Welcome to the last Pan African Drum programme of the year. We would like to thank all our regular listeners, callers and supporters both vocal and silent. We will be back in the new year.
Nyansapo - The Pan African Drum is an online community radio programme hosted by the Ligali Organisation. It is designed to enable honest and progressive discussion of community issues, including those raised in the weekly Nyansapo column written by Toyin Agbetu for the New Nation newspaper. The next programme on 9 December 2008 will ask the question;
Pigs - Friend or Foe?
When PC Stephen Bettley of Merseyside Police was exposed as a member of the anti-African British National Party earlier this month, many claimed he was an anomaly, the rotten apple in the barrel. Last week as yet another member of the Black Police Association prepares to sue their employer for racist behaviour it becomes obvious that it is in fact the barrel that is rotten to the core. On this weeks Pan African drum we ask the question - Are the Police our friends, behaving like servants of the people or are they our foes, acting as the internal army of the British state?
Nyansapo - The Pan African Drum broadcasts live every Tuesday between 9pm - 12 pm. We discuss pan African news, current affairs and feature reviews of cultural media and events. It is an interactive programme so please feel free to call and join in, we are currently running a limited test service and intend to be broadcasting a full compliment of programmes early 2009.
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Thank you for your patience as we redevelop our internet communications infrastructure, we are currently working on solutions to address all issues of buffering and audio quality. We expect all our other issues, technical and otherwise to be resolved early in the new year.
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Ligali - in service to our family, with the spirit of our Ancestors.
Ligali is a Pan African, human rights organisation founded by Toyin Agbetu in early 2000, it was named in remembrance of his beloved late father Ligali Ayinde Agbetu who taught him to take pride in his African heritage and challenge those opposed to universal human rights. The Ligali and African History Month websites were subsequently co-developed by former Ligali member emma pierre for our community, to be used by our community. It is maintained and funded entirely by the Ligali organisation but we do need your help to keep it running.
I was born an African in Britain (Part Two)
It was a dusky afternoon. The sudden appearance of grey clouds meant that people were moving around the streets in swift movements as the skies threatened rain. The downtown streets of Hackney were dominated with bright lights emanating from the windows of various high street stores. East London was a designated area for permigrants where the majority of people were African. Its shopping district population consisted of women with buggies, elders with betting slips and as specified by the migrant curfew laws of 2012 no children above the age of ten on the streets. There was a minimal presence of men. Many were either conscripted by the armed forces or imprisoned by them. In this borough, social mobility was always downwards; physical mobility for typical tenth generation Africans was restricted to other such designated zones.
Tension in the area was already high when suddenly a lone man broke through the co-ordinated chaos of credit consumers. His every footstep, seemingly a clear instruction to the pedestrians demanding they give way. As Sankara ran he could feel the strong pulsating beat of his heart in his ears. Like the African drums to which he usually danced, his feet stepped in time to the rhythm of the beat. As the domineering presence of his tall and powerful physique dispersed the crowds, he remained constantly aware that he was not alone. Behind him signs of a hostile force followed. Wherever he had been a few seconds before, a new injection of chaos seemed to break the ordered dispersal of people caused by his rhythmic stride. There was a heightened sense of fear and excitement generated amongst those who were displaced by their actions. Sankara knew his pursuers were close.
He turned his head to glance at what he was up against. One uniform and a suit, the nicknames given to the ruthless Crown enforcement officers and suited overseers of the State. Enforcement officers did not identify as individuals, they had no badge numbers or personal designations. They were encouraged to act as a single homogenous unit where the uniform was the body, the suit, the mind.
'There he is!', yelled the uniformed officer. 'Stop or we will use force', shouted his plain clothes colleague. The uniform was a portly dark haired european, who had just finished an unofficial snack break when the warrant call had come in. Why did they always run? He resented live enforcement work.
