Category Archives: Activism

Journeys

Just recently I don’t seem to be finding as much as time as I’d like to keep this blog of mine up to date. I try to publish a blog once a week and if you follow my Twitter you will of noticed the glass case of emotion I end up in about writing this thing. It’s been around since 2014 so I guess you could call it a labour of love.

There is of course as always reasons and excuses as to why I’m not writing as much as I have done previously. Not only has work slowly begun to lurch back into life  but I’m usually pretty busy with at points what feels like relentless activism when it comes to police monitoring and public speaking.

You may of caught parts of my last speech at All Black Lives Matter in Bristol  on Twitter. If you didn’t you can find it here.  Suffice to say I’m pretty proud of me. I seem to be settling into public speaking well and it’s amazing to have my voice, views and experiences heard and to have people say how powerful they find my words. I was touched when someone said “thank you” after my last talk on defunding the police.

I was pretty astounded and very nearly choked at the beginning of my last speech when I introduced myself as a police abolitionist and a huge cheer went up from the crowd. That’s inspiring. Its like fighting but different. When the crowd cheer for you and who you are it makes you feel a bit bigger inside and most importantly it gives you even more conviction than you had before.

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All black Lives Matter, Bristol August 16th 

I feel very strongly about the police and honestly feel that working towards abolition is the best approach. There’s valid and very personal reasons for my stance. Disproportionate policing and racial profiling is something I’ve been unfortunate enough to experience in my life. Section 60 stop search? yep. I’ve been there. In fact too many times to count. At one point in my youth, they used to stop me almost every day. Political policing and harassment because of activism? yep, you guessed it. That as well. In fact, I’ve got the t-shirt.

All of this has added fuel to my  fire and  I sincerely feel that by re-imagining public safety and reevaluating the role of police in our society we can protect our communities and each other from their brutality, and stop them from killing us, because lets be honest at 1750 deaths in this country and not one conviction against any police officer since 1969, it’s clear they are getting away with murder and we need to start thinking about alternatives that work for everyone. The UK is not and never has been innocent.

It is a long journey and an important fight and as always a good path to be on. Many of us across the UK want justice, greater police  accountability,  equality and an end to racist policing. There were in fact 21,950 stop searches of black men by the Metropolitan police over lock down. 80% of those stop searches were no further action.

Institutional racism in the police is unfortunately live and well. The need for change is something right now that is echoing across the globe not just in America. It’s a dark and liberating time to be alive and just like with boxing it’s a good feeling to be one of countless others standing up.

You have to be tough inside to keep going at points and I’ve always been a fighter but  it’s clear that martial arts has changed me for the better as a person over the years, and it’s good to put all the energy it gives me into positive outlets. This week I’ve trained every day of the week. That’s right. Monday through to Sunday. Although some days I’ve turned up a little late and not worked as hard as I should of  I’ve come away feeling absolutely outstanding inside and have a pretty tidy left body shot emerging. Like with all things martial, it’s a work in progress.

And of course, the one thing Muay Thai is very good at doing is helping me bust stress. I spent a lot of this week working on my power, found that at points my technique really isn’t too bad and enjoyed the sparring I did from time to time. I’m really keen on fighting when fights start happening again so I intend to keep training hard and running lots. Tomorrow is a rest day and I’ll be training 6 times next week with a little more volume. 3 hours of training on Tuesday will absolutely set the theme for the rest of the week.

Of course, outside the gym I’m very busy not just with work but with police monitoring which is incredibly rewarding community activism that helps others and being a people person it also makes me feel a bit bigger inside. It’s new just like stepping into the ring for the first time was new but just like with fighting I’ve found my feet and I’m enjoying the journey.

I’m not sure if enjoying is the right word but I hope you know what I mean. Maybe a part of me has found redemption, maybe it’s what I’m meant to be doing right now. Like with all good journeys time will tell. For now, it’s good as always to be here. Have a great week, train hard and may you win all your fights. I’ll see you on that road.

