Last night, the United Kingdom held a national election that was originally intended to solidify a Conservative majority in Congress. In the end, the gamble blew up in the Tories' faces, and a monumental surge from the radical wing of the Labour party exploded all expectations--fueled by a strong youth vote, a defiant socialist message, and promises of restoring the welfare state after years of punishing austerity. Today Westminster is in turmoil as party leaders scramble to regroup, but it's the younger voters who finally have a sense of hope and promise ahead, after a year of turbulence on leaving Europe, cutting social services, and economic stagnation. The Left's win was seen as a direct response to the fiercely anti-immigrant sentiment, and undercurrent of deep cultural racism, that had colored the Brexit vote last year.
But maybe the writing was on the wall; it just took a different set of eyes to really read the signs. Earlier this year, when things for post-Brexit Britain were looking extremely bleak, a young Nigerian British poet named Inua Ellams brought the voice of a younger Britain to the International Arts Festival at Perth. Steeped in post-colonial diaspora and the restive street culture of a generation of creative rebels, reflected on a new definition of populism in a political climate that associates the label with hard right views.
Ellams, born to a Christian and Muslim Nigerian couple and transplant to London at age 12, told the Guardian
The word ‘migrant’ or ‘immigrant’ has become dirtied and politicised and it’s used to make people fear the unknown...It’s used to make invisible monsters of people and those are the most difficult monsters to kill, because you don’t see them; they just bump in the dark, they grow in the dark, they dominate the headlines but people are divorced from the actuality of the humans behind it.
He sees his spoken word project as drawing from his Nigerian heritage, but he noted:I left when I was 12 and I don’t want to feel like I’m performing my culture....“What I try to put on stage is just the common denominator."
With all the votes counted, today it turns out that the common denominator represents a lot more than what divides us.
--Michelle Chen, June 9, 2017