British Urban Film Festival Secures Premiere Rights To Screen Critically Acclaimed ‘The Trials of Muhammad Ali’ This September in London

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The British Urban Film Festival has scored a major coup in its coverage of the event after securing the UK festival rights to screen the premiere of critically-acclaimed documentary 'The Trials ofMuhammad Ali' in the opening weekend of September. Outspoken and passionate in his beliefs, #TrialsOfAli examines how one of the ...

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Labrinth

Labrinth

Timothy McKenzie  better known by his stage name Labrinth, is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. Initially, he was tipped to work as a producer, but Simon Cowell signed him to his record label Syco Music as a solo act. In the process, Labrinth became Cowell's first non-talent show ...

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Kwabs

Kwabs

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Kwabs follows in the footsteps of other electronically-tinged soul artists such as Sampha and James Blake, bringing his warm baritone to soul pieces informed by modern electronic music trends.   Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter / Spotify     If any information on this page is missing or incorrect please ...

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Ella Eyre

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Ella McMahon, better known by her stage name Ella Eyre, is a British singer and songwriter signed to Virgin EMI Records. She's known for her collaborations with Rudimental on their UK number one single "Waiting All Night" and Naughty Boy and Wiz Khalifa on his single "Think About It". Her debut ...

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The British Blacklist Reviews Amma Asante’s ‘Belle’ Out in UK Cinemas From Today

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It was last year I discovered Belle and at first my interest was indifferent. Period drama, British so I assumed it was a full English and not really up British Blacklist's street. But when I saw the director's name Amma! Her surname Asante! Lead star Gugu Mbatha-Raw! The frantic search ...

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Zoe Sailsman Asghar, director of short film  'Longing'

Documenting Hopelessness. Writer-Director of Globetrotting Short ‘Longing’ Zoe Sailsman-Asgha Speaks Albert Yanney for TBB

Zoe Sailsman-Asghar is a writer-director and producer of 'Longing'. She carries years of experience working within development, production and distribution in the UK TV and film industry. She has worked at high profile multi-award winning film companies such as Pathe (The Queen, Slumdog Millionaire), DJ Films (Adulthood, Kidulthood, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, The ...

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Caste As Black Part 3: Automatic Lens Change: Markers of Cultural Assimilation

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Automatic Lens Change: Markers of Cultural Assimilation It might be 2014, but this article should at least cause you to suspect that race can affect an individual's job prospects. Sociologists have been measuring degrees of cultural assimilation for centuries and have grouped them into 4 major markers - socioeconomic status, geographic ...

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Caste As Black Part Two: Perception and the Means to Adjust the Lens

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Can Black be perceived as British? The answer is, of course, YES. I mean, in the world of international film, TV and theatre, YES.  Just as the UK repeatedly honours 'exotic' or American black actors (see Miss Nyong'o & Mr Abdi's awards records), UK black actors are honoured abroad; and you ...

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#TBBSUNDAYREAD ‘Caste As Black: Awarded a Lesson In Perception’  (Part 1)

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Artistic Director of Breakin' Convention Jonzi D

JONZI D Speaks to ShakaRa About Breakin The Conventions

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The British Blacklist Catches Up With Kyle Lettman to Talk About His Latest EP ‘Access’

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Maureen Worrell Speaks to TBB’s Tammy V About Her First Published Novel ‘The Journey of I & I’

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SUBMIT TO TriForce Short Film Festival 2014. Various Deadlines. Fees Apply.

triforce

The launch of the TriForce Short Film Festival 2014 will be held at BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly on 22nd November 2014.

The 2014 TriForce Short Film Festival will build on the success of previous years, and promises to be a high profile, star-studded event. The 2013 event took place at BAFTA and was attended by UK film and television actors and creatives such as Dakota Blue Richards, (Golden Compass), Aml Ameen, (The Butler), Hugh Quarshie, (Star Wars), Will Mellor, (Broadchurch), Nick Pinnock, (Captain America), Preeya Khalidas, (Four Lions), Philip Hedley CBE and of course the team behind TriForce; actors Jimmy Akingbola, Fraser Ayres and Minnie Crowe. The popular festival is taking place 22nd November 2014 at the prestigious British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in London, where the shortlisted films will be shown to an audience and a panel of industry judges throughout the day.

TriForce’s mission is to present quality short films from within the TriForce Network and support, recognize and honor filmmakers creating films under 20 minutes. With the belief that short films are true works of art that deserve to be viewed at an established venue. Aiming to create opportunities for all film-makers; whether they’re working with a major budget, or making films on their phone.

The TFSFF 2014 will be bigger than ever, with category screenings of the shortlisted films taking place throughout the day, followed by seminars with working film professionals giving an insight into the industry. There will also be an industry Expo in the fabulous David Lean room all day. All of this will be followed by a star-studded Gala evening, showing the finalists in each category, where the “TFSFF Best of the Fest” will be announced and you get the chance to pick the “TFSFF Audience Choice Award.”

An opportunity to catch the work of some of the best short film-makers out there, as well as a great networking event and a glamorous red-carpet Gala evening, The TriForce Short Film Festival promises to be THE short film event this year.

Submissions are now open for the festival, and in keeping with TriForce’s ethos of enabling access for all, submission fees are kept deliberately low, with the MicroShorts category offering aspiring filmmakers with films under 5 minutes long completely free entry to the festival.

Submission Fees (for films over 5 minutes):

  • Until 22nd of August – £20 per submission
  • 23rd of August – 23rd of September – £35 per submission
  • 24th of September – 1st of November – £45 per submission

For further information / to submit your short film click here

To Book your tickets to the TriForce film festival: http://tfsff.triforcepromotions.co.uk/

@triforceevents #TFSFF #DiversityinAction @TFSFF2014

The British Blacklist Meets ‘Sweetboy’ Director Anthony Vander

Director of Sweetboy, Anthony Vander

Director of Sweetboy, Anthony Vander

Anthony Vander is British actor, writer, producer and director who made his first television appearance aged seventeen on BBC’s Bitesize programme.  Hew went on to study Sociology and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London whilst attending The National Youth Theatre to hone his acting skills. 

