Language of a Riot by Rohan Ayinde
Rohan Ayinde performing 'Language of a Riot'. This poem was drawn from the newsPeeks "fight for change" series, which is exploring the period of activism from the 1960s to today and how it's shaped our world.
Rohan Ayinde | November 22nd 2016
I wrote a poem for newsPeeks who reached out to me asking if I could write something that begun to piece together some of the inspirational interviews that they had conducted with 9 activists who had been engaged in the struggles of the 60's. I trawled through hours of interview with Kathleen Cleaver, Noam Chomsky, Devon Thomas, Angela Phillips, Erin Pizzey, Peter Tatchell, Red Saunders, Peter Kennard and Sylvia Boyes and sat thinking about what it was they were all saying; where the intersection of the struggles they had been a part of existed, and what my voice could offer to such a rich dialogue.
I realised that what was most important to draw together was the recognition by these people that all of their work, irrespective of how different the groups of people they were working with were, was part of an interconnected struggle to challenge a system that continues to devalue the lives of the majority of people who are part of it.
It is a recognition that has fuelled the contemporary movements I am inspired by, whose focus on the importance of a framework that does not continue to replicate the structures that uphold oppression is central to how they organise.
In fact, it has to be central in order for us to hope to bring about any kind of meaningful change. We have to listen. We have to reflect. We have to recognise the importance of what we share in our vision for a better future - one without structures that uphold racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny or any of that shit - the list goes on.
And it's okay to fight for the part that touches you most. There is strength in that. But it must be fought with an awareness that it does not exist in a vacuum. Gay liberation is not liberation without destroying racism. Black Liberation is not liberation without destroying misogyny, patriarchy and sexism. Feminism is not liberatory if it doesn't destroy the systems of class that have been forged to maintain these isms and schisms. All this shit is connected.
In the aftermath of everything that has happened/is happening/continues to happen this year (and for years and years before this year) it feels like there has to be a real and radical shift in the way that we challenge the structures that are the foundations of our societies. It is no good to point to all the progress that has been made while it is in the throws of being stripped away, "democratically," from underneath us. Art is powerful so make art. Activism is powerful so get active. Movements offer potential so move. And, above all, Love is what will bring the strands of our struggles together and make them powerful enough to affect change, so make sure that you love.
You are allowed to be angry, but as a friend of mine said, make sure that you are raging from a place of love, otherwise nothing will be left when your anger subsides. We need to have something left to build.