Not ‘sharing the love’ – An open letter to the BBC – 29/4/18

In an interview in 1999, the former BBC news presenter, Moira Stewart, stated “many don’t know what’s happening to black people and the rest don’t care.” This was said in the context of the British public’s reaction to the media coverage of the Stephen Lawrence Murder case. Ironic, really, that after the BBC gave much coverage to the 25th anniversary of Stephen’s murder, captured in their programme ‘Stephen: The murder that changed a nation’, they still don’t seem to get how racism is perpetuated by their own network. The case in question is the promo for the royal wedding (at this point let me state for the record that I don’t give two monkeys about royalty, anywhere on this planet, and can’t understand why anyone gives the likes of them the time of day in the 21st century) the questionably titled ‘Share the Love’, in which not one black couple, regardless of age, gender, sexual preference etc. etc. was featured. What we did get was an old black woman reminiscing on ‘love’, I suppose – without a context – whilst the other contributors spoke about, well, ‘love stuff’ in tandem with one another.

Now before you reduce me to the paranoid, which is what usually happens when I point out blatant acts of institutionalised racism, the BBC are just following the tried and trusted method that is replete across subscription channels, with regard to black invisibility/erasure. For instance, the current bank advert where the mother of the black bride-to-be ends up paying for her daughter’s wedding to, you guessed it, some white dude, thereby taking up the traditional role of the father. More perniciously, it absolutely reinforces the notion of the absentee ‘black father’, who is nowhere to be seen, which is also the main point of a lotto advert with a black youth dismissing his father in a few breaths, whilst celebrating the role of his ‘single mum’ in his life. Add to this, the advert for a food item where we see various familial situations, where the only single figure featured is a black woman holding a baby and not looking very happy; I could go on, but think you get the point. Yet, I know, some will claim it’s coincidental, ‘unwitting racism’ or ‘unconscious bias’, but for me these are not valid excuses or reasons for this deliberate erasure in the 21st century, which is why in my work on racist or discriminatory practices, I point out unequivocally that this is ‘strategic avoidance’. Whoever, was responsible for creating this piece must have known there are black families out there, or even black people/couples, old and young, who love each other, and – as such – should be represented in the BBC demographic.

We all know that within any so called ‘race’ we have instances of the phenomenon of the absentee male presence; so, if channels that are dependent upon advertising revenue choose to exploit it, then that’s up to them. The BBC is another matter, as we pay for this ‘service’ and should be treated equally as black people, in all aspects of its representational coverage of the society we are in, which is the society they serve. It is therefore hard enough to take the fact that the BBC is still white (male) dominated in every sphere of its activities, but enough is enough; fix up and deliver the service your viewers are forced to pay for, or is it still the case that “many don’t know what’s happening to black people and the rest don’t care.” If it is, then consult those who do know and – more importantly – do care.

Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry
Associate Professor
School of Law and Criminology
University of West London
#drlezhenry

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2007 – FIGHTING THE WILBERFARCE

This is something I wrote in 2007 and is for those who wanted to know about a series of talks I delivered that year, refuting the idea that the Clapham sect etc. were responsible for ending the chattel enslavement of African people. I have a DVD of the talk somewhere and when I locate it I will put it online as it will put the BBC2’s ‘Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners’ ( I am certain that most people of African ancestry didn’t forget them) in its proper context. Peace and blessings.

“History should not be hidden under the cloak of racism and prejudice. Truth is bound to be the final victor irrespective of all the desperate attempts by the Europeans and their cohorts to distort, hide or destroy Afrikan peoples’ achievements.”
Dr. Kwame Osei (2006 – http://www.blackbritain.co.uk)

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Greetings

2007 is going to be a dread year for peoples of Afrikan descent; irrespective of where we find ourselves, as members of the human family, on this planet. Osei states above what needs to be remembered in what is a unique event in world history, the global recognition that something was done to peoples of Afrikan descent by ‘Europeans and their cohorts’. We must seize this moment and use it as a catalyst for reparative change, if we truly seek to right historical wrongs and not get caught up in the blame game that usually places penal systems of enslavement, or debt peonage on the Afrikan continent, as the main reasons for chattel enslavement. We must be cognizant of the fact that we will be bombarded with be a ‘set of lies’ that are rooted in historical falsification and propelled by a mainstream media that is white dominated, Eurocentric and racist. That explains why we are presently being fed the usual diet of white saviours of black people and several, ‘Wilberfarce’ events will take place on March 25th 2007 to ‘celebrate’ (are Jews expected to celebrate their holocaust?) 200 years since the abolition of the so called ‘trade’ in African chattel slaves.