In 2006, Anthony was accepted into the prestigious Drama Centre London and in 2009 he graduated with a BA (Hons) in Acting. His first professional stage appearance was at the Southwark Playhouse.

As a writer, Anthony’s debut play Inhibitions was given a rehearsed reading at The Soho Theatre by The National Youth Theatre in September 2009. His second play Studio 66 was also performed to sell out audiences at the historic Roundhouse.
He has also acted in numerous films and short films including Ealing Studios’ Grandfather Paradox and also Fresh to Death which he also co-produced with his production company Distortion Entertainment.
In 2012, Anthony’s debut short film Hooligan which he wrote and directed was selected for The Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. This year will see the release of his debut feature film Sweetboy, which he directed, produced and acted in. The film has also been selected for the 2014 American Black Film Festival.
We caught up with him to talk about his journey so far…

Hello Anthony, welcome to The British Blacklist. Could you start by telling us about your background in film?

My memory goes back as far my parents taking me to the cinema very often. My brother also being a film director has an encyclopaedia knowledge of film so he imparts wisdom and knowledge to me. I did a bit of directing in theatre after drama school but decided to make the transition to film as that was my passion. I acted in a couple short films before making my own short film Hooligan. That screened at the Cannes film festival in 2012 and gave me a platform and more confidence, and then I moved onto a feature film, Sweetboy.

What do you find most rewarding, acting, producing or directing?

Each of them are rewarding in their own way, but I would most probably have to go with directing. The creation process with actors, cinematographer, production team. All different personalities. It really is an ensemble journey for a shared vision. They say the cast find inspiration from the script and the director but I like to think of it as the other way round.

Please give us some insight about the themes and issues addressed in your latest project Sweet Boy…

There are many themes and issues at the heart of the film such as family, relationships, redemption and infidelity. The theme of infidelity is apparent in many thrillers which have gone onto mainstream success, films such as – Fatal Attraction (1987), Unfaithful (2202), Jungle Fever (1991). The way we have presented this theme in our film is with honesty and truth and in no way do we seek any type of moral judgement. It has mainly adult content but I think there are themes that young people can relate to. At the heart of it we have quite a universal film with a universal cast. Joe (writer of Sweetboy) has created Ryan’s character as an everyman, an anti-hero who is flawed but at the heart of it is trying to grow into a man. The word Sweetboy has many definitions but for me at the heart of it Ryan among his many characteristics can be sweet and he is in some sense still a boy as he refuses to grow up.

sweetboy new poster

What are the challenges you face as a young filmmaker in the UK?

I found it pretty challenging to pitch my vision for Sweetboy to producers. You see when you’re making a first time feature I guess producers are more wary. Especially if you’re still in your twenties. I had producers which ranged from negative to just plain confusing. In the end I just thought just do it, so I went out and made the film with zero budget. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done but also the most rewarding.

Is your general assessment of the UK film industry a positive or negative one?

I consider myself a really positive guy but I struggle to understand when I hear household names like Sophie Okonedo and David Harewood get lack of work on our shores. I mean these guys are incredible actors with a incredible body of work. Personally they shouldn’t need to audition here. In America they get work regularly. There is huge unrepresentation of ethic minorities and also females (of all races) in the industry in the UK. We all know it and I’m glad the press are catching wind of this and also very thankful to the voices of guys like Lenny Henry who are trying to implement change.

Who would you most like to direct in future if the opportunity arose?

Chiwetel Ejiofor. The guy is just one of the great actors of our time. From Dirty Pretty things (2002) and Children of Men (2006) to Redbelt (2008) and 12 Years a Slave (2013);  Couple years back I queued from 4 am til mid day to get tickets for his Othello at the Donnar theatre. Just blew me away.

Can you name a few directors you draw inspiration from?

Ken Loach is a master. I love the performances he gets out of his actors. Mike Leigh, Scorcese, PT Anderson, Steve McQueen. Spike Lee was a huge inspiration for Sweetboy. I actually met Spike Lee last month at the American Black film festival and shook his hand. I haven’t washed my hands since.

What is your favourite film of all-time?

I refuse to give one film, haha. Among my favourites are Godfather Part 2 (1974), Citizen Kane (1941), Kes (1970), On the Waterfront (1954), Do The Right Thing (1989), Empire Strikes Back (1980), Pickpocket (1959)…

Do you have anything in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

Among the festival circuit for Sweetboy. we have two features in the pipeline we will be pitching to producers. A feature length script for my debut short Hooligan and also an untitled script about the day in a life of a primary school teaching assistant. It’s going to get made by any means necessary.

 

interview for the british blacklist by @AYanneyTBBL

#TBBSUNDAYREAD TBB Speaks to The Black Cultural Archives Managing Director Pablo Reid

BCA Managing Director Paul 'Pablo' Reid and TBB journalist, ShakaRa

BCA Managing Director Paul ‘Pablo’ Reid and TBB journalist, ShakaRa

Windrush Square in Brixton will play host to a number of significant Black community events this summer. One of the most high profile is the Grand Opening of the newly built Black Cultural Archives (BCA) on 24th July 2014. The event will feature a range of highlights including performances from Akala, Floetic Lara, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jonzi D to name but a few.

One of the many people of the moment is long standing community activist, and BCA Managing Director Pablo Reid (also known as Paul). The British Blacklist were treated to a BCA tour and an EXCLUSIVE interview with the Managing Director, providing invaluable insight into the why the BCA is so deeply rooted in the Black UK experience and the what opportunities its re-opening provides present generations.

What follows is the story of Black community activism including the role of international figures such as the eminent Garveyite Queen Mother Moore, the impact of gentrification and the inside track on how you turn 2 derelict houses on the corner of Effra road and Brixton High Street into a state of the art monument to the history and contemporary activities of Afrikans in the UK.

