12/08/2016 12:08 BST | Updated 13/08/2017 06:12 BST

My Black Life... Matters?

Now, in this summer of our discontent made riotous by our sons of Tottenham, I have been sat, for some time, looking at a clean white page with the pure intention of writing clear black letters to form the right legacy of words that can best express the depths of my emotions in regard to being. In regard to being me. In regard to being 'Black'. In regard to being 'Black British'.

It is not easy.


And even though I am a poet, whose words have earned themselves a place in the British Library Sound Archive, it is hard for me to define myself with mere words for I am constantly being defined by others in preordained ways that I did not get to choose nor have much power to change.

Indeed, the British Library will define me as a 'Black British Poet' whereas, from my point of view, I am a poet. Or here, in this publication, am I a journalist or a black journalist? At university was I elected as President of my Students' Union or, as often described at the time, the first black president of the Students' Union? Am I an artist or a black artist? Am I an activist or a black activist? And what does it matter?

In being alive, in existing in this place and time, by being born, educated and accommodated in this country does it matter that I am black, dear reader?

Well, of course it matters. But I did not make it so.

If I philosophise and apply the reductionist Cartesian principle to my own existence, if I deconstruct my knowledge of reality as Descartes once did to the 'cogito ergo sum' or the 'I think, therefore I am', then when replacing the building blocks of reality, that I will seek to stand upon with true knowledge of my self, then it is not me but society that applies the differentiator of my skin colour to my experience. Thus it is society that makes my skin colour matter to me.


Or when I know myself to be infinite awareness having a physical experience then, once again, it is my awareness of external phenomena, of how other people treat me, that makes my blackness relevant to my day to day physical experience and something that I can never assume to forget. My empirical first hand experience of existence informs me, daily, that my skin colour makes a difference to how other people behave towards me and that my blackness can imperil me.

Even if I did not want it to it still matters. It is impossible for me, particularly in Western society, to not be externally and involuntarily defined as black. Whether this be negatively or positively it is incumbent on me. So it matters to me.

It matters to me that in 1993 a young black man named Stephen, who was just a year younger than me, was murdered in a racially motivated attack at a bus stop in Eltham by a gang of white youths. It matters to me that the Metropolitan Police (allegedly) shielded his killers and (allegedly) employed undercover police officers to spy on his grieving family. It matters to me that the family are still seeking justice and peace.

It matters to me that a young black man named Mark, who was eight years to the day younger than me, was shot and killed by Metropolitan Police officers in August, 2011. It matters to me that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) put out a false statement that Mark died in a shootout with police when he was not even carrying a piece. It matters to me that this lie still persists. It matters to me that we only know his killer as V53. It matters to me that the family are still seeking justice and peace.


It matters to me that I could write similar paragraphs to the two above about Sheku, Sarah, Christopher, Smiley, Jimmy, Michael, Leon P, Leon B, Ricky, Brian, Joy, Sean, Cynthia, Cherry, Derek, Kingsley, Roger, Azelle, Habib, Faruk, Adrian, Jean Charles, Demetre, Aston, Seni, Anthony, Rocky, Alton, Jermaine and Mzee. It matters to me that these families are still seeking justice and peace.

It matters to me that no police officers have ever been found culpable for these tragedies. It matters to me sufficiently for me to get out on the streets to support the families and also to put black words on this blank white sheet so that others can understand my anxieties.

On July 11th 2016 Theresa May, in her first speech as Prime Minister , said this: "If you are black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white." And it matters to me, and it should matter to her, that she had been the Home Secretary for eight years and oversaw these injustices.

So, now, in this summer of our discontent made potentially riotous by our sons and daughters of Tottenham, it matters enough to me that I write these black words on this white page to express a rage measuredly and peacefully. Because it really does matter to me. Every day. My Black Life matters to me. I often doubt, Dear Reader, that it matters to you.