As he saw the ‘blacks’ responding in fear to their presence he looked over at his partner. He wondered what drove another permigrant to help reduce their own numbers? He hated the fact that the suited overseer was a ‘black’ but he was also glad that the suit was on his side. The uniformed officer could never know that his dark skinned colleague’s hatred of Africans surpassed his own fear and loathing. The African overseer saw all illegal suspects as a personal threat to his own identity. He could never understand the pull of the ‘wannabe-African’ fools they chased who rejecting the simple doctrine of the British order to be ostracised and demonised as sub human wannabes. Why did they continue to flout the ethnic registration laws? Why did they exceed the permigrant breeding allowance? Why did they refuse to serve the armed forces and fight for our country? He had joined the enforcement office to enable him to live his life punishing them. He believed that by seeking a way of life that was illegal they deliberately chose to embarrass him and other assimilated moderates like him. Their very existence diminished him as a legal ‘black’ Brit he reasoned. He would never fully be accepted as an equal until all the illegal’s were gone.
As the two men ran, the uniformed officer who was struggling to keep pace with his younger and fitter colleague pondered over his partners motivation. The uniform often wondered if he should ever be worried that the suit seemed so determined to hunt down his own. Then as quickly as it had arrived the thought left his head. This suspect could give them trouble. Everyone knew that you needed an overseer as backup in cases inspired by newborns, new parents frequently developed drapetomania and would often kill in order to avoid ID processing.
‘We will use force!’ said the overseer as he paused to shout after the running African. Sankara did not turn round. Instead he headed straight for the large crowd of shoppers gathered at the bottom end of the approaching street market hoping to somehow merge into the sea of people rushing from the rain.
‘Damn’, muttered the uniform, knowing if Sankara reached the crowd they could lose him. But as Sankara approached the crowd they like the previous group parted leaving him exposed and without cover. Sankara grew fearful, he knew his back now presented a clear target to his enemies. He instinctively veered right, and as he did, he heard then felt the heat of the electronic signature given off by the taser projectile which missed him by inches.
The suit holstered his weapon and began the chase again. That’s what the uniform liked about overseers. Had he been the one to shoot into a crowd of suspect civilians he may have faced questions from the internal investigation team, but with the suit being one of them he was not afraid to do what had to be done.
Sankara cringed as a bystander screamed in agony whilst the weapon known perversely as the ‘peacekeeper 1807’ unleashed it’s hi voltage package into her torso. He had heard rumours about the debilitating pain that the enforcer’s projectile inflicted. It was said that whilst the victims were not physically maimed, the effects of the projectile weapon went beyond incapacitation. The darts were rumoured to be tipped with a hallucinogenic tranquilliser in order to ensure suspects were ‘controllable’ after the effects of 10,000 volts overwhelming the human nervous system wore off. A Noble prize winning scientist had successfully argued that some ‘blacks’ were incapable of feeling pain and so in order to maintain public safety it was necessary to include a backup delivery system with the weapon. There had been a debate about the diminished mental facilities of the African who it was said had an inhuman tolerance to pain. Scientists argued that to be safe, African suspects should also be injected with an addictive narcotic to ensure post-custodial control. Parliament agreed.
Sankara knew that he had only seconds to respond before the next shot, which next time, could reach its target. He willed his subconscious to block out the screams of the woman who had inadvertently provided him with a moments respite and chose a new direction. As he looked ahead of him he saw the entrance of a stairway leading down into an alley to his left. People were now congregating around the fallen bystander, their focus shifting from him to the screaming woman and his pursuers. He heard another shot and again shuddered as that eerie scream pierced the air.
Sankara took the opportunity caused by the panic. He hid by jumping down some nearby narrow stairs and positioning himself underneath them. With his tall form barely managing to squeeze into the enclosure, he positioned himself in an uncomfortable posture where he was able to observe what was going on.
As he crouched low and listened he heard the sound of footsteps running past. As he paused in the shadows desperately struggling to control his breathing he watched, heart in mouth as the agents continued past his position.
