Misty In Roots

An in depth interview with British reggae legends Misty In Roots by the mighty Penny Reel from the NME, 9 May, 1981.

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Black Yoof

The second issue of Telford zine Guttersnipe speaks to local black youths about their lives. This is from 1978 and the zine ran from that year until 1982. The zine, and the collective behind it were the subject of this BBC TV documentary.

Wailin Fih Mikey

Mih Feel It
(Wailin fih Mikey)

Dih dred ded
an it dun suh?
No sah

dih dred ded
an it dun suh?
Ow can a man
kill annadah one
wid stone
cold-
bludded intenshan

rockstone
bludgeon im ead
an
in drop dung ded
an nuh one
nuh awsk
why
such a wikkid
wikkid tawsk
should
anna-
nyah-
late
dih dred
Dih dred dead
an it dun suh?
no sah

dih dred dead
an it dun suh?

Early early
inna dih day
Mikey ah trod
dung a illy way

isite up sum men
from a pawty fence
an hence-
forth
was stopped!
wid all dih
chattin whe gwaan
an questions ensued
Mikey painin run out
ah im mout
too soon!
an is den dih trouble
run out

for BAM!
four stone inna dem ans
an BAM!
dem lik Mikey dung

an
mih feel it
mih feel it
mih feel it

Dih dred ded
an it dun suh?
no sah

dih dred ded
an it dun suh?
ones must know
dih reason
for dis deadly
assault
committed
out of season
no reason
dred dred dred dred
season

‘Riddemshan for every dred
mus cum
riddemshan
mus cum’

is dih livity
not dih rigidity
for even doah seh
Mikey ded
cause dem mash up
im ead
even doah seh
Mikey gawn
im spirit trod awn
trod awn
tru: RIDDEMSHAN

‘Riddemshan for every dred
mus cum
riddemshan
mus cum’

Dih dred ded
an it dun suh?

NO SAH!

Ahdri Zhina Mandiela

This poem about the murder of Michael Smith is from her 1985 collection Speshal Rikwes.

More Dread

More Dread

Kool Walk, Rastaman deh pon dem.
Wen yu open yu winda,
Yu hear wole heap a heavy sounds a drop,
Yu stop and tek een som,
Strickly rockers, dub wise.
A Rastaman is the musician.
A dreadlocks man is yu boss D.J.
Rastaman ina college a study.
Rastaman a Lawyer, Dotca, Teacha.
Rasta phylosophy a dig deep,
Infiltrating, captivating
Organizing, supervising,
Now self-sufficing.
On de march an yu cant stop dem,
Yes, dem seh dem nah tun bak
An yu cant stop dem.

Frederick Williams

Frederick Williams is a Jamaican born poet who came to England when he was 17. He worked in public transport and gigged a lot with his poetry. He had several collections published: Moving Up (1978), Me Memba Wen (1981) and Leggo De Pen (1985). This poem is from Me Memba Wen.

Black Prisoners’ Poetry

Prisoners James Beatty and Danny Holloway both had poems in Radical America, Vol 6, No 6, November – December 1972. The introduction to them by their teacher, Dan Georgakas puts their work, as well as they poetry they were reading and listening to, into context.

Black Prisoners’ Poetry

The poems which follow were written at Bordenstown Reformatory. The poets are both in their late 20s and have completed their high-school equivalences within the New Jersey penal system. I came into contact with them when I conducted creative-writing seminars at Bordenstown in the summer of 1972. James Beatty had been interested in writing for a long time and was well acquainted with the work of such black contemporaries as Nikki Giovanni, Don Lee, and Sonia Sanchez. Danny Holloway had much less formal knowledge of poetry and only began writing in response to being in an English class. Neither is a “political prisoner in the sense of Martin Sostre or H. Rap Brown. They drifted into crime because of the usual social situation confronting ghetto blacks. They are aware of the class nature of the process which took them to prison, but they are not politically active.
Beatty and Holloway are close friends. During their time at Bordentown, they readd and evaluated each other’s work daily. They took the same classes in writing, drama, and English. Their completely independent styles indicate how well they managed to retain individual voices in spite of their common assumptions about most things and their constant interchange. Their reading styles are even more divergent. Holloway reads in a droll, sometimes mumbling, gravel voice full of sarcasm and restrained anger. He often gives the impression of a junkie speaking out a last poem as he goes on the nod. In contrast, Beatty reads at a rapid pace with clear and precise accents and pauses.
We worked very hard on trying to find written forms that would capture the actual sound and spirit of the spoken poems. Holloway is still not overly concerned with technical questions. He concentrates on getting his experience and emotions out as clearly and rapidly as he can. Beatty is the opposite, a stylist very much involved with the topography and spacing of his poems. He is an enthusiastic experimenter and will often redo the same poem in different forms. In trying to write of his experience as a pimp, Beatty uses two different approaches. Sometimes he will depend on realistic street slang and subjective references. Other times he utilizes surrealistic methods to render some of the theatrical and hallucinatory aspects of an otherwise brutal set of relationships.
Both men continue to write. They see themselves not as prisoners who write, but as writers who happen to be prisoners. Beatty has been in the Newark Rebellion, the Tombs Revolt, and a thousand street dramas of which he would like to give an account in future prose and poetry. Holloway is more concerned with rendering his own everyday experiences and the more typical experience of black people in America. Beatty is serving a 15-year bank-robbery term in Trenton State prison, and Holloway is an escapee from Bordentown. The publication here is the first time their work has appeared outside of prison-related newspapers and magazines.

Dan Georgakas

James Beatty

i saw the sun today june 25
4 the first time
in 18 months 14 days
18 hours & 1 solitary minute
it was beautiful
seen through
the wire-mesh dome
up on the roof
of the tombs
i realize even though
i am an inhabitant
of this tomb
that i am
very much alive
when i return
2 the inner recesses
of this tomb
tired from this
game
of basketball
i’ll make sure
2 remember
man
i’m still black
strong
& in prison
so what
right on
SUN SUN SUN SUN SUN SUN SUN

Danny Holloway

Walking through Macy’s on 34thSt,.
I stepped into the men’s room.
Like walking through Grand Central Station
at 12:00 noon.
All the spots were being used,
and people were waiting.
I got behind this white guy
since he seemed in a hurry.
Damn, thought he’d never finish pissing.
Almost pissed myself standing there.
First time I ever noticed how long
it takes white folks to piss.
What the hell do they be doing?
I felt kind of funny finishing so fast,
figured I’d take a little extra time.
Thought I’d shake it little a longer
this particular time.
And there I went
splashing th guy next to m.
Looked at me like I was crazy.
Felt stupid saying excuse me,
mentioned something about the plumbing.
And I was still the first one to finish.