician made him one of the most idiosyncratic and influential Welsh artists of his generation. His attitude towards the artistic bourgeoisie and politicians in Wales, and his work in his own language at a time when Welsh bands were expected to sing in English, liberated and influenced a whole generation of bands such as Super Furry Animals, Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, Y Ffug  and many more who certainly owe a debt to the work done of the band. They were, in their own words, “non-conforming non-conformists.”
His brilliant group Datblygu, (Welsh for ‘progress’, ‘evolution’ and/or ‘development’) started in 1982 while David was still at school in Aberteifi, Ceredigion  emerging from the tail end of the post-punk period, and the horrors of Thatcher's Britain, becoming a universe unto themselves.. At first, it was him and instrumentalist T Wyn Davies before Patricia Morgan joined in 1984 whose vital musical contribution cannot be understated. Datblygu’s music was, as their name suggests, often experimental.
In their time they played in such diverse styles as experimental post punk, disco, country, nursery rhymes, crooning and just about anything else. The NME described them as “Kraftwerk with a hangover”. Their debut EP ‘Hwgr Grawth-Og’ was released in 1986 on Anhrefn. Datblygu were a firm favourite of the late great John Peel, who became one of their most loyal fans. Davids band managed in their time to record 5 brilliant sessions for Peel between 1987 -1993 and they communicated regularly.over the years.
All this led to them being referred to somewhat reductively as 'The Welsh Fall'.a band incidentally David loved passionately.As handy as that descriptor is as a marketing tool for newbies, the truth is Datblygu's work draws on an entirely distinct and separate tradition, interweaving left-wing politics, Welsh history, and science fiction in a framework that moves from angular guitar led songwriting to off piste synth pop and beyond.
As a poet, a label that  David did not like he existed in hostile opposition to the traditional establishment and with his music he was determined to drag the ‘Sgymraeg’ culture and music screaming into the modern age in the 1980s.Three of Datblygu's most important works, the albums –  Wyau (1988), Pyst (1990), and Libertino (1994) – are recognised to be the pinnacle of modern Welsh language rock culture. A body of work that crossed cultures, languages and borders..They sang in Welsh, but that in itself does not really matter.
A unique acerbic point of view, a singular voice with a masterly command of language ( which just so happens, was in the medium of Welsh) . His live performances were legendary and incendiary, a real tour de force, I was lucky to see him in full flight a couple of times, unforgettable . His uncle Gwynfor  used to live down the road from me  when I was younger, so I'd see a lot of Dave (my sister became his nephews godmother)... he'd mention bands that sounded exciting, and had me searching furtively at night for John Peel. Daves' musical influences  were very wide and ranged from the mighty Fall, Joy Division.  the mekons, to the outer limits of Can, Beefheart  to Frank Sinatra, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen  .to emerging Welsh bands. Willfully ignored by the Welsh establishment of the time, he raged too hard you see. His music always seemed to convey a pissed- off, phlegmatic menace. Fucked up on Thatcherism, mass unemployment and general shitty Politicianism , he could be provocative and brilliantly funny at the same time, a real peoples' poet he spoke for everyone, and the people loved him  Unflinchingly was not afraid to speak his truth  and put his two fingers up to anyone.David also performed with Tŷ Gwydr and electronic pioneers Llwybr Llaethog, and worked for some time as a secondary school teacher in the mid-90's but was deemed unfit for work, for among other issues,, smoking in front  of the pupils. Years into long term unemployent, he would comment, ' I don't see how anyone who's done a day's work in thrir lives can fail to be left wing.'
At the height of  his creativity in the late  nighties, David withdrew from performing and releasing music and began a painful period of treatment for mental health problems. After the death of his father who he adored I would spend many a Saturday afternoon in his pleasant charming company in his living room in 7 Y Rhos, Cardigan  discussing everything  under the sun, subjects ranged from books and  music to Tony fucking Blair to the bloody Tory party.It was a beautiful friendship that meant not judging one another.and over the years have witnessed his strength, his friendship and love, that has carried and lifted  me, kept me afloat  in my own periods of darkness. 
David's battle with health problems and alcoholism was chronicled in an O Fllaen dy Lygaid documentary produced by BBC for S4C,rg programme also featured his friend, actress Rhian Rees Davies.As he weight of mental health issues iimploded David had to go away for a while, but we kept in touch and at the beginning of the new century, it was wonderful to see his health improve and David once again living an independent life in Carmarthen and once again releasing music as Datblygu with his lifelong friend and musical soul mate Patricia Morgan.
He also published his autobiography in 2009 – ‘Atgofion Hen Wanc’ – which he described as ‘no fflim fflam, no repetition, no boring bits that will send you to sleep’. Here he could share his feelings about Aberteifi, the love he felt for his parents and his musical heroes like Mark E.Smith, Captain Beefheart, Frank Sinatra and Ryan Davies and hs friendships with the likes of John Peel and Attila the Stockbroker. It also featured his loathing of authority and the disciplinarian nature of school and work, and also the nature of his life-long love/hate relationship with Wales and the Welsh which fed so much of his creativity,,an honest account of his life ,told with humour and candour. David released a collection of English poems called Dave Datblygu's Search in English for the House of Tolerance in 2017 and another last year called Davey Datvlygu;s  Policy of Company,
David's  band’s legend grew during this, and when they played their first gig in 20 years, at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in April 2015, they were finally accorded the reverence that was deserved but lacking during their heyday.
In the press release for his last album ‘Cwm Gwagle’ released last year,in the height of the pandemic he again re-iterated the unique nature of the band and his work – ‘Datblygu have only one thing in common with other Welsh bands and that is their shared use of the language, nothing else.’
Following the news of his passing people from across Wales and beyond took to twitter to pay their respects and tributes.
 In a post on Twitter, Datblygu bandmate and friend Patricia Morgan offered: “It’s a huge pain for me to think that David is no longer with us. He was one of the best friends you could ever have. A huge and generous personality; a bear of a man. His writing touched people, to give succour, love, anger and humour.” 
Among those to pay tribute to David were Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys, who told Welsh news outlet Nation.Cymru  “Devastated, Dave was and is a gigantic figure. His contribution to the Welsh language can’t be overestimated and his work with Datblygu serves as a focal point for its vibrant counter-culture. I’ve no doubt his influence will grow and his songs will continue to serve as moral compasses and as sources of light to guide us through the darkness down the ages.” 
A statement from Datblygu’s record label Ankst read: “Since the 1980s the existence of Datblygu made it clear that there was much more to Welsh-language culture and music than some pale copy of Anglo-American culture.
Wichita Recordings co-founder Mark Bowen told Nation.Cymru it was difficult to accurately explain the impact of hearing Datblygu for the first time on the John Peel show in the mid-’80s.
To hear Peel play a record in Welsh that stood head and shoulders above anything else he played that night was a stunning moment for a teenager who had never felt ‘cool’ for his nationality before.
On Twitter, The Charlatons Tim Burgess said that a special edition of his Twitter Listening Party series would be held in Edwards’ memory. The band’s compilation 1985 – 1995 will be the featured album on July 2.
 First Minister Mark Drakeford, also paid tribute who tweeted: "Incredibly sad news - Wales has lost a cultural giant."
An Early Day Motion has also been presented to paliament poposed by  my local Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake that reads ' That this House mourns the passing of David R. Edwards (Dave Datblygu), musician, poet and and frontman of legendary Welsh band Datblygu at 56 years old in his home in Carmarthen; celebrates the legacy of Mr Edwards, originally from Cardigan, whose radically original music and lyrics including on albums such as Wyau, Pyst and Libertino, paved the way for a whole generation of Welsh alternative musicians; notes that through their music and art, Datblygu, who formed in 1982 and released their most recent album in August 2020, have been especially influential in shaping the diverse and vibrant culture we enjoy in Wales today; and sends its condolences to his family and friends as they come to terms with the sad news of his passing.'
Ii is somewhat ironic that David in passing is only now getting the attention and warm accolades that he so richly deserved. I was fortunate to forge a friendship  with David  spanning  over 3 decades, that has left me with so many happy memories,  I will remember David as a loving, faithful, creative, kind,caring,wise individual and endearing friend whose loss to us all will be immense. A passionate sports fan,  he'd often tell me of latest win on the horses, after a flutter at the bookies, he held a myriad of interests, a decent cook too,  his music illustrated a determination to propel Welsh language culture and music ever forward. Without David, there would not have been any Ankst Records or Cool Cymru and without his friendship, talent and love over the decades life here in Wales would have been so much poorer and duller. His voice and his words will definitely live on and continue to astonish.
My debt to David is enormous and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for sharing his life and talent with me. I will treasure all the letters  over the years he faithfully sent me, he used to phone me regularly too and could be incredibly humorous. His death so heartbreaking since in his last one he talked fondly of a loved one, how he an her had both left the Labour Party  due to the way that Mr Corbyn was treated and  the direction that  the party is now taking. at end of the day David was a man of deep principle, whether supporting animal rights, cnd or the miners  never conforming , never compromising, He ended his most recent letter about  how he was looking forward to life beyond lockdown, sent me his love and best wishes, was in the process of replying alas to my regret I left it too late, but I know he knew the depth of my affection and fondness was genuine and real. My  condolences go out to his family and friends as we deal with this heartbreaking news.
 David was a magnificent  poet, a trailblazer  who must be remembered for his colossal impact on Welsh music, who even  in the bleakest of moments managed to show his incredible way with language and his inherent love of words in all their forms, while encouraging my own voice. The sheer depth of his intellect was awe inspiring. I  for one will continue to love  Dave and his music and words ureservedly,  if you want hear  some truth. switch off the mainstream news, seek out his records full of lyrical beauty, of  musical depth, and emotion, carried in the medium of the Welsh ,a  message that will  also enable you  to fall in love with this rich language, like me and his friend the late John Peel. Genius is an overused word. But he was a true genius. His lyrics and delivery are as good as it gets. .I will end  with a quote from Mr Edwards  - "there's no need to analyse, feelings so pure."  
Nos Da David, diolch yn fawr brawd, cariad mawr you will not be forgotten, your legacy is secured x
 Y TEIMLAD ( The Feeling) - David R Edwards

