Category: culture

Jordan Peel’s “Us” cuts open the biggest fear of an ordinary (black) family


Following the breakout success of his racially charged 2017 directorial debut film Get Out, Jordon Peele produced another intriguing piece of work with his latest horror / thriller, Us. Get Out, produced on a $4.5m (approx. £3.4m) budget saw Peel become the first African-American writer-director to earn $100m (approx. £75.8m) with his debut film. Produced with a $20m (approx. £15.1m) budget, Us also exceeded initial estimates since its release on 22 March 2019, reportedly making $87 (approx. £65.9m) worldwide so far.

However, unlike Get Out, Us is not entirely focussed on race and debunks the historic portrayal of African-Americans in horror films. As the focus of the film, the African-American family are notslaughtered in the opening scenes, which generally happens to black charactersin horror films, and their race is not fundamental to the plot. However, in atime where colourism (they ugly cousin of racism) is being discussed more openly,the depiction of a dark-skinned black family is important.

Continue reading “Jordan Peel’s “Us” cuts open the biggest fear of an ordinary (black) family”

Alexandra Palace Outdoor Cinema Captures the Dreamgirls Musical Vibe


To the back drop of the iconic London skyline, on the grounds of Alexandra Palace, Block Party Cinema hosted a special event which rounded off the Great British summer we had this year.

The weather held out and I joined the crowd of people eating food and ‘cutting shapes’ (as they say,) with my dance moves during the silent ‘diva disco’. It was my first time at a silent disco; a great concept because everyone around me had headphones, so I could sing out of tune freely! @pxssypalace DJ KKINBOO was on the decks and didn’t disappoint.

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Angela Davis shows activism only needs one common goal


The Free Angela and All Political Prisoners documentary released in 2012, recounted the extraordinary events that simultaneously made Angela Davis infamous and heroic. I hadn’t watched it until last week; it reminded me of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Focussing on the events surrounding the Soledad Brothers case that led to Davis becoming a murder suspect and fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list, the documentary highlight why unity in activism is important.

Continue reading “Angela Davis shows activism only needs one common goal”

5 musicals to see in London, if you haven’t already


The UK has seen record breaking temperatures this summer, which inevitably encouraged people to make the most of their weekends. Summer also brings about nostalgia vibes and al fresco experiences. We all love a sing-a-long, so bring on award winning and critically acclaimed musicals to keep us entertained for the rest of the summer:

1.     The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre – Award winning adaptation of the Disney’s animated film of the same name, has been going strong since 1999.

2.     TINA – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre – One of the most highly anticipated musicals in years, showcases the extraordinary life of a music industry heavyweight.

3.     Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre – Inspired by the Oscar-award winning film that brought us the sounds of black America in the 1960s and led to Jennifer Hudson wining the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. If you don’t want to see this one indoors, Block Party Cinema will be screening the original 2006 film, al fresco style on 18th August –  tickets available via http://www.blockpartycinema.co.uk/

4.     Hamilton: An American Musical at Victoria Palace Theatre – The critically acclaimed ‘story of America’ drew praise and controversy after casting non-white actors as the founding fathers. The production infuses the sounds of hip-hop, pop and R&B; in 2016 it won 11 Tony awards including Best Musical.

5.     The Greatest Love of All Show – A Tribute to Whitney Houston, reminds us of one of the greatest singers of all time, that we lost too soon. This is on tour across the UK.

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Angela Davis was right when she said “we needed a Donald Trump”


Before Donald Trump bulldozed into the UK last week, everyone knew there would be drama. Waves of protests in support of and against the US president were seen in England and Scotland.

Donald Trump was only in the UK for a few days, but his presence led to an estimated 250,000 protesters marching through London, along with the famous inflatable ‘Donald Trump baby’.  A far-right protest was also happening in the capital and some of those protesters were singing Donald Trump’s praises (of course). Wherever he goes, the Trump effect is palpable.

