INTERVIEW | POTENT WHISPER (@PotentOfficial) ‘THE RHYMING GUIDE TO GRENFELL BRITAIN’

pw1Why is it import­ant to you to serve as the bridge between the elit­ist politicos and the aver­age, per­haps mis­in­formed, cit­izen?

To serve as a bridge between the polit­ic­al and work­ing classes sug­gests that there is great dis­tance between the two, which of course there is. This is wor­ry­ing given that we live in a sup­posed rep­res­ent­at­ive demo­cracy where we lend our power to politi­cians to act on our behalf, in our best interests. Politi­cians often tell us that “we are all in this togeth­er”. But these are empty words when every day mil­lions of nor­mal people wake up to face the viol­ent effects of choices made and upheld by a polit­ic­al class who will nev­er have to suf­fer the con­sequences of their decisions. In this anti-grav­ity soci­ety where the trickle down only ever flows up, it seems to me that we are exper­i­en­cing what can only be described as polit­ic­al and eco­nom­ic war­fare. But as they say “They only call it class war when we fight back”. So why aren’t we fight­ing back?

Well, quite simply, many of us don’t real­ise we’re being attacked. People work over­time on their over­time and often don’t have the energy or time to address any­thing bey­ond imme­di­ate sur­viv­al for them­selves and their fam­ily. Work­ing people can’t usu­ally afford the lux­ury of aca­demia. They don’t have the time to read about Marx­ism or hous­ing legis­la­tion or plan­ning poli­cy, for example. And those who do often find they are greeted by polit­ic­ally elit­ist lan­guage that they were nev­er taught. If people don’t under­stand who/what is attack­ing them, then they can’t and won’t defend them­selves.
I use Spoken Word to break down key socio-polit­ic­al issues in a way that I hope is enga­ging, inform­at­ive and enter­tain­ing. I use normal/everyday lan­guage to dis­mantle and offer rad­ic­al solu­tions to key issues which are typ­ic­ally mis­rep­res­en­ted by the media. The aim of my work is to make import­ant inform­a­tion access­ible by trans­lat­ing it through rhyme and deliv­er­ing it in a way that people want to listen to.

Ima­gine there was a lion that you could not see, about to attack you. Ima­gine that a friend shouts to warn you, but speaks in a lan­guage for­eign to you. You don’t under­stand their warn­ing and you get eaten. Aca­dem­ics are that well-mean­ing friend. Con­sider me your trans­lat­or.

“Brix­ton First” is a beau­ti­ful and all too relat­able example of real-time story-telling. In sim­ple terms, how do you think we can pre­serve the sense of our com­munit­ies in the face of polit­ic­al redevelopment/regeneration?

I once heard a Palestini­an theatre-maker reflect on the dif­fer­ent types of battles they face there. On one hand — he said — there is the phys­ic­al battle in the need to pro­tect their bod­ies. But then there is the cul­tur­al battle to defend and pre­serve their iden­tity as a people. He was deeply con­flic­ted on what he should do/how best to res­ist. Ulti­mately he con­cluded that the pre­ser­va­tion of their iden­tity as Palestini­ans was equally — if not more — import­ant than the pre­ser­va­tion of their bod­ies. That theatre is in its own way a weapon, as neces­sary and effect­ive as any oth­er.

When we talk about com­munit­ies being attacked in Lon­don, we usu­ally refer to tan­gible spaces: homes, shops, ven­ues, parks etc. But a community’s iden­tity is defined not only by phys­ic­al spaces and struc­tures but by the people, cul­tures and val­ues that inhab­it them. Ulti­mately we need to organ­ise to defend our spaces, but to pro­tect our com­munit­ies also means pro­tect­ing our iden­tity. Art can help to serve that pur­pose. Art cre­ates its own inde­pend­ent space which can facil­it­ate the main­ten­ance of tra­di­tions, the pre­ser­va­tion of lan­guages and famili­ar­ity with any one shared story/identity.

 

In the face of Gren­fell Bri­tain, in order to replace broken sys­tems that don’t serve the great­er good, what do you think a revolu­tion would look like?

It seems to me that revolu­tion is sub­ject­ive — it means some­thing dif­fer­ent to every­one. I know good people who are anarch­ists, work­ing act­ively towards a com­plete demoli­tion of the cur­rent polit­ic­al sys­tem. They term them­selves as revolu­tion­ar­ies. I know good people in main­stream polit­ics, work­ing with­in the sys­tem in an attempt to dra­mat­ic­ally reform it. They term them­selves as revolu­tion­ar­ies too. Ulti­mately, I guess when we talk about revolu­tion what we all refer to is real, mean­ing­ful change. Per­son­ally I don’t think the sys­tem was designed to be able to facil­it­ate its own reform and there­fore my per­son­al approach to change is not in appeal­ing to par­lia­ment but phys­ic­ally organ­ising in com­munit­ies and mak­ing people feel as power­ful as they truly are.