Greetings Brother Pablo, if you start by please explaining a little bit of your history in community work, particularly in relations to New Initiatives and Origin…

Well I was the founder member, or still am the founder member of New Initiatives Youth and Community Association and founder member of the Origin Rites of Passage Program. That organization goes back to 1988 and was based in Clapham North, it’s still going strong. Its been through it’s ups and downs over the years, but very much a home for many Afrikan and Pan-Afrikan organizations in the community. I am still looking back at that with pride and with love. We’re continuing to do good work albeit in a very stretched way at the moment because we have been offered the building, that’s the new development. Apparently Lambeth Council considers us the preferred provider of services from that building. So the good news is that not only are we talking about Black Cultural Archives but we’re potentially also talking about Wellington Road. So two big things happening in the community in 2014.

In terms of the history of Wellington Road and New Initiatives it was a hub for a lot of Black cultural and political activity from the 80’s throughout tell us about some of the events which have happened there…

Ah man, we’ve done so much. You know, ’cause you was grown up in it. So it was established on the principles of youth and community work and so first and foremost we developed a youth and community programme and as our Afrikan consciousness kicked in with the Africentric Movement in Britain at the time it started to impact and shape our thinking in terms of youth and community work. So these two parallel worlds can’t stay separate for too long, the ideas of youth and community and the ideas of Africentrism starts kind of merging and that’s where we coined and started to define our methodology around Africentric Rites of Passage as the most appropriate and correct ways of working with our young people.

But far more than what we did, it became a very central point for groups in the community, many of which couldn’t get space by the nature of the activities that we were trying to put on at the time. So New Initiatives became a welcome space and open space where we weren’t jangling keys at 10 0′clock trying to force people out, because we know that some of our community don’t turn up til 10 [Laughs].  Would still be there sometimes at 12 and 1. Then there was a big effort to clean up because if that was Friday then, there might be Saturday school on Saturday and somebody got some naming ceremony on Sunday and then youth work on Monday. So we had to live this thing and we did that for many many years.

Can we get a bit of history in terms of the Black Cultural Archives?

Well the organisation is a registered charity. It was set up in 1981 by Pan-Afrikan activists and parents. The person that we look to most is the founder member Len Garrison. What we don’t often speak about is that Len Garrison didn’t just come about, he was inspired also. So when we look to the minutes and the records we find that one of the key people in his life was a meeting that he had with Queen Mother Moore. And actually when you look at how that came about, Queen Mother Moore came to Bulmershe College in Reading. I studied at Bulmershe. So there’s no coincidence that there was a strong Black student’s collective in Bulmershe college because it was infused with really big and powerful speakers. So people like Lioness Chant and Benjamin Zephaniah and all these people come up through Bulmershe. So I was blessed to be able to study in such a space. Only then to find that one of the people that became the chair of Black Cultural Archives was somebody called Mike Lion. Mike Lion was a tutor at Bulmershe college and he actually invited over Queen Mother Moore. So the fascinating thing is the way in which all this history is stitched together. You start out one place and you can find out how it all connects up. Because essentially we’re talking about our activism in this country and efforts to some how carve out some existence here with consciousness and righteousness. And people are pulled to that or people are repelled from that.

BCA during the '80s

BCA during the ’80s

So what was Black Cultural Archives doing from 1981 and through the 80’s?

Ok, so it was located on Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Road. 378 Coldharbour Lane on the corner which is currently a chicken shop. I think we shared the space, before my time, Timbuktu and Brother Ajani, was there running a book shop, so that’s part of it’s history. The director at the time was Sam Walker and he was there collecting documents, so too was Len Garrison and the other volunteers building up the beginnings of a repository of Afrikan presence in Britain. That Archive was very much about people giving to BCA things that we think are important. There was no great scientific approach, no great methodology more so than these documents are important, these photographs are important, these records are important, these magazines are important, we need to give them to the Archive. So that’s how it all started and that’s what I call the legacy collection, before the organisation – I don’t like this word but I hope you understand what I mean by it – before the organisation turned a corner and became more “professional” in that respect. So it was doing that there, you had exhibitions, put on events and it tried to, I think it was on 2 or 3 occasions, tried to run with a capital campaign to raise money to open up what was called at the time a Black Museum.

But what’s interesting is that sometimes when you think about the Black Cultural Archives one of the questions that always comes up is ‘Why isn’t it called the Afrikan People’s Archive?. It’s really interesting in that the actual constitutional document, when you go to the constitution it’s the “Afrikan Peoples Historical Monument Foundation.” –  that’s the constitution. I am not sure how this came about, but it’s trading as the Black Cultural Archives. It might just be that for some people it was a mouth full and they say ‘Bwoy lets cut it down to that’. Or it might be that within the organisation, they were grappling with quite interesting and difficult challenges and you know that conversation there. The founding people said it’s the Afrikan Peoples Historical Monument Foundation, trading as the Black Cultural Archives – it ticks both boxes [laughs]. But I don’t know I am only speculating that.

Brixton is quite a hub for the Black experience in general. You could have an archive on Brixton alone. So if we’re talking about 1981, there was an uprising in Brixton that year, another one fours later. Do you know what activities were around those events and the Black Cultural Archives at that time?

I can’t see the Archives directly at the forefront of the Uprisings or anything like that. I know it would have been perfectly located, so immediately opposite; certain buildings went up in flames. So what is currently the Dog Star for example, that building would have burnt and the other buildings. So the building that the Black Cultural Archives were  in didn’t get touched. I would hope that one of the reasons why it didn’t get touched is because of some of the work it was dealing with, and that it wasn’t just bun down everything, but there was some careful selection of what was gonna get bun down. I was 18 at the time, so I can give you some eye witness accounts on this one, don’t draw me on my activity though [laughs]. But, I can’t quite tell you about BCA role besides in the archive it would have gone about the business of documenting and collecting newspapers, articles, reports, anything that was published at the time. Certainly when it comes to newspapers, things like African Times, Caribbean Times, Black Root Magazine. So we can go to the Archive and say, OK, why did we collect these things? We collected them because  it gives us an opportunity to research.

