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The safety of multiple stories.

In 2010, I looked up to actors like Ashley Walters. In 2020, I look up to actors/writers/directors like Michaela Coel. Both are successful in their own right but there has been a shift in how Black British people are portrayed on screen and how they want to portray themselves.

The 2010s were pivotal in shifting the focus towards ownership and creative control. YouTube had become popular and shows like Mandem On the Wall, Diary of a Badman and Smokey Barbers emerged. This represented a new age in British comedy and acting. These shows were for the people by the people. They made light of the 2011 riots, poked fun at Pakistani culture and showed the dynamic of a Black barbershop.

Despite the shows’ popularity amongst young people, for many their success was limited. Some people faded away and it wasn’t deemed lucrative. However, corporations soon realised that they could profit off of these stories.

In 2011, Hugo Chewin, Steve Stamp, Asim Chaudhry and Allan Mustafa, started releasing mockumentary footage onto YouTube under the channel, Wasteman TV. Three years later, their early ideas morphed into a show on BBC Three called People Just Do Nothing, following the lives of wannabe UK garage musicians. Similarly, in 2012, Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams was produced at the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick. Three years later, her initial concept formed into Channel 4’s Chewing Gum,telling the story of Tracy Gordon.

Both shows went on to win BAFTAs for Best Scripted Comedy, Best Female Comedy Performance and Breakthrough Talent respectively and they illustrate the successful progression from a DIY attitude and cult following to production teams and big budgets.

However, this transition isn’t always easy as Asim Chaudhry admitted in a VICE interview. He said that ‘you gotta understand that when everyone gets involved it’s everyone’s baby’.

This release of control has been the downfall of certain shows. Notably, ‘The Peng Life’, starring Elijah Quashie (The Chicken Connoisseur), lacked the originality and magical editing of his YouTube videos. The man who usually reviewed dingy chicken shops was suddenly surrounded by celebrities in a series that seemed distant from the content that made him likeable in the first place. 

Nevertheless, people are now realising the value in continuing to build their own platforms. The Chicken Connoisseur returned to releasing videos on his YouTube channel, production companies like Wall of Comedy (started by the creators of Mandem on the Wall) are growing and podcasters like Chuckie Online give an insight into the industry.

Furthermore, corporations are starting to get it right too. Big Zuu Big Eats is a fine example of this. Dave gave him the space to be himself and the grime MC seemed comfortable around a whole host of comedians.

It’s beautiful that I now see myself fully represented on screen. The next stage is to increase representation behind the scenes; more producers, directors and writers who can help tell our stories.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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How to exercise in self-isolation.

Two weeks ago, my university emailed to inform myself and my flat mates that we would have a fourteen-day period of isolation. This meant that we would be forced to remain in our rooms as much as possible as a precautionary measure to stop the virus spreading within our kitchen group and beyond. The only times when we were permitted to leave our rooms was to go to the kitchen (with a kitchen rota implemented), collect a delivery and to smoke or vape.

These restrictions were tough to take for a group of first year students. Frustratingly, the news came shortly after freshers week, reminding us that we should have appreciated the little freedom we had in a week of failed parties and online events. It was also a progression past the initial lockdown that we faced in March. Unlike then, we were not allowed to go outside for daily exercise; unless we had a cigarette in hand while jogging.

In an illegal kitchen meeting we discussed how we were going to handle our period of seclusion. We came to the conclusion that shopping journeys, laundry visits and exercising were essential despite the new measures. We took responsibility for governing ourselves aware of the potential consequences of being caught by the university. But there was reason behind our set of measures:  

Delivery slots for our groceries were hard to come by and didn’t always warrant the charge nor the use of plastic bags. Overflowing laundry and a lack of clean underwear were also problems that had to be resolved. Lastly, we didn’t agree with the university’s decision to allow smoking rather than individual exercise outside.

The risk was low for the first two essentials; both shopping to survive and washing clothes to stay hygienic could easily be justified. Exercise on the other hand, although agreed as an essential in my kitchen group, could be deemed an inexcusable breach of isolation rules.

So, reluctant to join the illegal ravers in receiving fines, I had to get creative. The first few days consisted of home workouts. YouTube as always is the source of tutorials and follow along guides, ensuring that I exercised safely. These workouts soon progressed into mini football drills to maintain my eye foot coordination and annoy my flat mates in the process by bouncing footballs off of corridor walls. Next, I felt really adventurous and travelled to what cannot quite be described as a garden but a small green space to the right of my accommodation. This allowed me a bit more room to stretch my legs and was a release from days of sitting in my room.

But the question is whether any of these substitutes come close to the real thing. Activities like stretching, yoga and callisthenics training can be done alone easily, partly down to the help of people like MBE winner, Joe Wicks. Sports like football are slightly more limited due to the lack of space to work on key elements of your game, like shooting or long-range passing. Worse still, running is out of the equation unless you have access to a treadmill or you feel satisfied with running on the spot for half an hour.

Most importantly, what all these things miss is the social element that makes them more enjoyable. Many sports become social events, with players going to pubs after games or forming tight bonds that come with frequent meetings.

But regulations have meant that we have had to find alternatives. I checked WhatsApp groups to banter with team mates about the latest results, receive team updates and challenge friends to see who could do the most loo roll keepie uppies.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to go through a period of isolation again but like many things this year, I have learnt how to adapt and stay positive.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Fresher’s Week

The famous freshers week. Usually synonymous with drinking, partying and having sex. This year however, included all of those things but with an extra COVID-19 twist added in. Club nights were replaced by games nights on Teams and talks were replaced introductory speeches on Zoom. I soon realised that online interactions were not how I was going to meet people. So, how does one enjoy themselves during freshers week while trying to adhere to nationwide guidelines?

Day 1

It was a strange feeling leaving my parents’ house. The reality of my situation hadn’t sunk in yet. It was only on the train, accompanied by my friend, when it hit me that I would be sleeping in a different bed.

The closer that we got to the university, the more excited I felt. After hauling my luggage to the place that I now call home, I put down my things and unpacked.

First on my to do list was to find out where people were playing football. Football is the easiest way to make friends. A group of people with the same objective. To win.

It was only one Tesco trip and two hours later that I became acquainted with my flat mates. But after a couple of card games, I was off again to look for the coveted motive; an event that ultimately eluded me.

The motive ended up being a walk around the campus; something necessary since I didn’t attend the open day. I even met some familiar faces along the way as well as a load of new ones. In hindsight, it was probably the best night because it was the start of something new and there seemed to be so much opportunity to meet people.

Day 2

A group bonding trip with my flat mates was the order of the day. Wagamama was on the menu as we sat at socially distanced tables.

The surrounding area to my university is okay but not quite home. There’s not a great deal to do so I went out to look for action.

Once again, I headed out by myself in pursuit of motives. I tried to stick with people that I’d met the night before, building on connections, while also becoming acquainted with new folk.

However, the experience of walking around in the cold was quickly getting old. Campus security were everywhere and the parties that I did attend consisted of large groups of guys standing in doorways, a few girls scattered around kitchen counters and a small speaker playing the latest UK rap hits.

I soon called it a night.

Day 3

I forgot to mention that I attended a few webinars with useful information on budgeting, entrepreneurship and my course. These were the standout online events because it’s so difficult to recreate a games night or a meet and greet online. These online events kept me engaged until the night time – by which time I was tired of roaming the streets like an urban fox.  

I was planning on having a relaxing night with my flat mates until I got the call. Just as I was about to wind down before bedtime, my friend was outside and ready. So, I picked up my shoes and stepped out. The night was spent wandering about the campus with my fellow nocturnal freshers once more.

Day 4

The inner voice in my head had become much louder than usual. I think the uncertainty of my stay at university and the pressure of having to make more decisions for myself, was the cause of this.

I had to use my support system: home workouts, runs and speaking with friends to stay sane.

So, that night, I met up with one of these friends and we toured the campus and looked at our respective accommodations. It was a moment to really appreciate how far we had come and how much further there is to go.

Day 5

By now I needed a change of environment. In one of the online meetings, I learnt about the wonders of the university’s library. I figured that it would be the perfect change of scenery and would have everything to fulfil my needs. 

On my way there, I met someone from the first night, who I had actually met for the first time, almost 365 nights ago. That’s the strange thing that I have found with university; I have reconnected with so many people. I went on to link up with another old friend that very night.

I walked out, The Art of Peer Pressure by Kendrick Lamar playing in my headphones. I tried to remain inconspicuous draped in head to toe Nike on that late night. My cologne was already wearing off and I wanted to make good use of it during the night’s activities.

Once I met my friend, we travelled towards the venue of the promised motive. We met up with two more people but before we could even enter the party, I had my first run in with the campus law.

My friend and I looked at each other, unsure of what to say. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. All I knew was that I had to keep my mouth shut and get out of there.