Y teimlad sy'n gyrru pobl
i anghofio amser
y teimlad sy,n gyrru ti feddwl
nad yw'r dyfodol mor fler
y teimlad sydd yn dod
ac yn sbarduno gobaith
t'in gweld y tywod llwch
ond ti'n gweld fod yna flodau

Y Teimlad
beth yw y teimlad?
Y Teimlad
sydd heb esboniad
Y Teimlad
beth yw y teimlad
Y teimlad
Sy'n cael ei alw,n gariad
Y teimlad

Mae Hapusrwydd yn codi ac yn troi
yn wir rywbryd
ac mae'n dangos fod yna rywbeth
mewn hyd yn oed dim byd
a pan mae'r teimlad yno
mae bywyd yn werth parhau
ond yn ei absenoldeb
mae'r diweddglo yn agosau

Y Teimlad
beth yw y teimlad?
Y Teimlad
sydd heb esboniad
Y Teimlad
beth yw y teimlad? 
The feeling that makes people forget time
The feeling that makes you think the future isn't so bad
The feeling that comes before sparking off hope
You see the sand dust but you see that there's flowers
The feeling, what is the feeling?
The feeling that's inexplicable
The feeling, what is the feeling?
The feeling that is called love
Love, love, the feeling
Happiness rises and turns true sometimes
And it shows that there's something even in nothing
And when the feeling is there, life is worth continuing
But in its absence the end approaches
The feeling, what is the feeling?
The feeling, which is inexplicable?
The feeling, what is the feeling?
The feeling that is called love

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Remembering Albert Parsons : Haymarket Martyr

