Malcolm X and me

In his final Faith Column on Hip Hop Anthony Thomas gives his personal testimony of how book he read

My first engagement with 'Black' politics came as a teenager. On my 14th birthday I was given a book by a friend of my mothers, the book was a collection of speeches by Malcolm X titled Malcolm X speaks.

At the time I was not very sure who Malcolm X was but I had seen posters and printed t-shirts with the name and face of Malcolm on worn by rap influenced Afrocentric youth, I had heard his name mentioned on Rap records but he was nothing but an abstract image.

Until I came across that book I had no idea what he stood for, although I knew it was something to do with 'Black' people. Later that day as I went to bed I began to flick through the pages and was blown away, by the power of his words. Within the next few weeks I would spend my evenings after school reading and thinking about Malcolm X and, a race consciousness that I had never experienced before began to engulf me. All I wanted to do was be Malcolm X.

Terms like Black Nationalism, concepts about the field and house Negro, and the dream for a Black revolution started to occupy my teenage mind. I remember going out and buying a pair of fashion spectacles, some of my friends at school started to say that I looked like Malcolm X, like Malcolm X I was the son of a light skinned Black woman and a very dark Black man, I was often called Red and one of my street names was Red man because of my complexion, a name also given to the young Malcolm X. All this just added fuel to my fire.

This feeling lasted for a few months but I soon moved into what has become the stereotypical life of inner city 'Black' teenagers from single parent and low income families, crime and gang violence. However, my engagement with the teachings of Malcolm X would have a profound effect on my thinking and set the foundation for who I am today.

In 1992 Spike Lee directed his classic film on Malcolm X. I went to the cinema to watch it and when it came out on video would sit down and watch it for days on end. I also began to search around for other footage that I could find on Malcolm I wanted to know everything.

The search for more knowledge on Malcolm led me to many other 'Black' political thinkers. My search for knowledge would lead to me becoming a book seller on the streets of Brixton, a move I had made to feed my ever growing habit. Eventually my search would lead to me sharing platforms with the likes of Jesse Jackson, meeting with Barack Obama and becoming a spokesman for a new generation.

What does this have to do with Hip Hop? Everything, the spirit of Hip Hop is the spirit of Malcolm X, Hip Hop is the child of Malcolm X, and the Hip Hop generation is a generation made in the image of Malcolm, a generation of rebels, who speak truth to power regardless of the consequences.

Anthony Thomas is the founder and CEO of Hip Hop Generation. He is a philosopher,organiser and entrepreneur. He is a director of London Citizens and the Black Londoners Forum.
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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.