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Thursday Connectors: Hear BAME Voices

Hi, all. It’s Farzana here. This week, though it’s not my most topical Thursday Connectors, my message is simple: in celebrating the work of BAME writers, it’s important to talk about standing together as writers and the problems we face in terms of getting traditionally published.

Today, I want to spell out the importance of advocating much-needed change in the publishing industry, somewhere BAME voices are desperately under-represented. Often our work is largely ignored, with our submissions not even being considered. And, if we do land an agent, an editor from a big publishing company may very well sit on your submission for months, before trotting out the same old excuse: We loved this thought-provoking story. The voice was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, though, our lists are full at this time and we wouldn’t know how to launch this writer…  

I have emails to prove this. So please don’t start denying it! It’s all too easy to pay lip service to the lack of diversity in literature: “How unfortunate!” and: “Something should be done to combat this!” Similar statements frequently mark the grand openings of book fairs and festivals, for crying out loud. And don’t forget that all-important guest speaker, always with a dark skin and sporting a nice pile of award-winning books. They’ll be happy to talk at length about the dismal and disappointing numbers surrounding emerging BAME writers that year, especially when compared to the hefty six-figure deal debuting white writers earn: “How unfair!” they’ll say, and: “There is such lack of diversity in publishing!”

What measures are they actually taking, though, to make everything fair and equal? How are they introducing diverse new voices, new faces, a more representative list of writers to the industry? And don’t even begin to question the lack of BAME writers seeking to be published. There are plenty of us and we’re reaching out to you every day. You are ignoring us!

Seriously, I’ve had enough. My voice is as good as any. My novels deserve to be published. I’m not the only BAME writer saying this. There are so many of us…

If it’s a powerful story and good writing you’re after, just take a look. You’ll see what beautiful words we BAME writers have to offer.

Putting that aside for now, I’m delighted to have this opportunity to connect with two BAME authors today. They both address the world’s troubles with such passion and I’m not going to ignore them, but celebrate them instead.

First up is Evangeline Vincent-Davis from Trinidad. Her voice is authentic, with her poems perfectly telling the story of the current world situation.

Hello, Evangeline. Let’s connect:

Black Lives Matter

I prefer to say every life, race and colour of Mankind matter
Because I believe – We, human beings are all members
of the One Human Race created by the Eternal Creator
Who made everything good, great! And no one can better
He wants the best for us, and He wants us all to prosper
Shouldn’t we also want that same favour for each other?
Education is enlightenment!
Every child should matter in the Education Sector
It’s a given by every teacher, parent  and stakeholder to reason
That No discrimination should be entertained in any Learning Institution,
it’s like treason!
However, it is believed that Racism began way back in the 1400 during the Spanish Inquisition,
When blacks were killed because of their religious beliefs and the
perpetrators of those heinous crimes did so because of Indoctrination and
Not Education
What I am very concerned about, however, gives me no racist relief
About the varied, derogatory meanings to which the word “black” can be construed through others’ belief.
Some of us were conditioned to think that black was ugly and not worthy to be near,
Also, dirty niggers! Imagine being called monkeys and, crawling cockroach –
Avoid those black bastards some whites were warned “Do not approach!”
Innocently, some experience brutality and are still subjected to mental and emotional torture
False arrests, break-ins, harassment and humiliation by Police officers
Who based on their questions, false intelligence and accusations like lawyers,
Perhaps are angry, jealous even, afraid of a people who were oppressed though
honest, conscientious workers
Practising thrift, good management and by dint of hard work moved up the social ladder
Policemen are supposed to be professionals to protect, serve members of
society and more,
Yet they are legally supported and exonerated as they resort to
conveniently implementing the sus law
An honest one has admitted that they were conditioned to kill, maim, humiliate,
frame and arrest the Black Man and encouraged to do so at will
Are these facts or opinion? On reflection he now asks…
“Why should such a deliberate attempt be made to hit and exterminate the black
race who persevered with good health, dignity and resilience
And under extreme pressure cowered not a bit! They wore no Masks?
It is Covid 19, the Corona Virus that summoned that object at last and fast!
Why to others do Black lives become a constant target?
Could this be partly because of the insecurity and fears of
Others who cannot come to terms with the fact or at least a bit?
That in spite of slavery where millions were killed
In all manner of wars or fighting, Man-made diseases or other ills
The black man rears his head and rises to even better still?
Multiplying in numbers even more than he was before
However, when we see George Floyd’s Life, Stephen Lawrence and many others snuffed out of this world
Actions like these by Heartless beasts devoid of soul
These black victims who might have said “No one ever stood up for me against the wicked and evil
And George could only cry “Mummy Mummy! As his neck was popped by a man who became a “devil.”
What a way to go to the HOME of Silence
Then I shout with pain, sadness, tears and serious intercessory prayers.
O God, let all men including Blacks know, that “BLACK LIFE MATTERS!”

© Evangeline Vincent-Davis, 2020

Listen, Hear My Plea!