On June 20, 1848, early-American socialist,  and later anarchist newspaper editor, orator, and labor activist. Albert Richard Parsons was born in Montgomery, Alabama, one of the ten children of the of a shoe and leather factory owner originally from Maine.  His parents both died when he was a small child, leaving him to be raised by his eldest brother who was married and the proprietor of a small newspaper in Tyler, Texas.  In 1859, at the age of 11, Parsons left his brothers to go live with a sister in Waco, Texas. Parsons attended school for about a year before leaving to become an apprentice at the Galveston Daily News. 
The coming of the American Civil War in 1861, at 13 years old, Parsons volunteered to fight for the Confederate States of America.  His unit was the "Lone Star Greys." Parsons' first military exploit was in an artillery company.  After his first enlistment, Parsons left Fort Sabine to join the 12th Regiment of the Texas Cavalry and saw battle during three separate campaigns.  After the war, Parsons returned to Waco, Texas and traded his mule for 40 acres of standing corn.  He hired ex-slaves to help with the harvest and netted a sufficient sum to pay for six months' tuition at Waco University, today known as Baylor, a private Baptist University. 
After college, Parsons left to take up working in a printing office before launching his own newspaper, the Waco Spectator, in 1868.  In his paper Parsons took the unpopular position of accepting the terms of Reconstruction measures aimed at securing the political rights of former slaves.  In this supercharged political atmosphere, Parsons' paper was soon terminated.  In 1869, Parsons got a job as a traveling correspondent and business agent for the Houston Daily Telegraph, during which time he met Lucy Ella Gonzales (or Waller), a biracial woman who I've written about previously here :-.  The pair would marry in 1872 and his wife would later become a political activist and one of the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World..
In 1870, Parsons was the beneficiary of Republican political patronage when he was appointed Assistant Assessor of United States Internal Revenue under the administration of Ulysses S.Grant. 
He also worked as a secretary of the Texas State Senate before being appointed Chief Deputy Collector of the Internal Revenue at Austin, Texas.  In the summer of 1873, Parsons travelled extensively through the Midwestern United States as a representative of the Texas Agriculturalist, while initially living in Texas, conservative general disapproval and further pressure from the Ku Klux Klan caused the two to move to Chicago. 
He became a correspondent for the Chicago Times, worked for aid societies, and, believing there to be strong parallels between Chicago’s urban poor and dispossessed blacks and whites in his native South, and became active in union politics with both the dying National Labor Union and the emerging Knights of Labor.  He ran for various local and national offices, including United States Congress, on the Workingman’s Party ticket. Both Albert and Lucy joined the Socialist Labor Party in 1876. They also helped to found the International Working People Association (IWPA), a labor organization that promoted racial and sexual equality.
He backed the railroad strikers in 1877, championed the 8-hour workday, and was instrumental in May Day marches and strikes in Chicago and elsewhere.At this time Parsons was one of the foremost speakers in the English language on behalf  of the socialist cause, but growing disenchanted with the corruption he saw as inherent to the mainstream political process, Parsons abandoned democratic socialism for anarchism in the 1880s, and opened his own anarchist newspaper, The Alarm.  Endorsing a national walkout in support of the 8-hour work day and protesting violent police intervention against the striking workers of the McCormick Reaper Works.
On May 1, 1886, Parsons, with his wife Lucy and two children, led 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue, in what is regarded as the first-ever May Day Parade, in support of the eight-hour workday. In the midst of the labor strike for an eight hour work day, and in protest to the police brutality that caused the deaths of four workers,   Parsons addressed a rally at Haymarket Square on May 4. which was set up in protest of what happened a few days before.  
Parsons originally declined to speak at the Haymarket fearing it would cause violence by holding the rally outdoors but would change his mind. The mayor of Chicago was even there and noticed that it was a peaceful gathering, but he left when it looked like it was going to rain.  Worried about his children when the weather changed, Parsons, his wife Lucy, and their children left for Zeph's Hall on Lake Street and were followed by several of the protesters.  The event ended around 10 p.m. and as the audience was already drifting away, policemen came and forcefully told the crowd to disperse.  
A bomb thrown into the square exploded, killing one policeman and wounding others. Gunfire erupted, resulting in 7 deaths and many others wounded. Witnesses identified Rudolph Schnaubelt as the bomb thrower, though arrested, he was released without charge. He soon fled to Argentina and was never heard from again. It would later be suspected and claimed by some that Schnaubelt was actually paid by the police to throw the bomb to start the pandemonium and break up the demonstration. After Scnaubelt's release, the police arrested Samuel Fielden, August Spies, Adolph Fisher, Louis Lingg, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab and George Engel. Knowing that the police would immediately search for him, Parsons left Chicago by train at midnight, heading for Geneva, Illinois to stay with compatriot William Holmes. Parsons further evaded the police, shortly after his arrival in Geneva, by traveling to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he stayed with the Hoan family, whose father sympathized with Parsons’s beliefs. 
 Parsons stayed in Wisconsin until the first day of the Haymarket trial, June 21, 1886. He surrendered by dramatically and unexpectedly entering the court. He, along with six others, were convicted at trial and sentenced to death. Despite pleas to do so, Parsons did not write to Governor Oglesby to have his sentence commuted. Many believed that, had he asked, Parsons would not have been executed. Parsons felt that the only way to save the others was to align himself with them.
During the trial, a number of witnesses were able to prove that none of the eight convicted had thrown the bomb. At this point, prosecution set towards charging all eight with conspiracy to commit murder, arguing that speeches and articles written by the individuals influenced the unknown bomber to his actions. Written works, as well as conversations reported by infiltrators (the police had spies that infiltrated anarchist meetings), were used to show that the men thought violence could be used as a revolutionary tool. Sadly, despite the lack of evidence and the preposterous charge, all eight men were found guilty. Parsons, Spies, Fisher, Lingg, Engel were sentenced to death. Neebe, Fielden and Scwab were sentenced to life imprisonment.
On November 10, 1887, condemned prisoner Louis Lingg killed himself in his cell with a blasting cap hidden in a cigar. Parsons likely could have had his sentence commuted to life in prison rather than death, but he refused to write the letter asking the governor to do so, as this would be an admission of guilt. While awaiting execution he wrote his memoirs and edited a collection of writings, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, which included some of Marx’s writings on political economy, essays on anarchism by Peter Kropotkin and Elisée Reclus, and the trial speeches of himself and his fellow defendants. His references to anarchy being the next step in progressive evolution illustrate the influence of Kropotkin and Réclus.  
The next day Engel, Fischer, Parsons an Spies were taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods. They sang the Marsellaise, then the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. According to witnesses , in the moments before the men were hanged .Spies shouted, " The time will come when our silence, will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!" As Parsons himself  was about to be hanged he cried out,“Will I be allowed to speak, O men of America? Let me speak Sheriff Matson! Let the voice of the People be heard!”Witnesses reported that the condemned men did not die immediately when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left many speakers visibly shaken.
The Haymarket affair is now generally considered significant as the origin of the International May Day observances for workers,  when in July 1889, a delegate from the American Federation of Labor recommended at a Labor conference in Paris that May 1  be set aside as International Labour Day in memory of the Haymarket martyrs and the injustice metered out to them, and has become a powerful reminder of the international struggle for workers rights, that I for one try not to forget.
Rather than suppressing labor and radical movements the events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago Anarchists,  actually mobilised and galvanised a new generation of radicals and revolutionaries. Emma Goldman a young immigrant at the time later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth. Lucy Parsons widow of Albert Parsons , called up on the poor to direct their anger at those responsible - the rich. In 1938 , fifty-two years after the Haymarket riot , workdays in the United States were legally made eight hours by the Fair Labor Standards Act. It is up to us to keep the memory of the  Haymarket martyrs and Albert Parsons alive. to learn the lessons of their struggle so that they did not die in vain, acting as enduring symbols of labors struggles for justice.
With the following link you can read  the enduring  brief autobiography of Albert Parsons, Haymarket martyr, written from prison, it's well worth it.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Remembering the Battle of Orgreave