Once people feel power­ful they will look to assert their power through col­lect­ive action. This could look like a protest or dir­ect action. Or, they may instead choose to take col­lect­ive inac­tion or “inact­iv­ism”. An inac­tion could look like a boy­cott or a gen­er­al strike, which I would argue is more effect­ive than an action and requires less phys­ic­al con­front­a­tion. If masses of people refused to go to work, for example, they would phys­ic­ally stop the coun­try from run­ning. Like­wise, if masses of people refused to pay their taxes, pur­chase a par­tic­u­lar pro­ject or use a par­tic­u­lar ser­vice; the fin­an­cial implic­a­tions of their inac­tion would be dam­aging to the point of the tar­get being unable to con­tin­ue to oper­ate. It just takes clear com­mu­nic­a­tion and a uni­fied approach.

But ulti­mately, whatever it may come to look like, revolu­tion surely must not only be achieved but main­tained. It must be longer last­ing than any one event, riot or in/action. There must be a change in our col­lect­ive con­scious­ness. The rein­tro­duc­tion of love and com­pas­sion in our daily lives. An inter-gen­er­a­tion­al re-instilla­tion of a feel­ing of inter­con­nec­ted­ness. I think revolu­tion is a pro­cess that is not neces­sar­ily achieved through a big action but by the accu­mu­la­tion of small ones. It’s the every­day nod and smile to your neigh­bours on your way to work. It’s a con­ver­sa­tion with the eld­erly per­son you see sit­ting alone. It’s the show­ing of dis­ap­proval if you hear a fam­ily mem­ber make a racist remark. It’s offer­ing someone ran­dom words of kind­ness. It’s not laugh­ing when a col­league makes a joke about Trans people. It’s enga­ging pos­it­ively with the home­less per­son who approaches you pub­licly. It’s stand­ing with someone, even silently, if they are receiv­ing abuse on the street. These things, in my eyes, are the revolu­tion.

 

Review “The Rhym­ing Guide to Gren­fell Bri­tain” Launch Event (20/04/18)

pw

 The Gren­fell Tower

On the 14th of June 2017, a fire in a res­id­en­tial block of flats claimed numer­ous lives.

On the 14th of June 2017, the neigh­bour­hood sur­round­ing the tower wit­nessed a trau­mat­ic scene of chaos and death.

On the 14th of June 2017, a wide com­munity came togeth­er to provide help, sup­port and love to those affected by the fire.

These are the facts. There are many con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing Gren­fell, as there should be. At the heart of it, I feel we would do well to remem­ber that the fam­il­ies and friends of numer­ous souls are griev­ing today because none of us have the abil­ity to bring back the dead. Even if that is all we really want.

Potent Whis­per (PW)

Potent Whis­per is one of the many artists and story-tell­ers who are shin­ing a light into the dark­ness. He is doing exactly what beau­ti­ful and empath­ic humans do best; he is edu­cat­ing oth­ers by using his self-expres­sion and cre­at­ive energy to reflect the on-going nar­rat­ive around the times that we live in today and sur­round­ing a tra­gic event.

“The Rhym­ing Guide to Gren­fell Bri­tain” is ded­ic­ated to the lives lost in the fire of Gren­fell Tower. The book is a deep and crit­ic­al ana­lys­is of a sys­tem that is in cut-and-run mode. This launch event was a plat­form for real stor­ies being lived by real people. The speak­ers all addressed their respect­ive areas of pas­sion and the troubles they face under a gov­ern­ment that shows no interest in sup­port­ing those of us who may need it.

“Estate of War” opened the evening’s pro­ceed­ings. PW proph­es­ises;

“You’d bet­ter fight for us or you’ll be redeveloped next

And then we’ll all be redeveloped til we’re redeveloped dead”

The thought of these com­munit­ies being repack­aged by the powers that be is sad­den­ing and an all-too-famil­i­ar story. He is right to say that if we don’t stand again­st this now, who will stand for us when it’s our home or com­munity? It was the best way to open the even­ing and show the crowd what we were in for.

“The Rhym­ing Guide to NHS Privat­isa­tion”.

PW puts the ongo­ing privat­isa­tion of our NHS under the micro­scope. In sim­ple but stark terms, he makes it clear that we’re facing a shift that could mean the end of free health­care for the major­ity of our pop­u­la­tion. “They demon­ise your doc­tors, over-work your nurses, under-fund your hos­pit­als and over-burn the ser­vice.” Allud­ing to the media cov­er­age, he sees and under­stands that the demon­iz­a­tion of our health ser­vice is being used as the jus­ti­fic­a­tion for cuts and privat­isa­tion by our gov­ern­ment.

