Another day, another walk. Graffiti can be ill of taste and vulgar but on this day in a place right next to the brilliantly vibrant Brick Lane, graffiti characterises the landscape. Going into both the gardens was like going into a different world, just a few metres away, I was walking down Brick Lane but here in the gardens, it felt like a haven away from the nearby concrete jungle. With the sounds of the rumbling trains on the London Overground, there was definitely an urban feel to the area but there was a rural element in seeing all the different plants being grown by the people. The sight of the graffiti on show means to call it spectacular would be an understatement, murals of all sorts created to liven up the surroundings, stunning imagery, artistic flair in the arts and crafts made, even a little suggestion box there for those who want to give some advice to strangers with problems. Definitely don’t regret having a wonder in these gardens, an eclectic place to go in a very eclectic part of London.
Over the weekend, I decided that enough was enough. After seeing the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by the frankly barbaric acts of aggression by American cops, a voice pipped up inside my head saying “this has to stop”.
Again and again, black men in America are subjected to racism, profiled by the gun-happy police who in times like this look like pigs in uniforms taking advantage of their badges to kill defenceless men and to make it worse, the media makes it looks like the victims are the ones in the wrong and the police are always innocent. To see the harrowing videos of the deaths of both Sterling and Castile, there have been a number of protests across America protesting about the sheer lack of justice black communities have had to deal with for so long. Slavery may be a thing of the past & racism may be seen as more moderate but after the shameless behaviour shown by US officers, any decent person with common sense will know that something is very, very wrong among the culture between black people and the police. Yes, I understand that there are a lot of hard-working, decent, honest police officers who serve and protect their communities but at the same time, to see men, to be more precise husbands, brothers, fathers, cousins, sons, uncles be killed like wild animals and for the accused to be able to get away with it is a fucking outrage, it’s bullshit and it’s not just in the US where people are outraged.
Here in the UK, there too have been protests with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter at the forefront of the protests. Something that has really pissed me off have been the attempts by some people to make these protests about everyone, using the hashtag #alllivesmatter. In truth, all lives do matter but this isn’t about white people or anyone who isn’t black feeling left out, feeling like their feelings and opinions have to matter too. For me, it’s selfish and ignorant to try and turn the attention away from the oppression that black people suffer, racism isn’t a thing of the past, it’s still exists like a virus, spreading without restriction. The situation regarding guns in the US is an absolute joke, gun lobbies and politicians seem hellbent on keeping their gun rights even if it means thousands of people a year die from gun related incidents, it’s nonsense, this is 2016, not the 16th century.
On Sunday the 10th July 2016, there was a mass protest which started from Oxford Street and ended outside the Houses of Parliament. It was a peaceful protest which by and large was respected by both protesters and police officers alike. It was a colourful experience, black people there felt aggrieved but they were not alone. Standing side-by-side with them were white people, old people, young people, Christians, Muslims, atheists, people from different social classes, ethnic minorities, all in all people came together as one because we are all fed up of the atrocities of those who abuse their power. Swarms of people sat in the roads, they chanted, they marched defiantly, they made their voices heard, they were not going to be silenced on a day like this. People came to support the march in their thousands, some people were there by mere coincidence but were inspired to take part from seeing the turnout on the day. The momentum grew the more the march lasted, there was a clear sense of purpose and togetherness about everyone involved on the day. To be fair, the police officers on duty were respectful, I saw no-one get arrested nor did I see them getting unnecessarily aggressive, unlike in some protests in America where tear gas and were used against protesters in Louisiana and Arizona.
The highpoint of the protest without a doubt was outside the Houses of Parliament where the protesters sat down in the middle of road and stopped traffic completely. There were many problems due to traffic caused by the march but I simply do not care about whether people were late for any arrangements they had for the day because for the large part, a lot of drivers in the cars seemed to support the marchers, honking their horns and fist bumping oncoming marchers. To be a tourist in London at the time of the protest would have been a very special and surreal experience, tourists on open-top buses waved to the crowds of people, taking pictures that they will not forget in a hurry. People gained confidence in seeing that they as a person were not alone, thousands of people together all sharing the same beautiful mindset, a wonderful display of democracy and free speech, the placards were brilliant, the messages on them were potent.
Many people found their voice on this day, mustering the courage to address the masses outside Big Ben, talking from their hearts with a passion burning strong that all who were sat in the roads or standing around could appreciate. The day was a day for friendship, people who had never met each other before talking to each other, holding hands together, locking arms together, brother to brother, sister to sister, unity was the wave that everyone there rode. After the protest ended, many people stuck around to make a day of what there was left, there was music, poetry, spoken word, photography, interviews undertaken, socialising, picnics, everyone looking at each other with no prejudice in the hearts, everyone there was as important as the person standing next to them. This was not a day for big egos to come to the fore and luckily, that did not happen. This was an exuberant display of defiance, the will of the people was as solid as a rock, it was to be a day where the thousands would not be silenced. The chants were plentiful, from “hands up, don’t shoot” to “no justice, no peace, no racist police”. There were renditions of Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us to Bob Marley’s One Love to a jazzy version of Wade In The Water where two guys brought saxophones with them while everyone else sang together in an emotionally charged moment. There was also prayer, poignant, solemn yet uplifting and morale-boosting.
Something that empowered me was the way people dressed. While some dressed all in black looking like Black Panthers doing the Black Power Salute, others dressed flamboyantly, wearing as many colours as possible. There were plenty of flags on show during the march too with plenty of pride as show, for example the African styled jewellery that some (including myself) were wearing on the day. Asians, Africans, West Indians, Europeans, Americans all represented among the large crowds present, it’s clear that #blacklivesmatter is a cause not exclusively backed by black people and the fact that the protest happened peacefully meant there was no chance that the media could negatively report on the events of the day. At the end of the day, when the momentum faded and the marchers started their journeys home, I’m sure there would have been a whole heap of pride among them. Birmingham and Manchester have staged protests, protesters here in the UK are behind the protesters in the US. All in all, the protest London witnessed marked a day where humanity was the ultimate winner.
I was in London for the first time in 2016 and decided to mark my time there by going on quite an adventure across Central London. From Oxford Circus to Covent Garden to The Southbank to St. Paul’s Cathedral and more, I travelled across London at took all these shots in a day. Safe to say, my feet were happy to see my bed when I got home.
Another day, another walk, another gallery. Glasgow is the location this time around. It’s a city in transition, its industrial past still present in the landscape but with a new image slowly being built. Glasgow is different to Paris, the rough edges and imperfections in the city more visible than in France, there are areas in the city that are as rough as you can get but in others you’ll see as I have the beauty of the various high-rise apartment buildings dotted along the landscape, it would not be Glasgow without them. The people here are some of the friendliest you will find in the world, always chatty with a sense of humour, the main problem living here is the weather, at times so erratic and bipolar that it is very easily possibly for all four seasons to fall on the same day.