Queen Mother Moore alongside Len Garrison, Dawn Hill, current Chair of The BCA, Yana Morris and Vincent Thompson in the 1980s - Picture from www.voice-online.co.uk

Queen Mother Moore alongside Len Garrison, Dawn Hill, current Chair of The BCA, Yana Morris and Vincent Thompson in the 1980s – Picture from www.voice-online.co.uk

So there was a time when we actually lost that building on Coldharbour Lane. When was that and how did that come about?

Wow – you been doing your research [laughs]. Well I can tell you the inside track on that, you get the exclusive. Lambeth Council occupied that building and another building.  At the time I remember Black Cultural Archives going to the council and saying that we were interested in this building and the council saying “OK, if you move from 378 Coldharbour Lane” – and another organisation they were talking to, I think they were called the Afrikan Caribbean Family Mediation Service, if they were to move as well – “if you both move to Kennington then the council will be able to sell those buildings”, because they actually had three buildings, one that was empty and two that was occupied and if we both went into the one in Kennington it would release those two assets and they could sell them. So that’s what they wanted to do.

What year was that?

This would be around 2002, 2001 when the early idea was forming and by 2006, cause you know these things take time, by the time you’ve won the attention of the councillors and you have a real project and they start getting brought into it and you’ve gone through some of the struggle – it takes a number of years before they take you serious. So by 2006 Black Cultural Archives had moved from Brixton to Kennington and we shared the building with that organisation those two premises in Brixton then got sold and unfortunately the one on Coldhabour Lane is now a chicken shop. I look back on that with some regret. It was to some extent a bit of a gamble because if we didn’t secure the funding to refurbish this building then we would have been left out in Kennington. We had to really trust in the project to know that – you know what, if we’re gonna do this and do it properly, then there’s no question about whether its going to be a success, we have to really go out for it. That’s what the council is offering so we went for it knowing that we were coming back to Brixton. But not knowing at the time that it was going to take £7 Million to do so.

Who came up with those figures?

Well we went out and got cost consultants and business plans to look at what it would cost. The building was in  very poor condition and a lot of work needed doing to it. When you then add to that that we needed certain standards to be taken seriously within the heritage sector, it meant that dis ting cost money – serious money. So what do you do? Do you say to the council “Well can’t you help us?”. There comes a point where an organisation has to stand on its own two feet and if it believes in its mission it has, to say – OK I see you and I raise you, let’s do this. So that’s what happened, we said we’ll go to Kennington, we’ll use the time in Kennington to put in place the infrastructure, to put in place the standards and to start a fundraising campaign. The great news Brother, the great great news is that we did secure £7 Million. This building that we’re sitting in now is paid for, we don’t owe nothing on it. We’ve got a 99 year lease on the property and during that time I’m hoping that we actually buy the property from the council. I think that’s only right and proper, but we have a good amount of time to do that. The building didn’t cost £7 Million, the building only cost £5.8 Million. So what we’ve done, we’ve not been stupid, we’ve taken the £1.2 Million, ploughed that into the business plan to take the edge of off the year on year fundraising that takes place. That’s the challenge. We can pat ourselves on the back and say yeah we’ve made it, but the only thing that we’ve made is a building. The big challenge now is it’s a robust business plan, it’s the organisational stability, how we manage to keep it going forward.

There was noise in the community about this project happening at the time. Different levels of information, in terms of what people knew. But what was the community response at that time?

I think the community was in principle, supporting to any such progressive ideas – no question. I’ve never felt unsupported by the community. But I think, when I look in the church for example I see that there is a practice of giving money. When I look at other types of community organisation, we might have a value for education but we don’t give in the same way. Maybe because a lot of us are struggling as well. So in terms of financial support, there was always financial support. But I think the support more came from volunteer time and you can put a value to that. This is probably one of the things where we might miss a trick here, cause when we’re applying for funds when we have a lot of people that are contributing their time, we can calculate that as community in kind contributions and even without any money we can say – YES, we have X – which is a multiple of our time that we give, our professional time.  I didn’t know any of those things, I had to learn them things. Before that, I thought you had to have the money in your hands. But there’s all kinds of ways accountants help to find ways of demonstrating that you have the money and you’ve done your bit.

Ok so, give me an idea of physically how the building changed?

We worked with our architects and created a wish list. We said, for BCA to do what it wants to do in terms of realising its mission it needs certain things. It needs an Archive. But I didn’t just want an archive as a lock up of documents and say yeah job done. This needed to be much more than an archive, it needed to be an educational learning space, it needed to be able to animate and bring that archive alive. So I started to say BCA, though it says Black Cultural Archives, Black Cultural Archives has an archive, but it’s more than an Archive. From there we said, we want a gallery and we want learning spaces, we want places for people to meet and we want to be linked toan outdoor public space because we want to do festivals events and conferences, all kinda things. The architects were saying “boi that all can’t happen here”, because it was just two little houses. So eventually they came up with a scheme that allowed us to build an extension. We got planning permission and that’s how we got the gallery, the archive, the café, the shop, all these different elements that the business plan needs to keep this thing viable. The conditions of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is that it has to be free to the public to come in. So if you wanna come to the BCA you can come into the gallery space and you can use the archive free of charge.

Now I think that’s an important value. But as an organisation it causes a problem because, Ok that’s a lovely principle, but how you gonna pay the bills – light bill, telephone bill, staffing? So we had to come up with an approach that is an amalgamation of fundraising, earned income, secured grant. Then now, important relationships with the community – sponsorship. I mean I have had to learn so much just in terms of how to make something viable. I didn’t have this knowledge before, I feel a lot more equipped now to advise and support other organisations.

The completed British Cultural Archive Building in Brixton

The completed British Cultural Archive Building in Brixton

The launch event is on the 24th July. What can people expect from that event?

From 6-9 O’ Clock, we start off with a drum call. Priestess Omilade will be pouring Libation and we have a series of contributions, both artistic cultural contributions and more kind of speeches. So that’s gonna be on Windrush Square. We’re hoping that the community come out in force. Its not the official opening of the building. What’s it is it’s marking the completion of the build. The community can come in from the very next day. Because I’m expecting considerable numbers of people to turn up and if everybody does turn up, it’s impossible for everybody to come into the building. So this marks the opening, but actual access to the building is from the following day.