There are in the pipeline several very public ‘celebrations’ where carefully crafted, ‘apologetic’ statements will be the main course; with full media coverage, of course. Such ‘celebrations’ will do little to address the real issues the Afrikan faces as a consequence of the MAAFA; the Afrikan Holocaust of chattel enslavement. For these and other reasons many grassroots organizations in the UK have mobilized themselves to collectively challenge the latest, institutionally sanctioned, assault on Afrikan humanity and place white involvement in black liberation in its proper context; which is what I do in the lecture that the title of this piece is drawn from.

If 2007 is going to mean anything at all it then it must be used as a catalyst to effect real change in the way the Afrikan is presented as a member of the human family, with a rich and valuable history that predates the chattel slave era, because mindless ‘celebrations’ cannot right historical wrongs. Neither can the clamour to include the history of the so called slave trade in the National Curriculum, unless it is placed in its historical context. Because without an understanding of what the Afrikan has contributed to world civilisation for millennia in the areas of art, science, religion, architecture, literature, language (written and spoken) navigation, etc., its inclusion will do little more than compound the Afrikan’s status as the ‘white mans burden’. For instance, we often hear crass comments about slavery as a fact of all human experiences, which all people have gone through at some point in their history. However ‘no other members of the human family were subjected to a uniquely constructed notion of difference, sanctioned by laws’, (Henry 2006:36) that equated the African to ‘three-fifths of a human being’ (Anderson, 1997:47) who ‘were so far inferior that they had no rights that a white man was bound to respect’ (Mullane, 1993:132). No other group has had to combat this ‘mathematical equation’.

2007 cannot be reduced to a conversation about the horrors of chattel enslavement alone, because this will delude people into thinking that because we no longer witness the mass kidnapping, raping, lynching and burning of Afrikans, things have improved. In fact according to Brother Hakim: “who said slavery was done? The slave master never said he retired. He’s just changed the game”. 2007 must be about repairing the physical, spiritual, cultural and psychological damage that has placed the Afrikan in a position of disadvantage, in this place and at this time. I would encourage people to be mindful of one-off ‘celebrations’ and other events that uncritically accept the dominant version of history and to support events that seek to educate, empower and uplift. In closing I wish to leave you with the following words that eloquently capture the ethos behind our endeavours to tell our own stories:

“My wish is that the information will permeate the national curriculum and educational institutions alike, so that all may gain a deeper insight and appreciation of the insidious nature of the transatlantic slave trade. It should therefore be our aim that the commemorations are meaningful, respectful, and used as a source of empowerment for all involved.”

Tracey Jarrett (Coordinator Lewisham Ethnic Minority Partnership)

HOTEP!

References
Anderson, Claud. (1997) Dirty Little Secrets About Black History, It’s Heroes, And other Troublemakers, USA: PowerNomics Corporation of America.

Henry, William (Lez). (2006) What The Deejay Said: A Critique From The Street! London: Learning By Choice Publications.

Mullane, Deirdre. (1993) Crossing The Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African American Writing, New York: Doubleday.

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A symphony for sympathy!

“Now half the world hates the other half,   and half the world has all the food, and half the world lies down and quietly starves. ‘Cause there’s not enough love to go around. Sympathy is what we need my friend, cause there’s not enough love to go round.”   (Rare Bird, Sympathy, 1969)

“These walls have witnessed all the anguish of humiliation, and seen the hope of freedom glow in shining faces, and now they’ve come to take me, come to break me, and yet it isn’t unexpected, I have been waiting for these visitors. Help me.” (Abba, The Visitors, 1981)

 

Greetings to all

I chaired a conference the other day (23/10/14) for Lewisham Council’s Black Multicultural Forum and a beautiful sister gave a candid talk on Lupus, which according to the NHS Website “is a complex and poorly understood condition that affects many parts of the body and causes symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.” The sister spoke of not having a ‘pain free day since 1998’, if my memory serves me correctly, but what struck me more than any of the sometimes quite heart-string pulling and deeply disturbing graphic details associated with the condition she shared with us, was something she said to me as we prepared to go to lunch.

The sister said that because she can look really healthy, one of the worst experiences she has is when Traffic Wardens, and members of the public see her disability badge and question its authenticity. Immediately I was reminded of the self-same experiences my biological little sister who has now passed on, may peace be upon her, had with people who doubted she was ill and I shared it with the sister. In her case she had a heart transplant in her twenties and lived for almost twenty years, enduring visits to/stays at Papworth Hospital where the wonderful staff there took the best care of her. Similarly, when she had a good day, which meant relatively little pain and was able to move pretty freely and because she knew how to fix-up herself meant she was always well presented.