After criticising UK Prime Minister Theresa May, then sitting down to dinner with her and having tea with the Queen, Trump went to his luxury resort in Scotland for some downtime. However, Scottish protesters made it clear that Trump was ‘not welcome’ in their country because of his views, interpreted as racist and misogynistic.

As the leader of what is said to be the most powerful nation on earth, I get why Trump is constantly served to us on a platter by the media. Usually upon hearing his name I do the classic eye roll and sigh. Sometimes I actually laugh in moments of disbelief at what comes out of his mouth. Trump’s comedic value is up there with the best of them. All jokes aside, I am aware of how dangerous Trump is.

It was a quote from one of the most candid political activists of our time, Angela Davis, that made me think Donald Trump does serve a purpose. While many are repulsed by his views, there is no doubt that Trump has awoken the social consciousness of everyone.

Last year during a speech at Florida Atlantic University, while condemning Trump, Angela Davis stated, “maybe we need a Donald Trump to wake us up”.

Davis has been a political activist for decades and played a key role in the civil rights movement in America. However, it was in the early 1970s that she became infamous after being linked to the ‘Soledad Brothers’ case and listed as a fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list. Davis was imprisoned, but during one of the most captivating trials of its time (hence inspiring a documentary), was exonerated by an all-white jury.

Angela Davis, Donald Trump, documentary, film, cinema
The documentary inspired by Angela Davis’ unique life story

In addition to affiliation with the Black Panther movement and more recently Black Lives Matter, Davis has also been described as a feminist. As a staunch adversary of Trump, at the age of 74, Davis shows no sign of her political activism abating.

There’s no doubt Trump’s presence on the global political landscape has inspired many. Trump inspires his supporters, who claimed they didn’t have a voice before him and everyone else who was wrapped up in apathy but now forced to stand against oppressive ideologies.

 

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Important quotes from I Am Not Your Negro documentary


We still live in a world where racial narratives are clearly defined and blurred at the same time. Despite some progress in racial equality policy, some of the issues around race that were acute decades ago, are still poignant now.

Many black story tellers have pointed out the similarities and nuances between racial narratives past and present, but when I watched the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro at Block Party Cinema’s Film Club series, it remined me of how racism is driven by mindset. It’s these ideologies that drive the social structures built to oppress the powerless.

james baldwin
The Oscar nominated (2017), BATFA award winning (2018) documentary, based on James Baldwin’s last unfinished manuscript – Remember This House. Photo credit: Block Party Cinema

I was quite lucky to find The Film Club showing of this award-winning documentary, released in 2016. Upon arrival, there was a DJ’s, street food and the signature beanbags, and just before the film started a brief synopsis was given by the Block Party team. Some of the quotes from the documentary that will stay with me are below, if you’ve seen the documentary which quotes resonate with you? Comment below.

1.

“I was not a Black Muslim, for the same vein, though for different reasons that I did not become a Black Panther, because I did not believe that white people were devils and I did not want the young Black people to believe that.

2.

“If we were white, our heroes would be your heroes too. Malcolm X would still be alive…when the Israelis or the Poles pick up guns and say ‘give me liberty or give me death,’ the entire white world applauds. When a Black man says exactly the same thing, he is judged a criminal and treated like one. Everything is done to make an example of this bad n**ga so there won’t be anymore like him.”

3.

“All of the Western nations have been caught in a lie: a lie of their pretended humanism. History has no moral justification and the west has no moral authority.

4.

“History is not the past, “It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

5.

The world is not white. It can’t be, whiteness is just a metaphor for power“.

6.

What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.

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Will Danny Rose’s Depression Admission Impact Mental Health Care for Black People?


When English footballer Danny Rose revealed his depression battle, his bravery was celebrated by everyone, from the NHS to Prince William. In recent years, there has been a growing number of prominent black voices sharing their mental health struggles, which is no doubt a good thing. However, the experiences of everyday black people within the mental health system are quite the opposite, as research has shown.

Like many who suffer with mental health challenges, Rose stated that there was no singular cause of his depression. Dealing with long term football injuries, his uncle committing suicide, his mother suffering racial abuse and someone attempting to shoot his brother at their home, all contributed to his depression.