Luckily, we were simply told to leave – taking no chances I was out of there immediately. Never again, I promised myself. I don’t want to get fined.

Convinced that the night was going to end prematurely, a group of us headed back to central campus. But this is where the fun began.

Talking to strangers; I was in my element. I knew that I didn’t want to end the night on a flat note so it was sink or swim. Fortunately, I had recently been watching the YouTube series, Does The Shoe Fit? so I was ready with a handful of proven one liners.

By the end, my new friends were asking me to teach them so if you want tutoring, I charge £20 an hour.

Day 6

The week was drawing to a close. I considered reigning it in a little and so did my flat mates. Many of them had been drinking almost every night and a lack of sleep was starting to take its toll.

We decided on a group outing to the university cinema to watch Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Less heady than Tenet, it was a beautiful film and a beautiful night.

Day 7

The last day. My flat mates were going out for brunch but I had a more important event that I was concerned with. A 5 aside football tournament. Not exactly the upper echelon of university football but fun nonetheless.

Admittedly, I was on the waiting list, since I was unable to book a place soon enough for the competition that was in such high demand.

Once I arrived, there were only two spaces left to enter the tournament and ten times that number waiting to get in.

I didn’t want to seem selfish yet simultaneously I had a desire to play. Everyone was doing the English thing of queueing and telling each other that they could ‘go ahead’ since ‘I don’t mind’. But after about a minute of this, I realised that I wanted to be American. I took the opportunity since others were reluctant to and joined a team.

I’d met three of my teammates prior to the tournament; we live in the same block; but I had no idea of their footballing ability. Nevertheless, the chemistry was there and we went on to win every single game, even winning the final 6-1.

I finished top scorer (pretty good for a natural defender) and earned a well-deserved shower, after playing for two hours in the rain. A big win to end the week.

That’s how my freshers week turned out. I don’t know how that compares to other years; probably less partying this time. I didn’t have ridiculously high expectations but remember ending the week thinking about whether my life had changed that greatly. Regardless, I enjoyed myself despite COVID-19 restrictions and it was good to have some fun before the real work begins.  

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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University

On the first day of school – whether that’s primary, secondary or sixth-form – everyone begins with a blank canvas. We are all lined shoulder to shoulder on the starting line: some geared to go, heels poised upwards, ready to sprint off; others listlessly kicking the ground around them wondering when home-time is. Many situate themselves somewhere in between, full of apprehensions of being disliked or outed as a freak for the entirety of their schooling. 

After the whistle is blown, the socio-economic factors that dispose us to a fast acceleration or the opposite are manifold, yet in this present moment, irrelevant. We all start on the same line, each in our own lane. You begin the preliminary stages of education with ideas about who you want to be, how you’re going to carry yourself and what you want to do. Only time will tell if these dreams become realities. But on that very first day, in many senses, everyone is equal; it’s all to play for. 

On the very last day of college, the end of my compulsory education, I felt exactly the same. Although I had made ample friends and learned from a variety of sculpting experiences, I felt slightly empty, as if the mission wasn’t complete due to the abrupt intrusion of COVID-19. Suddenly isolated and pondering on my University journey ahead, with the blanket of my familiar sixth-form environment and friends mercilessly snatched off me as if Corona was the meanest nanny ever, I once again was quickly aware that I was approaching a new starting line.

Over the last few days, I’ve been practically and mentally preparing myself for the new journey ahead: buying supplies, clothes, kitchenware, bedding and such like. I’ve engaged with my university’s emails. I’ve considered what societies I’m going to join. I am somewhere on the brink between nostalgia and anticipation, slightly sickened as well as exhilarated. It’s an exciting time, despite being the end of an era. There is every opportunity out there for me to excel. My eyes are on the prize.

This year in particular has taught me that there’s a microscopic line between finessing and floundering. Where I’m from, finessing can mean stealing, committing fraud, or skillfully curling a football into either of the goal’s upper corners (Top Bins!). But personally, I think finessing means moving with seemingly effortless elegance as you rise above your challenges. Everyone wants to be that person, but there is a clear distinction between effortlessness and a lack of effort. Effortlessness is the privilege of facade, earned only by efficient repetitious practice, ensuring you arrive at your destination in style, you’re prepared for that job interview and you look good while doing it. In stark contrast, the latter guarantees you’re late to your slot, you don’t secure that job placement and you’re now probably sweaty after running for the bus. Mr or Ms Cutie in the seat behind you is now grimacing at the stench of your B.O. Nice work, loser. 

I hear recurring hisses through the grape-vines that University, unfortunately, can be tough. Balancing money, work, fun and feeding yourself brings foggy images of clowns and spinning plates to mind. Students more or less face the same challenges, depending on individual financial and social situations, and some people tackle these issues better than others. How I deal with them is yet to be seen, but I do trust myself to a sufficient degree. I like to think I am not a clown. I like to think I will finesse and not flounder.

My mentor at sixth form always tried to encapsulate my typical teenage trepidations into an analogy of rain water. In captivating Attenborough-like style, he’d describe how it would fall from the sky, first apprehensive in it’s mid-air liminality, to then eventually join rivers, others meandering into meadows, others being consumed and so on. The range of possibility for each droplet is vast. Eventually, everything finds its way. I always thought to myself that poetic as this may be, water tends to move in bodies, taking part in the perpetual game of follow-the-leader all elements of this earth seem to be bound to. Also rain drops don’t have brains. I never said this to his face though, I didn’t want to rain on his parade (haha).His analogy did stay with me though, and at this impasse I find myself at it’s been circling my mind more than ever. I wonder every day what my path will be, and how much control I truly have over deciding. I imagine I’m now part of a tributary, approaching the mouth of a new river. I want my new chapter to commence. More than anything I’m just excited to leave my parent’s house and meet other young people. New people. I’m still unsure about how freeing this experience will be due to tighter restrictions on gatherings; many of the freshers’ events at my university will be held online. I don’t want to attend a fresher’s event online. You can’t kiss a girl online.

Written by Xaymaca Awoyungbo

Edited by Declan Agrippa

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2020 Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival is an 2-day summer event celebrated annually by roughly 1 million people from London and surrounding areas alike, officially set up in 1966 as an offshoot of it’s Trinidadian antecedent, it aimed to promote diversity and cultural unity. 2020 has been an extremely tumultuous year to say the least, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, on the 7th of May Carnival was cancelled for the first time in 50 years. Instead of getting to run wild and free in the streets of West London, if you still wanted to celebrate you’d have been instructed to watch the online ‘equivalent’ at home. This almost made me miss even the worst setbacks of Carni: The losing your friends in the sea of sweaty drunks; The screaming down the phone to arrange the remeet; The menacing stare of the mandem on the wall whilst doing so; The ridiculously overpriced and under-portioned jerk! Sigh

A series of free live-streamed events were broadcasted simultaneously across four channels on the Notting Hill Carnival website, including various sound systems, calypso dancers, steel bands and the famous main parade. But some people still tried to keep the spirit of carnival alive in the traditional fashion. Most notably, Adele made headlines for festively adopting Bantu knots, a Jamaican flag bikini and customary feathers in a somewhat controversial Instagram post. The picture aroused short-lived mockery and anger amongst other reactions, begging the question: was she appropriating, or appreciating?

Irrespective of the image, I was initially inclined towards the latter, since the caption read: “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London” – capped off with a British flag emoji followed by a Jamaican one. Innocent enough, I thought. But, after a closer look I realised the source of scandal was not her profession of love for the event or her city, or even really the bikini; it was her hair. 

‘Bantu knots’ are a protective, normally feminine styling used for afro hair. It originated in southern and central Africa and is named after the people who speak the Bantu language. The hairstyle has since been adopted by celebrities like Mel B as well as many everyday black women across the globe. As said by Dazed & Confused Magazine, the questions that you have to ask yourself when determining whether you’re culturally appropriating or not are: 

  1. “Am I reducing this to a fashion statement? 
  2. Are people of this culture profiting? 
  3. Am I in an environment where this is appropriate?” 

So, is Adele reducing the hairstyle to a fashion statement? Strictly speaking, yes. Protective stylings are used by those with afro hair to prevent it’s damage. But since it would have been carnival maybe her appearance should have been a fashion statement, and anyway, the function of the style within the black community isn’t exclusively protective, Mel B being a prime example. Although, the desired look could have been achieved without the hair. There is definitely a lack of necessity that places it in the fashion statement tickbox. 

 

Are the people of this culture the ones profiting from this? No. Black hair is heavily politicised as I’ve previously mentioned, and 1 in 4 adults (24%) in a 1000 person UK survey carried out by WAD (World Afro Day) said they’ve had bad or very bad experiences with their Afro-textured hair and identity. So, when a white woman is seen adopting a hairstyle considered black, it can understandably engender tensions because similar ramifications don’t apply to her.