I clearly recall the first time she told me about when a Traffic Warden confronted her and accused her of feigning illness after she had parked up her car and displayed the badge and was walking away. Now my little sister was not an easy person so what she did was unbuttoned the top of her blouse and showed this dude the scar that ran from her neck right down the middle of her chest. She told me the man was obviously ashamed and looked like he was going to have a heart attack himself, but the real point is, and why I opened with a few lines from a song I remember as a little boy, forget about love where’s the sympathy that should perhaps trigger compassion towards our fellow humans is?

I ask this question because I have been thinking about this for quite a while and recently I have witnessed things, mundane things, innocuous things that have led me to write this brief piece. One of which was when I was getting on the escalator to go down to the platform to get the tube, I noticed a woman struggling to make the first step onto the escalator. As I walked towards her I counted at least nine people just brush her aside and go on their merry way, oblivious to her predicament, yet before I could assist her a young man took her hand and led her onto the escalator so I waited to see if she was okay to get off it and she was. This made me think of the situation with Brenda Leyland, AKA, ‘sweepyface’, AKA the McCann ‘Twitter troll’ who was hounded by the press and then took her own life.

Now this may not be a popular opinion but when I first heard about this story I thought that woman needs some kind of psychological help, because anyone who devotes their life to doing that sort of thing must be suffering from mental ill health. The point is that far too often we take for granted that someone who looks healthy/well is just that, but as Abba suggest above, “I have been waiting for these visitors. Help me.” The way I interpret those words is the ‘visitors’ could be the ‘inner voices’ that compel some individuals to behave a certain way, or it could be the literal voices of those ‘visitors’ who have come to institutionalise me. The latter is easy to understand but then who will help the silent sufferers who do not openly display symptoms of what ails them, physically, socially, culturally, spiritually or psychologically?

Before our high tech world of virtual super highways, how would someone who was obsessed, like ‘sweepyface’ clearly was, express themselves? Obviously in person if you were near enough, by snail mail or threatening phone calls, so isn’t it obvious that if we now have the immediacy of twitter etc. the sheer volume of pestering/abuse/ cyber-stalking etc. will increase along the virtual super highways exponentially. I don’t recall any of this being mentioned in the wider public arena and if it was it would have been buried, simply because of the child who went missing and what we have been fed with regard to that case, means that any vocal/written defence of the ‘troll’ who may well have been mentally ill would be seen as an expression of taking her side. Well I am not on any side as I wasn’t there when the child went missing, but what bothers me is the notion that if you dare to speak against what is regarded as the ‘truth’, proven or unproven, in such cases you will receive little or no sympathy in this society.

Yet the supreme irony to all of this was the second half of the conference I chaired the other day, which I mentioned in the opening of this piece, was all about love. In this case it was a celebration of Lovers’ Rock music, which is a genre of reggae that was created in the UK in the 1970s and perhaps is a counter to the idea that there ‘is not enough love to go round’; evidenced in the love, warmth and vibes we all felt when we sang our hearts out in one harmony as members of the human family! A veritable symphony for sympathy!

Peace and blessings

Dr. Lez Henry

 

 

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The relevance of Black History Month in the UK

Black History Month in the UK is an important month for everyone who lives in the UK and I believe that if it was given the level of importance that other annual celebrations receive, the general public would soon understand why. As an educator it continues to amaze me that as a person of African ancestry I still have to ‘prove’, in the 21st Century, that I have a history that predates chattel slavery. More importantly, black history is generally regarded as story about a people suffering enslavement and then being freed, with an emphasis on the Abolition and then the Civil Rights movement. Consequently when I go into schools that are predominantly filled with African and African Caribbean students to deliver BHM talks, there is an overwhelming sense of shame in the air. I am talking about students visibly sliding down in their seats when they see me because they expect to hear solely about the horrors of slavery, coupled with an attack on white people. Considering the teachers of these children are predominantly white you can sympathise with them as many of us, old and young, often react to what we expect to hear based on what we know, or think we know, so we often switch off before anything has been shared. 

When I begin to speak about the black contribution to world history and civilisation, which pre-dates the period of chattel enslavement, by racist Europeans and their African collaborators, this reaction/response is sadly a recurring experience. For this reason my approach is generally to inform the students and their teachers that I am here to discuss history and if black people made a contribution that I am aware of, I will share that knowledge with them. This approach is a radical departure from the norm and immediately piques the interest of those gathered. That for me is how we make the month significant to all of us who live in the UK as it gives us a unique opportunity to explore a ‘hidden’ aspect of British history that challenges the way history is presently taught in schools. I therefore explain to the students by giving them examples of how we experience black history every single day in some way, shape or form, which means it is the mind-set that needs changing as the history is always there. We just need to learn how to see it and not be afraid to discuss it in an open and honest way. Not just during the month of October, which is significant in many ways, but whenever the need arises as history cannot and should not be racialised. Everyone has a history and therefore everyone should have a say in how that history is taught in schools, colleges and universities.  By providing an opportunity for every citizen in the UK to be exposed to the fullness of a black historical presence that predates chattel slavery, especially our children, we would soon see a shift in the way we view each other as valid and valued members of the human family.