Come fellowmen, regardless of your colour, race or creed
come let us reason
Why not try to understand the sacredness of human life?
Or appreciate the dignity of the human person?
Do you know who you are? What is your origin?
From whence you came? What is your purpose in life?
What does relationship mean to you?  Are you aware of our Creator’s desire that all live in harmony?
What makes you abhor him so much when the one who gave you YOUR life ask us to “Love one another!” Why are you afraid to love? Contemplate! Meditate!
Look deep within your being and find the source of your hate.
Extricate it so that your poisoned heart, mind, body and soul can be revived again,
Cry out for help! You can be the Change!
The facilities and charities are there to offer assistance. Join groups!
Volunteer to serve where your needs may be met, or you can assist another human being so you would have no more regrets!
I believe there is an immediate need now and until this racism solution is met
And dealt with in all its facets that the saying “Black lives matter” really does matter in every area of our lives – stamped in our hearts, mind, deeds and soul.
Listen, hear my plea – be the change, you can be!
So, it becomes that the black man is no longer under such savage attack, violent
killings, injustices or placed at the front line of the battlefield like Uriah.
Let’s record the lessening of that once perpetual obsession of annihilation and get rid of all the means that were used to exterminate him.
You have claimed all his inventions, he said nothing. You had plundered his riches, he allowed it without interference? What else do you want from him?
Please release the black man from your angry psyche and let him go free to live as the rest of mankind, as you are now privileged to know that ALL Life Matters.
Shall we see a caring relationship being built between law officers and those in the black community to make amends?
Now be sensible if one part of your body hurts, all of your body is affected! If one aspect of mankind is treated badly the repercussions will make all of the HUMAN RACE unhappy!
We are all in this together.  Let’s get smart and not be apart!
Then we need to let the world know that black lives matter.
Is it that we live in a black-less, colour-less world, where everyone else inhabits the earth?
They alone want to live? Life is colour! No! No! No! Black lives matter!
We were all born on this planet to live the abundant life and live it to the fullest.
At the end of all the destructive behaviour little or no apologies is
given to the black man, He gets no compensation.
Let’s be practical. Every race makes mistakes,” To err is human. To forgive Divine”
Let’s find the process of forgiveness and do it!
The struggles by so many black organizations and people that were extinguished
In trying to achieve a sense of unity, pride among its people need to be reignited.
The Martin Luther King, The Marcus Garvey, The Mahatma Gandhi who believed in peaceful protest. Let’s continue the good work they have done until all malice is gone.’
Let’s use them as our role models! Let’s create a new mind set
Let’s Educate (notice I did not say indoctrinate) and empower ourselves.
Let’s become productive citizens
And our law-keeping policemen learn to be fair, just, professional
It was very revealing to hear a white policeman revealing their secret of how to
falsely arrest Blacks in America; He admitted using more force than needed and
realised he started to develop that disease of ‘Racism’.
He admitted that Minorities have no one to call on if they are arrested – that white men have more power
while the Black man has no one to whom he can complain or try to cover
He pleaded “End open season on black men. Stop shooting them as though they are animals
Let’s stop believing the myth of white yellow, red or black supremacy
One look at the equalizing effects of Covid 19 should be something we analyze
internationally.
Avoid giving power to your stereotype thinking because of your colour and being abusive as you exert punishment
Just because you are in an important position of authority and can take advantage of the innocent
Remember the world is changed by your example! NOT by your opinion
Let’s give respect!
There should be respect for life, for property, for parents, for elders,
for nature, for the belief and rights of others.
Respect connotes demonstrating courtesy, politeness, self-respect and manners
everywhere we go, in whatever situation we find ourselves.
Let’s always recall that we take with us, whoever we are, wherever we go so please demonstrate respect at all times.
Then prove yourself worthy of that respect by your own CONDUCT
When we see Nations and people of other hue get away with murder
And elevating themselves through obsession, suppression, oppression and omission!
LISTEN!! HEAR MY PLEA – LET’S STOP THIS DIS-EASE, PLEASE!

© Evangeline Vincent-Davis, 2020

Thank you, Evangeline, for these touching and apt words that reflect our times. Both your poems are thought-provoking. Next up is Chinwe Azubike-Cross, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Chinwe is involved with the ‘Exiled Writers Ink’ organisation, which provides a platform for refugees or persons exiled to voice their thoughts in the form of the written word. Like me, they know how important it is to keep literature from these countries alive. The programme aims to raise awareness against racism by providing workshops, festivals and classes. Take a look at their website for more information: www.exiledwriters.co.uk

Hi, Chinwe. Let’s connect:

The Last Time She Saw Her Father

The day he spat into her
hands. She, on her
knees, arms
outstretched,
palms facing
up like a sinner
awaiting judgement.

Bordered by the eyes of
those that watched and
bore witness within the
four walls of the little
room.

Tiny specks of spittle
dotted the furrowed
flesh of her hands.

She rubbed both palms
together like he asked
and wiped both across
her face, forehead
down to chin.

The words
Seeping through her
ears they were the
words that would
guide her destiny.
So, her heart like a
leaf, hung on for
dear life amidst a
threatening storm.

Those words,
they grip and
tug at her.

Yet, she was
never there to
pay her last
respects.

© Chinwe Azubuike, 2020

Connect with Exiled Writers on: Facebook and Instagram.

That’s all for this week. Of course, I’d love to have shared more from BAME writers with equally powerful messages, but my editor will scream with all the power of her lungs for going over the word limit! Actually, she would never do that, our Madeleine is a wonderful person and we seriously need more like her in the publishing industry to give us BAME voices access into this hard world. From experience, I know how difficult it is for a person of colour and a certain background to break into this very white, middle-class wobbly world of literature.

Agents, editors, publishers, look! Here we are, the voices of yesterday, today and tomorrow, waiting to be heard and represented. Please don’t let our dark skins put you off; our stories are exactly what the world needs to hear. Don’t ignore us, publish us!

See you next week for more Connectors.

You can connect to Farzana on Twitter: @farzanahakim

Read Issue 4 of Write On! magazine here.

In celebrating the work of BAME writers, it’s important to talk about standing together as writers and the problems we face in terms of getting traditionally published.