However, in reference to Dazed’s third question, Notting Hill carnival is seemingly the only environment within the year where this would arguably be appropriate, in London at least. Unless you want to really throw the book at her. Anyone who has been knows these kinds of spectacles aren’t out of the ordinary. But being a prominent public figure, she is inevitably subject to more scrutiny. This is unfair. Not only this, but I really don’t think she’s too far removed from the culture. She’s a working-class girl from Tottenham and clearly takes pride in the cultural influences she grew up around. Despite the conclusions the first two questions brought me, I ultimately believe the situation was blown out of proportion in typical social-media style. I believe if most of the people whining saw her as she’s dressed in the picture, at Carni, and she wasn’t famous, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. The detached and revocable nature of commenting on social media, combined with the politically correct world we live in today encourages impetuously drawn ‘scandals’ that, frankly, seem to cause more harm than good. There are more important things to worry about. Forever Sauce wishes Adele the best.


Xaymaca Awoyungbo

Edited by Declan Agrippa

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Results Day

A level results not great? Don’t worry, you can protest against the downgrading that’s shafted almost 40% of students. Little consolation I know, but still more reassuring than Jeremy Clarkson’s annual results day Tweet.

It was always going to be difficult to determine students’ grades once exams were cancelled in March. There was never going to be a completely fair way. I’ve been thinking about it for the last five days, rather than five months admittedly, but the situation was still bleak.

Predicted grades can be optimistic – 38% of students this year would have received As or A*s; 11% higher than the previous record. Mocks are not standardised, even within the same school, because some teachers provide more guidance than others. And we’ve seen the flaws in Ofqual’s algorithm, punishing students for factors that they can’t control, like their school’s previous record in their chosen subjects.

It’s a mechanical approach, which has real life consequences. People have worked very hard for this moment (our whole time at school), just for Ofqual to estimate what would have happened if exams went ahead. How can you know what grades I would have achieved? You can’t.  That’s the problem.

I understand the desire to control grade inflation but not all courses have been lenient, with the exception certain colleges at Oxford University. I don’t know how much easier it actually has been this year to get into university, despite the fact that we didn’t sit exams and the anticipated decrease in the number of foreign students. It’s especially disappointing for those students still struggling to get their desired place, after already going through exam and interview processes.

But the handling of the situation, with decisions like the “triple lock” made just hours before the results were published, has just made things worse. And on Saturday it was announced that Ofqual is reviewing its appeals policy.

I initially didn’t want to be too critical, given the circumstances, but decisions like these are just making things worse. They make calls for the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to resign, justified. He’s simply added to the existing issues within the education the system.

The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of exams, which are as fair an assessment that we have, although they are only based on the student’s performance on a day. The potential advantages of attending private schools unsurprisingly, as they saw the highest percentage rise in As and A*s, although the effect on disadvantaged students wasn’t as significant as in Scotland. And the problem with predicted grades, given that in 2008, only 16% of grades awarded were accurately predicted.

But having said all this, we don’t live in a true meritocracy anyway. There are going to be those who have an advantage compared to those who have obstacles placed in front of them.

It’s just this time things were taken so far out of people’s control. Furthermore, the idea that if you work hard in school, you’ll do well in your exams and give yourself the best options for your future, has been ridiculed.

Nonetheless, I hope that those who were downgraded and are still looking for a place can try to stay positive. The A Level results are not the definition of success or failure.

It goes without saying that I say this from the lucky position of having a university place confirmed. And although I had to wait for my two choices to make a decision on my application (the demoralising process of phoning universities, just to be put on hold and listen to classical music for half an hour), I still can’t imagine what it’s like to still not know where you are going to end up.

Before receiving my results, I tried to look at it as something out of my control, which patently makes things more unjust. But the whole year has been full of surprises. It’s done a great deal to expose problems within our society. And we’ve had to constantly adapt.

So, I’d like to leave you with some thoughts from another annual A level Tweeter; Alhan Gençay. Whatever happens with your grades, “ur gonna be a boss I assure you”.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Wot Do U Call it? Racist? (w/Matt)

Two weeks ago, Wiley took to his Twitter and Instagram, as he does, and pissed some people off, as he does. It seems he’d had enough of targeting Jeremy Corbyn supporter, Stormzy. And this time he didn’t specifically take aim at the Jewish, mixed-race rapper, Drake.

Instead, he decided to vilify the Jewish community. Tropes of Jewish people being in control, black people being the true Israelites and the relationship between Jewish people and black people were all included in his outburst. 

He’s since been banned from Facebook (and Facebook owned Instagram), YouTube and Twitter. He received criticism from celebrities and commoners alike and his conduct sparked a #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate Twitter boycott, with those as high up as Home Secretary, Priti Patel and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, condemning his actions.

There is a debate to be had about Wiley’s actions, how the whole ordeal was dealt with and the wider issues of anti-Semitism in our society and the relationship between the Jewish and black community.

I was approached by friend Matt, who felt compelled to speak out following the proceedings so I asked him a few questions:


How did you feel when you read some of Wiley’s tweet’s and heard his response to criticism?

“Pretty upset and quite threatened. I think for many people it’s easy to attribute his tirade to lunacy (and who can blame them it’s Wiley), but I felt that the sentiments he shared are not unprecedented nor are they uncommon. They are real, abhorrent narratives that have a strong presence in much of the discourse surrounding Jews and Judaism .

In his Sky News interview Wiley offered a nonsensical apology for nothing in particular before proceeding to double down on his antisemitic statements. So, it’s clear he fully understands the weight and harm of his comments yet continues to share his prejudices. Thus, he is a malicious anti-Semite, who caused me to feel upset.

Furthermore, the huge audience he has amassed throughout his musical career meant his Tweets reached far and wide, and sadly they were often met with praise rather than outrage.  This meant I felt threatened. If this really is a popular opinion of Jews, how does this affect the safety of a continually persecuted race? And what can be done to counter this misperception?”

Were some of Wiley’s claims misdirected and where do you think that they come from?

“As he told Zeze Millz in an interview, he ‘suffer[s] with bumbaholes’, so clearly a bumbahole or two has riled him up. Unfortunately, these bumbaholes happen to be Jewish, so he’s put 2 and 2 together and come up with some sort of episodic antisemitic manifesto self-published via Twitter.

However, such misdirected aggression has a root in the exploitation of black musicians by greedy managers and label heads who, sometimes, happen to be Jewish. Is this the result of a ferociously capitalistic industry or a religion? I’d encourage you to do the quick maths and not fuck it up like Wiley”.

Are Jews simply used as scapegoats?

“I think this has certainly been the case historically and seems to have fostered a pathological distrust of Jews. I think that the scapegoating isn’t as pervasive as it has been previously, but within conspiracy theory circles it seems to be strong.

Every fucking conspiracy theory comes back to some Jewish elite master race. Goebbels gave us ‘The Eternal Jew’ and 4chan gave us Jewish-paedophile-imposter-lizard people”. 

Are people educated enough about antisemitism as a couple of other rappers have been accused of it (Jay-Z, Ice Cube etc.)?

“Like with any racism I think people suffer from being grossly miseducated when it comes to racism. The Black Lives Matter movement has forced me to confront my latent prejudices, acknowledge my privilege more than ever and educate myself. Given most racial hatred comes from ignorance, education on Judaism and Jews would certainly help someone to realise their privilege and ensure that they don’t contribute in discrimination.

And I don’t think bars like Jay-Z’s on ‘Story of Oj’: “You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?” help, despite seeming like an homage to Jewish business people. It is instead a perpetuation of a myth that leads to the justification of antisemitism. But again, comments like this are born from a deep divide between certain black and Jewish communities, especially within the music industry which could certainly be rectified with the help of education”.

Do you think that the 48hr twitter boycott was sufficient and widespread enough?

“Firstly, I don’t quite understand how a 48 hour boycott of a social media platform is going to make a difference to the problem of antisemitism. Had the boycott forced Twitter to consider enforcing their hate speech guidelines, which it didn’t, there wouldn’t still be rampant antisemitism in every other corner of the internet. Therefore, the problem is not Twitter, of course, but antisemitism itself. Maybe if there had been as much effort put into educating as there had been organising the boycott we would see some results. Who knows?

Secondly, some of the organisers of the boycott don’t have the best track record when it comes to anti-racism; people like Alan Sugar and Tracy-Ann Oberman. For them to be suddenly put on a pedestal of anti racist heroism despite does more to damage the cause than benefit it. Journalist, Rivkah Brown suggested the campaign spoke too much to the exceptionalism that can exist in areas of Jewish activism, which distances antisemitic racism from other forms of racism. Perhaps we could benefit from a more unified reevaluation of how we view racism in its various forms”.

So, you don’t think that antisemitism is considered a lesser form of racism as spiked editor Tom Slater suggested?

