Tag Archives: brixton

Clash with a Titan

I must confess that upon relocating to London from Bristol in the late 90s, like a child playing with an oversized train set, I loved using the London Underground system. I never entirely understood the wails and grunts from work colleagues as they arrived at the office first thing each morning.

Accepted, it was not the best place to be on a hot day between Brixton and Vauxhall. Especially in an over-crowded carriage, waiting for the light to change and drivers unintelligible announcements.

Donning my headphones and observing the subterranean world become one of my little daily pleasures. Witnessing the solemn faces of passengers navigate the unwritten constitution, which governs the use of the underground with an iron glove:

Do not acknowledge other people
Pretend to read something essential.
Do not disturb.
Do not invade space and avoid all physical contact.
Do not intervene in other peoples misdemeanours.
Learn to pivot and balance against gravity.
When the occasion arises, gawk at your reflection.
Rush hour: Be a complete and inconsiderate tosser.

The practice of social distancing, before it became a necessity. After a period of using the same route a small acknowledgement, a nod of the head would be exchanged between familiar faces.

One particular day, it was my first week of employment at Lambeth Council. I was still coming to terms with the kaleidoscope of new names and faces, and I jumped on the system at Brixton Underground.

The carriage was pretty full, but not overcrowded. As the carriage pulled away, I noticed one of my new work colleagues down the other end of the carriage. I looked him in the eyes and gave him a firm nod of acknowledgement. He looked down and did not respond.

A few moments later, he lifted his head and looked my way. I gave him a smile and reaffirmed my acknowledgement. Once again, he looked away only this time a little more uncomfortably as if he was being tested by a psychopath. He tried to move behind somebody close to him, but I could see him looking at me through the reflection of the carriage window. I gave his reflected stare an acknowledgement, and he shuffled behind this human shield again.

Now feeling somewhat offended, I thought, fuck it, you miserable sod. The carriage pulled into Stockwell Station. I watched my supposed work colleague take a quick glance, again through the reflection in the window. I looked away in disgust. The driver announced the closing of the doors, next stop Vauxhall. In the blink of an eye, my work colleague jumped from the train onto the platform, leaving me with no time to join him.

With great stature, he stared directly at me, as the carriage slowly started to move. His eyes shouted out to me, “who the fuck are you?”

At this point, I realised my work colleague was none other than Mick Jones, guitarist from The Clash. Our paths were never to cross again.

Karl Lokko – Cruel to be Kind

Karl’s latest poem is called ‘Cruel to be kind’ and is taken from the collection, ‘The Butterfly Effect’.  The poem is a cry for every ‘villains’ innocence! “We are ALL innocent because at our core the intentions of human beings are good, deception is the real ‘devil’, man is not. We live a life according to our conditioning.”  Click here for my earlier post concerning Karl’s work, along with further information.

Karl Lokko – Urine Village

I first met Karl almost eight years ago in Brixton, London. He is quite an imposing person given I stand 6ft, and he still towers over me like a giant from Han Christian Anderson fairy tale. As with many Black kids growing up within our inner cities, Karl had tough choices to make and dangerous lessons to learn. The first day we cast eyes on one another I was in my local government uniform and tie he was wearing a bulletproof vest. He talked rapidly about the life he was leading, the inspirational pastor who was helping him to rebuild his life, his dreams, his aspiration. He was young, but already time was catching up with him. Over the years he stumbled but resisted a return to the life he once led. Today Karl is a husband, poet, activist, influencer, and incredible human being who I am proud to call a friend. This is Karl’s first release of his poetry online. If you want to know more about Karl then click here.

Wobbly Paving Stones

Journey on the grinding tube station escalator. Through the gates, people skipping to avoid  contact, excited conversations, raised voices, smiles, arguments and hugs all exchanged in the theatre that is the ticket hall. Up the steps, two at a time,  the heat from the warm sun pierces through the mass of bodies. I reach the summit and surface in Brixton. The street preachers are still wasting their time, the kaleidoscope of scents, some pleasant, some not so.  Traffic fumes, spices, flower seller, the trader selling incense sticks whose smoke dances from the sticks and drifts into the bustling street. Then vanishes. The white hipster with his carefully trimmed beard and the elderly Caribbean lady seem to have little common ground.  They pass as if divided by continents.

A gentle tap on my back and I turn. An ex-work acquaintance announces her presence. “What are you doing in Brixton stranger?” she asks abruptly. “Enjoying myself and how are you? I reply. There is a pause. “Strange how the familiar seems different when you have an opportunity to look at it from another perspective,” I add. “Things change John, but nothing changes” she presents her dichotomy with a sense of frustration. She looks tired, slightly pale. “It never ends, dealing with angry people, managing decline, not having the resources, long working hours, the habitual restructure, the cycle turns and turns and turns. “ I have little energy reserves, to be brutally honest, to give much sympathy. She reads my eyes. An uncomfortable realisation that I am no longer part of that world and the conversation loses its purpose. A few more stumbled words, a look of resignation, she smiles says goodbye and vanishes into the crowd for another meeting. The trouble I find is that when things relentlessly keep on moving people tend to lose sight of the simple things. The building blocks, which create the foundations for life, community. At this point, I sense a small movement beneath my feet. I look down and realise I am standing on a wobbly paving stone. The ground is moving, but there are no cracks as yet.

Paul Reid is the first Director of Black Cultural Archives, which is located in the centre of Brixton, London and founded in 1981. The Black Cultural Archives’ mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the heritage and history of Black people in Britain.  They opened the UK’s first dedicated Black heritage centre in Brixton, London in July 2014.  The Centre has  an unparalleled archive collection offering insight into the history of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. Paul Reid is the Director of the organisation and heritage centre.