Dr Lez Henry

August 2012

www.drlez.co.uk

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THE SMA CREW: THE REAL “TOP” BOYS!

THE SMA CREW: THE REAL “TOP” BOYS!

A few months ago I had just finished delivering one of my empowerment talks to young people at an event in London, when I was approached by an immaculately dressed white gentleman who informed me that he represented the SMA Crew, from Lewisham. He informed me that he was mightily impressed with my presentation and that he would like to arrange a meeting between me and them. I thought to myself I am familiar with most of the crews in that part of London but had never heard of them. I began to think that this crew must be pretty fearsome to have stayed off the police and local community radar, so to speak.  I mean according to the gentleman they were young men in their mid teens, predominantly black, fiercely loyal to each other, territorial when it came to ‘reppin their endz’ (blue-borough or bluisham) and did not take kindly to anyone who tried to deter them from their everyday business. Somewhat intrigued I gave him one of my business cards and he said he would be in touch and he did so the very next day. To cut a long story short we set up the meeting via email and it transpired that the SMA Crew wished for me to explain to them, in person, why I was going into various communities and promoting the value of a good education, when according to the general media representation black boys aren’t into that stuff.

I have to state here that I was a bit nervous about meeting  these young men as in my years of working with the likes of them in schools, colleges, Pupil Referral Units and for Youth Offending Teams etc., I have been threatened with ‘shanking’ (stabbing),  ‘taxing’ (the forcible taking of my laptop, phone, money etc.) ‘shooting’ and so on, but for me there was something even more worrying about them. This was a real concern over how they keep such a low profile and have the power to get people like the white gentleman to act on their behalf in such a professional and sophisticated way. I mean everything was done in the most cordial fashion, from the initial approach to working out the logistics of when and where the meeting would take place. Add to this the fact that the venue I was to meet them in was extremely impressive as well. Not the kind of place I would associate with them, period.

On the evening of the event, around 6.45, I pulled into the car park and saw a few young men waiting outside the building  and as I walked by them they all greeted me with a very warm welcome to which I returned my own. As I entered the building I saw the gentleman who had invited me in the main hall where there were quite a few adults milling around and he greeted me, offered me refreshments and then ushered me to my seat. At this point, to my knowledge anyway, I had not seen or met any of the SMA Crew and when I asked where they were he stated “they will be arriving shortly and will occupy all of the reserved tables at the front of the hall.” I looked at my watch and the time was now 6.59. The event was due to begin at 7pm sharp and almost on cue I saw about twenty or so young men enter the main hall, many were dressed proper gangster. I mean fine suits, shirts, ties the whole shebang!

The gentleman who extended the invite to me kicked off the evening by stating that he wished to show us some media footage from the summer of 2011, which features the SMA Crew in all of their glory and I thought here we go again. The footage was from ITV’s London Today Programme 25/8/11, which began with the reporter Rachel Millichip stating:

“Less than twelve years ago children in this part of Southeast London were leaving school without qualifications. Their school, St Josephs Academy, was classed as having serious weaknesses by Ofsted. St Josephs was closed and since the newly built Business and Enterprise St Matthew Academy was opened in 2007, these young people have been gaining some results to celebrate. It’s an impressive turnaround with results improving year on year. In 2009 23% of students gained 5 A-C grades including English and Maths, in 2010 that increased to 43%, this year the total’s up to 59%. What makes these results even more outstanding is that the year is made up entirely of boys. It’s the last year that this will be the case as these are the last students who transferred from St Josephs.”  In the same news item according to Senior Vice Principal, Michael Barry (the mysterious white gentleman featured above) “the students that really began to believe that they could do well and have high aspirations; some came with that attitude and motivation. Some didn’t and they needed to be encouraged to have that motivation and aspiration.”  The reporter further states that “these young men are now ready for the next chapter of their lives and whatever the future holds for them.” 