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All Black Lives Matter March August 16th 2020. Remember when they blocked the airports in the US? it kind of felt like that sort of moment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Training gets political

Hi. Despite rolling in fashionably late as always it’s good to catch up. I’m pleased to say I’ve managed to see procrastination off earlier than expected and as always it’s good to sit down and write. I’ve been doing a lot of that recently, from blogging, to speeches and poems about racism  (Thanks to Tash Roberts for creating spaces for black voices and for the fantastic art )and so called “patriotism” it’s fair to say I’ve been keeping busy. I’ve even started working on my “Last of the good guys” project again.

Other than keeping the creative juices flowing I’m still training from home and running regularly. it’s good to know we’re only a couple of weeks away from gyms reopening (fingers crossed anyway) and although it’ll be a tough stitch filled return filled with lower back pain and lots of griping I have to say I’m looking forward to it. Seriously though, I’m not that old. In fact, I’m confident that a return to the gym isn’t going to be as half as tough as I think it’s going to be.

It’s been inspiring  watching global protests against police brutality and systemic racism over the past few weeks, and it’s clear that it’s something that will continue for the remainder of this year. But, You know something? It’s also been interesting, infuriating,  and sometimes shocking catching the ignorant, naieve and outright racist views fly across social media, in particular Facebook coming from those you know, those you kind of know and those you’d rather not have anything to do with at all.

They are highly charged often angry and sometimes deliberately antagonistic. More often than not they are incredibly right wing, which has always been my personal issue with that particular political sphere. It gets shouty quickly and if you don’t like what it says it gets nasty, tells you to respect our troops, the flag and screams “all lives matter!”  or “traitor!” because you know.. “patriotism”.

And that’s fundamentally the issue in the UK as it is in the US. Inequality, intolerance of difference and vicious systemic racism, all seemingly amplified ten fold as most of us have been locked away in our homes due to inconsistent and incoherent messaging from the powers that be. Tempers must be frayed and cabin fever is clearly setting in for some. From my point of view, this doesn’t however excuse ignorance. Attitudes may be changing for the better but we have a long way to go before we make real progress.

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Black Lives Matter London. I’m genuinely sorry I missed it… 

If your an angry vilifed member of the white working class reading this blog, I feel your pain, but in order to understand ours it’s time to unpack the napsack.  I really do think it’s in everyone’s interest to take ownership of a global situation and understand that right now the fight is against white supremacy, racism and dare I say it priviledge  

It’s something that emerges not just in day to day life but in training circles too, and as gyms are universal, multicultural and generally friendly microcosms of life tackling ignorance and racism when it emerges in the gym is just as important as tackling it out of it. I don’t believe in giving it space to grow any more than you do.

Runter Vonder Matte! Kein Handshake Mit Nazis  (Get off the Mat! no handshake with Nazis!) is a project that tackles hate politics  in martial arts, in particular the presence of the extreme right wing and Neo-Nazi movements that have taken hold not only in Europe but in the United Kingdom too.

“Neo-Nazis in sports are nothing new – but their style in the gym and in the ring is. Various actors and structures organize and network in order to spread their misanthropic worldview. With hip designs, the fashion labels try to make their ethnic, racist and inhuman messages socially acceptable. We fight for fair martial arts without racism and prejudice!”

If your sitting on the political fence, feel that gyms are  Apolitical spaces or are as anti-racist as White Tiger and Freedom Fighters I’d like to think that fascists are the one set of people we can all agree no one wants in our camps or dojos. As we head closer and closer towards to a return to training as normal (whatever that looks like these days) we should take note of the political climate we’ve been in for the majority of this year.

Although we say we are the same,  if our training partners  are black, POC or from any other marginalized group they are likely to be treated differently by the police and overall system we find ourselves in. When they are training with us it may be their only safe space from the abuse and harassment they face in day to day life.

Being aware of this doesn’t mean embarking on anti-racist witch hunts  it just means being decent humans and talking to those we train with if we can see something is wrong and calling out bigotry when we see or hear it.  It means we need to be decent martial artists and look out for one another.

