Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Rights

What do you stand for? Who stands for you? How exactly are you making your stand at the forthcoming British elections? The UK is facing yet another sluggish walk to the ballot boxes, and while you’re exhausted and sick of their playground politics, you can bet they’re counting on your apathy and exhaustion.

But while we’re bracing for a cold Brexit future, we still know nothing. Brexit means Brexit but we have no idea what that actually means beyond whether it’s a hard or soft boiled egg. They’re counting on us not to ask questions. They’re counting on us to keep buying into their reductive, polarised, divisive rhetoric. The media are telling you the revolution will not be televised, infact a debate won’t even be televised.

So while the media ask no questions, and they claim to tell no lies, it’s about time we figure out what the truth actually is – if there is anything we might have learned about the facade of our media plutocracy is that fake news is the news. In this campaign it’s going to be up to you to do the work to find out the facts. Resistance isn’t a poster, it’s not a slogan, its a movement to change the status quo, it’s a movement to exercise your rights and participate.

Back in 1973, when Bob Marley released ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, that same year also saw the dissipation of the British Black Panther movement, but the fight against racism was far from over. A few years later, in 1976, a drunk Eric Clapton took to the stage, declared his support for Conservative MP Enoch Powell, and shouted “get the foreigners out, get the wogs out, get the coons out”, repeating “Keep Britain White”. A musician who’s career was built on the back of the Blues, took his bigotry to the main stage and stood for the nastiest party in Britain. The response to Clapton’s speech also marked the birth of a different kind of resistance movement and started ‘Rock Against Racism’ in the UK – at that moment 200 musicians came together and decided to bring a different kind of politics to centre stage.

Culminating in a cultural fight over the next decade, music and politics merged in a movement that reached it’s pinnacle with the ‘Artists Against Apartheid’ and led to a ‘Freedom Concert’ in Clapham Common. In 1988 that fight was put to music over an 11 hour ‘Mandela concert’ demanding his release, staged at Wembley stadium and televised to 600 million people across 67 countries.

While 600 million people across the world were watching Britain in 1988, today they’re watching again for a very different reason. We took a stand then, but almost 30 years later, music is very much absent from making a real stand in British politics. In the next 6 weeks how will the youth vote be mobilised, can we ever see a Grime vote in Britain like the Hip Hop vote that campaigned to elect Obama in the US?

At the top of the year, when we took a retrospective look back at 2016, as the The Year of the Underdog, Nation of Billions contributing writer Nathan Tuft made this observation – ‘While the examples of Novelist, Stormzy and Skepta show that there are artists willing to showcase their views and opinions, it seems that the idea of “grime anarchism” failed when it came to an event that affected the present generation. The 2016 EU referendum will be remembered as a decision that wasn’t decided by young people and in this incidence, grime was nowhere to be seen. As politicians were riding around the country scouting for voters, Grime had an ultimate opportunity to reach out but kept silent.’

2016 will be remembered as the year when the establishment won, but can 2017 reverse that fate or is it just too late? While its quickly becoming apparent that this short campaign leading to the election on June 8th will be ridden with divisive rhetoric rather than bridging those divides, its already clear the real ‘anti-establishment’ figures will be positioned as radicals. But while this election will be polled and positioned as a foregone conclusion, don’t let the power of your voice be silenced, this is a chance to reverse a course that set the road for ‘the wave of right wing sentiment across the UK, US and Europe spreading like the plague’.

While a number of conversations about movements for resistance are raging across social media, and we’re unearthing the forgotten history of the Black British Panthers, what we don’t hear about is that this wasn’t just a movement to counter racism. This was a movement demanding better education, better housing, equality in the workplace and workers rights. Movements aren’t a solitary rant on social media, they’re born from a united purpose and former member of the British Black Panther movement, Althea Jones-LeCointe explains how in a 2013 interview;

“Well first things first. You want to organise yourself, you organise yourself. You call two or three people together, you have the same point of view, you feel the same about what you want and you start asking what are our questions? What are your issues? What are the things that challenge you now in society, in your life, in your family? This is what starts a movement. This is what creates the reality of a movement. When you sit and talk to each other honestly and say “What are our challenges as young black people in Britain? What are they?”, then you start to put them down. Then you start to say, well “what are the reasons why these things continue to challenge us?” So, then you start talking and look to other people who have made the struggle around the things that have challenged them. That’s how you start.”

As much as they want you to think this election is about Brexit, this election is about asking questions – Do you have a right to afford a home? Do you have a right to an affordable education? Do you have a right for gender equality? Do you have a right to afford a decent wage? Do you have a right to travel freely? Do you have a right to offer refuge? Do you have a right to privacy? Do you have a right to hold politicians to account? Do you have a right to demand climate change?

This is a fight to stop letting divisive rhetoric become the only public discourse and ask whether making ‘Britain Great Again’ is really about making ‘Britain Wrong Again’?

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