I sat there brimming with pride and if truth be told a bit of envy as well. Pride because I know that if young people are educated in an environment that is supportive, conducive to mutual learning, has a fair attitude to discipline which is underpinned by self respect and respect for others, the majority will strive for excellence; regardless of curricular constraints etc. Envy because as I explained to them in my address that my two favourite pastimes at school were thinking and fighting. Unfortunately I devoted far too much time to the latter which resulted in expulsion from school at 15 and a similar fate from college at 16. They often say that hindsight is a fine thing but I know that within myself, I have always wished that I had a few teachers who recognised what it meant to educated in an inherently racist, classist and sexist society. As such they would have concentrated on bringing out my potential to learn as a student, instead of focusing on what they assumed was right and appropriate for me due to the skin I am in.

What I experienced that evening at St Matthew Academy was a sense of déjà vu made flesh, as there were testimonies from the young people that absolutely mirrored my own schooling experiences. Especially the case of one young man who was totally written off by his school and after doing the rounds at the PRUs etc. ended up at St Matthew Academy with projected grades of E’s if he was lucky. What is even more remarkable is that they took this young man, worked with him, encouraged him and the sheer sense of pride he displayed at his achievement, which was 5 A-C grades was one of the most uplifting sights I have witnessed. Indeed this young man’s achievement resonated with me even more because I know that should have been me all of those years ago standing on a stage in front of my parents and peers. I state this because we know the odds are stacked against many of us for some of the reasons I have stated above. Yet regardless, these reasons should not mean that we do not have the support in the educational arena that we all deserve, irrespective of race, class, gender or any other biologically or socially constructed barrier or constraint. The experiences of the SMA Crew – or to give them their proper title “The Class of 2011”- are a lesson to us all as educators or parents, for as was stated in the news item these are the last cohort of boys to graduate from this school, which is why I suggest that these are the real “TOP” Boys, but I doubt you will see this type of representation of our young men, especially black teenage boys, on your night time TV drama.

Oh and by the way that sense of envy I said I felt during the awards ceremony dissipated after Mr Barry kindly gave me my own graduation plaque, which now sits proudly in my office. Closure is wonderful and as they say at the SMA “Let your light shine.”

Peace and blessings.

Dr Lez Henry

London 21/11/11

 To check out the news item on SMA go to:  http://www.itv.com/london/gcse-results-praised69787/

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Kemet and the ‘art’ of concealment

The recent publication of a book claiming that British museums are over-reacting to a sensitive public by hiding away mummies and other ancient human remains has spurred Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry to write about practices he has noticed across Egypt and questions the museums’ motives. Operation Black Vote!

I always find it interesting when European-white “experts” discuss the consequences of their forages into other people’s lands, which generally result in plunder, death and cultural destruction.

In this instance we are talking about the discussions in the UK around whether ancient bodies, skeletal remains etc. etc. should be publicly displayed in museums or should they be hidden from the wider public gaze.  For instance: “The Egypt gallery at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery has changed their display of Egyptian human remains. Instead of the previous display of mummies in open coffins, it now exhibits the mummies with the lids half closed, which it considers more respectful.”

It is the idea of “more respectful” that interests me here because Europeans in many of their colonies used the remains of mummies for various purposes, including fuelling steam engines and for the manufacturing of brown paper for wrapping items such as grocery and meat in the United States.

Such usage often coincided with paper shortages and it was found that the bandages that were used during the mummification process were an able substitute for rags, but whilst this appears a practical usage it coincided with mummies being “unwrapped” or “rolled-out” as entertainment in museums and during travelling shows.

It is this lack of respect for the Afrikan’s ancestral practices/history/humanity that is of significance here, because European “experts” have generally colluded in their scholastic endeavours to write the African presence out of ancient Egypt.

To many of us this is old news and in my humble opinion only a fool would believe, in this day and age, that there never was an Afrikan presence in an Afrikan country such as Egypt, but as Curtis Mayfield reminded us there are indeed: “educated fools, from uneducated schools” that abound in our contemporary clime.

I state this because I have noticed that from the first time I visited Kemet/Egypt in 1992 until my visit this year with a group, I have witnessed significant changes across the visual landscape.

Indeed I am certain that when I went to the Cairo Museum for the first time in 1992, several of the artefacts displayed what anthropologists would associate with an indigenous Afrikan presence, a prognathous or jutting jaw, as opposed to that which you would associate with the European an opisthognathous, receding jaw.

Similarly several Afrikan scholar activists have suggested the same thing but as we do not have access to what is ‘hidden’ away it remains mere conjecture.

However, what I do know is that during my visits to the sacred sites and temples the restorations/renovations are more like “face lifts” as the lips, noses and faces that were “chopped off” or “fell off” (this depends on which accounts you believe) are often replaced with an overtly European look (kind of ironic with the craze in collagen lips and broader hips).