“I think Tom Slater is a salty prick who suffers from crippling white fragility and just latched onto antisemitism so he can argue white people suffer too. I’m not convinced he genuinely cares about Jewish people at all, but he used the article in question as a political tool to attack Labour, and perhaps rightly so. However, the UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote that article from a qualified position; no one asked for Slater’s commentary.

But back to the question. I don’t think antisemitism is a lesser racism, I mean how the fuck do you quantify racism? I think that the forms of racism are different. A white Jew may benefit from white privilege in some situations but fear for their lives going to synagogues, Jewish schools or supermarkets.

Slater does reference what he calls the ‘left-wingers’ myopic obsession with Israel’ which is certainly a comment worthy of discussion. But I am not equipped to speak on that and unlike Slater I know when to take a step back”. 


Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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The danger of celebrity

Last week, we heard Kanye West at a presidential campaign rally in North Carolina, covering a range of topics, from his marriage with Kim Kardashian West, abortion and abolitionist Harriet Tubman. We’ve read a couple series of Tweets, some of which have been deleted, again about his marriage with Kim, the film Get Out and his upcoming album, DONDA, named after his late mother, who died in 2007. We’re seeing discussions around the rapper’s mental health arising and seemingly the danger of being a celebrity.

West has been in the public eye since 2004 but since the death of his mother, Donda West (tying in to the name of his upcoming album) in 2007, the way that people viewed him changed. A couple of public relationships, the 2009 VMAs and statements like slavery for 400 years “sounds like a choice”, have all altered the way that people look at Mr. West.

However, it’s easy to write this off as him being a “jackass” as Barrack Obama put it, following the Taylor Swift incident. It’s even easier to call him crazy as many have done on Twitter. It’s much harder to understand why he is acting like this and I’m not even going to attempt to do so fully.

The circumstances surrounding his mother’s death, living in the reality TV world of the Kardashians and being one of biggest celebrities, probably give you a bit of an idea as to what is going on. These are things that he’s had to try to deal with for years and after a while the pressure could become too great to hold in.

Comedian, Dave Chappelle, famously said in in an interview with Inside the Actor’s Studio in 2006 that “these people [celebrities] are not crazy, they’re strong people. Maybe they’re environment is a little sick”.

He was mainly referring to an incident in 1996 when Martin Lawrence had a loaded gun on the streets of Los Angeles, crying that “they’re trying to kill me”. Chappelle was eluding to the idea that the life that these celebrities live and what surrounds them could bring them to breaking point.

Dave Chappelle himself walked away from a $50 million deal in 2005 for Season 3 of the Chappelle, instead opting to go to South Africa. He was called crazy for it.

Similarly, West was confirmed a billionaire earlier this year yet this is another Kanye West moment to add to the list. It was therefore fitting that Chappelle recently visited him in Wyoming, after one of his Twitter rants.

It’s important that more people adopt Chappelle’s approach, whether they’re people close to West, or whether it’s the people close to us in our everyday lives. Mental health discussions shouldn’t be limited to anxiety and depression, which have become increasingly normalised over the past couple of years. We need to talk about things like hallucinations, exhaustion and bipolar disorder; the latter, singer, Halsey highlighted in a series of Tweets condemning jokes about his episode.

Much of the truth of his relationship with the Kardashians, like Kim’s meeting with Philadelphia rapper, Meek in 2018 for ‘prison reform’ in 2018 and terms like “Kim Jon Un”, which all came up in recently deleted Tweets, will probably come out later. Furthermore, his feelings about his mother have been seen and could soon be heard on his album.

Whether or not his speech and outbursts helped to promote his album, rather than a presidential bid, at least not this year, is still up for debate, especially since he failed to submit petition signatures for the South Carolina ballot and missed the deadline in a couple of other states.

Having said this, I see someone who is hurt so I hope that accepts whatever support he needs.

But he said it best on Pusha T’s 2018 song, What Would Meek Do:

“be careful who you call crazy / Yeezy the newest billion-dollar baby”

Kanye West, 2018

It seems that Meek Mill doesn’t bring happiness and money fame definitely don’t.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Afrobeat vs Afrobeats

Fela Kuti influenced the spirit of modern day Afrobeats but not the overall message and sound.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti, originally Olufela Ransome-Kuti, is a name known by all Nigerians. Political activist, rebel and the pioneer of the music genre Afrobeat.

Today however, there is a new sound coming out of Africa and the African diaspora; Afrobeats. It has influenced the likes of Drake and Ed Sheeran. Led to collaborations with artists like Chris Brown and Popcaan. And people like Wizkid, Burna Boy and DaVido are superstars in their own right.

However, how closely connected are the two genres? Is Afrobeats an evolution of the movement started by Kuti fifty years ago? Or do the similarities extend only so far as their names?


Afrobeat

A music genre formed in the late 1960s that combines African American genres, like jazz and funk with the Ghanaian music genre, highlife.

Born in 1938 to a middle-class family, Kuti defied the wishes of his feminist activist mother and Protestant minister father, and studied music at Trinity College London in 1959. I guess that didn’t fit the African parent stereotype; my child must be a doctor, lawyer or accountant.

While in London, he explored Afro Cuban music and jazz but still largely played highlife with his band the Koala Lobitos. However, he didn’t like the genre as

“he thought that higlife had the beat not the depth while jazz had the depth but not the beat”


Sebastine, E, 2017, The Afrobeat Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in Nigeria

It wasn’t until his trip to Los Angeles in 1969 that his Afrobeat journey really took shape.

Inspired by the funk of James Brown and the Black Power movement, on his return to Nigeria, he and his music became more conscious.

He changed his band’s name from to Nigeria 70, then to Africa 70 and finally Egypt 80. He switched his name from Ransome to Anikulapo (one who has captured death in his pouch), since the former was a slave name. And he called his club the Afro Spot and later The Shrine.

His lyrics were often in protest against the corruption and brutality of the military governments. Delivered in call and response fashion with the singers in his band, he would interchange between English, pidgin and Yoruba, depending on what part of society he was addressing.

“When addressing the elite he used standard Nigerian English; when addressing the civil society he used Nigerian pidgin English; when addressing Yoruba political issues he used Yoruba”



Saleh-Hanna, V, 2008, Fela Kuti’s Wahala Music: Political Resistance Through Song

Afrobeats

An umbrella term coined by DJ Abrantee in 2011, for music that combines genres like Hip-hop, Dancehall and R&B with traditional African music.

The music coming out of Africa, classed as Afrobeats, has gradually been picking up momentum. The launch of MTV Base Africa in 2005 meant that West African music was showcased, giving rise to stars like P-Square. However, it wasn’t until 2011 and D’banj’s Oliver Twist that Afrobeats received mainstream attention in the UK, charting in the top ten.

The British-Ghanaian rappper, Sway, argued that there are similarities between Afrobeat and Afrobeats, comparing D’banj to Kuti, in terms of

“taking western influences and adding them to African culture”

Hancox, D, 2012, The rise of Afrobeats

Both genres try to create a modern African sound, using pidgin, English and indigenous languages. 

Despite this, they are very different substance-wise.

Compare Beasts of No Nation by Fela Kuti with Ojuelegba by Wizkid.

Beasts of No Nation is over seven times longer than Ojuelegba and largely made up of an instrumental section.

When Kuti does speak, it is about the craziness of Nigerian society and his time in jail, whereas Wizkid’s lyrics are ones of gratitude. Furthermore, Kuti uses call and response and repetition to create discussion and reinforce his message while Wizkid structures the song, verse, chorus, verse, chorus.

I know which one that I would hear in a rave.

Simply put, Afrobeats is pop music made by mainly West Africans and artists within the African diaspora. This has meant that artists have begun

“to distance themselves from the term, given its incorrect association with the Afrobeat movement”


Kariisa, J, 2018, The Evolution of Afropop

instead using terms like Afropop, Afro-swing and Afro-fusion.

It is not socially conscious music, like Afrobeat and popular Afrobeats artist, DaVido said that “there’s so much going on Africa, the last thing that people want to hear is sad music” in an interview in 20171. This is the complete opposite of Kuti’s approach, who said that “there’s no music for enjoyment, for love, when there’s such a struggle for people’s existence”2.

Some artists have been able to channel Kuti’s energy with varying degrees of success, like Burna Boy, who often samples Kuti’s music and performed in his underwear as a tribute to him at the Felabration music festival in 2013.

