A dear friend of mine told me that everything that comes into my life means something. Nothing is by coincidence or accident. Each day may seem the same but each day is different, it rewards us with a brand new gift whether that gift is an understanding, a friendship or a disappointment. But if we are engulfed by fear and darkness then it makes it difficult for us to recognize those gifts, difficult to recognize whether or not it is an actual ‘coincidence’. Normally such talk passes through one ear and out through the other but of recent one or two things have happened to make me to stop and consider what this friend said to me.
November last year I was in another part of the country, to attend a conference. Having arrived some hours earlier and already bored with watching TV in the hotel room I decided to go to the shops just to whittle away time. I walked past each shop as they didn’t hold any interest for me until I saw this interesting second-hand book shop. I went in and took my time going through the different categories until I came across the self-help section. Then I saw this book, in fact I was struck by its title; I read the back cover, the foreword and the first two paragraphs of the first chapter and wondered if I wanted this book. I checked by my purse, I had enough cash for just essentials so I headed back to my hotel room, Googled the author and read some interesting things about her and then as usually is the case, I forgot about the book and looked forward to my evening meal.
Two months ago, I had to go back to that city to attend a business meeting. Again, I ventured towards the bookshop to look for a magazine, and as usual, my attention was quickly taken by the books and some new titles. I suddenly remembered the book I looked at some months ago although I could not remember the title or the author’s name but remembered being intrigued by what it set out to do for the reader. I found my way towards the ‘self-help’ section and there it was a single copy. I snatched it up, bought it then left.
After reading the first chapter I decided to Google the author again and only to find out that she died early this year from cancer. I was taken aback. Of course I realize people die but in my mind she was young (57), beautiful, still had so much before her; it just seemed weird that she had passed away and even more strangely, that I had just been introduced to her and her works. Her books have been praised by Deepak and Neale Donald and Oprah and other prominent spiritual mentors.
The author was Debbie Ford and her book – The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. I’m so sorry that Debbie is no longer with us but spirit directed me to her book at a time when fear and confusion has taken ahold. Ford explains how the various facets of ourselves which we reject or try to shun away only lead to more confusion and resentment. Instead, we should embrace the negative parts of ourselves with love and understanding. It is only until we have done this can we reclaim our wholeness and be on track towards our purpose. When I see my friend again, I will have to tell her she was right.
I’ve just finished reading The Gospel according to Cane by Courttia Newland. A heartrending story about a woman, called Beverley Cottrell of West Indian parentage who has her son taken from her some twenty years ago. She is educated, previously married and taught English in a prestigious private school, a woman who seemed to have everything but as a result of this tragic action, the experience leaves her damaged, single and withdrawn. We meet her presently living in a house alone, teaching kids at an after school club and attending therapy sessions until one day, a young man comes knocking at her door claiming to be her son. She receives this son named Wills gladly but does it repair the damage done to her, to Wills?
The prose is mature and juxtaposes nicely with the street slang spoken by her son, and the children she teaches. The characters whether it is the protagonist or secondary characters, are nicely drawn. In fact one of the characters, Ida jumps to my mind. She is so real. A woman of a certain age who probably was born after the second world war; she is happy to entertain Beverley in her home, happy to bake her a cake but is still ambivalent about the black ‘youth’ and black people and when there is a kerfuffle on the landing between Beverley, Wills her sister Jackie and her husband Frank, she remains hidden behind the ‘blankness’ of her front door and retreats into her reserve. Then there is Frank. We don’t see him too much but when he appears with his dominant and bitter wife, Jackie, you like that he is there, acting as a go-between between the two sisters, attempting to play down the tension which exists between them. Also Newland subtly establishes the fact there are segments of the black community that are middle class i.e, they are aware of Arnica and they shop at up market supermarkets and are concerned about speaking English, properly. This is shown through Beverley, who finds badly spoken English irritating.