Maybe if we can do this in our favourite places we can extend that mentality to the rest of our lives too. Martials arts can be an incredibly macho and intimidating place at points, it would be good to see gyms state that racist and bigoted views are not welcome. I think personally think we’ve got a lot of work to do.

It’s going to be good to get back to training. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hitting the sofa cushion heavy bag later and yet again shadow boxing round the living room. Have a fantastic week, train as hard as you can and click your heels and wish for July. We’ve got alot of graft ahead as fighters and a long way to go as a society. Black lives matter. I’ll see you on that road.

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Black Lives have never mattered enough.

Hi. It’s good as always to catch up with you.  It’s pretty inspiring to see that worldwide protests against police brutality and racism are still taking place. I’m still over the moon that police abolition and defunding is a growing topic of conversation and seeing autonomous police free zones emerge in the US is pretty exciting. Maybe a better world is coming.

Before this blog heads back into the realms of Thai boxing once again I wanted to take the opportunity to first remind you that if you think “all lives matter” is an appropriate response to Black Lives Matter your absolutely part of the problem. You see, black lives have never mattered enough.

The murder of George Floyd and our ongoing struggles against the police was the main reason I wrote my speech for the protest that took place here on the 7th. Being mixed race I’ve experienced racism a lot of my life, and as some of my family are African American I  wanted to get my thoughts on George’s murder and the struggles of my brothers and sisters out to a wide audience.

I wrote about how this felt last week, and if you want to catch some of my speech you can find it here.   Below is the speech in full. It was a labour of love that just as with all things martial came from my heart. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a good week, home train hard and just like the last time.. I’ll see you on that road.

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Black Lives Matter protest speech, 07/06/20 Bristol read to 10,000 beautiful people. 

“On the 25th of May 2020 George Floyd was choked to death by officer Derek Chavin.  I watched as Chavin, like it really wasn’t a thing at all, pressed his knee into George’s neck. I realized after around 2 minutes with mounting horror I was witnessing a murder.

“Why isn’t anyone helping? Get the cop off him!” I yelled at the video like they could all hear me. Like we were in the same room. On the same street. then I saw the photo of the other 3 officers holding George down.  When George Floyd couldn’t breathe I couldn’t either.

This is not the first time a black man, a human has lost their lives at the hands of the police. We remember Michael Brown and Ferguson. We remember Mark Duggan. There are so many names and so many beautiful black faces we will never forget. How can we carry the weight on our shoulders? How can we tell our children to respect the police when we know they want to kill us?

I’ve watched the events of the past couple of weeks unfold at points like an apocalyptic end of days movie.  Last week, my cousin in Louisville, a strong black woman messaged me on Facebook. “John,” she wrote “Remember I am in America. 7 people were shot at a protest for Breonna Taylor yesterday..”  I felt my stomach churn. I felt the rage rise up when she told me she’d been on the sharp end of racist abuse. That she was frightened for her family. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. I couldn’t breathe…

Martin Luther King once said that riots are the voices of the unheard. We should remember that these words were spoken from a place of truth. There is a line in the sand, a thin blue line if you will that is a burning fuse and as events have unfolded, as we wait for another defense of police brutality, of inhumanity remember that the police are the escalators, the agitators, the fragile white victims “just following orders”. Remember that police are the problem. The police don’t change, but we can fight for change. We can demand it.

The problems we see in America do not exist in a vacuum. The UK is a pioneer in inequality. The systemic racism of the police is just as common here as it is in Minneapolis. As it is in New York. As it is in Louisville. Malcolm X once said that the struggle for black liberation is a human rights issue. Never has this seemed more apparent than right here and right now. My father lived through apartheid, he survived the white minorities supremacist machine. We know so-called authority can make monsters of people. We know because we have just seen a monster kill George Floyd.

My own experiences of the police over the course of my life, in particular over the past few years has not been a good one. From regular stop searches in my home town of Portsmouth to fitting a description simply because that description was a mixed-race male to fit-ups, targeting and harassment from Avon and Somerset police because of my colour and anti-racist activism it’s fair to say I know the police are not here to protect me. They only protect themselves!