Despite this, the reduced focus on socially and politically driven lyrics, the evolution of music and song structure and the ambiguity surrounding the term Afrobeats, means that it’s not directly influenced by Kuti. Rather he is someone who opened doors for the current wave of artists.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Sebastine, E, 2017, The Afrobeat Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in Nigeria, (Accessed: 4th May 2020), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329787947_The_Afrobeat_Legacy_of_Fela_Anikulapo_Kuti_in_Nigeria

Collins, J, 2015, Fela: Kalakuta Notes, Connecticut, KIT

Labinjoh, J, 1982, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: Protest Music and Social Processes in Nigeria, Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, Communication and Change in Sub- Saharan Africa, 119-134

Barrett, L, 1998, Fela Kuti: Chronicle of A Life Foretold, (Accessed: 31st May 2020), https://www.thewire.co.uk/in-writing/essays/fela-kuti_chronicle-ofa-life-foretold

Stewart, A, 2013, Make It Funky: Fela Kuti, James Brown and the Invention of Afrobeat, American Studies, Vol. 52, No.4, 99-118

Williamson, N, 2008, Tony Allen: The veteran Afrobeat drummer is shaking his sticks as hard and as brilliantly as ever, (Accessed 21st June 2020), https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/tony-allen-the-veteran-afrobeat-drummer-is-shaking-his-sticks-as-hard-and-as-brilliantly-as-ever-770993.html

Saleh-Hanna, V, 2008, Fela Kuti’s Wahala Music: Political Resistance Through Song, Colonial Systems of Control: Criminal Justice in Nigeria, 355-376

Saleh-Hannah, 2008

Sullivan, C, 2020, How Fela Kuti changed the game with Fela Fela Fela, (Aceesed: 8th July 2020), https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/culture/article/fela-kuti-afrobeat-fela-fela-fela

Obkircher, F, 2020, The Story Behind West Africa’s Booming Afrobeats Musical Export, (Accessed: 22nd June 2020), https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/theredbulletin/the-story-behind-afrobeats-popularity

Hancox, D, 2012, The rise of Afrobeats, (Accessed: 5th May 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/jan/19/the-rise-of-afrobeats

Hancox, 2012

[1] Kariisa, J, 2018, The Evolution of Afropop, (Accessed: 5th May 2020), https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/music/the-evolution-of-afropop

Kariisa,2018

Kariisa,2018

[2] Grass, R, F, 1986, Fela Kuti: The Art of an Afrobeat Rebel, The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 30, No. 1, 131-148

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George Floyd: when will it stop?

As everyone is aware, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered by police officer, Derek Chauvin, on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a case similar to that of Eric Garner in 2014 because both men said “I can’t breathe” whilst being restrained by the police. Having said that, it was a case that was similar to so many others and it seems that the cycle continues.

To see a man killed in such a way, with Chauvin leaning his knee on Floyd’s neck, was particularly brutal but unfortunately not something that I haven’t seen before, showing how desensitised we have become to events like these.

I feel conflicted about going onto social media when events like these initially happen, at least without researching the situation first. If not, it could seem like a trend that people follow then forget about, until the next black person is unjustly killed by the police. However, it is something that I have to talk about because police brutality is a trend that needs to stop. When will black people respected? When will people stop denying the truth? When will it stop?


Three responses to the event stood out to me, not including the looting in Minneapolis, Donald Trump’s tweets or the arrest of a CNN journalist at the protests.

No, these responses are from three men who live in London. The Attack the Block actor, John Boyega, the educator, rapper and author of the book, Natives, Akala and the rapper and House of Pharaohs resident, Sam Wise.

On March 27th as much of the social media response unfolded, I saw that John Boyega was trending. Accustomed to Twitter and its trends, I knew that this could potentially be for the wrong reasons. However, I was surprised to read that he had tweeted “I really fucking hate racists”. I mean, that seems like quite a safe statement to make. A black person that doesn’t like racists. Any person that doesn’t like racists.

However, with social media and people being the way that they are, this comment caused discussions in his mentions and led to him having to defend his previous comments on Instagram live. This all stemmed from responses insisting that Boyega was being short sighted, adding to the problem or not looking at the bigger picture. Tweets about racism towards white people, the different ways that racism can occur and the statistics showing black on black crime.

What I repeatedly fail to understand, is how this has any correlation with Boyega’s tweets and the murder of George Floyd. They are simply distractions. We all saw what happened and understood what he said so there was no reason for him to have to defend himself and his statements. Nonetheless, it was great to see someone of Boyega’s stature speak out in such an uncensored way and take a stand.

It felt similar to the situation with Streatham rapper, Dave and his track entitled Black, in which he received backlash from BBC Radio 1 listeners due to the content of his song. He even said in his performance of the song at 2020’s Brit Awards, “if you don’t want to get it, then you’re never going to get it”.

Sometimes I wonder what the point is, in giving energy to people who deny someone’s concerns about race. It reminded me of a chapter of Natives that I read while working on my personal statement for university.

The chapter is called, Interlude: A Guide to Denial. The most relevant point was the one with the title: “But what about [INSERT ANY INJUSTICE HERE]?”

Yes, we know that other injustices exist but this is what we’re talking about now and in the case of the John Boyega back and forth, some of these other injustices seemed trivial in comparison to George Floyd’s murder.

This reminder meant that I checked to see what Akala had to say on Twitter, given that he is someone that we look up to in the black community and he said something very telling.

This is something that needs more unpacking and possibly someone more well read to do it justice but it caused me to think about the lack of respect that black people are given. The idea is that if we improve the situation in black countries economically, politically and militarily, it won’t matter that people don’t like us. The phrase, you don’t like me but you’ll have to respect me comes to mind.

And it was a sentiment felt by Sam Wise also. On his Snapchat he was going off, talking about the subject and how things could change. He used the examples of China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates to illustrate how it could be done, through the sale of oil and industrialisation.

Now, they are “big time world player[s]” and they have a level of respect that black people don’t have. Why do you think that schools have introduced Chinese into their curriculum? They’re soon going to be the biggest world player. So, you can make jokes about how they name children by dropping a spoon on the floor and calling them whatever sound the spoon makes, but it won’t affect them in the same way that racist jokes would affect black people. They will soon be laughing.

And we know how they have treated black people and non-Chinese people generally during this pandemic. It sucks to be the bottom of the bottom. And if this will only end after African and Caribbean countries become stronger, then there will surely be more cases like this and more frustration.

Nonetheless, there are ways to actively confront the problem, like donating money to his memorial fund, donating to the legal funds for the protesters who have been arrested, signing petitions and contacting officials. Rest in peace George Floyd.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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What’s your addiction? (w/Braedon)

I was slightly reluctant to write this article because it requires me to be open and honest with myself. I was becoming quite frustrated and was losing sight of the goals that I had previously set.

I ended up having a random chat with my friend, Braedon, about betting, given the return of the Bundesliga. He said that he “won’t start properly though [beyond free bets] because he’s “the kind of person who’d develop an obsession for it”.

It got me thinking about a different Kanye West song and albumAddiction off of Late Registration. So I asked Braedon; what’s your addiction?

“I get addicted to things like gym so I can’t channel [my energy] negatively because that could easily create huge problems for me”.

Braedon


This is something that I related to because I try to put my energy into positive things, although it can be difficult, especially when you have formed an attachment to things that no longer serve you.

For Braedon, these were things like drinking, negative people and Tinder. Lockdown in some ways has made it easier to give certain things up. Drinking, for instance, is a habit that can be brought on through peer pressure. And although Tinder could be particularly useful these days, lockdown has allowed people to form their own habits, with less outside pressure.

“I also don’t like being addicted to one thing because that just makes you one dimensional…if you channel the addictiveness towards different things then you’ll become good at many things”

Braedon

You may call him Braedon but I call him Aristotle. We’re creatures of habit and by forming good habits, we can try to overcome our incontinent will.


Personally, I injured myself working out at home, meaning that I had a void in my day, leading me to think about my habits. I wasn’t following my workout routine correctly and had become more concerned about reps, rather than technique and my safety.

I also learned the value of exercise for your mental health because not being able to work out, meant that I didn’t have the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a set. I thought that I was going to lose my gains.

But, I’m learning to have patience because so many people get injured or have flat days. With the extra time in my day, I was getting caught up in comparisons and overthinking.

Nonetheless, I have to keep going because creating is the way in which I can get my ideas out. I just need to try and enjoy it, stay motivated and inspired. And with that being said, I will reference one last Kanye West song – Gorgeous – the namesake of my latest single, dropping on Friday.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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Love Lockdown (w/Tori)

808s & Heartbreak is by no means my favourite Kanye West album, but at the moment, it is the most relevant. There’s a Love Lockdown. Many of us are either separated from our partners or missing real life interactions with potential love interests.

Initially, I started to get withdrawals. As a straight man, the thought of not being around young women for months, was something concerning. As an animal more so, I had one thing in my head; to reproduce.

Then, my rational side kicked in and I realised that the lockdown could serve as a much-needed break from some of the stress that relationships can bring. This is time for me to work on myself – self-care and all the clichés.

However, I started to wonder what it was like for people already in relationships. How were they coping? Can they maintain what they had before Covid-19?

So, I spoke to my friend, Tori, to get her perspective on lockdown love. And, here is what she had to say:


How would you describe your relationship before lockdown?

I’d say [it was] very strong, almost co-dependent because we’d spend almost almost everyday together.

