activism

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‘Violent’ Climate Activists Next Global Threat, says Lobbying Group Funded by Russia and Big Oil

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/03/2022 - 9:23pm in

What do NATO and Vladimir Putin have in common? A mortal fear of climate protestors rooted in their systemic fossil fuel addiction, reports Nafeez Ahmed

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A top NATO-backed think tank is trying to rewrite its receipt of funding from Russia following a Byline Times investigation into its demonisation of climate action.

Vladimir Putin’s aim is to sow chaos in Europe. That is why it’s particularly significant that this British national security lobbying group funded by four giant oil and gas firms, several NATO members, along with the Russian Government, is warning that climate activists will turn to “violence”.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published the claims in February in a new research paper, 'Green Defence: The Defence and Military Implications of Climate Change for Europe', shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The IISS is funded by some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel majors – including BP, Chevron, Shell and Equinor, as well as the British Army, US military, other Western governments, private military contractors, and authoritarian Gulf regimes.

It also receives funding from the Russian Government – the biggest oil and gas exporter in the world.

However, this detail was quietly removed from the IISS’ website without notice, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Its new paper claims that “violent” climate activism is among the world’s top climate-related security threats.

Decarbonisation Threat to Russia

As previously reported by Byline Times, the Russian President's long-term strategy has been to counter NATO’s expansion by sowing discord within the West through information warfare – a strategy in which the Brexit referendum was seen as a leaping-off point.

The more preoccupied the West is, tearing itself apart over competing nationalisms, the easier it is for Vladimir Putin to roll-back NATO and secure his ambitions to reassert Russian influence in former Soviet territories.

The Western climate movement is an especially important target for Putin.

Russia’s state revenues – and with them the oligarchic structures by which Putin rules Russia – depend on Russia’s carefully cultivated monopoly of the biggest fossil fuel commodities in the world. Russia is the world’s number one exporter of oil, gas and wheat produced using fossil fuel intensive industrial techniques.

But climate activism and the threat of net zero ‘decarbonisation’ threaten Russian power in a way that not even NATO can. Because kicking our addiction to fossil fuels over the coming decades translates into the disappearance of Russia’s prized fossil fuel export markets. As Russian state revenues haemorrhage, so too will the vast concentrations of wealth sustaining Russia’s oligarchic power structures.

Therefore, perhaps it is not entirely surprising to see a new romance blossoming between Putin and Big Oil firms in the West.

No wonder the American Petroleum Institute, the Washington DC lobbying group for oil and gas companies, not only called for more fossil fuel drilling at home, but opposed sanctions on Russian oil and gas (some of which is produced by American fossil fuel firms).

As governments have sought to shore-up energy security by diversifying their fossil fuel supplies away from Russia, in response, the Extinction Rebellion climate protest movement has proposed to block oil refineries in the UK and flood the streets of London while demanding an end to the fossil fuel economy, which it blames for Russia’s ability to invade Ukraine. Though aimed at causing mass disruption, the planned actions do not involve violence.

A Narrow Lens

The IISS laid the groundwork to frame the climate movement as a threat with its Green Defence paper.

It is authored by IISS senior fellow Ben Barry, a former director of the British Army Staff in the UK Ministry of Defence, with contributions from associate fellow Shiloh Fetzek and Lieutenant Colonel Caroline Emmett who holds the British Army Chief of the General Staff’s Visiting Fellow post. Emmett is currently a serving Army officer.

It gives a glimpse into the narrow, short-sighted thinking that often plagues conventional security paradigms.

The paper acknowledges that climate protestors today show no signs of engaging in systematic violence. Yet still it speculates – baselessly – that climate activists may increasingly engage in violent protests, including acts of destruction against institutions considered to be complicit in climate change.

“While climate activists currently adhere to non-violence, it is conceivable that climate activism could become violent, resulting in sabotage and attacks on targets that extremists see as ‘climate enemies’,” it concludes.