We need not be surprised that this occurs, as between our INFOCATION tour in 2008 and our 2010 tour we noticed drastic, cosmetic, changes to the layout of the temples we visited and the manner in which they are being “restored”, which is why we lead these tours to Kemet as pretty soon…well who knows!

The point I am making is that the more information that becomes readily available to prove that the countries and peoples of Afrika have always contributed to the storehouse of human knowledge; the more we are fed with foolish distractions such as the above debate about morality and “respectful” behaviour.

Such debates have no context for there is no mention of the fact that it was immorality and disrespectful behaviour, to their perceived inferiors, that led to such cultural artefacts being displayed by racist Europeans in the first place and whilst this dimension remains “concealed” the history of the world remains in a shroud of whiteness. Hotep!!

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Sticks and stones may break my bones, but “homophobia” sure can hurt me!

Greetings to all

I am writing this piece on “homophobia” because over the past few weeks I have listened to, and partaken in, various discussions on what it means to be “homophobic”. On each occasion I have stated, and will do so from the outset here, that the word is not appropriate and does not make sense, yet when you state this people start “back back” which is Jamaican for being overly defensive. For example, I was recently contacted by a researcher from a mainstream TV channel to discuss the issues of cross racial adoption, a subject that has been widely discussed over the past weeks on Galaxy Radio (www.ahfiwestation.com) by various presenters including myself. Everything was going swimmingly and the researcher was readily discussing my views on whether white/European families should adopt black/Afrikan/Caribbean or Asian children, from the premise that black/Afrikan/Caribbean or Asian families were not putting themselves forward. At this point I asked them if they had considered the fact that many of the people from these communities are being excluded because of their perceived “homophobia”. Apparently you are asked your views on homosexuality during the adoption process and if you suggest, for any reason cultural, religious or otherwise, that you do not accept this behaviour as “normal” your application is binned. All of a sudden it was a case of “well, you know we are not going to touch such a sensitive area because” blah blah blah, yaddah yaddah yaddah!

I informed them that this is what is wrong with this so called “free” and open society where “everyone” can supposedly express their views as long as they are not promoting anti-human sentiments, to which end I am in total agreement. Yet just to mention a mitigating factor, this perceived “homophobia”, that is central to this particular discussion and sheds light on why so many of these families are excluded from adopting these children, can’t be discussed much less considered broadcast-worthy. I then stated that I touch on this issue in my book Whiteness made Simple: stepping into the grey zone, where I explain how the so-called “grey” areas that people are want to discuss openly and honestly, are often the areas that deal with the mores that underpin black/Afrikan/Caribbean or Asian worldviews. It is aspects of these worldviews that mainstream white society find unconventional and problematic, when measured against their all-over-the-place conventions that are steeped in contradictions. That is why in that book I speak of an incident in 2004 where I wanted to deliver my annual Black History Month lecture, for Lewisham Borough Council, on the manner in which Jamaican Reggae music was being promoted as “murder music” by gay rights activists and submitted the following blurb:

OUTRAGE-‘US’: BOOM BYE BYE TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH! (Submitted 7th July 2004)

In this talk Dr. Lez Henry will focus on the manner in which ideas of race, gender and sexuality are represented in reggae/dancehall music and consider the validity of the charges of homophobia, that are being used to deny Jamaican artistes the right to perform in front of black communities in Britain. All that is asked is that you bring your mind and make sure it is open. Hotep!

I intended to deliver a talk on three points of concern to me within Reggae music: firstly “Shadism” favouring lighter skin tone over darker; secondly Misogyny and lastly “Homophobia” and intended to explain that the latter term is a misnomer. Suffice to say that my talk was banned and I did not realise it was not going ahead until I saw the published Black history Month brochure (August 2004) and my talk was not listed in it. When I enquired by telephone as to why I was not consulted, for whatever reason, I could not speak to the person who made the decision but the next day I received the following email:

Dear Dr Henry (4th August 2004)

Thank you for your copy for the Black History Month brochure that …has shared with me. Your proposed talk “Outrage US Boom Boom Bye Bye to Freedom of Speech” certainly sounds the basis for a topical and Controversial discussion. I have no doubt that your aim is to hold an objective and balanced debate. I am however concerned that the event could give the opportunity for others to use it to promote views and opinions that might cause offence or conflict in some sections of the community. As such an event of the kind proposed would not fit particularly well with the tone that has been established for Black History Month in Lewisham over many years, we would not wish to fund it as part of the programme for this year.