Today I remember of one of the 20th Century's most brutal attacks by the state on its own citizens.The Battle of Orgreave,  which took place during the1984 Miners strike,which resulted in an all out military operation by Margeret Thatcher's Conservative cabinet. The miners' strike of 1984-85 was the longest lasting and most bitter industrial dispute of the second half of the 20th century in Britain. It had a huge impact on virtually every subsequent industrial and political development.
 In 1981, Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher launched a war on unions by announcing the closure of 23 coal pits, starting an on-going industrial dispute which crescendoed at Orgreave 3 years later. On March 1, 1984, the state owned National Coal Board under American Ian MacGregor announced  that it planned to close 20 coal pits with the loss of over 20,000 jobs. This decision was to go and pit Mrs Thatchers government against the NUM and its then president, Arthur Scargill.
The year-long strike  that followed would change the political, economic and social history of Britain forever. The courage and determination of  the striking miners, their families and communities would charge and inspire the political consciousness of hundreds of thousands of people, as it did for me, aged 16 and a half at the start of the strike.
 In the early months of the strike the mass picketing and flying picket tactics employed by  Arthur Scargill had proved devastatingly effective and police had responded with road blocks to turn traffic back.So on  June 18th  1984, the National Union of Miners (NUM) mobilized 10,000  striking miners to picket Orgreave  cokeworks  near Rotheram in South Yorkshire. The miners wanted to stop lorry loads of coke leaving for the steelworks. They thought that would help them win their strike, and help protect their pits and their jobs and communities  However the police were determined to hold them back. 
 A force of 5,000 police officers descended onto Orgreave to break the pickets, armed with riot equipment, armoured vehicles, attack dogs and military horses. Unprovoked, baton-wielding police charged the miners on horseback and the fleeing picketers were chased through the terraced streets of Orgreave; many were badly beaten and dozens were arrested.The number of officers was unprecedented. The use of dogs, horses and riot gear in an industrial dispute was almost unheard of. Some of the tactics were learned from the police in Northern Ireland and Hong Kong who had experience dealing with violent disorder.
During the subsequent court case a police manual was uncovered which set out the latest plans to deal with pickets and protests. Police vans and Range Rovers were fitted with armour so they could withstand the stones being thrown by some in the crowd. The miners suspected the whole operation was being run under government control.
Many believe Orgreave was the first example of what became known as “kettling” – the deliberate containment of protesters by large numbers of police officers. It marked a turning point in policing and in the strike. Police directed  pickets to an area of land which left them  hemmed in on three sides.Before this event the miners had been stoically out on strike for about 12 weeks, during which they had  been assaulted on picket lines, with individuals being handcuffed and beaten without  any cause or provocation.
At Orgreave  the miners after being herded together. were savagely attacked by Police cavalry  in full riot gear under the jurisdiction of Thatcher's Government attacking fleeing miners with long swaying batons as Miners ran for safety. It saw the police  going berserk under state orders, repeatedly  attacking  individuals  wherever they sought refuge,  as they fled into a nearby Wheat field and into the community of Orgreave, where the police  carried on their pursuit through the streets. It resulted in scenes of ugliness, fear and menace, as  all concepts of Law and order that  the constabulary  were supposed to withhold were abandoned, that left skulls cracked, bloodied and beaten, bodies littering the ground. The police frenzy at Orgreave was consciously designed to batter the NUM into submission.
Far from the liberal ideal of a politically neutral body serving the public the police were used at Orgreave to further the anti-socialist rampage which dominated Thatcher's 1980's. As Michael Mansfield QC wrote :"They wanted to teach the miners a lesson, a big lesson, such as they wouldn't come out in force again." 

 At the end  the day  95 people were arrested, for no crime whatever, detained without ready access to medical treatment, denied bail altogether or only granted it on terms equivalent to house arrest, and charged with the grave offence of riot, which carried a substantial prison sentence.The aim was to ruin the strikers’ reputations, by presenting them as a group of thugs.  Some never recovered from their injuries, some never ever recovered their jobs, families were scarred, and most saw their workplaces and communities decimated.
To add further injury the BBC reversed the order of events in its news footage to corroborate the police cover-up, that violent miners launched an unprovoked attack Yet later admitted that it, “made a mistake over the sequence of events at Orgreave. We accepted without question that it was serious, but emphasised that it was a mistake made in the haste of putting the news together. The end result was that the editor inadvertently reversed the occurrence of the actions of the police and the pickets.” The BBC also neglected to film a picketer being attacked by a police officer while offering no resistance, which they later blamed on a “camera error”. 
This dishonest reporting by the broadcast and printed media—that it had been a riot by miners against the police, rather than the other way around—set the false narrative for the rest of the Miners’ Strike, with Margaret Thatcher calling striking miners and their supporters ‘the enemy within’.to frame arrested miners  for one of the most serious events  on the statute book - the offence of Riot. No police officer has ever been prosecuted or even disciplined for their role in the terrible events that occurred.
 Orgreave revealed the true intentions of Thatchers government, with the full collusion of the police ,it was noticed that they had no intention of finding reconciliation or settlement to this industrial dispute. The sole intention was an ideological one, to mortally wound the National Union of Mineworkers, to defeat it with military force and with naked violence ,by any means necessary.
 Just over a year later, in July 1985, the trial of 15 miners charged with riot and unlawful assembly collapsed with cases against a further 80 miners being subsequently dropped. The ‘enemy within’ were all acquitted,and eventually police paid out more than £400,000 compensation to 39 people who had taken action for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. but the state machinery that had assaulted them and subsequently fitted them up has never been held to account. 
 Immediately following Orgreave  there were calls for an inquiry into how the cases ever came to trial and the actions of the police, not just into the unprecedented violent and military-style policing deployed on the day, policing that resulted in many serious injuries to miners, but into the subsequent manufacturing of evidence that was presented at trial. Several Labour MPs, MPs who had supported the miners throughout the year strike, including Tony Benn, Martin Flannery, Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn along with the NUM called for an inquiry back in 1985.
In October 2016 the Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that there would be no statutory inquiry or independent review and some Government papers will not be released until 2066, when those involved will almost certainly be dead.
The  miners strike lasted until March 1985, during which it politicised a generation of people, sadly however at the end hundreds of mines closed afterwards and many miners faced redundancy. And dizzy with her own success, Thatcher began a policy of deindustrialisation of British industry and further impoverishment of working class  people, and a government assault upon unions has continued since.