It goes on to claim that the probability of climate activists engaging in violence all over the world will multiply as the devastating impacts of climate change worsen over time: “Such threats could occur both outside and within Europe, with violent climate activists assuming mandates at national, regional, and international scope. As the adverse effects of climate change multiply, there is an increasing probability of such actions.”

Despite calling itself a ‘research paper’, it fails to provide any research, data or evidence for the belief that violent climate protestors operating nationally, regionally and even worldwide should be viewed by defence agencies as a top climate-related security threat.

While unmitigated climate change can certainly be expected to aggravate the risk of societal instability – and relatedly, conflicts – the paper provides no compelling facts proving that rising instability will translate into acts of violence by climate protestors.

Mouthpiece for Fossil Fuel Empire

BP, Chevron, Shell and Equinor – Norway’s state-owned oil firm – are among the IISS’ top private sector supporters, contributing to its “principal income” through contributions annual contributions ranging from £25,000 to £99,000 each.

Other funders include fossil fuel-producing Gulf regimes, such as Kuwait, Iraq, and the UEA; as well as national banks like the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, airlines like British Airways, and automotive giants like Mitsubishi.

In February, the IISS website included the “Embassy of the Russian Federation of the UK” on “a list of governments, foundations, IISS corporate partners and individuals from whom the IISS drew its principal income in the last fiscal year ended on 30 September 2018”. 

In the section titled ‘Membership, Sponsorship and Royalties’, Russia was listed in the category of donors providing up to £24,999 to the organisation.

The original listing is visible in archived webpages dated November 2021.

Although a spokesperson for IISS said that they would respond to Byline Times’ request for comment, instead, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russia entry on the governance section of the IISS website was inexplicably removed.

No response from the IISS was received.

The IISS’ Green Defence paper goes on to speculate that many of the very industries and interests represented by the IISS’ chief sponsors will probably be targeted by violent climate activism.

“Yet European citizens and businesses, including airlines, energy, aerospace and shipping companies, and even armed forces, could become potential targets,” it states.

And in a veiled nod to Russia, as well as other major fossil fuel exporters: "At the same time, countries with economies that depend on exporting hydrocarbons will be vulnerable to the consequences of global decarbonisation."

As the world’s biggest exporter of oil and gas, Russia is especially vulnerable to the shift away from fossil fuels.

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Over A Barrel

The IISS paper is alarmingly aligned with the UK Government’s pursuit of draconian legislation which would potentially criminalise peaceful protests against fossil fuel companies and their supporters.

A large chunk of IISS’ funding comes from Western governments, particularly the UK, as well as some of the biggest defence companies which make most of their profits from government contracts.

The paper itself was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, and the IISS more broadly receives sponsorship from a range of state and private military institutions. Germany, of course, is massively dependent on Russian gas - and is only now grappling with how to extract itself from this dependence, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The IISS’ top funders are giant defence contractors: Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon International.

Other major funders and supporters include: the British Army, the US Army Futures Studies Group, NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); the defence departments of the UK, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Spain and Singapore; the foreign affairs ministries of the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Norway, and Switzerland; as well as the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Qatar Armed Forces Strategic Studies Centre.

This nexus of funding sheds light on the contradictions of the current moment: the war in Ukraine has been made possible by Russia’s status as the world’s biggest oil and gas exporter, which underpins its military might.

And, as Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine wages on, the fracturing of Western nations into internal feuding over fossil fuels – rather than a concerted acceleration of decarbonisation – is exactly what he wants. He would much rather that climate protestors, fossil fuel companies, and governments in the West clash in an apocalyptic confrontation of violent protest and militarised crackdowns, than come together in a unified acceleration of clean energy transformation.

By demonising climate activists, this think tank is playing right into Putin’s hands, and inadvertently exposing the biggest vulnerability of all. While Western governments rail against his authoritarianism and warmongering, they share with him an abject dependence on fossil fuels, associated industries, and revenues – and a mortal fear of popular climate action.

