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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Old white guy has wonderful evening at Brixton's Black Cultural Archives inauguration

The original dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson, performs for the Black Cultural Archives opening, Windrush Square, Brixton, London,

How often do you get to enjoy a full evening of great music,  poetry, dance, and inspiring speakers  on a warm summer's evening surrounded by thousands of happy people, then cycle home in 10 minutes with your soul fully re-charged? And all for free?

And how often would this event include one of your all-time heroes, the original Dub Poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson?

About once in a lifetime - if you are lucky. Well, tonight I was lucky, thanks to this evening's opening event for  Brixton's new Black Cultural Archives, a three-hour bash which (among many other things) made you realise what a great space Windrush Square really is.

So, thank God again for the people of Brixton, who seem to be the last part of this weird and scarily changing city who have the ability to make me feel truly alive. Even before the public celebrations began, you realised this was a much bigger event - bigger even than Brixton. The BCA is the result of a 30-year battle, and the victory that this evening represented reverberates right across the country, not just south London.

The new Archives open to the public tomorrow with a big inaugural exhibition, Re-Imagine: Black Women in Britain.

The  centre occupies the two completely refurbished  Regency townhouses (formerly Raleigh Hall) and a new education/refreshment area - an elegant piece of architectural melding and blending, which actually enhances this great space opposite the Town Hall and next to the Brixton Library and the (now sadly troubled) Ritzy Cinema.

Thanks, especially, to all the people who made this amazing new institution a reality. And the amazing performers who ripped up all your notions of the worthy benefit show. Especially good were the poet, rap artist, and blues singer Floetic Lara.
 We saw her two years back at the "Bob Marley Way" event. Then she seemed raw and exciting. Tonight she was even more exciting but far from raw. The layer upon layer of ironies and barbed line-endings, her sudden taking flight into deep Nina Simone or Aretha territory, it was moving, inspiring, funny, and amazing all at once.

It inspired me, a 61-year-old burnt-out case, so heaven knows how good she must have been for the 15-year-old aspirant artists in the crowd.

LKJ was a cool and white-hot as ever, the old stories fresh again as he reminds us of the New Cross Massacre, and all that followed back in 1981 - events which led to the determination to build this archive. When he read his poem about  the 1981 riots, Di Great Insohreckshan - well, at first you miss the heavy reggae backing of Dennis Bovell's band, but then you realise he doesn't need any accompaniment. There's already fire in the air, LKJ has ignited it.

The artists who follow him - spoken-word artists Akala and  El Crisis, and the calypsonian protest singer Alexander D Great, seemed to pick up on LKJ's mood. Unfinished business is very much in the air (see the latest Met revelations). We felt strong vibrations of 1981 and 85 and 1993 and - what 2014? in Akala's amazing Uzi-style delivery - he builds up to a hailstorm of words, each  so carefully and beautifully chosen, so sharp so deadly. You want him to slow down so you can catch it all but he can'tt slow down - and then his nice trick of separating the final word, so it hangs there like a barrage balloon of meaning.

Stuff  hanging in the humid air - there's still feeling of outrage here tonight, it was a night for white people (i.e., me) to be made very aware of how they (i.e., we) dragged their (i.e., our) feet through those decades. How much more we could all have done to help these beautiful, forgiving people who make this city so much better than it ever really deserved to be. Yeah, anyone can do more than nothing, which  with one or two exceptions (but not me, tbh), is what we did.

Read a good history of the project here on Brixton Buzz.

High-velocity spoken word artist/rapper Akala opens minds and hearts at the Black Cultural Archives launch event, Windrush Square, Brixton,

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