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Old and new modes of resistance on 17.11.18

In London last Saturday it was exciting to see how diverse our approaches to protest have become (and sketch some of them).

Two sisters (who live in different parts of the UK and had met up on the Anti Racism march) shared everything straight to Instagram:

Meanwhile, around the corner in Parliament Square, what was left of the amazing Extinction Rebellion ( some missing due to arrests after they peacefully- blocked 5 bridges) were having a well-deserved party without the usual noisy traffic:

The adornment of the Winston Churchill statue with the Extinction Rebellion symbol (shown above) reminded me of a previous action at a ‘Reclaim the Streets’ guerrilla-gardening protest in 2000 when the same statue had been given a grass-mohican.

Another section of the SUTR protest (also encompassing Love Music Hate Racism) was also settling into celebration mode by listening to some grime and ambient performances:

A great day out for all ages.

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What has brought you here?

I attended a meeting of Stand Up To Racism two days ago in Swansea at which we listened to some politically -committed guest speakers. I couldn’t stay long but did a couple of sketches anyway (here and at base):

After this we were asked to speak to the person nearest to us about what had made us turn up; for some reason I felt something akin to nausea and was suddenly back in Liverpool with my school friend, Owen, in 1968.

Owen was mixed race and were in the same class all the way through Primary School and some of Secondary. I have a memory of us being on school trip in the Lake-district aged 11 with Lulu’s I’m a Tiger playing on someone’s radio. He was always better than me at maths and was a great natural artist.

This all changed when we went to the ‘big school’ and I saw him being treated cruelly both by other kids and teachers. I tried to defend him but no-one would listen. He started to lash out to defend himself – even turning against me -and got into trouble, eventually getting expelled and incarcerated (last I heard he was in Risley – a remand centre with a particularly high suicide rate).

Being a helpless witness to racism as a child in Liverpool was catalyst to my resisting it ever since. I have since been enraged at large -scale, colonial racism of course (I saw it first hand in Central America, South Africa and France) but that first shock still resonates. It is more important than ever that we stand up for one -another .

Join me on the National Unity Demonstration on Saturday 17th of November in London……..

Solidarity from Swansea to Pittsburgh

About 40 people from Swansea turned up at Castle Square last night to show support for the innocent people shot at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

We were all ages and all colours; united in our rejection of racism. Candles were lit ( I watched a teenage girl holding her candle protectively and re-lighting several times) as the vigil heard the words of ordinary people. A microphone was passed throughout the crowd to anyone who wanted it & I continued sketching in the almost -dark:

The woman above, right said: “We meet here to show racists that we will not be silenced or threatened; No Pasaran”.

Remember Greenham 2

Bearing witness -in word, song or art- is a direct way to convey the truth when global -injustice runs amok. This was as true for Sophie Scholl from the White Rose group (guillotined for co-writing and distributing leaflets encouraging resistance to the Nazi regime 75 years ago) as it was for the Lakota performing the Ghost Dance to invoke their murdered ancestors and resist assimilation under the Dawes Act.

Amongst many creative actions, the Greenham Women invented Cruise watch: every time a weapon was moved from the base, at least one of them would show their face as witness to the drivers of the missile convoy.

Bethan

To put this in context, historian Bethan Sian -Jones (see my ink sketch above of her talking at Peace March earlier this month) points out that Welsh Women – along with those who joined them -contributed significantly to the removal of Cruse and Pershing missiles from Greenham Common. She also pointed out that WFLOE (Women For Life On Earth) organised a similar march to Broadene (a US underwater microphone facility) which they occupied for 4 days. This would have made the U.K. a prime target and the women’s action brought attention to this possibility.

Another method of bearing witness is songwriting and performance. During the recent Peace March Frankie Armstrong (see my pastel sketch of her below) performed one of the many powerful songs she penned in support of Greenham: Out of the Darkness.

Frankie A

There is no compromise here, nor are we soothed with peaceful musings; the searing lyrics compare the darkness of the womb and tomb, keening the universality of birth and death along with a plea that we are not thrown into a premature nuclear death. Mixed throughout though, is a message of hope relevant to the nature of our present struggle for global equality and peace, as:

Out of the darkness comes the hope we’re not too late
And out of the darkness come the songs that we create.’

Listen to Frankie Armstrong sing it here: http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/abase/sange/greenham/song6.htm

Ultimately, we need to pay tribute to anyone prepared to risk present ease or comfort to highlight injustice, lies and violence; Greenham Women left jobs, families and economic security to protest against what they perceived to be a global threat to life . One protester- Helen Thomas – was killed in 1989. 

Many thanks to Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive Wales for organising the Commemorative Peace March.

Remember Greenham

“She is like a mountain”, the lyrics from one of the songs of Greenham (created by the women themselves along with lyricists such as Holly Near, Peggy Seager or Naomi Little Bear Martinez) rang out from the group of women – and a few men -who met at Cardiff Museum on August bank holiday Monday to commemorate the Welsh women who marched to Greenham Common in 1981.

Marilyn & friends

Many of us knew the lyrics – led by the great Côr Cochion Caerdydd (Cardiff Reds) Choir – because many had either been on the march itself, or visited the camp. We had met to reminisce and re-enact a historic part of the march -across the Severn Bridge.