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‘What Can We Do to Help?’: The Making of a Journalist’s Life

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 11:48pm in

As war in Ukraine brings home the devastation faced by refugees and the need to recognise our shared humanity, Caroline Kenyon shares the story of her mother Barbara Brandenburger's life – which placed helping others, even strangers, at its centre

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Barbara Brandenburger, our mother, had only one response when she heard of someone in need: “What can we do to help?"

A campaigning journalist and co-founder of the UK's leading charity for Bosnian Muslims, she was a champion of the dispossessed from the age of nine. She heard her grandmother making cruel comments about gypsies so, at her village school in Buckinghamshire, she took the hand of a little gypsy girl, shunned by the other children in the playground, and held on tight. 

She was born in London in 1930, an only child. Her father, David, who never recovered mentally from his horrific experiences in the trenches of First World War France, came from extreme poverty in the East End.

Our grandmother, who gave our mother a lifelong love of literature, was the daughter of Ukrainian Jews – the father a tailor who made clothes for Queen Mary and taught himself English reading Dickens by candlelight. All four of his children sprang from their background – our mother was the only one of his grandchildren not to be privately educated; her cousins were at Harrow and St Paul’s. 

He also made little dresses for his first granddaughter so our mother, growing up in Kentish Town where her parents had a shop, was dressed as exquisitely as a royal princess – a fact which caused her great social discomfort. She begged her mother not to have puffed sleeves as the other girls at school could not afford the extra fabric. 

She told us of going to a friend’s home after school where the child’s father had TB. He sat at the table, pale as a ghost, and one small tin of peaches was produced. The contents were placed in a bowl and given to him, and he ate them, watched anxiously by the whole family. 

1940 came and the Blitz. Contrary to the sentimental imaginings of those born after the war, my mother said that sheltering in the Underground was not at all jolly and full of people singing, but terrifying. 

Her parents decided to leave London and chose Buckinghamshire. Our mother went to Aylesbury Grammar School and left at 17 to to go to St Godric’s Secretarial College in London where the other girls were debutantes and, she said, man-mad. 

At 19, she met our father, who was 10 years older than her and had served in the war. He came from a diametrically opposed background – one of great pre-war privilege, he was tri-lingual, had governesses and nursemaids, winter sports in St Moritz, the Salzburg Festival. 

This was the start of the rest of her life.

She began working at the BBC as a secretary. Her boss, Elizabeth Forster, spent her time writing knitting patterns, so our mother covertly took over her role as editor of an in-house magazine. Thus began her journalistic career.

At the same time, her marriage to our father was the university she had not experienced. He introduced her to theatre, music, art, history, food and also to an articulated, highly intellectual, pre-war liberalism. A liberalism shaped by witnessing the General Strike, his travels through 1930s Europe, a Swiss philosopher uncle, his father whose hopes of standing for the Liberal Party were dashed by the Wall Street Crash, his time in the Army in India, just at the end of Empire. 

In 1963, our mother was commissioned by Bodley Head to write Working in Television, which for decades was the definitive work on its subject.

By then, her freelance journalism was flourishing. She wrote weekly for the Observer in its heyday under David Astor’s editorship, for the great George Seddon, and pioneered the big set piece interviews – John Fowles, Noel Coward, Richard Attenborough amongst many.

She started to write about social issues, particularly child development – adoption on which she became the acknowledged authority, especially hard to place children, gifted children, natural childbirth, children’s literacy, child abuse before anyone else was writing about it. 

Our family life was rich in love and culture but, financially unpredictable. Nonetheless, our mother was determined that we should share our London home with another child. And through a charitable organisation, Rabia from Aldgate came into our lives. She came to stay with us from the age of nine, most school holidays, for many years. 