How had they found out about him? He had been so careful. As he held his hand to his mouth to silence his coughing it was then he saw the anti-tracking wrist band he was still wearing. He had only a few minutes remaining before the battery ran out and his exact location would be sent to every enforcement post in the area. As he blinked in remembrance, he recalled his rush to the hospital as he heard the news that his wife was in labour. The emotion following the birth of his daughter had engulfed him and in a moment of pure sanity he had instinctively given thanks to Oludumare in front of the surgeries CCTV cameras. How could they expect him to forget his Ancestors when they had delivered both Nehanda and himself the perfection they had both chosen to name Asantewaa.
He recalled as the security officers entered the birthing cubicle with doctors. As they got ready to inject their newborn with a GPS module and take the placenta and birth cord away for DNA recording he had flinched. He did not want their daughter categorised and tracked by Babylon. Right now, straight from her mothers womb she was free. When the registrar approached asking ‘ethno-label?’. He had clenched his fist and started saying “Afri…”. Nehanda had squeezed his hand as she saw the room suddenly go silent. In his moment of awakened consciousness Sankara had been unaware of the guards hands hovering over their weapon holsters as he had almost completed the forbidden word.
Uttering ‘African’ had been made illegal in Britain following the 2012 Uprising which led to the Olympic Games being abandoned. Although many people were unaware of the history, Sankara knew that the Uprising had started after the British Police force as it was known then, refused to properly investigate the deaths of eleven African migrants who had suspiciously died in a fire whilst in custody at the New Cross detention centre.
As Sankara’s mind returned to his present predicament he realised that he was tired. His eyes involuntarily flicked opened as his ears recognised the sound of approaching footsteps. He knew it was them retracing their steps. His heartbeat paused as he heard voices question bystanders about his whereabouts.
The anger in the questioning voices as every person they interrogated responded with the same answer was unmistakable. No-one knew how he had slipped away so quickly. Sankara tensed his muscles as the footsteps paused within metres of his location. If either officer looked down towards their feet, he knew they would not fail to notice him huddled like a child scared of receiving a beating from an abusive parent.
Suddenly the air was punctuated by the sounds of sirens. Throughout the street he could hear the warrant for his capture being broadcast though the public system. His picture was being transmitted to every video screen in sight.
’This is public compliance order. The fugitive immigrant currently shown on your screens is wanted in connection with violations of the British registration act and terrorist activities. Anyone caught aiding his escape will be detained for processing.’
As the officers voices grew louder, he became more anxious. A young African woman had spotted him and was staring hard in his direction. Her head was covered with a scarf, her body covered in a wrap that accentuated her small but powerfully defined body. What was she going to do he thought.
The sound of his own heartbeat suddenly deafened him as the sensation of increased blood rushing through his veins made him want to scream. As streams of perspiration ran down his face he knew he dare not move to remove the sweat from his eyes for fear of exposing his own position.
Blinking rapidly, Sankara looked into the eyes of the woman, silently willing her to stop staring but she continued. Hiding in this dark corner he felt trapped. If she told them where he was he would have no chance of escape. As they slowly turned to face her he saw an opportunity to turn the tide. Fists at the ready he prepared himself for a fight. He was tired of running, he was tired of hiding. As he psychologically prepared himself to pounce Sankara looked up only to see the sister stating in a clear and powerful voice, ’he went that way‘. In a single swift motion the agents scanned her ID chip and proceeded up the stairs in the direction she indicated.
He climbed out of his hiding place and immediately went to thank her. She rejected his embrace, instead, wordlessly, removing her scarf and placing it over his head as a makeshift disguise. Her firm rapid actions told him, ‘there is no time, follow me’. By then they were not alone. A small congregation now watched, many pondering the reward they would get for revealing his position, others fearing the punishment they could face for covering up his exit. None blocked their path as the sister held his hand and guided him out of the alley and onto the brightly lit street. She was beautiful. Her short cut hair accentuating her strongly defined cheekbones, her powerful thick thighs swiftly guiding his motion as she set the direction of their movement.