The  miners  strike of 1984 was one of the longest and most brutal in British labour history. A heroic community fighting for jobs and survival was wholly denigrated and depicted as violent by the majority of the British media, at the time. Orgreave marked a turning point in the policing of public protest. It sent a message to the police that they could employ violence and lies with impunity. 
It was only a year after Orgreave that the so-called “Battle of the Beanfield” took place, with violent and unprovoked  attacks by the police on New Age travellers, followed by large-scale wrongful arrests. And more recently there have been examples of police “kettling” demonstrators in London for several hours – a kind of pre-emptive imprisonment.
In 2012, the  Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), was formed to campaign for a public inquiry into the policing of events at Orgreave following the success of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and revelations about corruption in South Yorkshire Police.An  inquiry alone will not be able to provide justice for the miners. An inquiry would simply be one section of the ruling class investigating another, which (at best) would result in Orgreave being put down to rogue police officers and irresponsible government ministers. But we  already know what happened. South Yorkshire Police used violent tactics to break the pickets and dutifully served as foot soldiers in Thatcher’s broader class war, the police riot at Orgreave was the work of the whole state apparatus; the government, police, and media working in tangent to crush the working class and the most militant sections of the labour movement. Similar events and state tactics were seen later in the same decade in the case of the Wapping print strike and the Hillsborough disaster. 
On April 15, 1989 at the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, inadequate crowd safety practices lead to crushing deaths of 96 people at a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. A recent inquiry concluded that South Yorkshire Police, who were responsible for crowd safety, were not only accountable for the deaths due to gross negligence, but were also guilty of manipulating witness statements and giving false evidence to shift the blame onto the fans and the victims themselves, as had happened at Orgreave.
Unlike the violence at Orgreave, this  tragedy was not intended. Yet the police perception of the football fans as hooligans who needed to be contained (rather than kept safe) and the subsequent attempts to smear the victims and their families, showed a blatant disregard for the lives of the people they were supposed to protect, suggesting contempt for the working class at the South Yorkshire Police.
Whilst it is hard to say how integral the battle between police and miners was to stoking this animosity, the subsequent establishment cover-ups were undoubtedly linked. Thatcher was indebted to the South Yorkshire Police for their assistance with crushing the unions and in return provided them with immunity for their failings at Hillsborough.
The police powers used at Orgreave and throughout the miners’ strike were about policing people exercising their right to protest. Democracy is not only about parliament and elected representatives. Protest and the right to assembly are a human right and have a fundamental role to play in a democratic society, to be part of the debate and influence and change the agenda.
Protests often challenge the status quo, encourage people and governments to think differently on fundamental issues and provide an essential voice for minority or marginalised groups.
The determination and success of the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign having their convictions overturned after 47 years and plans by the Scottish government to pardon miners convicted for matters relating to the ’84-5 strike reminds us that the freedom to campaign and protest in a democracy is essential. If the government does not respect the law, why should we?
37 years later and the lies and massive injustice still remain but  the truth will be heard, and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign continues and will be marking the anniversary of Orgreave on Saturday 19 June 2021 with an online rally at 1pm streamed live on their Facebook page. show your support for their campaign for truth and justice and to defend our right to protest.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Refugee Week 2021 : We Cannot Walk Alone


At the end of 2020, there were 79.5 million people forcibly displaced from their homes due to war, conflict or persecution for just being who they are. Whilst the majority are internally displaced within their home country there are 26 million who have sought protection as refugees in other countries, with around 4.2 million asylum seekers still waiting to hear whether they will be given legal protection in their new homes. The few thousands that arrive in the UK face a whole new set of barriers within our own bureaucratic asylum system facing a culture of disbelief from officials, being denied the right to work whilst waiting for claims to be processed and having to get by with minimal levels of support of little more than £5 a day. This is not to mention the trauma of finding yourself in a new country, separated from the people you love and where you may not speak the language.
Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in 1998 and held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June, Refugee Week is also a growing global movement.
Through a programme of arts, cultural, sports and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety.  Refugee Week is a platform for people who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives and creative work on their own terms.
 Refugee Week started in 1998 as a direct reaction to hostility in the media and society in general towards refugees and asylum seekers, to try and look  beyond the stereotypical ‘refugee’ label and work  to counter this negative climate, defending the importance of sanctuary and the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities.
Refugee Week’s vision is for refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution.
 The aims of Refugee Week are:
1. To encourage a diverse range of events to be held throughout the UK, which facilitate positive encounters between refugees and the general public in order to encourage greater understanding and overcome hostility.
2.To showcase the talent and expertise that refugees bring with them to the UK.
To explore new and creative ways of addressing the relevant issues and reach beyond the refugee sector.
3.To provide information which educates and raises awareness of the reality of refugee experiences
The ultimate aim is to create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration, enabling refugees to live in safety and continue making a valuable contribution.
Refugees are a real, current and terrible problem that we have in our world and possibly one that will get worse as war continues to devastate and uproot people, for instance since the conflict in Syria began more than six years ago, over 4.8m Syrians have fled from their country because of violence, conflict, and a complete collapse of Syria’s economy and infrastructure. Then there are those who have to leave low lying islands of the world as a consequence of climate change, and  people fleeing for their lives as a consequence of famine, violation of human rights, physical, political or religious persecution.
 Many refugees and asylum seekers face severe difficulties once they arrive in the UK. Unable to work or support themselves, many struggle for basics such as food and shelter. Some of the key issues they encounter are the possibility of detention, living in destitution and contending with negative stereotypes.Most of those who are granted asylum are given leave to remain for only five years, making it difficult for them to make decisions about their future, including finding work and making definite plans for their life in the UK while it remains unsafe for them to return to the country they escaped from. As fellow humans we have a responsibility to respond to their specific needs in times of crisis. Many of these asylum seekers come to us as a last resort, having exhausted all alternatives, with nowhere else to turn. We should also remember  all those suffering abuse in detention centres and those facing repatriation despite the dangers that they face.
Refugee Week is an umbrella festival, with events held by a wide range of arts, voluntary, faith and refugee community organisations, schools, student groups and more. Past events have included arts festivals, exhibitions, film screenings, theatre and dance performances, concerts, football tournaments and public talks, as well as creative and educational activities in schools.
 The theme of Refugee Week 2021 is We Cannot Walk Alone, a phrase used by Martin Luther King in his historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech when he turns his attention to the White people who, realising their destiny and that of their Black fellow citizens was intertwined, joined the movement for equal rights.
“They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom,” he said. “We cannot walk alone.”
Life is tough for many of us right now, and the future feels very uncertain. Looking after ourselves, our families and communities takes time and energy. There is so much to do.
The challenges of the past year have exposed the deep inequalities between us, including in housing, income and access to healthcare. But the crisis has also shown how interconnected we are – that the wellbeing of each of us depends on the welfare, safety and hard work of others. We are part of a shared ‘us’.
Martin Luther King may have been speaking during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, but his words resonate across space and time. Here in the UK and across the world today, we know that it is on by coming together that we will move forward. That when we choose to walk side by side, to share networks and resources, or make space for others to lead, we create deeper and longer-lasting change than is possible alone.
The theme of Refugee Week 2021, ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’, is an invitation to extend your hand to someone new. Someone who is outside your current circle, has had an experience you haven’t, or is fighting for a cause you aren’t yet involved in. We cannot walk alone, which means we choose to walk side by side. To share networks, resources, and support each other.
  While the government plans to introduce new hostile policies towards people seeking safety – we  should support groups across the UK giving the welcome everyone deserves. From food  and emergency accommodation to LGBT+ support, legal aid and psychological support to help people on the road to rebuilding their lives.
 Whoever and wherever you are, I hope you’ll join in making Refugee Week 2021 a bold, collective act of reaching out; a space for us all to listen, to exchange and connect. To find out what we can learn from each other, and what we can build together. To continue to stand in solidarity with displaced people and grow our understanding of refugee experience.