I hope this decision will not deter you from making further contributions to Black History Month this year and the future.

yours sincerely…

Acting Executive Director of Education & Culture

Dear … (4th august 2004)

I think it is strange that my lecture was pulled without consultation. There has been no dialogue between myself and anyone in a senior position, those who really make the decisions that matter, about the concerns that have been expressed with regards to my proposed talk. Yet the supreme irony is that the way the council have handled the whole affair is exactly why I wanted to have this discussion in the first place. You can state that you are wary about the reactions/actions of ‘others’ in the community, without stating exactly who these ‘others’ are, or more importantly what these concerns are. For to suggest that you know my discussion would be ‘balanced and objective’ and then deny me the opportunity to present it, or even discuss how it could be re-presented so as not to cause ‘offence’ to whoever it is you are concerned about, is disingenuous and patronising to the extreme.

I think it is insulting and offensive that a community that has a single month allocated to them to redress the imbalances caused by institutionalised racism and other forms of discrimination, that are endemic to this racist society, have faceless gatekeepers telling them, as taxpayers and members of Lewisham Borough, who can speak to them about the issues that affect their everyday existence. You see you cannot expect me to take seriously any claim about conflict, when it is out of conflict that the whole idea of black history month arose, firstly in the USA and then here. Moreover, it would have been respectful to engage in some form of dialogue about what is at stake in the lecture, as in the outline I stated that I was interested in discussing, Race, Gender and Sexuality in reggae music and yet the only problem was my usage of the word ‘homophobia’. This means that once again people who do not appreciate the seriousness of these issues, as part of the legacy of colonialism in all of its pernicious manifestations, including much that is suggested in reggae music, have denied those who the music affects the most from having a reasoned and informed debate about what is important to us, the black community in Britain. But I suppose this is freedom of speech, for those who generally react without an in depth knowledge of that which they are reacting to.  Dr. William Henry (Henry 2007, pp 46-48).

From the above you can see how this labelling process works to exclude the voice of reason because you will notice that the council’s representative did not cite “homophobia” in her email, but the world and its mother knows that is what the concern was about. I state this because we know that the ‘sections of the community’ she was worried about are the homosexuals, but for whatever reason this was not made known. However if this was an isolated case we could give her the benefit of the doubt based on blatant ignorance or cowardice, but the fact is that I am still waiting for a meaningful, reasoned, discussion on what is meant when certain people or communities are branded “homophobic”. For instance there are loads of commentaries by black/Afrikan/Caribbean/Asian academics, journalists and other cultural commentators on the issue of “homophobia” in our communities here and abroad, yet I am still to find one who actually defines what the term means from their perspective. I for one cannot accept that if you do not accept homosexuality as normal you are, by extension, “homophobic” with all of the “ill-logical” trimmings that go with it. Moreover when I was studying and subsequently teaching in a university setting I noticed that any time the issue of homosexuality arose the discussions with homosexuals and their straight sympathisers, became heated and contentious and I was invariably branded “homophobic” for one main reason. This was because I would unequivocally state that whilst I accept (this was not the case with me before I entered that arena) that homosexuality may indeed be normal for some people―if that is what ‘floats your boat’ then ‘float on I say’―for me it is normal to be heterosexual.

Now I think that for most reasonable people this is a reasonable position, yet I would be constantly attacked simply because I would not accept homosexuality as normal behaviour for me as a heterosexual man. More importantly do I have to? During these discussions I never attacked anyone physically or verbally for their beliefs or preferred lifestyle, yet they never seemed to be able to accept my position and would intimate that I am the one who is not normal and “homophobic”. Whatever happened to ‘we can agree to disagree’? Well it seems that in this case it is not so and I would suggest that the word “homophobia” has everyone so spooked that they are afraid to interrogate its usage for fear of being labelled as such. This is understandable as anyone who is semi-conscious knows that when you are publicly branded as “homophobic”, unless you make some kind of grovelling public apology (you know when you apologise and are not sure what you are apologising for) you will not be forgiven. I say branded because as they say ‘throw enough dirt and some will stick’ and I certainly have got plenty of ‘stick’ for being steadfast in my views on this matter, and as I have stated elsewhere there is a qualitative difference between ‘the freedom of speech’ and the ‘freedom to speak’. Consequently, those of us who do not advocate hatred in any way shape or form against homosexuals, are legislated against for our heterosexual non acceptance of homosexuality as normal for us and subsequently branded as “homophobes” with no room for a meaningful discussion.

Hence I just want someone, anyone, to tell me what the word actually means to them and more importantly why are so many people afraid to even have this discussion, publicly? I know that within certain circles they have had such discussions for years but how many people whose lives are impacted by this form of negative labelling are aware of them? I cannot recall a single instance on any mainstream TV or Radio network in the UK where the actual meaning of the term is discussed. It is invariably taken as given that we all understand the meaning of “homophobia” and as such we just proceed and perpetuate this form of reified “knowing.”