What’s are some of the plans for the work the organisation wants to do in the immediate future?

We’ve got a learning team and they’ve put together a program that consists of a response to both formal and informal learning. On the formal learning, they’ve been creating materials for schools, so Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4 learning packs across 5 different subjects. So they will be inviting school groups in during the day. We will be selling those services. Those packs will be available online for people to download. That happens virtually immediately. Then on the informal side, Janet Brown who works at the Victoria Albert Museum, does fantastic work for the V & A and jobs shares with us, she’s been putting programs together of talks, walks, seminars, conferences. I am looking forward to how she responds to the idea of the Len Garrison memorial lecture. I’m looking forward to how we pull together from across the country and internationally, key speakers around questions that are pertinent now and how we grapple with that. Outside of the official opening hours, which are 10-6 from Tuesday to Sunday and there’s a late one evening a month, I think it’s a Thursday, that’s when we’ll go into the archive, we’ll bring things out of the archive and say let’s look at this or we’ll bring a speaker in and say help us to understand this. But outside of those official opening hours, there’s opportunities to book space within the building and I’m hoping that the community embrace that idea. The other thing I think is crucial is that Brixton is changing and I want us to claim the space. I want us to be comfortable in this space. I think that is a message that we have to extend, so that we are really at home at the Black Cultural Archives.

Well that leads me to my question about the so-called gentrification of Brixton. Everyone is talking about it and it has been vicious. Has that had a impact upon the development of the Black Cultural Archive and if so what?

Wow, what a question. I mean – I grew up in Brixton and I can see those changes and I am uncomfortable with those changes. But I am not romantic about the past. I mean I grew up at the time in what was called a West Indian Take Away – I don’t use that phrase anymore, but I grew up in a take away of fried fish and bami and bulla and whatever. I grew up in that environment so I remember very clearly some of the issues, some of the tensions at the time, them times was tough. But it was also home. So it was reported in the press as a ‘no go zone’, but for me it was home. So I’ve seen some improvement to the public realm. I’ve seen some prettying up. But I’ve also seen the way that the market is so transformed that I am uncomfortable with it. You used to be able to go in that market and it was inundated with Black people. When they were selling yam and dasheen and various cultural produce or it could be cloths and prints – all kinds of stuff. Now we have a whole range of café’s and food outlets and whole queues going around the block to eat pizza, from people that I don’t recognise.

What’s interesting is that I can walk up an down Brixton High Road an whole heap ah people know me and hail me up. When I go into the market, no one don’t know me. I think that’s interesting. That tells you how much of a change. I did write to the Secretary of State, cause there was a time when the market was being considered for redevelopment and I think people wanted to turn it into a hotel or something and I wrote to the Secretary of State and we won the argument in terms of its planning designation. We made sure that it’s impossible for them to turn the market  i to flats or whatever. But what you couldn’t make provision for is the type of change that would take place within the fact that its still shop units. So we’ve lost now, so many of the small Black businesses.

In terms of BCA, when we started off in 1981, it was clearly a Black community and BCA was of that community. And it’s taken us so long now to establish ourselves and now the community has changed [laughs]. But I am hoping that wherever we live, this time we might haffi get on a tube, or a bus to come. Maybe as it tips in one direction, maybe Black Cultural Archives, and I might be being idealistic here, but maybe Black cultural Archives is part of trying to tip it back towards other Black and Afrikan initiatives, finding itself comfortable back in Brixton.

Founder member of the BCA Len Garrison who died February 2003

Founder member of the BCA Len Garrison who died February 2003

In the interim, do you think that the BCA will struggle to maintain relevance surrounded by everything that is happening in Brixton?

Mmmm… Possibly.  Because, relevance to who? I think if we’re trying to appease the, I suppose the white middle class values – then we might be irrelevant [laughs]. You get what I am saying. It all depends on what perspective.  I’m sure that it’s gonna be challenging for lots of people who feel that they are comfortable with the content, feel that they already know the content. I think evidence has got a beautiful way of getting us to rethink something. So you’ve got ideas for example, about history, but when you put the evidence down in front of us, it may change the way we see things. I am also hoping that that evidence creates the opportunity for us to have the conversations that are needed.

I’ve seen some fantastic things. I’ve seen people take out archives sit quietly in the library and you just have to wait for a little while and wait for the next thing that the person says and often it’s about childhood memories or it’s about Nanny or back home or something.  So that Archive has got a wonderful way of triggering memory. So in that respect I think it will be relevant, how we engage with that as a community I think is really gonna be interesting, because if something’s triggering for you and something’s triggering for me, and something’s triggering for everybody else – I’m looking forward to how we share that and how we learn collectively. Because the Archive is one thing, the exhibition is one thing. I think it’s then what happens with human beings when that material comes out.

It is often said that young people are not very interested in history. What is the particular significance of BCA to the younger generation and how have young people been involved in the development of BCA thus far?

There’s a sister that I introduced you to, or who you introduced yourself to, who recognized you from nuff works that you do in the community I am sure [laughs]. Syreeta – she’s set up a youth forum – she’d never set up a youth forum before. So she went out to the schools, she told the schools about what it is that we’re doing, she invited people down and a number of young people came down from different schools. From there she spent a few months just introducing them to what we’ve got in the archives and then sat down and said, ‘what d’you think?’. The immediate response from the young people was “More young people need to know about this”.
So that’s an indication about what happens when you put our content in front of our people. Often times when you think about libraries and young people it’s boring, archives even worse – who wants to go sit round dusty documents. But when you put our content, with our faces and that could even be from young person’s point of view strange hair styles and funny clothes, right, but it’s us. It look like granny, look like mum, look like whatever. When you put that in front of us we react differently, because we’re responding to ourself.