Newland deftly handles writing of woman in a very convincing way; it simply shows how sensitive and how understanding he is of women. The book has no chapters but initially it is interspersed by descriptions of pain although from the middle of the book to the end you see no more of these descriptions. Throughout the story, these small explanations on pain make us realize that it is, almost a facet of life. We can experience sometimes, all sorts and levels of pain and realize how time can be a proper anesthetic. In the main character Beverley, this is clearly shown. She journals regularly, as a way of expelling the pain and in return, she achieves some cathartic moments. It’s funny. Prior to me buying this book, my husband purchased the book Singularity is here by Ray Kurzweil. It is about how our intelligence will one day become ‘trillions’ more intelligent and increasingly non-biological. On top of that, time, whether the past, the present, the future, will become one. Singular. Then reading Newland’s book I come across this paragraph, thoughts of Beverley :-
People say time is relative, a point with which I agree. …the nature of time as experienced by human beings is the amazing ability to occur simultaneously in the past, present and future. Everything on the planet, from the tiniest amoeba to humankind, has been is being and is also becoming. That we exist cocooned within an unseen element shifting faster than we can comprehend, that no sooner than we enter the present it is already the past and we are always, without pause, speeding full throttle towards the future. Ponder this, if I lift my finger and touch the end of my nose, I am touching my nose in the present, have touched my nose in the past and about to lower my finger from my nose in the future. All exist at once.
I don’t know if Courttia was/is conscious of this concept whilst writing his novel but it is profound and in keeping with all things to do with Singularity. Overall, this was an interesting read: I loved the beautiful prose, the descriptions of the characters but if I have to make one criticism it would be the ending. However, Newland is definitely a chronicler of the Black British experience; I believe this is the fourth book I’ve read by this author and trust that he can write our experiences honestly, with maturity and with sensitivity. I can’t wait to read his next book.
When I lived in South Africa, I used to own a boutique selling African outfits. I was not around when Denzel Washington and his wife visited the shop but the following day my staff told me that he was exceptionally nice and gracious and took an interest in what the shop had to offer. Please don’t think that I’m his newly appointed publicist but I do feel he has rights: the right to be who he is and the right to live his life how he wants, without being answerable to anyone. I’m referring to the article that was written in the British Guardian, sometime in January, this year. The article was an interview with Washington about his movie, Flight.
The article, written by Xan Brooks, did not just go on about the finer qualities of Denzel or how spectacular an actor he is but talked about how he did not have actor friends, in particular, white actor friends. It was also revealed how he was a committed Christian and devoted family man. Since the article was written, there has been a flurry of responses from various online sites, such as YahooMovies and the Perez Hilton site; emphasis being on Washington’s supposed reluctance to ‘mix’. As one can imagine, his comments has caused an uproar in Hollywood. According to YahooMovies, when the interview was taking place, Washington’s publicist sat in on the interview and said Washington did add about his ‘friendship with various white stars’. But Mr. Brooks’s clarified in another article that there was no publicist who sat in on the interview and how he stood by his article. Mr. Brooks’s also uploaded an audio recording of the interview, just to prove that Washington was not provoked and neither were words put in his mouth.
What I found annoying is that as Mr. Brooks chose to include Washington’s comments in the article, why did he not bother to find out if Washington held a similar policy towards black actors? Also, Brooks could have inquired if, perhaps, in the early days of Washington’s acting career when he was looking for jobs in Hollywood, was it hard for him as an African-American to find work? Were the directors, producers, casting agents, fellow white actors giving him a hard time? Or Brooks could have asked how relevant is Christianity to his life ie, if being a committed Christian has enabled him to work in Hollywood but still remain dutifully married and keep his integrity intact? Mr. Brooks could have developed this article but he chose not to, leading me to think that he was up to mischief. I wonder if he had interviewed say, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino or Warren Beatty, whether he would have asked if they had any black actor/non-actor friends.
I don’t know Mr. Washington but reading about him over the years in not just The Guardian but other quality newspapers, he comes across as no-nonsense, committed to his family and Christianity and chooses to hang out with friends from his past. Because of the nature of being in show business, he’s probably selective about whom he chooses to be friends with, whether they are white, black, Latino etc. He describes himself as a working actor as opposed to being a celebrity and I really don’t see anything wrong with that. But judging from all the furore, it proves that still, if you are black and have two Oscars under your belt plus a ton load of money, you may not be able to make as many choices as you would like.
I know what it’s like having people in your house, especially if they are not wanted or they’ve overstayed their welcome. My husband always complains that I’m inhospitable, and not accommodating! That maybe but when guests begin to sprout strong opinions about how to run your home, your kids or husband then you know it’s definitely time for them to go. But having watched CNN for the past week, shows featuring Piers Morgan talking about gun control, I have to say as someone who has lived in a country that does not always welcome ‘opinions’ from foreigners and am currently living in another country that is quick to see you as ‘foreigner’ if you step out of line, I was shocked at Piers Morgan not accommodating his guests opinions – in their own country. About some days later, he interviewed another person who supported the right to gun ownership and again, I could not believe he called the man ‘stupid’. It was toe cringing. But given the sad demise of the children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, there was something in Morgan’s passionate outburst that made me pay attention. How the innocent lost their lives due to a man who had mental problems is not something that we should be blasé about. We should all be passionate and angry about this, in Newtown, and in other places where similar shootings have taken place, whether we are from that country or not.