Words and their subsequent usage have serious social, cultural, political and psychological consequences and as such, for me, it is crucial that I know in the first instance, what a word means.  According to the online Oxford Dictionary homo means “same” or “of or belonging to the genus Homo” and phobia means “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.” Note the word “irrational” is used as the real qualifier here as it suggests that one follows a line of reason that has no basis in the “rational” and is therefore untenable when placed under scientific scrutiny;  whereas “extreme” or “aversion” are base reactions that can be grounded in a concrete experience. Let us now consider, using this same system of logical reason, the word “homophobia” to determine what it means.

The online Oxford Dictionary defines “homophobia” as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.” Just backtrack and read that definition again and then rejoin me… So according to this definition we merely fill that nebulous “something” with a “thing” in this instance “homosexuality and homosexual people” and we’re good to go. Well you may be, but I am not! I cannot understand how my views on what is normal for me as a heterosexual male; a man who has sex with a woman, all of a sudden makes me “homophobic”―read as―‘extreme’ ‘irrational’ or ‘averse’ to the homosexuality that is normal to men who have sex with men or women who have sex with women. I therefore await clarification or further enlightenment on this matter because it seems that a meaningful, cross cultural/racial/political/religious dialogue on “homophobia” is not allowed, even though being branded as “homophobic” hurts so many people in myriad ways.

 

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Another dangerous programme: ‘Civilisation. Is the west History?’ Channel 4

To whom it may concern at Channel 4 (sent 7/3/11)

I just want to bring to your attention an email I sent to my mailing list (see below) regarding ‘Civilisation. Is the west History?’ that was aired on Channel 4 last night. As part of your ‘INTELLIGENT THINKING’ strategy. I think you may perhaps consider the prospect of making programmes that are more balanced from the ‘Rest’s’ point of view as there are many scholars out there who can provide this service, myself included .

With kind regards

Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greetings to all

I watched ‘Civilisation. Is the west History?’ on Channel 4, Sunday 6/3/11 and found it to be one of the most misleading, Eurocentric/ethnocentric and condescendingly racist programmes I have ever witnessed. The real danger in it was not the fact that it was replete with all manner of fanciful historical distortions, it was the nonchalant way that the white-supremacist aggression that is responsible for the world we have today was dismissed in the most trivial manner, or completely ignored.

Take for instance the insensitivity when mentioning, in passing, the Opium Wars, which was instigated by the British to control Chinese territory and cost countless innocent lives. Also the manner in which Africa was dismissed as a kind of backwater when they recounted how the Chinese Diplomat, ‘Zheng He’ went to East Africa during the 15th century to trade and exchange artefacts etc. It was also his amazement that the Chinese did not wish to colonise/exterminate those that they met on their travels, whilst barely mentioning that genocide and extermination was the norm wherever racist Europeans went on their “civilising” missions. Yes he mentioned the uncivilised conditions of many parts of Europe at certain points but the context of their need to expand/colonise/exterminate was never explained.

I always say the universe is in perfect order and in my last media class we discussed ‘Calibans vs. Ariels’ which is the introductory chapter from Chinwezu’s ‘Decolonising The African Mind’ (1987), Pero Press, in which he states on page 4:

“The Europeanised African, for his part, is overwhelmed by the fantastic achievements of industrial civilisation. But having accepted the European propaganda that industrial civilisation is the genetic property of its European pioneers, he fails to distinguish industrial civilisation as a type from modern European civilisation as an instance of this type. His desire for the former is therefore perverted into a wish to assimilate himself into the latter. He overlooks the fact that the Japanese and Chinese have demonstrated, that industrial civilisation can be replicated by non-Europeans, and so cannot be  regarded as somehow intrinsically European. And he is usually ignorant of the fact that Europeans were latecomers to scientific culture, and that their pioneering of the industrial revolution was based on the scientific heritage of they borrowed from others-including the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations.”

You see, for me, the dangerous individuals are not those who are ignorant and do no know better and therefore cannot be expected to do better, when espousing such divisive and disturbing garbage. Rather they are those who have done the research and thus DO KNOW BETTER but devilishly conceive, and have the power to produce/disseminate these forms of mental pollution to those who unthinkingly feast at the table of ignorance. For if this is an example of ‘intelligent thinking’ bring back Alf Garnett and ‘Till death us Do part’!

Oh and by the way check out the advert for the Kia car that features Grandmaster flash and check out how the word ‘nappies’ is used.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1wafx_1YeM

Enough Said!!

IF YOU LIVE TO LEARN, YOU WILL LEARN TO LIVE!

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