So the 1st thing that they decided to do as a youth forum was to put on a conference and they put on a conference at Southbank University called “Check Your Selfie”,  an absolutely fascinating conference. I sat down and learned. Everybody had a phone and Simeon Brown was a facilitator at the time – a young man who used to be an archivist for BCA . He basically said, how many people have got a phone in a room, and everyone took out their phone. You know young people most of the time it’s either Blackberry or iPhone. So they all came out and he said we are all walking around with computers. Then he started to talk about tweeting and he put up a website that showed you a picture of the world and wherever there were white lights was where the most active tweeting were taking place. He got everybody in the room to tweet #CheckYourSelfie, and on that website a light came up and it said #checkyourselfie was one of the most active tweets in that moment in the world. He used that as an example of how mobile phone communication has the power to change things. That was an introduction to, OK, now let’s look at Black activism and what would our activists in the 60s have done if they could communicate like that. Then that then kicked off another conversation, which was “boi, they woulda closed it down, there’s no way they would have allowed that”. But then it raised other questions about established media and how that’s been undermined by technology, social media and so on. So I came away thinking, yeh, I went to a workshop organised by young people and I learned something for a change.

Thank very much Brother Pablo. Any last words for this interview?

Come down to the Launch. 6-9 on 24th July. It’s taken over 30 years to get to this position. I think it’s important to stress that this isn’t the achievement of success of any one person. The baton has been changed and changed. Our beloved Len Garrison, he’s now an ancestor, he actually passed away in a management committee meeting, so we are looking at blood sweat and tears. We stand on the shoulders of all those who came before. So this is something that we really ought to embrace. I consider it to be historic. And the success of this organisation is based upon how we as a community embrace and support it. So I am asking for that support.

 

Fore more information on the launch and other BCA events visit: http://www.bcaheritage.org.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/408803199260313/

 

interview with Paul ‘Pablo’ Reid conducted by @ShakaRaBKS for the british blacklist

#TBBSUNDAYREAD TBB Reviews ‘Perseverance Drive’ Currently Running at The Bush Theatre Until 16th August

perseverance_2

After a perceptive interview with Lloyd Everitt prior to the opening of Perseverance Drive [Read Here] I had an idea of what was in store for this production. However, I was not expecting it to surpass my great expectations in mind, but it did. Robin Soans’ Perseverance Drive is set in Barbados, and focuses on the Gillard family, who have come together to prepare for the funeral of their mother Grace. However, tensions are high when the family let their pride and their religious beliefs take priority, during a time meant for peace and reflection.

Within the first few minutes of the production, the family dynamics can be grasped straight away, as obedient Nathan (Derek Ezenagu), the eldest son and Bishop in a Pentecostal Church outwardly undermines the youngest son Zechariah ‘Zek’ (Kolade Agboke), also a Bishop in another Pentecostal church. Yet, despite their obvious competition of ‘who’s the better Bishop’, they both think highly of themselves when around the middle son Joshua (Clint Dyer), the outcast of the family due to his divergence from the church and sexual preferences. Along with the sons are Nathan’s submissive wife Ruth (Frances Ashman) and Zek’s pretentious wife Joylene.

The pressures of being a religiously focused family has significance amongst the Gillard’s, and it seems that keeping up appearances is precedence, however following the righteous path and the strains of being picture-perfect begins to breakdown this family as those with other life passions and issues of their own struggle in coming to terms of the sacrifices made to please others.

Perseverance Drive is a play that has you continuously thinking and questioning. With the running theme of religion, family, death and sexuality, it becomes very intense during certain scenes; nonetheless, these elements are what made the play so much more relatable and powerful. Audience members were taken through family issues that they may have possibly been through themselves with their own family members. Whether it be religious based or not, there was a common subject of significance to those watching – sacrifice. The Gillard family were able to depict this through the issues of religion; being born into religion, conflicting with diverting from the Pentecostal Church’s ‘ideal’ path to follow life passions and individual heart’s desires.

Although collectively the cast were amazing to watch in terms of the dialogue and emotions evoked as the play progresses, for me, the strongest performances in regards to representing all that was ‘wrong in the eyes of the church’ were the characters Joshua, Ruth and Errol son to the Bishop of the Bajan Pentecostal Church played by Lloyd Everitt. Clint Dyer’s presence as Joshua was gripping from the moment he graced the stage. As the shunned outcast of the family for being openly gay, Dyer exhibits Joshua as a forgiving individual, who disguises his hurt through sarcasm and puns, while still struggling for acceptance from his brothers, as well as primarily his father after a long absence away from the family. Though his brothers feign this, it is his sister in law, Ruth he finds solace in. Frances Ashman is outstanding as Ruth. Passive and obedient, Ruth is the calm throughout the Gillard storm. Whilst having to sacrifice her love of art to follow the path of a Bishop’s wife planned out for her, it is Ruth that Grace names in her will to reunite the family during these troubled times. Ashman starts of as reserved and peaceful, and as the play goes on, the audience can see the development in Ruth as she becomes defiant and more outspoken when her passion for art is encouraged again when she meets her old art student Errol.

I will say Lloyd Everitt surprised me when playing Errol! Though he may have seemed quiet during his interview with TBB, Everitt certainly shows that a lot of thought and effort has gone into developing Errol as he deals with the challenges of being a priest becoming a minister, subduing his passion for drawing and art to please his father. The emotional element of Errol is unique as he battles between family pressures with religion and his modest talents, whilst reconciling with Ruth, in more ways than one. At times, it was the intimate, almost ‘stolen’ scenes between Errol and Ruth that stood out for me as both attempt to keep up a façade whilst push aside what they are truly feeling.

Perseverance Drive is a compelling piece of storytelling by Soans, who is able to bring a subject as challenging as religion to stage without forcing the whole topic of ‘right and wrong’ down the audiences throat. Instead this is done subtly through the brilliant casting of the Gillard family who are able to convey that something so diverse, meant to bring individuals together through faith, enthusiasm and inspiration, can tear a family apart when morals are brought into the fold.

Soans and Artistic Director Madani Younis have clearly thought out the message of this insightful play…though religion may be the forefront of this family’s structure, even they have their dysfuntionalities, yet through forgiveness and reconciliation, difficult as it may be, there is hope and comfort for all.