While our politicians often try to paint a small number of people seeking safety as a threat, we know this only serves to distract us from the real issue, politics without empathy. We know a bbetter, fairer, kinder alternative is possible.Please add your name for the call for a UK that truly makes refugees welcome. 

Friday, 11 June 2021

Beyond mediocrity

Your heart is a mere mass
Of blood and valves
Pumping to keep you alive.

The mind is a collection
Of cells and neurons
Making us conscious of our existence.

Alpha is past
But never was.
Omega is future
We can all taste reality.

Feelings can dangerously ensnare
Release anger, pain and hatred 
Jealousy, deception, depression
Fear swelling up deep inside.

Thoughts can teach us
Tell us which way to go
Ride through nightmares
Carry us through stormy weather.

Is the chorus of fools
Blind indifference
To the suffering all around us
Passionless does not give a fuck.

Life is a lesson
Roads open or closed
The taste of love
Struggles verified and unbroken.

Compassion delivers justice
Without it, no peace 
Harness it, remain undeterred 
With laughter too, stay faithful and true.

There are beginnings and endings
Dances with different names
Challenges constantly unravelling
Dreams, sweet like honey
Clearing cobwebs from mind.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Emily Wilding Davison (11/10/1872 - 8/6/1913) Militant Suffragette Remembered.

Today is the anniversary of the death of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison whose bravery helped achieve Votes for Women which  would not have been won in 1918 without the struggles and sacrifices of hundreds of brave her.  
Emily Wildling Davison was born in Blackheath in southeast London, on 11th Otober, 1872.In November 1906 the Women's Social and Political Union enrolled Emily Davison. She was thirty-four years old and employed as governess to the four children of Sir Francis Layland-Barratt, the Liberal MP for Torquay and High Sheriff for Cornwall. While her involvement with the WSPU remained low-key she continued working for the family until, eighteen months later, her urge to 'come out' as a militant would lead her to resign and join the campaign. 
Emily was soon involved in Suffragette militant demonstrations.
In the afternoon of 30 March 1909, Dora Marsden, carrying a tricolour flag, led a deputation of twenty-nine women, Emily among them, to see Herbert Asquith at the House of Commons, although he had refused to meet them. Accompanied by a brass band and singing 'The Marseillaise', the women reached St Stephen's Entrance, but Dora Marsden, less than five feet tall, became tangled up with three police horses and the staff of her umbrella was broken. One Suffragette hit a constable on the head with her umbrella, other policemen had their helmets knocked off.
Ten women were charged with obstruction and assaulting the police, and sentenced to between one and three months. For Emily Davison, this was her first time in gaol; it would not be her last.
On 2 August, Emily Davison, whose prison file describes her as 'bad', wrote to Herbert Gladstone, the Home Secretary, from Holloway describing her treatment. Emily said she was 'forced' into a cell and broke seventeen panes of glass to let in some air. She was transferred to a cell where the glass was thicker but still managed to break seven panes, also cutting her hand. They stripped her and put her into a prison chemise; when the doctor tried to 'sound' her heart she resisted and was taken to a punishment cell.
'Ours is a bloodless revolution but a determined one' she wrote to Gladstone. Emily said that she and others were 'ready to suffer, to die if need be, but we demand justice!'
 Emily Davison joined the dozens of Suffragette prisoners who were officially on hunger strike. In a manuscript prepared for the WSPU she provided a vivid account of the protest made by Suffragettes who were being kept in solitary confinement and force-fed in their cells. On 22 June 1912, near the end of a new six-month sentence in Holloway, she threw herself over the handrail and wire netting outside her second-floor cell and landed at the bottom of the steps of the floor below.
 Earlier in the day she and others had barricaded themselves into their cells, 'a regular siege took place... on all sides we heard crowbars, blocks, wedges being used, joiners battering on doors with all their might. The barricading was followed by sounds of human struggle, the chair of torture [used for force-feeding] being pushed about, suppressed cries of the victims, groans and other horrible sounds.' She decided that she had to make a 'desperate protest' to end the 'hideous torture'.
Ten days before the end of her six-month sentence, on 28 June 1912, Emily Davison was released in a run-down state, two stone lighter, with two scalp wounds. She had been force-fed forty-nine times. 
Emily continued her campaign of militancy by breaking windows, setting fire to postboxes, and attempting to assault Lloyd George. Despite her constant support for the Suffragette cause, she was never employed as a paid Organiser by the Women's Social and Political Union, and not all the articles that she submitted were published in suffrage newspapers.
At a time when it was almost impossible for women to take a degree, she  still managed to earn a First Class honours, from London University via St Hughs College, Oxford.On another occasion she hid overnight in Parliament so she could claim it as her address on census night, an exploit marked with a plaque by Tony Benn in 1999.
The Daily Sketch published Emily’s last article on 28 May 1913. The language of ‘The Price of Liberty’ is apocalyptic. ‘The perfect Amazon is she who will sacrifice all … to win the Pearl of Freedom [the vote] for her sex. Some of the bounteous pearls that women sell to obtain freedom… are the pearls of friendship, love and even life itself.’ Emily refers to the ‘terrible suffering’ she has endured, the loss of ‘old friends, recently- made friends, and they all go one by one into the Limbo of the burning fiery furnace, a grim holocaust to liberty’. She argues in favour of making ‘the ultimate sacrifice’, happy to pay the ‘highest price for liberty’. 
 Emily had agreed to be a helper at the Suffragette Fair and Festival at the Empress Rooms, Kensington, on Derby Day, but she decided to visit the fair the night before, and discussed with Kitty Marion and others ‘the possibility of making a protest on the race course, without apparently coming to any decision’. As the women strolled into the festival, they were faced by a statue of Joan of Arc, bare- headed and holding her sword pointing to heaven. On the plinth were emblazoned Joan’s reputed last words: ‘Fight On and God Will Give the Victory.’
The weather on Wednesday 4 June 1913 was forecast to be sultry with thunderstorms. That morning Emily left Alice Green’s home at 133 Clapham Road, Lambeth, and walked to Oval to catch a tram to Victoria station, where she bought a return ticket for Epsom Downs. Before she left she told Alice what she was going to do. She pinned a purple, white and green flag inside her jacket and took her latch key, a small leather purse containing three shillings and eight pence and three farthings, eight halfpenny stamps and a notebook. Another suffragette flag was tucked up her sleeve. Emily walked to the racecourse and bought a Dorling’s List of Epsom Races.
Emily made her way to Tattenham Corner, a tricky place for horse and rider in the gruelling mile and a half race. This was the biggest day out in Edwardian England. Here at three o’clock, the apex of the social pyramid met its base. The King and Queen and their entourage added glamour to an occasion that welcomed both the establishment and the working class at play.
Emily squeezed close to the rails. As the race started the sixteen horses and riders ran straight for three furlongs before the course climbed to a gradient of one in fifteen. The King's horse, Anmer, made a good start. At seven furlongs the field took the left turn downhill for five furlongs and this is where Anmer fell away to the group at the back. The leading horses pounded towards the spot where Emily was waiting. Tons of horseflesh and men flashed past, spittle, sweat, huge eyes rolling with the effort, the noise of the crowd was bewildering. Everyone was screaming the names of their horses for that brief moment, and jumping up and urging them on. The trailing bunch, including Anmer, approached. Emily fiddled with the sleeve of her jacket, bobbed under the white railings, and made history. She stepped out in front of King George V’s racehorse, Anmer, Thrown violently to the ground upon impact, she never regained consciousness and died four days later on this day, 8/6/1913.
Sacrificing herself to the suffragette slogan, “Deeds not words” in protest against Parliament’s refusal to grant voting rights to women, Davison remains a feminist icon, viewed by many as a martyr for women’s rights.
Davison is often remembered for her final protest running onto the course of the Epsom Derby in 1912 in an attempt to  pin the sufragette colors to the Kings horse.  A final act that would cost Davison her life and acqure her the status of 'Sufragette Martyr'. Let us remember her bravery, tenacity and passion, who used deeds as well as words to get her message out. She who  made the ultimate sacrifice for one of life's causes. 
On Saturday 14 June 1913, a special guard of honour of Emily’s closest friends brought her body from Epsom to Victoria railway station. Six thousand women marched from Buckingham Palace Road to Emily Davison’s funeral service at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury. Ten brass bands marched behind each section playing funereal marches.
The coffin was escorted by Elsie Howey on a white horse dressed as Joan of Arc, and two contingents of hunger strikers walked behind the hearse which was laden with wreaths. Banners in purple silk included Joan of Arc’s last words: ‘Fight On and God Will Give the Victory’. Central London stopped.
She had succeeded in bringing global attention to the sufragettes cause, triggering a fierce wave of feminist resistance and activism to the feminist cause, with her place in history guaranteed in an almost mythic way. Lest we forget her legacy to women today, a reminder of the strength of feeling, of the acts these brave Edwardian women were prepared to carry out so women could be treated as full citizens economically and politically.