Rose’s candour will help improve the way depression is perceived and he is keen to help other sufferers when back from the Word Cup in Russia. However, the everyday black person in Great Britain facing similar battles finds themselves caught up in a mental health system which currently, isn’t set up to meet the needs of black people or fully understand how racism and cultural barriers can have an impact on mental health.

danny rose desprssion admission

According to NHS England, the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, which began in 2008 has “transformed treatment of adult depression in England.” However, a briefing paper by the House of Commons published in April, stated that of people completing an IAPT treatment course during 2016-7, black people were less likely to ‘move to recovery and to see an improvement in their condition’ compared to white people.

This followed a report from the mental health charity Mind in 2010 which stated, “People from BME communities have long been underserved in primary mental health services and are much less likely than other groups to be referred to psychological therapies”. Marcel Vige, head of equality improvement at Mind, believes black people are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues.  Vige recounted anecdotes from black women describing how social situations can have impacted their mental health:

“Why do I have to change who I am so that people don’t find me intimidating or aggressive?” – Teacher

“I have to prove that I can do the same thing as a white person,” – Marketing Executive

“I can’t embrace who I am, fully….I need to make sure people are always comfortable with me.” – Personal Assistant

I spoke with a mental health social worker, (who wanted to remain anonymous) who gave some insight into the racial and gender dynamics black people are still dealing. While various factors affect the experiences of black people navigating the mental health system, race also plays a major role.

MH word cloud. PNG

How long have you been in your role and what does it involve?
I’ve been a mental health social worker for 4 years in a diverse London borough, and will complete my training to become an Approved Mental Health Practitioner very soon. I support a lot of black women suffering from a range of mental health illnesses including, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This involves monitoring their journey, while accessing therapy and taking medication.

How can the mental health system support black people properly?
There are so many factors involved, but it’s also important to have more black therapists (in all capacities) – this can have a big impact. I’ve had some patients say, they feel misunderstood because the therapist can’t identify with the black experience and how racism contributes to the way they feel.

In your professional opinion do you think there are any additional barriers of gender inequality black women face?
Some of my patients who have suffered trauma (involving a man), naturally do not want a male therapist, but in some teams the most relevant therapist available is a man. This extends the waiting time for these vulnerable women.

According to 2016-7 figures published by NHS Digital, the number of black people detained under the Mental Health Act (272 out of 100,000) is four times more, compared with white people (67 out of 100,000). Are you surprised by this?
No. Before someone is detained, the level of risk they present is documented during a Mental Health Act risk assessment. This makes note of various things; their appearance (including hairstyle e.g. if they have dreadlocks), their ability to make eye contact and how they communicate. In general, as black people we tend to be quite expressive in the way we speak; for someone undergoing assessment this is sometimes deemed as being aggressive.  

Addressing mental health service inequalities

In 2016, the Mental Health Taskforce produced the “Five Year Forward View for mental Health” plan, focussing on tackling the inferior care provided to black and other ethnic groups; many of whom usually interact with mental health services after being arrested by police.

“The 5-year Delivering Race Equality programme concluded in 2010 that there had been no improvement in the experience of people from minority ethnic communities receiving mental health care. Data since shows little change. These inequalities must be prioritised for action….In particular, there are questions about the over-representation of black people in mental health settings and the use of force that features in some of their deaths.The taskforce went on to state that NHS England should provide funding to improve mental health inequalities; with an update due in 2019-2020.

Mental health issues can arise from a myriad of personal experiences, but the impact of racism and discrimination should not be ignored. The NHS Digital report admitted that figures of detention rates for black people, “may be underestimated”, and black Caribbean  people in particular, are still detained at significantly higher rates than other ethnic groups. Within all the recommendations made for improving the care given to black people, a system that understands the black experience is key for improving outcomes to levels experienced by white patients. This includes having more black professionals working in the system and more comprehensive research to fully understand the gravity of the problem.

 

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