Perseverance Drive is on at Bush Theatre until 16th August 2014. To book tickets go to the Bush Theatre website: http://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/book/perseverance

Or call the box office on: 0208 743 5050

 

review written for the british blacklist by @Nellie_Ville

ShakaRa Speaks On It: 100 Years Later- Why Marcus Mosiah Garvey is Still Relevant

UNIA-ACL 100

On the Sunday 20th July, the Pan-Afrikan World will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Universal Negro Improvement Association & African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) founded upon the vision of Marcus Mosiah Garvey on the 20th July 1914. The UNIA-ACL would grow to become the largest mass Afrikan Liberation movement in history, with a membership of over 11 Million Black men and women world wide.

The success of the UNIA-ACL and the philosophy of Marcus Garvey, would serve as a foundation for many of the Black Power and Afrikan Liberation movements which followed. This lasting significance has inspired world wide celebrations of this 100th Anniversary and prompts us to remind ourselves of why and how Marcus Mosiah Garvey literally shook up the world.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (affectionately known as Papa Garvey) was born on the 17th August 1887 in St. Anns Bay Jamaica, to Marcus Garvey Snr and Sarah Jane Garvey. His birth would take place in the context of an extremely turbulent time for the Afrikan world. Yes, slavery and the so called “Slave Trade” was said by this time to have ended, but was followed by the everyday reality of Jim Crow and lynchings in the United States. Colonisation in the Caribbean meant that little had changed for Afrikans in the Caribbean who continued to exist in a state of servitude to white masters who dominated their nations is the service of Queen and Country. Most notably, the Berlin Conference from 1884-85 was to be the final act in European nations achieving what they were never able to achieve during slavery – the total domination of the Afrikan continent. Nearly a century of bloody invasions, fierce Afrikan resistance and eventual conquest, left Europe in the position to literally carve up Afrika and install a vicious system of colonialism. The atrocities were many, 10-15 million Afrikans massacred in the Congo alone, not to mention millions more mutilated.

This was the reality the Afrikan world faced in the late 1800’s whilst Papa Garvey was growing; and much of his early adulthood would be dedicated to studying these conditions. His early activism would begin at the tender age of 18, when as a foreman for the P. A Benjamin Printery, he rejected offers for preferential treatment from senior management and lead a strike against low pay and poor working conditions. He would later describe this period of his life thusly:

“I had to decide whether to please my friends and be one of the black-whites of Jamaica and be reasonably prosperous, or come out openly and defend and help improve and protect the integrity of the black millions and suffer. I decided to do the latter.”

“The latter”, would include joining the anti colonial National Club, further campaigns for workers rights and receiving elocution lessons from early Pan-Afrikanist Dr. Robert Love.

A depiction of the Berlin Conference

A depiction of the Berlin Conference

Garvey began to travel in 1910. He would visit various countries in South and Central America, leading workers’ strikes wherever he went. In 1912 he travelled to England and would remain in Europe for another 2 years. While working on the docks in London, Cardiff, Liverpool he would meet sea men from Afrika and other parts of the Caribbean. The conditions of British colonialism would be a primary topic of discussion that would allow Papa Garvey to gain first hand knowledge about the continent and the conditions of his people elsewhere.

He would also attend lectures in Law at Birkbeck University, mount the soapbox at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, and even visit the Houses of Parliament to witness debates among British Politicians. He took particular interest in those that concerned the British Empire. Papa Garvey would also find work as a journalist at the African Times & Orient Review, the worlds leading international Black magazine. The publication was concerned with resistance to European colonialism through Afrika and Asia, which was no doubt an educational experience for the young activist and journalist. Its editor Duse Mohammed Ali, also based in London, would become a great influence on Garvey’s life. Duse was an Afrikan of Sudanese and Egyptian parentage and one of the foremost Pan-Afrikanists of his time.

In 1914 while travelling back to Jamaica, Papa Garvey envisioned the organisation that would become the vehicle of his life’s work. He had travelled through South and Central America, he had travelled through the UK and half of Europe, he had studied and read of the conditions in Afrika and Booker T Washington’s “Up From Slavery” (1901) had provided much insight into the condition of Afrikans in the USA. All of the above inspired Garvey to ask the following:

“Where is the Black man and woman’s government? Where are their Queens, Kings and Kingdoms? Where are their presidents, their countries, their ambassadors, their army, their navy their men and women of big affairs? I looked around and I saw none! Then I said
“I will help make them.”

declaration

The UNIA-ACL was founded in Jamaica in 1914. One of its earliest members would become Garvey’s first wife – Amy Ashwood Garvey. The organisation fed thousands of impoverished families, began an employment agency to combat the massive levels of unemployment on the Island, begin an agricultural programme and held talks and debates on many issues including world affairs. Papa Garvey was inspired by his reading of “c” to build an educational institution much like Booker T Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. It was this vision that lead Papa Garvey, as elected UNIA President General and Travelling Commissioner, to head for the USA in 1916 in the hopes of raising money for this institution. He conducted a speaking tour that would see the UNIA-ACL mushroom all over the USA so much so that by 1919, the head quarters of the organisation relocated from Kingston, to Harlem New York. Harlem was developing into a hotbed for Black activism and the presence of a Marcus Garvey would propel its significance 10 fold.

In 1920, the UNIA-ACL called for an International Convention of the Negro people of the World. 25, 000 Black Men, Women and children from Afrika, Europe and throughout the Americas would pack Madison Square Garden for the event, with thousands more not able to fit. The convention lasted 31 days and would produce two significant achievements. The first was the drafting of the “Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World”. This historic document was the first of its kind to detail the atrocities and injustices faced by the Black world in all areas of the planet and then declare various rights that the Afrikan people were now affirming in the face of this oppression. The second significant achievement was the election of a United States of Afrika Government in Exile. The principle was simple. Afrika was under illegitimate colonial rule. It was therefore the responsibility of Afrikans to develop a unified government for the purpose of ridding the continent of said exploiters and engaging in self dertermined development. Two men were nominated for the position of Provisional President of Afrika one D. Lewis who had travelled from Nigeria and one Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who won the election. The Provisional President however served under the power of the ceremonial Potentate, who had to be based on the Afrikan continent. The first Potentate, Gabriel Johnson from Liberia, who was later joined by a second potentate from Sierra Leone. The Convention concluded with a parade in which 100, 000 people would stretch 10 miles long, marching under the flag of the Red (For the Blood of our Ancestors), Black (for the people) and Green ( or the Motherland and the prosperity of the future).