Towards the end of my schooldays, my friend Sara was afflicted with a cruel blow. Both her parents who, by that stage, had become good friends of our own, died separately of illness. There was simply no question that Sara should come to our home. For the rest of their lives, our parents regarded her as their daughter.

Our home was always open house. Old and young, lonely, grieving, abandoned, confused, whatever the need or frame of mind, everyone turned up on our doorstep, in the certain knowledge that our mother would take them in, listen, comfort, counsel and nurture them. 

During difficult years of caring for her own elderly parents, she somehow managed to write a second book – a handbook for teenage girls, which was quite ground-breaking at the time. She did not enjoy it and fell out of love with writing. 

After her parents died, she and my father moved to Parsons Green. These were really happy years – they went to countless festivals around the country, concerts, plays, enjoyed hosting family and friends at home and out in restaurants, several wonderful summers in Tuscany at the villa of their dear friend Edith, so very John Mortimer.

Then, in 1992 war broke out in Europe, in the former Yugoslavia. Our mother watched the news in her lovely sitting room and saw that Bosnian Muslims were being murdered.

She had met Claude Murray – the mother of my brother's and my great friend Julia – and immediately the two mothers bonded. Together, they launched the multi-faith charity, the Bosnian Support Fund. Within three weeks, they gathered together 1,000 bags of warm clothes and arranged a lorry and driver to take them across Europe for Bosnian refugees, before the harsh winter arrived. 

Then they determined to find a refugee camp to support. I waved them off at Heathrow for their flight to Slovenia, by then at peace. They were already in their 60s and looked so touchingly vague at the airport; I realised neither of them had made an independent trip like this in their 40 years’ of respective marriages.

Undeterred, they made their way to Ljubjana and were supported in their investigations by an interpreter, a 17-year-old boy called Faja, who helped them to find Harastnik camp. With 200 refugees, the Bosnian Support Fund focused its aid here for a decade. Our mother and Claude fundraised for basic supplies, clothes, dentistry, therapists and, ultimately, once peace was established, for resettlement back home. They recruited Bernard McMahon, a retired army colonel, as their field worker, in recognition of which he received an MBE.  

When our mother and Claude were back, they could not forget their teenage interpreter. On his own in Ljubljana, his family were under siege in Sbrebenica, a place now irrevocably associated with a horrific massacre. Faja told Barbara and Claude he had represented Yugoslavia in the International Physics Olympiad, a global competition for the most outstanding students. 

Home in London, our mother was at a family wedding and sat next to a schoolmaster, a physicist. She told him the tale of Faja. He said he would speak to someone he knew and, before long, Faja received one of four international, all fees paid scholarships to Oxford and arrived at Keble College, where a few years later, he was awarded a top First. 

The Bosnian Support Fund attracted support across the board – from rabbis to bishops and imams, from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to Lynn Reid Banks, from Paddy Ashdown to Corin Redgrave. Through Corin, our mother became friendly with Vanessa, and when the moderate leader of the Chechen rebels, Vladimir Putin’s enemy, arrived at Heathrow, it was to our parents’ house that Vanessa brought him. 

Though the charity was born of tragic events, our mother found running it deeply fulfilling. She loved collaborating with Claude and they gathered around them a remarkable team of volunteers. When it came to a natural end, she looked repeatedly for something to do where she could make a difference.

Once, straining her ankle with some over-energetic exercises in her late 70s, she asked the doctor on a Thursday if it would be better by Saturday. He looked doubtful and asked her why – she’d been planning on taking part in a protest march. 

However, by that stage, our father was becoming frail. A few years later, Barbara was diagnosed with cancer. She was, remarkably, at last, blessed with a clean bill of health. Poignantly, that period coincided with the rapid decline of our father’s health and his death. 

Still, she always found that there was someone in need and her home was an unofficial citizens advice bureau.