As for some Americans who want Morgan kicked out of their country because he said that guns in the country should be outlawed, I’m a Black Brit who grew up in the UK; I adore American music, American literature, and American humour, in general I could say that I’m quite influenced by American culture. But I’m not complaining. It adds something to the multicultural society that I’m from; it makes it an enriching and emancipating experience for its inhabitants. In the last twenty years of so, through the news agencies, we have been exposed more and more to the problems Americans encounter, whether it be cultural, fiscal or about the racial divide whether we want it not. So when something such as the shootings occurs, given the amount of awareness we have and dare I say that we can make a comparison to the low gun crime rate in the UK, we have to show our concern and our outrage alongside those Americans who are equally outraged.‘Outsiders’ should be able to state that perhaps if the Government were to introduce policies that incrementally reduced the number of guns that are widespread in the country, the number of shootings, likewise, would reduce. Piers Morgan may be a foreigner who has a big mouth but he has forced us to pay attention but I’m sorry, I just happen to agree with all he says.
Today I attended the unveiling of the plaque of Bernie Grant. A number of us stood outside what was formally the town hall and listened to key people talk about the work the man did for the community. The clocks had been put back the previous night by one hour and strangely enough the weather had dropped a few notches in temperature quite dramatically. I scolded myself for not bringing my gloves. When the speeches were over, we all took our time strolling towards the Bernie Grant Centre, waited for sometime before we were allowed into the auditorium to take our seats. I was happy to be standing near the door as I was one of the first who had entered and chose a seat, only to watch the seats fill quickly.
It was not only good seeing familiar faces from my past but once the MC finished with their introductions, seeing ‘old’ faces such as Geoff Schumann, Judith Jacobs, Carol Thompson etc – it was good to know that these guys are still around!
The choir from Gladesmore School was magical and Bernie’s old friend from George Town, Guyana, gave a sparkling anecdote that had the audience virtually falling over themselves in laughter. The poet Zita Holbourne, recited some poems; all were lyrical and very powerful, that I would have loved to have heard some more.
Bernie’s sisters got up on the stage and talked briefly about their life with their brother and that as theirs was a large family; family was considered to be always important. There would be regular family gatherings. At this point, Bernie’s sons went out onto the stage. One of them talked briefly of running his pub with his wife in Hampstead, and reiterated the importance of family and discipline. One of the sisters said that she did not want to comment on her brother’s politics but how she was impressed by his commitment to the Tottenham community and Haringey as a whole.
All in all it was a great evening and I’m sure I can speak for all those who attended: we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The only thing I would say is that I found out about this event by accident so I think it should have been promoted more widely and not to be seen as a ‘black’ event. Bernie Grant was elected as MP for everyone who lived in Tottenham and not elected just for a certain group of people. As the current MP, David Lammy, Lord Boateng and other prominent personalities were all present, it would have been good if they had stuck around with the crowd after giving their speeches but they were nowhere to be seen! Oh well, such is life.
Browsing through today’s British Observer I read that Malcolm Wicks, the MP for Croydon has sadly passed away. He died of cancer on 20th September.
There was a time I used to live in Croydon and had a problem with the headmistress of a school in the area. My son who attended the school was wrongly accused of stealing and the head was not particularly helpful or supportive. After ringing social services, legal people etc I eventually contacted Mr. Wicks. When I wrote the letter to Mr. Wicks, the cynical part of me was feeling it was a waste of time. Would he actually respond? About three days later I received a phone call from his secretary inviting me to meet with Mr. Wicks. I was surprised. I went to his office and what immediately came to mind when I met him was his genuine caring attitude. He listened to what I had to say and then apologized for what had happened and said he would write a letter to the education department to follow-up my complaint. I was really surprised. Was this an actual MP? He completely went against the grain of what one would expect of an MP! A week following that meeting I received a letter from the educational department who said that after investigating the matter it was found that my son was wrongfully accused and apologized for the error. I wrote to Mr. Wicks thanking him for his time and effort and how we all appreciated what he had done.
My time with Mr. Wicks was short but from what I saw, he was sincere, compassionate and considerate, and he will not be forgotten. My condolences go out to his family.