The guest speak­er in this seg­ment was Dr. Bob Gill, a fam­ily doc­tor and NHS cam­paign­er. His talk was clear and con­cise. NHS has the resources of land, budgets and data; all of which face com­mer­cial exploit­a­tion from the busi­ness minds look­ing to privat­ise. The Dr. also made it clear that the trans­ition to private health care would involve the intro­duc­tion of per­son­al health budgets first; from which the sick­est 10% would reap no bene­fit. Once gen­er­al health­care is under per­son­al health budgets; the plug can be pulled and the install­a­tion of the private health­care sys­tem com­mences. In case you’re won­der­ing why this sounds famil­i­ar, it is basic divide and con­quer.

It is clear, and his­tory has shown, that these things don’t hap­pen overnight. The gradu­al changes that occur under the sur­face will only become appar­ent once it is too late. The major­ity of our nation is still unaware of the privat­isa­tion of our pris­on sys­tem. People may won­der why that even mat­ters, but if crime is the busi­ness of the pris­on sys­tem, only the per­petu­ation of it will make money, which means it is only in the interests of those involved to increase crime. Make no mis­take; the privat­isa­tion of our ser­vices means our chil­dren, our homes and our com­munit­ies are at risk.

“The Rhym­ing Guide to Aus­ter­ity”

 “Ulti­mately, there’s just one thing you need to know

You got­ta spend money to make money

And that’s why Britain’s broke”

In “The Rhym­ing Guide to Aus­ter­ity”, PW explores the Glob­al Fin­an­cial Crisis and the ways in which it effect­ively fucked us over. There’s no nicer way to put that. We were screwed by the very people who we believe are sup­posed to be serving our best interests. Also included was a clear and straight break­down of all the cuts and shut-downs this gov­ern­ment decided to induce after bail­ing out the banks.

The fol­low-up speak­ers from DPAC (Dis­abled People Again­st Cuts) were Paula Peters and Keith Walker. Here to replace means-tested bene­fits are the Uni­ver­sal Cred­it adjust­ments, which affect up to eight mil­lion people. This means many people will face reduced fin­an­cial sup­port. Our Gov­ern­ment is guilty for their actions again­st some of our most vul­ner­able people; the dis­abled and the home­less. Paula made the val­id point that change hap­pens on the streets first; and she implores people to join them in their protests.

“The Rhym­ing Guide to Gren­fell Bri­tain”

The fire of Gren­fell Tower is the latest in tra­gic mani­fest­a­tions after years of cuts and scrapes inflic­ted by our gov­ern­ment.

“It wasn’t just Gren­fell that suffered mass vic­tims

Every single day we’re see­ing Gren­fell killings

We’re suf­fer­ing cor­rup­tion in a Gren­fell sys­tem

This isn’t Great Bri­tain, this is Gren­fell Bri­tain”

This poem speaks for itself. It breaks down the entire dis­aster sur­round­ing Gren­fell and all the very many things that could and should have been done to pre­vent the fire from ever hap­pen­ing. The most enra­ging thing I learned on this even­ing was that the res­id­ents who raised con­cerns sur­round­ing fire safety were threatened with leg­al action. For rais­ing con­cerns about their own safety. I’ll say that again. The res­id­ents who raised con­cerns about their own safety were threatened for rais­ing con­cerns about their own safety.

Zey­ad Cred was also present; one of the organ­isers of the Gren­fell Silent Walk which takes place on the 14th of every month in hon­our of the vic­tims. The marches have expan­ded to cit­ies across the UK and will hope­fully see a con­tin­ued expan­sion in the effort to make it clear that we’re not about to for­get about the gov­ern­ments’ com­plete lack of con­cern for the res­id­ents of that tower, and the res­id­ents of most estates and inner city com­munit­ies. Gren­fell Tower is now forever a sym­bol; but I believe the res­id­ents would have pre­ferred to have just been able to call it home.

Potent Whisper’s book “The Rhym­ing Guide to Gren­fell Bri­tain” is the epi­tome of labelling what is wrong with our coun­try. Potent Whis­per neatly weaves the con­trib­ut­ing factors togeth­er to build a clear and hard-hit­ting book which is both inform­at­ive and beau­ti­fully emotive.

This book is a real­ity-check and a call to action.

Above all… the book is a road-map to revolu­tion.

Order your copy of the book:
http://dogsection.org/press/grenfell-britain/

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Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afi­fah is a Writer and Research­er based in Lon­don. She has spent over a dec­ade in the enter­tain­ment industry. She has dealt with enough bull­shit to feel like she can give an opin­ion. She Thanks you for read­ing.

About Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah
Aisha Afifah is a Writer and Researcher based in London. She has spent over a decade in the entertainment industry. She has dealt with enough bullshit to feel like she can give an opinion. She Thanks you for reading.