One of the assistants in the Palestinian corner shop told her that he had spent years fighting for residency here; he was a trade unionist at risk of imprisonment or worse in Jordan where he was a Palestinian refugee. He had been separated from his family for over a decade. Eventually, he was given leave to remain and his disabled wife came to join him. Barbara, by now in her late 80s, went to a solicitor in the East End on their behalf to get the support for his wife to which she was entitled, battling her way up a perilous staircase to the lawyer’s office with her walking stick. 

The past two years have been extraordinarily hard for everyone in different ways. Caring for a beloved mother at the end of her life was not easy but, in a global pandemic, it was even harder. It pushed us to our physical and mental limits. Nonetheless, she died as beautifully as she lived.

Until the very last, she would say, with the sweetest of smiles, to a doctor, nurse or carer: “Of course, I was a journalist, you know.”

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The Russian Resistance to Putin Has Just Begun

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/03/2022 - 7:42am in

Since President Putin launched the war on Ukraine on February 24, thousands of people in more than 65 Russian cities have taken to the streets for anti-war protests. ...

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The Times Smears Black Lives Matter and Stonewall: Another Example of Bad, Unaccountable Journalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/02/2022 - 10:52pm in

The Times Smears Black Lives Matter and StonewallAnother Example of Bad, Unaccountable Journalism

The Murdoch newspaper’s allegations about the campaigning organisations were simply false. Brian Cathcart looks at the evidence 

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The headline at the top of the front page of the London Times read: ‘Teachers Told to Avoid the ‘Biased’ Views of BLM and Stonewall’.

And the report beneath began with the sentence: “Teachers must avoid using material from campaigning organisations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Stonewall that may have ‘partisan political views’, Government guidance on impartiality states.”

This is very bad journalism. It is false and inaccurate and obviously in breach of the editorial code of conduct to which The Times’ editor, John Witherow, and his journalists are publicly committed. 

The new Government guidance in question simply does not give teachers the instruction that The Times says that it does. Nor does it refer, at any point, to the views of BLM and Stonewall as “biased”. In fact, it does not specifically discuss the views of BLM and does not mention Stonewall at all. 

The Times cannot claim that this is a matter of interpretation or inference because its assertion that the Government guidance “states” these things closed that line of retreat. These things were either stated or they were not. And they were not.

The Guidance

The document on which The Times based its story is the Department for Education’s ‘Guidance: Political Impartiality in Schools’, issued on 17 February.

It is substantial, with passages including ‘the law’, ‘identifying political issues’ and ‘balance in teaching’, ‘age-appropriate teaching’.

An introduction signed by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi states: “This guidance does not seek to limit the range of political issues and viewpoints schools can and do teach about. This guidance should support those working with and in schools to understand the relevant legal duties.”

Where in this guidance did The Times find support for its claim that teachers were told to avoid the “biased” views of Stonewall, the charity that campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) rights?

Since the guidance does not actually mention Stonewall it is clear that it cannot describe its views as “biased”. Nor does the guidance even discuss LGBTQ+ people or groups, though there is one reference to homosexuality. That occurs in a scenario intended to assist understanding, and it is worth quoting: 

“When teaching about the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, including the Sexual Offences Act 1967, it may be important to teach about the prejudicial views held by those that opposed the change. Teachers are not required to present these discriminatory beliefs uncritically or as acceptable in our society today. They can and should be clear with pupils on the dangers of present-day sexist views and practices, including the facts and laws about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

That looks like a message that Stonewall and its supporters would be happy to endorse.   


10 Favours the Governmenthas done its Press Friends– At Our Expense
Brian Cathcart

Racism

And what about BLM? Unlike Stonewall, it is explicitly mentioned in the guidance, in a scenario that relates to teaching about racism: 

“Where schools wish to teach about specific campaigning organisations, such as some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, they should be aware that this may cover partisan political views. These are views which go beyond the basic shared principle that racism is unacceptable, which is a view schools should reinforce… Schools should ensure this content is taught appropriately, taking steps to offer pupils a balanced account of opposing views on these points.”