The late Tony Benn illegally put up several plaques around the House of Commons to unrecognised heroes of democracy. Here' one he screwed to the door of a broom cupboard aided by Jeremy Corbyn in commemoration of Emily Wilding Davison.
Here's a link to Tony Benn's  speech in parliament in 2011 when he admitted to his illegal activities.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

The Last Bird of Its Kind, Singing for a Mate That Will Never Come.


In Hawaii's Kauai island, the native forest birds are in peril. Once considered a paradise for the colorful songbirds, the island has lost more than half of those native species.Over the coming decades, species are predicted to go extinct a 1000 times the historical natural rate, and in 100 years the planet may lose up to 50 percent of all species alive today.
The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō or ʻōʻōʻāʻā (Moho braccatus) bird was among the smallest of the Hawaian honeyeaters, if not the smallest species, at just over 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length. It was the only ʻōʻō  known to have eyes with yellow irises. It was named dwarf ʻōʻō  by the natives. It was very vocal, making tranquil flute like calls. Both males and females were known to sing. It was endemic to the island of Kauaʻi and was common in the subtropical forests of the island until the early twentieth century when its decline began.Although listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1987 the last Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was male, and his song was recorded for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The male was recorded singing a mating call. The song has breaks for the female bird to respond. for them to harmonize together and make beautiful songs. But there's no response and so desperately sad, because this bird is waiting  for someone no longer there as the male Kauaʻi ʻōʻō is the last of its kind.
 This haunting song of the Kaua‘i ‘Ō‘ō will  never be heard in the wild again, since it has not been detected since 1987, and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists it as extinct. Habitat  destruction and invasive species were the likely causes of the species decline and loss.
Knowing it are the last calls of an entire individual species is uneasy to hear,maybe this bird knew he was the last and he was singing goodbye cruel world. Though the song is incomplete, and ever so sad because such  sound will ever be sung again.what remains is very beautiful. Someday the last human will call out too, and nobody will be there to answer the call.. 
Today, the Kauai ʻōʻō is extinct but other native forest birds such as the I'iwi are still around. but face the threats of invasive species and climate change. Luckily, conservationists are dedicated to ensuring a thriving future for these rare birds. Conservationists are hopeful that by working to remove invasive species and use captive breeding programs to bolster populations they can help these forest birds fill the forests once again. The ʻōʻō serves as a reminder to strive to prevent extinctions of these endemic birds.
The Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project is an organization that promotes the knowldge, appreciation.  awareness and conservation of the native forest birds of Kaua‘i’, Hawaii. It is a collaboration between the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry & Wildlife and the University of Hawaii's Pacific Studies Cooperative Unit. 
The project began in 2003 and advocates for the unique birds of Kaua‘i’. Only eight species of forest birds remain on Kaua‘i’ due to invasive species, plants, disease, and climate change.These include federally endangered birds such as the Akeke’e, Akikiki, and the Puaiohi as well as native birds like the Kaua’i ‘Amakihi, Apapane, Anianiau, Kaua’i Elepaio, and 'I'iwi.
 Invasive species including rats, threaten the remaining birds by destroying nests and aggressively competing for food. This is a common problem in areas in which species have evolved without natural predators. Where humans go, so do rats and their destructive nature. Unfortunately, this means animals like the forest birds of Kaua‘i  simply have no natural defense mechanisms against predatory species. It is a problem that we as humans have created and one that we need to fix.
If after all that  you fancy an hours worth of the plaintive cry of the the Kauai ʻōʻō  bird, you can listen below.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre


It's 100 years since white mobs attacked Black residents descndents of slaves of the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma. and inflicted two days of terror. The assault began on May 31, soon after the Tulsa Tribune newspaper published a racially-charged report that a Black teenager had been arrested for allegedly assaulting a 17-year-old white woman in an elevator - despite no formal complaint being made against him by the woman.
The white attackers – some of whom were deputised by civil officials and given weapons – laid siege to Greenwood, home to a thriving stretch of businesses known as Black Wall Street. They indiscriminately attacked Black residents while ransacking and torching homes and businesses. White assailants strafed Greenwood with machine-gun fire from overlooks. The slaughter was even waged from the sky, as aircraft pilots dropped dynamite and turpentine bombs on the district.
When the smoke cleared in June 1921, the toll from the massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was catastrophic — scores of lives lost, homes and businesses burned to the ground, a thriving Black community gutted by a white mob. Hundreds of Black residents of Greenwood were killed in the 18-hour orgy of violence directed against them. 
 The nightmare cried for attention, as something to be investigated and memorialized, with speeches and statues and anniversary commemorations.
But the horror and violence visited upon Tulsa's Black community  didn’t become part of the American story. Instead, it was pushed down, unremembered and untaught until efforts decades later started bringing it into the light. No one was held responsible for the massacre , there was no apology from the state and survivors and families of those who were killed were cut adrift. Insurance companies refused to pay claims for the loss of homes and businesses, citing that the attack was a ‘riot’ rather than a co-ordinated onslaught on the black community. 
 Thousands of survivors were forced for a time into internment camps overseen by the National Guard.  Black residents who were left destitute after the attack on Greenwood departed Tulsa and never returned. While parts of Greenwood were rebuilt, by the 1970s all but a tiny part the district had again been razed - this time to make way for a motorway under the guise of ‘urban renewal’. The fight for justice for the 1921 massacre has continued down the generations, against the efforts of state and Tulsa city officials over the years to first cover up and later minimise what happened.Survivors and descendants of those killed, injured and dispossessed by the attack on Greenwood point to a legacy of trauma and the loss of generational wealth, and are leading calls for reparations. They are backed by members of US Congress.  
In 1997, the state Legislature created what was called the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, and it published its final report in 2001. It found that the city of Tulsa had conspired to destroy Greenwood..
"This Commission fully understands that it is neither judge nor jury. We have no binding legal authority to assign culpability, to determine damages, to establish a remedy, or to order either restitution or reparations," commissioners wrote. However, the report suggested that reparations to the Greenwood community "would be good public policy and do much to repair the emotional and physical scars of this terrible incident in our shared past."
According to the commission's report, the massacre destroyed some 40-square blocks in Greenwood. Nearly 10,000 people were left homeless as 1,256 homes were looted and burned down. And the thriving commercial district was destroyed — some of the finest Black-owned and operated businesses in the country, including hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, a theater, a roller skating rink, hospitals and doctors' offices, law firms and churches.
In 2001, eighty years after the massacre, Oklahoma approved funds to redevelop the area and build a memorial.Today, the Greenwood Cultural Center stands in the same community where the massacre took place, committed to preserving and sharing the proud and tragic history of "Black Wall Street." 
In 2013, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan took some responsibility when he apologized for the actions of the police department during the 1921 Massacre: “I cannot apologize for the actions, inaction and dereliction that those individual officers and their chief exhibited during that dark time. But as your chief today, I can apologize for our police department. I am sorry and distressed that the Tulsa Police Department did not protect its citizens during those tragic days in 1921.” However, similar statements of responsibility from other city officials have been notably lacking.,
In 2019. the Emmy winning HBO series  "Watchmen " sparked a wave of interest in the little known tragedy. The show inspired  bu a comic book depicted chilling scenes of what happened there. Viewers were shocked to realize that the assault was a real event grounded in horrifying facts. 
The tireless work of community activists has also brought the Tulsa Race Massacre into new focus. A Centennial Commission has worked on several community and educational projects to commemorate the Massacre, including a successful effort to include the history of the Massacre in the curriculum of state schools. The Reverend Dr. Robert Turner, pastor of the Historic Vernon Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, has been among many leaders calling for reparations.
 There is a strong case that the United States is not currently meeting its international human rights obligations as a result of its failure to adequately address past and ongoing racial injustice. The continued lack of accountability for the Tulsa Race Massacre provides just one particularly painful example.
Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the terrible history of the Tulsa Race Massacre and making a powerful case that reparations are long overdue. One of the survivors of the Massacre, Lessie Benningfield Randle, at age 105, has joined with the relatives of other survivors in a new lawsuit seeking reparations, including payment for property damage calculated at $50 million to $100 million in today’s dollars. The suit uses legal arguments similar to those that proved successful in holding a pharmaceutical company accountable for the community harm caused by the opioid crisis.
 Despite these important efforts, many obstacles remain to achieving justice in Tulsa. Persistent racial discrimination continues in the form of neighborhood segregation, mistrust by the black community of white city officials and police, and, as described in the Tulsa reparations lawsuit, a legacy of overt public disinvestment in the area. An annual study shows significant and persistent inequality in the city, in particular on issues of law enforcement and access to justice. And in June 2020 a police officer in Tulsa made a painfully racist comment suggesting that police in the city are shooting Black people “less than we probably ought to be.”
 An emotional President Joe Biden marked the 100th anniversary of the massacre declaring Tuesday that he had “come to fill the silence” about one of the nation’s darkest — and long suppressed — moments of racial violence..Linking the white massacre to modern day subjugation pointedly including voters rights suppression. promising survivors their truth will be known.
 “Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they cannot be buried, no matter how hard people try,” Biden said. “Only with truth can come healing.”
Biden’s commemoration of the deaths of hundreds of Black people killed by a white mob a century ago came amid the current national reckoning on racial justice.  
“Just because history is silent, it does not mean that it did not take place,” Biden said. He said “hell was unleashed, literal hell was unleashed.” And now, he said, the nation must come to grips with the subsequent sin of denial.
“We can’t just choose what we want to know, and not what we should know,” said Biden. “I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence wounds deepen.”
The truth of this massacre  was never spoken by a President before and remember that long silences, cover ups and horrible injustices go hand in hand. 
After Biden left, some audience members spontaneously sang a famous civil rights march song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”
The events Tuesday stood in stark contrast to then-President Donald Trump’s trip to Tulsa last June, which was greeted by protests. Or the former president’s decision, one year ago, to clear Lafayette Square near the White House of demonstrators who gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer..

Looking Back at Tulsa Race Massacre