How do you think that this has changed since the government announced the Covid-19 restrictions?

It’s changed because I’m locked down with her so it means [we’re together 24/7]. It’s difficult… [because] you have to keep your mood up in order to keep the other [person] in high spirits, which makes it harder when… [my mood is] up and down in lockdown.

[However], it hasn’t changed in the typical way, like: I’m sick of this person.

So, do you think that when lockdown ends, things will be different? Would you need a break? Or would you be closer?

I think closer in the way [in which] it will be weird not going to bed together. But I think it will mean that we can appreciate going out together and being able to see our friends and just regain the balance.

I don’t think that [lockdown has] made us worse but it’s…not all rainbows, especially because we’re both frustrated with not being stimulated by school or having distractions.

[Having said that], we’re good at letting each other do our own thing if we need some space. Like, she’s playing Xbox…warzone. [And,] I’m normally calling my friends or family.

So, you’ve been able to keep the balance?

Mostly yeah [but] I’ve also noticed [that lockdown equals] exes [getting] back into your life. I think [it’s because] generally people find this experience very lonely. [Therefore, people get back with their exes] as a form of safety or comfort because they’re lonely.

Do you think that those relationships will be long lasting?

In my opinion, no (laughing emoji). [There are so many exes or past tings that] I haven’t heard from in years, shouting me and it’s just pathetic.

Obviously, your situation is different because you’re with your partner, but do you think that people can build and maintain relationships purely online?

I think…hypothetically, [yes]. Someone moves to you, you get to know them and you can give them a lot of attention…[so] something might blossom.

But in my experience…I’ve been through all of that and then met them and felt completely different [so you need to actually be around the person to know].

What do you miss the most from pre-lockdown life?

[Well], I just turned 18 so I haven’t had the experience of…going clubbing, going to bars (legally) [with my friends]. I just miss my girls.

Off the Coronas

I found the conversation with Tori interesting because it wasn’t what I expected. I expected it would be difficult for couples to stay in touch but this doesn’t apply in her situation. This gave me a whole new perspective and helped me to understand what it’s like to live with a girlfriend and the effect that that can have on your relationship.

This is an experience alien to me so I knew that she was going to ask me about my love life in lockdown. And, here is what I had to say:

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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A conversation about colourism (w/Tabitha)

Last Monday I opened Twitter to see Nella Rose, Chunkz and Somalis trending. I didn’t think much of it because they’re quite popular influencers/YouTubers and at that point, were considered the people’s champions. However, I quickly realised that they were trending for the wrong reasons; as so often is the case on Twitter. Their Tweets along with those of other influencers like Only Bells, Aliyah Maria Bee and Yung Filly and rappers like Tion Wayne and Headie One, were being exposed all over the timeline.

These Tweets offended mainly dark-skinned women as well as the Somali community and included derogatory language. It was something that saddened me because they were comments from black people and reflected the self-hatred that some of us feel.  However, I was more interested in getting women’s perspectives on the situation, since it is an issue that doesn’t affect men in the same way, as I don’t think there is the same pressure in terms of beauty standards.

Colourism, which is discrimination against people of a darker skin tone, is an issue within the African diaspora and is something that I think should be discussed in order to move forward. So, I spoke to my good friend, Tabitha, to get her take on the situation. And, this is what she said:


How did you feel when you saw the Tweets?

“I wasn’t really surprised by them, which is a bit sad but only because the bashing of black women online is not something that is completely unheard of.

[However], I was kind of shocked to see who the Tweets were coming from… because these are obviously like black, dark skinned women.

I was a bit annoyed because I feel like Nella Rose especially is a role model for a lot of black girls …she’s kind of got herself together [yet] …had been a part [of the bashing of black women]”.

I watched Nella Rose’s apology where she spoke about what motivated her Tweets. They seemed to come from a self-hatred. I was wondering if you had ever felt that way?

Skin tone

“I’ve never hated my skin tone or anything but sometimes you do think negative things about it because people say negative things.

I wouldn’t want to be called blick (an offensive term to suggest that someone is darker than black) for example, but that shouldn’t be a bad term, if you’re just saying someone’s dark. [It means that] you’ve grown to think that’s a bad thing”.

Preference

When it comes to men making their preference known, the fact that “you’re not even really acknowledged [could mean that you] feel a sort of way.

A lot of the time you might have to think, oh, am I someone’s type or is this person going to find me attractive?

Some black men say we’re here for our dark-skinned sisters but do you actually practise what you preach?  I think that a lot of that love for dark-skinned women or black women in particular is a lot online.

For example, [if] you hear a small throwaway comment about someone being dark like that’s a negative [thing], would you pick up [on it] or would you just laugh and shrug the conversation off? What would you actually do in real life if you were faced with these problems?” 

Comparisons

“As a woman you get compared and “me who has a light-skinned best friend – normally we’re compared. [And] you start attaching different features to your skin tone…[like] dark skinned women [being] aggressive. It leads to the fetishisation of lighter skinned women”.

What do you think about colourism and your experience as a whole?

“I think people always try and ignore the issue.

With racism for example, that’s a black versus white thing and people will see that as…an issue from someone outside our community. We can fight that.

 But I feel like with something like colourism, or just issues with black women in general, people don’t want to talk about it because it makes people feel uncomfortable that some kind of injustice is happening within our community. I think whenever black women bring it up, we’re seen as trying to be victims or causing problems and all of that, when we just have an issue that [needs to be addressed].

And I feel like we also forget that two different things intersect, like being a woman and being a dark-skinned woman. [When these characteristics] come [together], it’s even worse”.

Will anything change?

I feel like it’s a generational thing and it’s just a cycle. It goes on and on.

I have a little sister…and she’s darker than me and sometimes she’s thought negative things about herself and not thought that she’s beautiful because she’s darker. And I think that those are the kind of issues that you have to confront from young, otherwise they kind of slowly become a part of your mindset, which is why they could turn out as self-internalised hate, like how it came out with Nella Rose’s Tweets

What do you think should happen to someone like Nella? Should these influencers be “cancelled”? What do you think that they should do?

[They should be accountable for what they said and realise] why it’s wrong. [Nella] made a whole video on why she thought those things about herself and why she made the Tweets and we all understood it a bit more. I’m not saying it’s right or anything but because you could see where she came from, you felt a bit more like, okay, I can understand why she said it.

She hated black women because she hated herself and I think that that was quite important [to say]. The effect that [colourism] can have on yourself is so big, in terms of your self-esteem [and] your self-image.

In the past, I was a cancel person if a person said a certain thing that I didn’t agree with [but]…you have to realise that people can change and don’t hold the same opinion so you can’t judge them for something that they’ve said ages ago”.

My Uju Milit


Food for thought. I had to do a lot of listening because this is her experience and a shared experience for many women. These are things that I might be unaware of or don’t even acknowledge because they don’t concern me. Nonetheless, it is important that it does concern me since I could be involved in the spreading of these views, which have been passed down. So, if I’m at least aware of it, I can take steps to be active in support and think about what I stand for. Here is what I had to say:


Another inspiration for this article was Alfreda, another young black woman, who recently set up an Instagram page called @rewritingthenarrative_. It made me think and question what I had seen and it’s encouraging to see someone turn the situation into something positive, which is what many people have done during these Corona virus times.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/

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Songs that I’m listening to (2)

Eastenders, Ambush Buzzworl

Beef over gyal is mad! Ambush Buzzworl (one of my favourite UK rappers) dropped a track with a message last Thursday. The song is called Eastenders and like the soap, it is full of drama.

However, word to Ambush, “life’s real dirty, this ain’t no soap” (I only just caught that double entendre).

The Camden rapper gives us three short stories of men who couldn’t handle their emotions. Stories of jealousy and betrayal. Stories that went too far. But the worst thing is that they are based on real situations.

The last verse is based on the murder of fashion model, Harry Uzoka.

I remember that his death on January 11th 2018, stood out amid concern over knife crime in London because he was so well connected to our scene and remembered as such a positive person.

Harry Uzoka (died aged 25)

This shows that Ambush is trying to highlight serious issues and show people that it is not worth it. There are too many emotions involved when it comes to love interests so the consequences of acting on these emotions can be grave.

As usual, when I hear a powerful track like this, I showed it to my mum. She told me a story about an ex-boyfriend who wanted her and another girl to fight over him. She didn’t know that he already had a girlfriend so was shocked to find out the truth. This situation could have gone left since the other girl confronted my mum but she was cooperative and straightforward so drama was avoided.

Whether it’s gyal or man, the beef is mad and not worth it. Listen to Ambush. God damn!

Slick, Ant D

I’m embarrassed that I’ve come across this song so late. But in reality, this is just the start.

I came across Ant D after listening to Sapphire with him and TBO. I thought that the beat was hypnotising and that his verse stood out in particular due to his deep voice, nonchalant lyrics and smooth flow.