A reminder of what The Times claimed: “Teachers must avoid using material from campaigning organisations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Stonewall that may have ‘partisan political views’, Government guidance on impartiality states.”

Breaking that down, the guidance does not state that teachers “must avoid using material” from BLM, but rather that they should “be aware” that material may be partisan and that they should “ensure content is taught appropriately”. Very different. 

Nor does the guidance even identify BLM itself or its material as under discussion – instead it refers to “some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement”. And nowhere does it say that BLM “may have partisan views”. The Times is plain wrong. 

If the headline and opening paragraph of the article at the top of the front page were straightforward fiction, the rest did not fare much better.  

Paragraph four of the article said: “Government sources said the move was designed to combat the politicisation of sensitive topics such as race and gender by campaign groups.”

So gender was raised by unnamed “Government sources” rather than the guidance. It was spin, but strange spin. Did The Times ask its sources why, if they thought gender was relevant, there was not a word about it in the guidance? Apparently not, even though it is surely strange to “combat” something by not mentioning it. 

There followed a few paragraphs supposedly relating to BLM, in which, with the clear aim of making the guidance appear hostile to BLM, The Times deployed the same sleight of hand as before.

While there is an organisation in the UK called Black Lives Matter, there are also a great many groups that associate themselves with the Black Lives Matter cause. Even though the guidance referred very clearly to members of the latter category – “some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement” – as possibly having partisan political views, The Times wrote more bluntly that “campaign groups such as BLM” had such views.

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Sleight of Hand

Does it matter? It does because it is a dishonest attempt by The Times to harm BLM and Stonewall, and more generally because words matter – especially in journalism.

Every word in journalism is or should be chosen: it is not a casual business and never should be. So when The Times misleads its readers by saying that a Government publication ‘states’ something that it does not, we should not shrug. 

Similarly, when The Times writes of “campaign groups such as BLM” when it should say “groups associated with the BLM movement”, we should recognise that this is deliberate. This story is a smear against BLM and Stonewall, and nothing more. 

What can we do about it?

It is possible to complain to Witherow at The Times, but he has showed before that he does not care about accurate reporting, notably in the case of Andrew Norfolk.

It is also possible to complain to IPSO – but IPSO is a sham press self-regulator and will bend over backwards to get The Times off the hook. Its approach to plain dishonesty is frequently to pass it off as error or approximation and, in that way, it progressively devalues journalism and licenses further dishonesty. 

If you don’t like what The Times is up to, don’t buy it or subscribe, and suggest to your friends that they don’t too. And if you want to, donate to Black Lives Matter or Stonewall. In the face of bad journalism, they need your support.   

Brian Cathcart is Professor of Journalism at Kingston University London and the author of ‘The Case of Stephen Lawrence’ (1999)

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Belarusian Philosopher, Imprisoned Since August, Is Now on Hunger Strike

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/02/2022 - 8:00pm in

Uladzimir Mackievič (Matskevich), a philosopher in Belarus who has been critical of Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s longtime dictator, has been in prison since last August, charged with “organizing of actions that grossly violate public order.” Owing to lack of progress with his case, he began a hunger strike on February 4th.

Yesterday, the 15th, he began a “dry” hunger strike, consuming neither food nor water.

Considered a political prisoner, Mackievič, according to PEN International, “is being targeted for his views and writings critical of the Belarusian authorities.” The organization “calls for his immediate and unconditional release and for all charges against him to be dropped.”

The Philosophy Department at Central European University this past Monday issued a statement about the imprisonment:

The CEU Philosophy Department expresses solidarity with Uladzimir Matskevich, a philosopher and a forceful critique of public affairs in Belarus. Matskevitch has been detained since 4 August 2021, but his case is not investigated and is not moving forward. We are deeply concerned about this case, and we call for Uladzimir Matskevitch’s immediate release.