Last October, the United Friends and family campaign and Netpol (the network for police monitoring) stated Since 1991 on average, there has been a death a week at the hands of the police.  Let that sink in for a minute. A death a week. Over 1500 deaths and still no convictions. The system we find ourselves in, that we are constantly fighting against has protected those who abuse their power for too long.  You cannot reform a system and an organization that was never meant to be reformed.

I  believe we need real alternatives because we are at the point now where it is clear the problem is policing itself. We cannot allow them to police our communities without accountability anymore. If the death of George Floyd has taught me one thing it’s that when we stand together we can hold power to account. We can shake their racist system down to it’s very foundations. If they won’t change it then we will! No justice no peace!”

 

 

Journeys

Hey. It’s been a couple of weeks since we caught up last but I’m glad that I’ve finally made the time to sit down and write. Training wise the past couple of weeks has been pretty much consistent and I’m still pretty sharp. I’m keeping my fitness up running and I cannot wait for the gyms to reopen. Some are saying July, but we will see.

It’s been a crazy year alright and a stressful one. It’s also been one full of immense change, a lot of which has begun from the ground up. That’s why after the brutal and undeniably cold-blooded and racist murder of  George Floyd on the 25th of May by Minneapolis officer Derick Chauvin, It’s been liberating, heartbreaking and inspiring to witness worldwide resistance to police brutality and racism.

Being mixed race (my dad is South African and my mum is white) black liberation and civil rights is a cause that is very close to my heart. In 2018 I had a piece published about me in Mixed race faces  that gives a nice explainer of my heritage and how I feel about it.  My dad survived the white minority’s supremacist machine in South Africa and both of my parents have always been firm believers in taking a stand against injustice as have other members of my family. I guess it runs in my blood.

Journeys. Thai boxing for 14 years to speaking on 10,000 strong protests.

Last Sunday I headed down to the Bristol Black Lives Matter protest that was starting from College green in the city. I’d been asked if I wanted to speak at the event and feeling as strongly as I do about civil rights and anti-racism (it’s something I believe in and have always believed in fighting for)  I was really happy to have my voice heard.

I spent the best part of the week leading up to last Sunday getting my speech together, not really knowing at first how to express myself but finding after a time it just seemed to flow. I let my heart talk because when I watched George Floyd’s murder my heart broke. I burst into tears and an outpouring of grief I wasn’t expecting caught me off guard because the monster on the video killed George because of his colour.

Police brutality and white supremacy were in action, shaking hands like the best of friends. Over the course of that week, I reflected on my own experiences with the police over the course of my life and the ongoing fight for justice I’ve found myself on for over 2 years now. I thought about my family in the US and felt liberated watching the abolition and defund movement voices become louder and stronger.

You see I’ve learned over time, the police are not here to protect you. I’ve adopted a staunch abolitionist stance over the past year or so of my life and sincerely feel we need an alternative because the problem has become policing itself. As they often say the UK is not innocent which is why I find it liberating that Minneapolis is abolishing its police force.

If that’s too much for some of you (it probably will be) then I’d suggest taking baby steps and learn about the origins of the police and why they will never change. My speech, in the end, was highly charged and very powerful I’ve been told and resonated with many. You can catch some of it here.   I think in a couple of weeks time I’m going to publish the whole piece via this blog and I have a feeling it’s the start of a new journey for me

Like Emma Thomas, I found it empowering to speak in front of so many people. Listening to the other speakers was truly amazing and there were so many important voices that I thought I was going to be overcome by tears before I was called up.

The march in itself was fantastic and strong heading through town and out to Castle Park. Talks and music went on for what seemed like forever and it was almost like a pandemic had never even happened. When I found out later that day that the statue of notorious slave trader Edward Colston had been torn down   I knew something important was beginning. Resistance, when it blossoms, is a truly beautiful thing.

This week I’ve watched with enthusiasm as the statue of Robert Milligan was taken down in Oxford and being honest, I can’t wait to see all of the nefarious figures from Slavery’s shameful past fall. It makes me smile inside to know that I’m still just as hungry for change as I was twenty years ago. They say you’re meant to become conservative as you grow older, I’m just thinking of more reasons to eat the rich. It kills time in between the home training and waiting for my camp to reopen hopefully in July.

