Kennedy of Take Back The City talks the mayoral race, Sadiq Khan and why fighting and representing people in the communities of London is what's important
Kennedy and Jacob from Take Back the City went on to Resonance FM's East Cast show this week to talk about the project!
You can listen to the recording from 44.45mins in here.
I am a student. I am a working class student and I’ve been robbed by the Conservative government. George Osborne announced that living grants for students would be taken away from young working class people who are going off to university in the coming years. This was just another attack on young working class people and, personally, I am sick off it. But it’s not just me who is sick and tired of being robbed and exploited by the Tory government. Well over 10,000 people took to the streets last Wednesday (at the time of writing) to show their anger and discontent at the directions that their lives were being taken.
The march started off near Russell square with a speech by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell giving a speech to the thousands that had arrived. It really set the tone as everyone who was there was motivated to go forward through London. Although there was passion flowing through the masses it was a relatively peaceful protest for the most part with solidarity being shown by many people who were not students themselves but cared enough (and certainly more than George Osborne) to be there to help us fight our fight, even if it wasn’t theirs anymore. People on the streets who observed what we were doing were very supportive of our demonstration, many of them mothers with young children themselves knowing that in the not too far future this would be their children’s education that was being limited and restricted. When we got to Westminster things became slightly more hectic.
A flare was set of right in the middle of the group and the police started to use the technique of kettling people to try and contain the group. This tactic is very threatening and can potentially be dangerous. This fragmented the group and things quickly became very hectic and for many first timers somewhat scary. The kettle was broken and a large group of people ran down the road we had been kettled on trying to escape a repeat of what just happened. The police were relentless in their pursuit of the group made up of lots of students, some of which were not even 18 years old yet. The group ended up back on parliament square after a long pursuit which took us on a rather large detour. By this time many people were tired and lethargic but nevertheless we kept going. People still had their voices and were chanting just as much, well nearly just as much, as they were at the beginning of the march. We walked towards Charing Cross and sat on the stairs outside the science museum. There were still many police looking over the group and although this created an air of intimidation it still did little to squash people sprit and passion.
Many people had been out a long time and had a long day of demonstrating ahead of them the next day so the group dispersed from this point. Speaking to someone else that had been on several protests and demonstrations over the years he remarked that on that day there was such a togetherness and such a passion that hadn’t been seen in a long time beforehand. For me it was an experience that showed me the solidarity and passion expressed at protests. And that day made me proud to be a young person. That day made me proud to be involved in the world of political activism and that day made me proud to say: I am a student.
his theatrical protest against gentrification was was conceived, planned, scripted and choreographed by a group of forty 15-25 year old Londoners who took part in the Demand the Impossible summer school. It took place on the steps of Stratford Westfield last Thursday, 30th July.
The protest was conceived, planned, scripted and choreographed in a collective and collaborative way by a group of forty 15-25 year old Londoners (in less than two hours!) and came after three days of intense learning and discussion on capitalism, London, individualism and collectivism, race, gender and class.
[From the working class]
We were evicted from our homes (x4)
And they're still empty!
We were evicted from our homes
And they're still empty!
We were evicted from our homes
And they're still empty!
[Reply from the middle and upper classes]
Stop complaining! (x7)
[Reply from the working class]
We're reclaiming what you're taking! (x3)
With your "cockney caviar"!
With your "cereal cafe"!
With your wine tasting!
With your private this and private that,
Taking this, and taking that!
[From a political organiser]
With a whole lot less of "I"
And a whole lot more of "We"
See what change we can be!
Keep our homes,
Keep our streets,
Let's preserve our communities!
Take back our city! Power to the people!
Power to the people!
"Give in once and it's easy to give in again. Stand up for yourself once and you never give in again."
Tyrone Ballinger spoke to Take Back the City about life, work and control in London.
Q. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Archway, N19.
Q. What was that like? Has it changed much since?
It was social, everyone knew everyone. Its different now, you don't get kids playing out. Violence escalated relatively quickly, which broke down the community. My dad would say if you had an argument with someone you'd have a 'straightner', shake hands and be on terms again. That's gone.
Q. Why do you think this is?
Its hard to say. There are more council estates, more densely populated. The media coverage of knife crime amongst young black males led to paranoia.
Q. You mean the media coverage increased paranoia amongst you guys?
Yes. I remember in my teens people saying "you gotta get tooled up, things have changed”. There was this one older guy Michael—he used to show us how to flick Vicks in peoples' eyes to give us the edge in a knife fight. Its bizarre, but the media made it seem like it was a rational thing to carry a knife if you were living in a certain area and looked a certain way.
There has also been a change in mentality. When I was younger we understood we were second class citizens. A lot of these so called gangs are young men unwilling to accept this anymore. They are trying to better themselves. It leads to confusion and anger as they are pushed further to the margins. In order to influence them there needs to be a breakdown of systems which operate to separate people. As long as people feel separated they will continue to separate themselves further.
Q. What do you mean by “second class citizens”?
A lot of us felt that way. At the heart of it is money. Money was the reason people felt second class. They didn't have it in a society that flaunts it. Music videos, adverts, TV shows were all about the one thing we never had.
Also we knew that the schools we went to weren't the best schools. A headmaster told my brother he would end up “cleaning windows” because of his behaviour. I can't see a teacher showing this attitude towards a kid whose parents are paying thousands of pounds a term.
Q: How did you get on at school?
I struggled with teachers. I didn't believe anyone had authority over me and I did what I wanted to do. If people approached me with respect, it would be reciprocated but when they believed they approached me like they held some sort of power, I was immovable. I remember a teacher putting our class in detention because of a couple kids, so I left through the window. When the headmaster tried to make me apologise I was unable to because I wasn't wrong. My mum always said I couldn't be told, but I think I could if people listened to my objections and met me as an equal.
Q. Problems with authority at school is one thing, in the world of work another. What was your first job?
My brother got a job as lifeguard. He pushed me a lot. I was on the roads and could easily have stayed there. I think once I was working my sporting interest coupled with an instructor, Merrick Joseph, drew me to the gym. He was always challenging people and I got sucked in. I ran a half-marathon because he said I couldn't!
Q: How did you get on with management?
I had the naive view when I started that we were equal. Managers were on a level with frontline staff. There wasn't much hierarchy. My first run-in happened when I was a lifeguard. A duty manager found a blocked toilet and told me to deal with it. I refused. I remember feeling nervous but I knew I was in the right so I stuck with it. He went to the general manager who approached me with an arm-length glove and asked me to unblock it for him. I told him to show me how. He tried and failed and I told him it was a plumber's job. I think if I had just done it I would have lost a lot that day and I would never have stood up to senior management in the future. I believe if you give in once then it's easy to give in again, but if you stand up for yourself once then you can never give in again.
Part 2 of this interview will follow shortly...