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Ann Petit (left) and Karmen Thomas were so worried when Thatcher allowed the United States to store 96 cruise missiles at Greenham Common Airbase that they decided to take action.

On arrival at the base four women (including Ann and Karmen) chained themselves to the fence, their gesture inspiring a peace protest which lasted nearly 20 years and led to the removal of cruise and Pershing missiles in 1991. Other notable actions included Embrace the Base in 1982 when 30,000 women (me included) encircled the base holding hands and a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, entailing 40 women dressed as teddy bears climbing inside the base to have a picnic in 1983! Speakers at the initial rally in Cardiff spoke of the march and subsequent camp’s effect on their lives.

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Steff Greedy (left) said the hiraeth (a particular type of home-sickness experienced if you have ever lived in, then left Wales) she felt at seeing the Welsh flag on the march whilst she was stationed at Chepstow led to her questioning why she had joined the army. As a result she bought herself out and joined the peace camp.

The bus then took us to Chepstow where we were regaled with sandwiches and welshcakes – something else that referenced the first march and the hospitality the marchers experienced en route to Greenham. The Drill Hall- in Chepstow -was packed with memorabilia and banners from the march:

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Banner from original march by Thalia Campbell and Lucy Higgs showing the route of the march.

Banners

The banner (far left) was created for our march by Lucy Jauncey, nee Campbell – daughter of Thalia Campbell who made the original banner shown earlier.

See my ink and wash portrait of her below:

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Women changing the world

‘If you don’t like something, change it’ advised the brilliant poet Maya Angelou. Women in the UK have been doing a lot of that during the last year and I have been amazed by the drive and commitment of the following activists (who I caught in ink recently):

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Shen Batmaz- a ‘McStriker ‘and right, Eleanor Peterson- a Windrush activist on stage at Marxism 2018

Shen (top left) was one of the first McDonald’s workers to go on strike in September last year after seeing too many workers going off shift crying either because they had been bullied by management or didn’t have enough money to live on. They now have a pay rise of £8 – £10 per hour but the fight continues as fast- food workers everywhere are inspired to expect more.

Eleanor (top right)  then told of how she had been saved by the support of Labour after she lost her job and came near to being deported (after living in the UK for 52 years) because she could not ‘prove’ she had lived here. She now has a new job and is helping others from the Windrush Generation assert their rights.

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Shia & Mary from Women’s Right to Choose- Southern Ireland

Shia (above) cleverly encapsulated the oppression of women in Ireland by reference to the experiences of three generations of her family all of whom had been sold the idea that they shouldn’t control their own fertility. The recent repeal of the 8th Amendment – in favour of women’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion -she therefore perceived as seismic. Mary (above right) pointed out that dissemination of real facts around this issue was crucial in swinging the vote and was done door to door by women of all ages – at great risk  from bigots who wanted the oppression to continue – in the weeks just prior to the vote.

Elsewhere Muslim women were talking about having to challenge Islamophobia day by day and clarifying issues around the veil and its different forms.

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A panel of Muslim women discuss Islamophobia and explain the difference between the Niquab, Khimar, Burqa, Hijar and Chador

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Latifa, a citizenship teacher

Latifa (above) is a Citizenship teacher in London. She discussed how Prevent is a racist stratagem causing division between our children and implored us to unify against the damaging effects of the current government.

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Moira Samuels from Grenfell Survivors

I remember seeing Moira (above) talk last year just after the Grenfell disaster. This year she revealed that having to suppress grief in order to fight has turned the survivors into warriors.

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Paula Peters from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts)

Last but not least the amazing Paula Peters – advocate for change and another warrior woman – spoke about the need for vigilance and determination as the farcical Universal Credit is rolled out. Don’t forget: we are only temporarily able bodied!

 

 

Reality And Equality Jolt Priviledge @ Womad

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Charlton Park, the setting of Womad

I work at Womad every year and get to see a year’s worth of bands at the same time. I always fill a sketch book with things and people I’ve seen with quick ink or graphite-stick sketches, ‘en plein air’. These take anything from 5 to 20 mins, some with added colour by means of gouache wash (see above) or pastels:

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Ink sketch of two members of ‘Havana Meets Kingston’; the bata player at left opened the act on her own.

It can seem privileged and divorced from reality -which is why I work for the disabled campsite/ viewing platforms. However, this time reality impinged a little more than usual as several acts had been unable to secure visas for some or all of their group due to the UK’s inimical ‘hostile environment’policy.

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Tal National Workshop

The lead singer (above) from the Tuareg band ‘Tal National’told a small gathering in a Q & A session that they had had to leave some of the band behind – including his wife who had been refused a visa. This goes against the time-honoured tradition of allowing musicians freedom of passage.

The shocking effects of May’s absurd austerity policies are affecting many in the UK. This is particularly so for anyone living with a disability, many of whom lose their independence and quality of life if funds are cut. I found it interesting that Renata Rosa ( a singer, violinist and pandeiro player from Sao Paulo, Brazil) concluded her singing workshop by inviting a woman in a wheelchair into the centre of the double circle of people to play percussion and lead the group with her:

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More sketches to follow…