Wherever there is trauma, there is love.
Wherever there is love, there is art.
The 14th of June 2017.
I no longer feel the need to go in to the details of what happened in the early morning hours of June 14th. Perhaps to echo the sentiment of the silent walk, I find myself silent about something that once consumed so much space inside me. If you do not know the details by now then let the internet gods be your guide.
What I can talk about, what I am proud to talk about, is the things that have happened since. How people from everywhere came together to lend themselves to relief efforts after the fact. How the community of Latimer and Ladbroke Grove have come together in solidarity since that night. How the healing is in process and we are in a gentler stage of healing than that of the brutal anger and stinging disappointment that consumed so many of us in the immediate time after the fire. Anger subsides into sadness, and the naked truth of grief allows us to see beyond that which we once believed.
I make no apology for saying that some beautiful things have happened in the last 14 months since the night of June 14th. Silent walks have been taking place on the 14th of every month since, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They begin at the Notting Hill Methodist Church at 7pm if you happen to be curious about the power of silence. Songs have been created and pictures have been painted. The pain of loss may have illuminated the tower that night, but the blossoming of colour and love has vibrated through the surrounding area since. Where there is trauma, there is love and there is art.
“Poetry 4 Grenfell” is a compilation of poems mostly written by members of the Latimer and Ladbroke Grove community. Published by Kamitan Arts, the book is a collection of the thoughts and feelings of people who were affected by the fire that night. Imma be honest, it’s not easy to read. If you’re looking for comfortable night-time reading or something that won’t make you think then you may wanna hit up the fiction section of your local bookstore. However, though the book may not be an easy-read, it’s a necessary one. If you wanna understand the thoughts and feelings of the people who surround the tower, if you wanna know what people saw and have continued to see since June 14th, if you wanna know what trauma is, then perhaps this is the book to help you understand.
Right now, in the area of Latimer and Ladbroke Grove the healing looks like colour. It looks like art. It’s organisations like Kamitan Arts that have come through to create this book entitled “Poetry 4 Grenfell”. It’s organisations like FerArts that have opened their doors for people to come and express themselves. It’s groups like Kids on the Green that are specifically working to help the children of the area. It is important to understand the wider context of this book and how it nestles itself beautifully within a time and place where people are doing some amazing and selfless work. I don’t know if it gets said enough but I am proud of the post-Grenfell community for coming together and handling and taking care of themselves first, and better than any government aided relief effort ever could have.
“Now a vertical mass coffin in the sky
Where forensic tests must identify”
Zita Holbourne writes in her poem “Justice For Grenfell” about the political strings wrapped around this tragedy. She speaks of the difficulty the victims must have faced and juxtaposes it alongside the failings of the authorities.
“The residents warned of the dangers for years
Whilst those in charge didn’t just ignore their fears
But threatened young women with legal action
Claiming their cries were an over-reaction”
In “Today I’m Wearing Green…” Natalie ‘Natural’ Wright beautifully and sensitively plays though the sequence of events.
“The tales of trauma began to seep,
The haunted faces still plague my sleep.
The mother that let her baby drop;
Once she saw her baby was safe,
The fight in her stopped.”
She goes on to commend the people who came to donate and volunteer their time, “Humanity displayed”, and I agree with her wholeheartedly. The energy of everyone who came to volunteer was immense and unforgettable.
“They may have been poor but their hearts are rich in kindness
You are rich yes you are rich with blindness”
Monera Takla contributes several poems to the book. “Rich in Kindness” speaks of the price our community has had to pay. Everything that has been taken with no account being held evokes in me the sentiment that has been echoed through the years when it comes to people of colour, people of poverty, and those of intersectionality, who have to deal with the interdependent systems of disadvantage and abuse. It takes subtle strength to master the anger that comes with this, but it also teaches us the finest of humility and grace.
Uncle Hesham Rahman was one of the lives lost that fateful night. (Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon) A piece by him entitled “My Will” is included in the book, and I’ll quote it here with all due respect to all those who knew him. Take from it what you will with blessings.
“My Will, for who will remember me one day.
Remember my presence before my departure.
To see a smile on your face when I’m gone.
A prayer from your heart, no tears or sadness near my grave.
If we shared a memory that’s in your heart, always remember it with a smile,
For who will remember me one day,
Remember my presence before my departure.”
Shareefa Energy is a spoken word artist from the local area. She is a deeply talented and thoughtful artist who experienced the trauma of that night. It may be controversial to say but there’s a group of artists who witnessed the events of that night and I’m grateful they did. For only because they saw with their own eyes the terror of neglect are they now able to express what so many of us may not know how to articulate. They stand on the front lines as spokespeople to a wider community who wish to maintain a connection to the event that has reshaped West London.
“Waking up drenched in sweat, shaking in uncontrollable sobs…
How long will this trauma linger”
She details her experience of the evening and leaves a lasting impression. Waking up in uncontrollable tears is a deeply honest and somewhat therapeutic experience, and as she speaks of it, it makes me shed tears of wholehearted empathy. I know that feeling and to echo her sentiment; “Sending love and healing to all in close relation to Grenfell Tower.” Blessings sister.
There are eighty-nine pieces of writing compiled in this book. There are eighty-nine pieces of peoples’ hearts as they pour their love and belonging into this collective effort. I pray for those who have left us, for those who lost their people and their place of home, for those who have come together in unity, for those who surround us with love and care, and especially for all those who haven’t been held to account for their actions; may your souls find peace in this life or the next.
The book closes with the perfect lines, and I want to close with the same by Bianca Gordon in her poem titled “Angels in the Sky”.
“At 32 minutes past the midnight hour, heavens gates opened at the Grenfell Tower.
At 32 minutes past the midnight hour, heavens gates opened at the Grenfell Tower.”
For details on how to purchase your copy of Poetry 4 Grenfell click here.
The Poetry 4 Grenfell project manifested as an immediate response to help artistically deal with the emotional aftermath of the terrifying Grenfell fire of June’17 in our North Kensington community. Led by a Grove raised professional Music and Dance-Theatre female artist and Arts facilitator, it combines Rap-poetry, Dance and Film in workshops and performances, all with the aim of alleviating the pain and giving a platform to the suppressed voices in our RBKC community since this horrendous Grenfell fire.
Kamitan Arts (a Ladbroke Grove based Non-Profit Artistic Community Company) has been volunteering since just after the fire offering Rap-Poetry workshops to those directly and indirectly affected by the fire, to help them express themselves, address their emotions and pains as well as begin to heal, as writing is indeed therapeutic. These initial voluntary community poetry workshops is what inspired the Poetry 4 Grenfell bi-lingual book call-out a year ago, which then inspired Kamitan Arts to document some of the local oral testimonies from our diverse community, with a young person filming it; this resulted in a Golden Heart Trellick Award-winning guerrilla short “Poetry 4 Grenfell” (Best Art Film at Portobello Film Festival 2017), Directed by Emmanuelle Marcel ‘Ja’bbour, which was screened at their One Year Show on 14th July 2018. Below are some images from the event. Photo credit : Kamitan Arts
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