But the UNIA-ACL was not mere pomp and pageantry. It developed a myriad of institutions put to the services of the Afrikan people of the world. To begin with, the Negro factories corporation was a business auxiliary of the organization which housed Grocery Stores, Launderettes , a Printing press, Restaurants, Hotels, a trucking company and various factories which manufactured Black dolls, Clothing and accessories, a millinery, and a Printing press. The Negro factories corporation employed over 1000 Black people in Harlem alone.

UNIA members in front of UNIA Printing and Publishing House, 2305 7th Avenue, 1922 (Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers)

UNIA members in front of UNIA Printing and Publishing House, 2305 7th Avenue, 1922 (Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers)

The Universal Afrikan Legionaires began the making of an Army, they acted as security for UNIA-ACL meetings and also defended the Black community at large from attacks at the hands of the police and the Ku Klux Klan who were responsible for much of the lynching’s faced by Afrikan people at the time. Furthermore, in 1935, when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, many Garveyites travelled to Ethiopia in order to defend the nation. The UNIA-ACL also developed the Universal Motor Corps, which was a military wing comprised exclusively of women.

The women of the UNIA made up 60% of the organization and around half of its leadership at all levels. The Black Cross Nurses were arguable the most prominent arm of the organisation and were responsible for running clinics, midwifery services, investigating sickness, treatments, general health among Black people and other social welfare activities. They also played a key role in running UNIA schools and administered the Juveniles program for the organisation’s young adults. The women of the UNIA-ACL were prime movers in an international movement during a time when women of western societies were not afforded the right to voting and education.

The UNIA’s newspaper the Negro World was arguably the first international weekly newspaper in history. Published in English, French and Spanish, it served as the primary propaganda tool for the movement, providing a much needed social and political connectivity of Afrikan internationally. The Negro World would serve as the main catalyst for the development of the UNIA-ACL in Nigeria, South Afrika, the Congo and other parts of Afrika, despite being banned by colonial authorities in almost every country.

The Black Star Line Steamship Corporation was the UNIA-ACL’s most ambitious endeavor; effectively the equivalent of an airline owned, controlled and put to the service of the Afrikan people of the world. It was designed to facilitate trade between the Afrikan world and with four ships to its name, it did achieve this as far as the USA and South and Central America was concerned.

Certificate for one share of Marcus Garvey's Black Star Line steamship company from 1919.

Certificate for one share of Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line steamship company from 1919.

In 1924 the UNIA-ACL sent a delegation lead by Henrietta Vinton Davis to Liberia, with $50, 000 worth of industrial equipment as a part of a $2, 000, 000 development programme. The idea was to lay the foundations of a power base on the Afrikan continent and relocate the headquarters of the organization there. The programme was aimed at developing agricultural and industrial development towards independent Afrikan infrastructure and nation building. By this point however, the American Government and the British colonial forces were well entrenched in destroying the Garvey movement and this program as well as the Black Star Line became primary casualties of that agenda.

While the UNIA-ACL began to decline as an organization around the 1930’s, the Blackprint which it had laid down in the form of the philosophy of “Afrikan Fundamentalism” continued to grow as many other organisations and movements began to spring up from under its influence. Most notably, the Rastafari Movement and the Nation of Islam have deep roots in the Garvey movement. The Harlem renaissance revolved around the axis of the Garvey Movement during the 1920′s and later inspired the Black arts Movement of the 1960’s. The parents of Omowale Malcolm X met and married in the UNIA-ACL and were leading members within its ranks, leaving a lasting impression on their son who would grow to become the most prominent Pan-Afrikan Black Power activist of his day. Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah is known to have stated that no book “fired my enthusiasm” more than the “Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey”.

This book was compiled by Marcus Garvey’s second wife, Amy Jacques Garvey and along with her “Garvey and Garveyism” (1963) and later “Race First” (1976) by recently departed Prof. Tony Martin would serve as the primary books behind the maintenance and resurgence of the principles of the UNIA-ACL. These ideas would be the prime driving force behind the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester 1945, which provided the impetus for the entire Afrikan independence movement that followed; many of the leaders of which were inspired by Garveyism.

Current president of UNIA-ACL, Senghor Jaware Baye

Current president of UNIA-ACL, Senghor Jaware Baye

The UNIA-ACL did not die completely. In 1938, two years before his passing, Papa Garvey began a School of African Philosophy in which he began to train younger members of his organization for leadership. Along with Amy Jacques Garvey, these men and women held the organization together against all odds with an unbroken line of leadership, that included Marcus Garvey Jnr, eldest son of Papa Garvey who assumed the role of President General during the 90’s. Today the President General is Baba Senghor Jaware Baye, who will be travelling to the UK as a part of the UNIA-ACL Centennial celebrations this year.

What we have provided here is but a snapshot of the life and work of The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the UNIA-ACL. Through the coming year centennial celebrations will be taking place in various countries in Afrika, the USA the Caribbean and right here in Britain. These celebrations will serve not just as a symbolic remembrance, but as a reminder what the spirit of Black self-reliance can produce in all fields of human endeavour. As Marcus Garvey him self said:

“We must elevate to positions of fame and honour, Black men and women, who have made a distinct contribution to our own racial history. We must inspire our literature and promulgate a doctrine of our own without any apology to the powers that be. That right is ours and God’s.”

 

 

For more information on UNIA-ACL Centennial Events in the UK, please visit:  www.alkbulan.org.uk

Facebook: UNIA-ACL Centennial: https://www.facebook.com/events/1496685910548315/?ref=ts&fref=ts

Month of Mosiah: https://www.facebook.com/events/1491983621033841/?ref=ts&fref=ts

 

 

article by @ShakaRaBKS for the british blacklist

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