A petition is available for people to sign here. It notes that “the investigation has not moved forward. All procedural actions are kept in secret; there is no information about possible charges against him, including any new charges.” The petition calls for a release of Mackievič while he is investigated, and for the setting of a trial date.

(via Peter Singer)

On Coming to Terms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/01/2022 - 12:00am in

BlackLivesMatter” world, it won’t be one where the current constellation of movement organizations simply disappear or become ineffective in their attempts to bring Black people closer to liberation....

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Reckoning with Deva Woodly’s Reckoning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/01/2022 - 4:00am in

Black Lives Matter was not born in the streets, even if it sometimes moved there following the police murder of Michael Brown in 2014, and again after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. But the movement, after these intense episodes of protest and direct action has not stayed in the streets—and this is probably its most important innovation as a social movement. ...

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The Promise of Black Lives Matter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/01/2022 - 12:00am in

How can BLM activists and other allied individuals and organizations capitalize on the outrage they are precipitating by bringing first-time protesters into the fold? Moreover, how can they help people who are concerned about racial inequality—motivated to do something about it and already thinking structurally—to also act structurally? ...

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We Are a Reckoning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/01/2022 - 12:00am in

This nation is mine. Mine to claim. Mine to hold to account. Mine to participate in reshaping. So I tell an American story because it is my story to tell....

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Art and Action: Benjamin Zephaniah in Conversation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 4:49pm in

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. In his autobiography, The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah (2018), award-winning poet, lyricist, musician, and activist Benjamin Zephaniah speaks out candidly about the writer’s responsibility to step outside the medium of literature and engage in political activism: “You can’t just be a poet or writer and say your activism is simply writing about these things; you have to do something as well, especially if your public profile can be put to good use.” In conversation with Elleke Boehmer and Malachi McIntosh, he will address the complex relationship of authorship and activism in a celebrity-driven media culture and the ways in which his celebrity persona relates to his activist agenda. The conversation will tie in with contemporary debates about the role of literature and the celebrity author as a social commentator.

Pre-recorded introduction:

Elleke Boehmer is Professor of World Literature in English at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is the author and editor of over twenty books, including Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (1995, 2005), Empire, the National and the Postcolonial: Resistance in Interaction (2002), Stories of Women (2005), Indian Arrivals 1870-1915: Networks of British Empire (2015), Postcolonial Poetics: 21st-century critical readings (2018), and a widely translated biography of Nelson Mandela (2008). She is the award-winning author of five novels, including Bloodlines (2000), Nile Baby (2008), and The Shouting in the Dark (2015), and two collections of short stories, most recently To the Volcano, and other stories (2019). Boehmer is the Director of the Oxford Centre for Life Writing and principal investigator of Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds.

Speakers:

Benjamin Zephaniah is one of Britain’s most eminent contemporary poets, best known for his compelling spoken-word and recorded performances. An award-winning playwright, novelist, children’s author, and musician, he is also a committed political activist and outspoken campaigner for human and animal rights. He appears regularly on radio and TV, literary festivals, and has also taken part in plays and films. He continues to record and perform with his reggae band, recently releasing the album Revolutionary Minds. His autobiography, The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah (2018), was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award.

Malachi McIntosh is editor and publishing director of Wasafiri. He previously co-led the Runnymede Trust’s award-winning Our Migration Story project and spent four years as a lecturer in postcolonial literature at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Emigration and Caribbean Literature (2015) and the editor of Beyond Calypso: Re-Reading Samuel Selvon (2016). His fiction and non-fiction have been published widely, including in the Caribbean Review of Books, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, The Guardian, The Journal of Romance Studies, Research in African Literatures, and The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature.

Q and A Chaired by Professor Wes Williams, TORCH Director.

The event is organised in association with the Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds project and The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) and forms part of the webinar series Art and Action: Literary Authorship, Politics, and Celebrity Culture.

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