As he turned to look back at the crowd, he glimpsed into the eyes of his oppressed family. Most were unable to match the intensity of his probe and averted their gaze. As he ran across the street, hand in hand with the sister, Sankara picked up on the sounds of distant sirens. He and his liberator looked at each other, the significance of the sounds were not lost upon them. The government agents had called reinforcements - they did not have much time.
’Who are you he asked?’ he asked.
"Assata", she responded before leading him to a small bookshop squashed between other properties selling clothes and food.
She tapped a rhythmic code on the door with her knuckles and stood motionless waiting for a response. After thirty seconds of nothingness the sound of locks being opened punctuated the air as the entrance was opened by an African man of a similar build to Sankara.
Assata uttered one word.
He nodded and without hesitation pulled Sankara into the building whilst leaving Assata to lock up behind him. Freedom, he thought… but it was too late, there was a sudden explosion of noise and breaking glass. Assata screamed as a peacemaker bullet pierced her skin. As Sankara turned to see if he could help her, he felt the first blow of the overseer as something cloth and metallic hit and drew blood from his skull. As he fell to the floor, he witnessed a bright flash of light passing by him and piercing the skin of the African man who until moments ago represented hope.
Blood ran into his eyes and the build up of bile in his mouth seemed poised to erupt across the floor. The smiling overseer struck him again with the peace truncheon. This time the cloth covered metal rod smashed across Sankara’s face breaking his nose and forcing several teeth to spew from his mouth onto the floor in front of him. Sankara looked up into the dead eyes of the overseer bearing down on him.
As death drew closer, Sankara smiled as he remembered. At the hospital after the security officers had left their cubicle with the birth registration evidence, he and Nehanda had decided their Asantewaa would be free. Together they covertly obscured the CCTV camera recording their actions and forced a medic returning on his rounds to give their daughter a liquid emetic. Nehanda had cried, she knew although the drug would initially be painful for their newborn, the process would ultimately remove the injected tracker before it became permanently embedded in her body. Without the invasive device linking her to the DNA database Asantewaa’s movements could not be tracked. The scared medic had no choice but to help them to escape.
Once outside they took his car, placing him in the unlocked boot after convincing the vehicles driver recognition sensor all was fine. When the alarm at the hospital was eventually raised they had long gone. They did not speak during the long drive. Both knew it was essential they separated if there was to be any chance of escape. Whilst Sankara parked the car near the borough border, he thought about how they were fortunate that the security forces had not yet managed to shut the car engine down by remote.
As he watched his wife step out of the vehicle with his daughter he realised this could be the last time he would see either of them again. Nehanda kissed her husband and passed him Asantewaa to hold. After cradling his daughter for what would be his final time he handed Asantewaa back to her mother. ‘You are the strongest, you take her’ he said tears forming in his eyes. Nehanda smiled. For the following few minutes she savoured his every touch, his scent, his strength. As her husband grasped them firmly in his arms he explained in minute detail what she must do and exactly where she must go next. She cried as he let them go. As she watched him run into the night Nehanda closed her eyes and wondered whether she was strong enough to fight an entire system. Her moment of doubt was broken by the cries of Asantewaa. She fed her, tied her to her back and then started walking in the opposite direction to her husband across the border.
Sankara did not know that his wife Nehanda had been murdered by the immigration enforcement forces shortly after handing over their daughter to trusted people. paid to send Asantewaa home. Their child would experience freedom in Africa when she was old enough. Sadly both mother and father had to pay with their lives because their daughter was born an African in Britain.
Originally written by Toyin Agbetu in mid 2008 as a standalone companion piece for his article in the Sable Magazine, Issue 12. Part edited by literary activist, Kadija Sesay, the publication of Sable Issue 12 included pieces written by several writers on the single theme of African identity and "foreignness in Britishness" to fit its regular genres of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and cultural expression.
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