This encouraged me to check him out and I found that he only had one other track out on all streaming platforms. It didn’t disappoint.

When I first listened to it, it made my eyes water. He’s got that old school style that I haven’t heard for a while, particularly from someone his age.

He gives me Potter Payper or Skrapz vibes but with his own style and the beat gave him enough space to deliver his message.

“Beating up the track like Anthony / Girls try trap me / Said she on her reds / But she’ll eat it like candy”

Ant D, Slick

Whenever I hear an artist deliver lines like this, in such a laid-back way, I can tell that they’re a problem. In addition, it’s basically a freestlye with a short chorus, showing me that he’s a rapper’s rapper. I’m basically asking for a feature at this point.

Fronto Isley, Smino

This sounds like a Sunday morning. A Sunday morning with Smino. Despite everything that’s going on, he continues to lift us. Because of everything that’s going on, he continues to lift us.

He dropped his mixtape, entitled She Already Decided last week and I love it. It was difficult to choose just one track to highlight so I went with the first one because of its message.

Smiyeah

The track slaps because even though we are in lockdown, life is good and don’t you ever forget it. There are also those people that you wish you could spend time with now as Smino sings “ain’t no place I’d rather be than with you”. Obviously, that isn’t possible but the track sparks the emotion that I feel for those people.

This is uplifting, like the whole mixtape. He tells us that he only worries about what he can control because the rest has already been decided by mother nature and that’s how I feel right now. We didn’t plan this but we have to deal with this pandemic.

And like Smino, I just want to get these ideas out. No rushing though since I’m not Russian. This sounds like a classic and it dropped at the perfect time.

Playlist

Check out the Forever Sauce playlists with more great songs and follow us on the socials.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/

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Greatest Shit: House of Pharaohs

This is the series that looks at people doing some of the greatest shit in our scene. We want to give people the flowers while they are still here and tell them “hey, what you’re doing is great, keep on doing it”. These are people doing it their way, however unconventional that may be. Last week, we looked at the creative director for the London based clothing brand, Corteiz, Clint 419. And, this week we have some Corteiz wearers, in the form of the South London, rap collective, House of Pharaohs.

House of Pharaohs are a group of creatives. They are rappers, producers, designers, managers and DJs. They are Sam Wise, Blaze YL, Bandanna, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern and Mally Chinks (rappers), G Lo (manager), Tilly (designer) and Jamo Beatz (DJ). They also have many associates. And, they represent a portion of the scene in South London yet have global potential.

(From left to right) Blaze YL, Kevin Taylor, Danny Stern, Sam Wise and Bandanna

I first came across House of Pharaohs on Instagram in late 2015. I was trying my best to be wavey so was preeing the “cool kids” two years above me at school and checking out what they were interested in.

I had seen a picture of one of these “cool kids” with an interesting looking fella, who I later identified as Bandanna, at Wavey Garms, a vintage clothing store in Peckham. Just looking at Bandanna, I became intrigued. He had long hair, nice clothes and looked carefree.

To give this more context, I was rocking a high top back then so I thought that if I got plaits, bought a couple of Stone Island pieces and kept on pushing my music, I’d basically be Bandanna.

Anyway, this one photo, led me to the House of Pharaohs. The guy whose Instagram I was looking at, had a playlist with a bunch of their songs and from there I was hooked.

Bandanna in Clint419’s earlier brand, Cade on the Map

This was after they had dropped their first collective tape together, the Southern Stamp EP. It was one of those moments where I thought wow. There are guys like this. Their sound was something that I hadn’t heard before but it seemed familiar because I was so interest in groups like Pro Era, the A$AP Mob and The Underachievers as well as more underground UK acts at the time.

I remember playing their track, 1:11, for one of my boys and he said that it sounded like a lullaby. I guess it’s because he wasn’t used to the sound yet but he soon became a believer.

It was the energy that caught me early on. 1:11 demonstrates this energy perfectly. Although the music and performances in the video were rough, the flair was undeniable and the video very well shot. They were a bunch of guys being themselves. They ran up into a hotel, a casino and a corner shop and had fun, bouncing around, hiding their nerves. They were what you want to be: free.

They also represented a different side of London and Black British culture. It was still familiar but their sound and style wasn’t limited to labels like Grime and Drill, which were popular at the time. They were a mixture of influences and they were able to execute it so naturally. In an interview between Sam Wise and events manager, Mr I Am Next, Sam effectively said that the antics which we saw in the videos, was how they really were – “we didn’t give a toss”.  

This attitude is still a theme but it’s amazing to see how they’ve learnt from the early experiences at shows, how their music has developed and the opportunities that they’ve created for themselves. It’s been seven years of dedication.

In my opinion, what brought the movement to the next level was the run from Raid to RWM (Run With Me). The quality had risen.

When I listen to Raid this day, it brings a tear to my eye. It was a showcase. The way that the beat built, the standard of the verses, the execution of the video. It brought things beyond just energy and into a well-oiled machine and you could tell that many people were involved in making things happen.

It allowed them to build momentum, with the release of Draws next. Again, the way that they were able to capture the fun that they had is beautiful. These videos and sounds are things that they can look back on and things that will bring back memories. Like Raid, Draws was undeniable and perfect for shows with the beat and its menacing hum and slapping snares, accompanied by memorable verses.

Then, it was the most polished track yet, RWM (Run With Me). This track really spread. From being played by Frank Ocean on his radio show, Blonded, to be recommended by a badders with surprisingly good music taste (check the comments section beneath the video). It became the entry point for many people and showed everyone how far they had come and the work that they had been putting in to produce their best song yet.

Since then, there’s been so much more. Project after project: Real Faces, The Fix EP, Seasons, Seasons II. More shows – I still remember the show at Tate Britain – while everyone else in the gallery was admiring the artwork on the walls, we admired the artists on the stage.

And, each member has come into their own, with Blaze’s solo music popping off, Bandanna in Top Boy and Sam Wise with his headline show last month. This individual work gave me more respect for the group as a whole too because there doesn’t seem to be any jealousy. They all keep on pushing and if one of them makes it, they all make it, as I saw when the whole gang came on stage at Sam Wise’s headline.

They are doing a lot for the underground UK music scene. They are laying out the blueprint for others to prosper. They have also gone had mainstream looks, like going on Mixtape Madness’ channel, Tim Westwood TV and collaborating with UK super-producer Nyge. Nonetheless, they remain genuine guys and true friends that also care about their supporters. I just hope that when this is all done, they can reminisce and smile at the great shit they did!

Check out their latest single, AM to PM and make sure to like, follow and comment!

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

https://www.instagram.com/xaymacaa/

https://www.instagram.com/saucingforever/

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Corona virus saved me (and could be helping you too).

Yes. You read that right. Corona virus saved me.

How, you may ask? I am aware of the severity of the situation and don’t want to trivialise it. I would like to say that I am quite an empathetic person and appreciate the number of people that the virus has affected, including people that I know. However, I am someone who tries to make the best out of bad situations and in this case, Corona has potentially gotten me out of a bad situation.

They say that the universe works in mysterious ways. Everything happens for a reason. All dogs go to…okay I’ll stop with the quotes.

The timing of recent events is something that’s interested me. I can only speak for myself but I know that other people have had all types of situations.

My ongoing issue was girl trouble that didn’t seem to go away, along with some tragic news and the expected exam stress. As a teenage boy, this is something unsurprising. I won’t go into the details but it was something that I feel affected me. 

From 2019, my brain was working in a way in which I wanted everything to be perfect and aligned. This meant that I wanted to be doing well socially, academically and psychologically. I’m not sure how much this type of thinking did help my psyche but I’d still say that it worked for me then.

I relied on emotion and intuition for the first part of year, which meant that I just did things if they felt right or I felt the urge. This developed into wanting to do everything as I just wanted to live and experience everything that I felt I had missed out on before. And this developed into stripping things back and focusing on what would make me more successful in everyone else’s eyes, like taking a break from music and concentrating on trying to get into Oxford. Each phase had its purpose but eventually led to a sense of disillusionment.

Anyway, I got myself into a bit of a situation by the end of the year. Things were looking good around November time; I was part of a school project; I was applying for Oxford and I was seemingly happier than before. However, I still felt the stress of wanting to prove that I was a sociable person, who could get girls.

As I look back on it, it sounds so stupid but that’s just how I was thinking at the time. This led to a couple of warnings, where I let my school work slip because I was focusing on the wrong things.

Despite this, I didn’t learn my lesson and I landed myself into a spot of bother. A couple of spots actually. The worst thing was that they happened so quickly after one another. Nope (not the worst), worse still, they became inter-related. They tainted relationships. They caused arguments. They…it was just a bit of an L really. It became a never-ending cycle of negativity. I didn’t know how I was going to get myself out of the situation. And then, Corona and social distancing came.