You know, martial arts and activism is a journey, and both are long ones. Like my parents have said we just have to hope what is happening now continues its momentum because “another world is not only possible, she is on her way.”(Arundhati Roy)  have a good week, train hard, and just like the last time… I’ll see you on that road.

(Thanks to Black Lives Matter, Bristol Rising for the speech photo, some are my own and thanks of course to independant media outlets for the last couple.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst you’re here

Evening all, I thought I should check-in. Whilst you’re here I thought I’d take the opportunity like many other people are to talk about COVID-19 and the impact it’s having on our training lives as well as many other things. Respecting the fact that not everyone that reads my blog is UK based, here in sunny Bristol we’ve only just begun to start to shut down.  Cases of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus (the last one’s a bit less 28 days later and apocalypse sounding) are unfortunately rising here 

From my point of view, it’s important to not buy into misleading or false information about our situation. I could easily begin to panic about this. Maybe I should. My parents are both retired and live in Spain and have for many years. The country is rapidly entering lockdown. My other family members in the UK are in other cities and many of my friends here like myself, are currently self-isolating.

If you looked up apocalyptic scenarios, you’d probably see this one coming up time and time again throughout fictional history.  No one takes the situation seriously enough and off we go, off the cliff edge. The reality, however, isn’t quite like that. Communities and people in times of hardship pull together. The mutual aid network that has emerged is outstanding and locally has helped me with food and medicine on a few occasions.

You can find a list of UK mutual aid networks here.  There are also many Facebook groups set up by mutual aid organizations to help us. What is mutual aid? Well, if you’re curious about the principles you can learn a little more here.  Right now it’s about supporting one another when we need each other the most.

In a way, it’s similar to training. As fighters or as martial artists as a whole, we support each other in our gyms and dojos. We’re always in each other’s corner and we should always have each other back, in or out the ring. Over the years I’ve heard gyms described as a microcosm of society, so although many of our spaces are now closed for health reasons let’s try and keep that attitude alive regardless. Being a martial artist extends to much more than our personal accomplishments.

On that note, it was good to see Sylvie Von Duuglas-ittu write a nice blog on home training that if your anything like me, should keep you motivated and inspired over the coming weeks and possibly months. It’s been less than a week since I was last at my gym and it already feels like forever. Training wise I can do free weights at home, sit-ups and press-ups, shadowbox and skip and if needs be I may even buy a small bag to put in my living room to keep sharp.

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I also intend to keep myself occupied by writing a lot more, running and helping those in the community by getting involved with community support as well as getting my head into my books with studying and reading in general. Today I shared a picture of my home bookshelf on my Facebook.  I’ve never done that before but I was going through a cat stuck indoors moment at the time.  It made me feel better because I was totally thumping my tail on the carpet. Work-wise, I hope things remain positive as I run my own business and can work remotely if needs be.

It’s difficult to say what things will be like over the next few months but I would recommend remembering that no matter what level of emergency we face, we have rights as citizens. Do check in with organizations such as the network for police monitoring Netpol on Twitter and Facebook for updates on what’s happening with emergency powers as well as Big Brother Watch some are saying we are witnessing an erosion of our civil liberties under the mask of a national health emergency. Only time will tell.

Most importantly I think it’s worth keeping abreast of the situation globally as well as locally. We are not an Island who are cut off from the world despite recent political choices and inspiring tales from overseas as well as closer to home can often uplift us here. I’m sure you’re all sick to the back teeth of do’s and don’ts around good hygiene standards so I won’t start preaching, but if you want to run over the dos and don’ts over the widely misunderstood social distancing you can learn more via this NHS link.

As for me? well, I’m doing good thanks. How are you? I had some symptoms but they seem to have dropped off now and I have a few days left of isolation left so I can only hope for the best. I expect a quiet world but I don’t expect a fearful one. We the people protect one another, and in silence, we can sometimes find the greatest peace. Walk tall, train hard and just like the last time.. I’ll see you on that road.