I used to pray that I could get out of the situation. That I could let it go. That God could cut the demons off. But I never expected this. So, now I have the opportunity to heal. I am detached from the situation. Things have been made easier and now I just need the mental strength to exploit this opportunity. It’s also time that I can use to do things that I really enjoy. There is no pressure of school (I know a couple of man buss case with that decision, me included). I’ll be damned if I don’t use this time effectively.

Ur turn: university? (w/ Elizabeth & Benaya)

From U grades to a U turn.  The government went back on their decision to determine A Level grades based on Ofqual’s algorithm on August 21st, instead opting for teacher assessed grades. It seems as if the student protests worked in overturning the government’s initial decision yet Gavin Williamson remains the Secretary for Education, despite calls for his head. Sally Collier, the chief regulator of Ofqual, has been used as the scapegoat instead, recently resigning from her position, along with the chief civil servant at the Department for Education, Jonathan Slater.  Nonetheless, many students still have not gained the outcome that they would have wanted.

I spoke to Benaya and Elizabeth, two of my former schoolmates, to understand how they were dealing with the situation. I wanted to find out if everything really has been “sorted out” as the prime minister, Boris Johnson claimed, after the U turn, which reversed the “mutant algorithm”.


How did you feel when the initial grades were published?

Benaya: When I sat down at school to receive my grades at socially distanced tables, I didn’t know what to expect. Prior to opening my A level results, I had been preparing for the worst. It was the best way to cope with any disappointment that would come my way. However, deep down there was a sense of hope. The prospect of going to university and getting out of my comfort zone was an opportunity I was starting to relish. After opening my results, that sense of hope quickly ceased and soon turned to a brief feeling of despondency.

Elizabeth: I felt failed. I felt like everything I had worked for didn’t matter solely because of my postcode. I also felt helpless because usually when you get a bad grade you can work hard to change it.

Benaya: My original predictions sent off to universities were AAA and I had received conditional offers to study at both Nottingham and Bristol. Fast forward seven months and I’ve got the grades BCD staring back at me. I could only laugh at how I had been downgraded for exams I didn’t even sit but rather than dwell on the disappointment, I chose to look ahead to the future with a sense of optimism to keep me aligned with my goals.

What did you think of the government and particularly Gavin Williamson’s handling of the whole situation?

Elizabeth: The government handled it poorly. Fair enough they made a U turn but the fact that this could happen in the first place shows the incompetence of the Tory government. I don’t feel comfortable living under a government that does not have faith in my ability and so Gavin should resign.

Benaya: I felt relief when the decision was taken to award whichever grade was higher out of the centre assed grade and the grade calculated by the computer algorithm. My initial grades were revoked and I received final A level grades of ABC. Still well short of my expectations, predictions and the grades required of me. Nevertheless, despite having a degree in social sciences, Gavin Williamson lacked the common sense and initiative needed to ensure that A level grades were awarded fairly and justly in the first place.

Elizabeth, I’m aware that you went to the protests in Parliament Square and you were even featured on BBC News. What was the atmosphere like when you were there?

It was nice to see so many young people. Since a lot of us were not of voting age last election, it was great to be able to have a voice and be listened to.

What are your plans now for the future?

Elizabeth: I am lucky and my school had faith in my abilities, giving me CAGs of A*A*A*A, which allows me to study medicine at Cambridge. However, I acknowledge that people still feel the way I felt when I received my downgraded grades on results day, so I just hope that a fair appeals process is put in place and BTEC students receive justice.

Benaya: I managed to attain five A*s and five As at GCSE, achieve top grades in both the clarinet and piano and guest star in two episodes of Holby City just to name a few things. I know that it’s imperative that I continue to make even greater use of these skills in my gap year, before I re-evaluate my options in just under a year’s time. Additionally, if I decide in a year that I still want to go to university, my aim will be to attend a top one. Regardless of my current situation, I’ve got an impact to make and an empire to build. 


Xaymaca Awoyungbo

I watched these non-English speaking films and here’s what I learnt

I wanted to stretch myself. I was getting bored of the same old bilge on Netflix. The big film stars and even bigger budgets. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to learn. So, I picked three different languages, three different cultures and three different stories. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Chungking Express

One of the main things that I love about film, is colour. Films like Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight showcase this expertly. The way in which the scenes look and flow helps to tell the story as much as the acting of Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders and Andre Holland, among others.

Therefore, Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express was fitting. Helped by the cinematography of Christian Doyle, he’s able to tell two simple, non-related fun stories about two police officers dealing with heartbreak. Set in the Chungking Mansions and Lan Kwai Fong of Hong Kong we see the fast-paced nature of the city juxtaposed with self-absorbed characters, seemingly detached from the world around them.

But it’s the process of the film that is most interesting and the way in which it was delivered. Kar Wai said that he approached it like a “student film”, as he was becoming bogged down by another film of his, Ashes of Time. So, he decided to bang out an idea in a two-month break. He grabbed three stories that he hadn’t yet fully developed and started.

No permits. No rehearsals. No complete script initially. He got his assistant director to take notes on the routines of the mansions, he set some of the film in Doyle’s apartment and he used his directorial instincts in a process that took just six weeks.

Known for wanting his actors to be natural since he “hate[s] acting”, he relied heavily, on the technique of step-printing, the prowess of Faye Wong and the feeling that elements like the music give you.

Step printing, helps scenes to look simultaneously fast and slow, allowing the character to feel detached from the outside world. Most notably, in the scene when cop 663 (Tony Leung) feels sorry for himself as he waits for Faye in a bar. And this technique also helps to make scenes more dramatic, like in the opening scene when cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) runs past the blonde wigged Bridgette Lin.  

The film does a great job of transporting the viewer into the mind of the character, especially someone like Faye Wong (a popular singer song writer at the time) as she danced around to The Mamas & The Papas California Dreamin’.

It’s is perfect for romantic comedy fans. It’s about chances, hope and takes the idea of stalking your crush to a new level. But if you’re Faye Wong, you can get away with it.

Bacurau

It seems it’s the season for human hunting. I don’t mean the corona virus or the police. But, a couple of recent films centred around hunting the poor for sport.

Bacurau is one of them, along with the The Hunt and the TV series, The Most Dangerous Game. But this is not a new concept, with The Most Dangerous Game also being a 1924 short story and 1932 film. Moreover, there have been public executions throughout history, killing of indigenous people and upper-class Spartans in Ancient Greece even hunted farmers.

In this case, Bacurau is a fictional Brasilian town, which is invaded by Americans and one German set on killing the natives. Filled with unsettling scenes of violence, the Magnificent Seven-esque film is set in the future, which according to Daniel Wright of Lancaster University, could soon become a reality.

He suggests that by 2200, human hunting could become acceptable as a form of tourism, after predominantly being an underground activity prior. This is because he says that “humans will gradually become accustomed to death”. This is something that we see in the film as one of the characters, Pacote (Thomas Aquino) is known in the town for his violence, which the residents watch on screen in the town centre. This reminded me of how in 2020, we have become desensitised to death and violence. Take the example of George Floyd. Of course, it sparked anger but videos that show death can be broadcast on the Internet and shown on the news, helping to normalise such occurrences.

The film shows the lack of control that we have as common people. Drones survey the area, there are disputes over water and most significantly that the town is taken off of online maps. Orwellian indeed. We also learn that the mayor is working with the foreigners, illustrating the power that the government has to dictate people’s lives.  

Still, in the future, there is corruption, violence and inequality. But if we band together, we can protect what’s ours.

Maria, eres llena de gracia

What do you associate with Colombia? Drugs and women? Well, this film has both of those things but not in the stereotypical way that you might expect. Maria, eres llena de gracia is a film about ambition, the American dream and the grim reality of drug smuggling.

The film, which title plays on the Catholic Hail Mary, focuses on the life of seventeen-year-old Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno). Life is tough. She’s pregnant, has a good for nothing boyfriend and quits her laborious job at a flower plantation, meaning that she can’t support the rest of her family.

Directed by Joshua Malston, it shows how women like her can be exploited into being drug mules. But Maria is by no means a victim. The risks that she takes are often questionable but are made in the hope of improving her situation. The lure of America, the pressure at home and undoubtedly the money, is enough to get her to swallow drug pellets. However, she keeps a nonchalant yet defiant demeanour, except from in a couple of dire situations.

This lifestyle is not glamourised and highlights problems of exploitation. Vulnerable women are often targeted to be drug mules and on December 6th 2018, this practice even extended to swallowing money pellets as 27 people were arrested at Bogotá’s international airport, in an exchange from Mexico.

In many ways the solidarity of the women despite the power of the men, reminded me of Pedro Almodovar’s Volver. Maria is like Raimunda, in terms of her enterprising nature and this is what carries her through the film. “It’s what’s inside that counts”, in more ways than one.


Give me some more recommendations in the comments.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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