Photo: Mike PeoplePictures
Usually, I can put pen to paper about most subjects, especially those I feel really passionate about. However, I literally haven’t been able to write about Exhibit B because it was simply too overwhelming. I wish in this moment that I could intellectualize and do word gymnastics about the whole Exhibit B experience but I can’t so I will just write as though I am having a conversation with you, and hopefully, you will see why it was so important and why we must continue the right against racism in all mediums. I couldn’t make sense of the hostility towards us as protesters, I felt like those in favour were shouting “what is wrong with you?”, the issue was me or us we “misunderstood” we “didn’t get it”we needed to see it experience it”. Now Bailey laments over the images published…erm, mate you had YouTube video’s going back a year ago, but like Kermit, that is none of my business! All I do know is 43,000 people (The UK and France petitions combined) totally understand that Exhibit B was pure indulgence in the massaging of white conscience. As with institutional oppression, the victims became the victimized, not Bailey’s desire to chain and shackle Black People in cages, masquerading as anti-racist art. We were the issue, with our “pro-censorship”, “anti-freedom of speech” selves. “Trying to still the voice of Black (unemployed) actors” and silencing “a world renowned artist” whose art was “incredibly important” as to who this work is important to? is still a BIG QUESTION!!!! We were “a hysterical unruly mob”, yet in July just one month before #boycottthehumanzoo, the Fringe Festival cancelled an Israeli show due to boycotts, they were not called “an unruly mob” or “violent protesters” no, it was pleasantly reported about, like business as usual… moving on.
Anti-racism protesters lock arms outside the Vaults in London in opposition to ‘Exhibit B’. 23 September 2014. Photograph: © Thabo Jaiyesimi.
Yes we were successful in our protest, it was the Barbican that decided to cancel the show not the protesters, we simply exercised our human right to protest, and protest we did! We did loudly and proudly with our spirituality and our drums, we called on our ancestors, in unity, it was a beautiful experience. Not one arrest, no criminal damage, we let our disgust and offence be known, and I would most definitely do it again. Oh yes the mainstream media tried to make out we were “violent angry thugs”, the Barbican decided the reasons they cancelled were due to public safety, which was a lie. No worries we came, we conquered and that was good enough for us…but it did not stop there. Suddenly we now had to defend ourselves against the new racist the Neo-Liberal, and trust me the Neo-Liberal can be both Black and White, the person who snipes and declares “they (us) don’t speak for me”. a well known author who proudly hold an MBE called the supporters “Disciples of Sara Myers”, the 23,000 people who signed the petition in the UK simply did not have their own mind to see racism for what racism is? Really? I think the for the most part, many saw that unnatural desire to flaunt white privilege in the face of others, like the Emperor with his new clothes were willing to say openly “he has no clothes on” Those Neo-liberals defending Exhibit B were those who had vested interests and ladder kickers who did not want us to upset the status quo, but that is what we came to do and that is what we did.
The success of the campaign against Exhibit B was not in our protesting alone, it was in our unity, our unity was about our collective struggle, the years of systematic structural and institutional racism, over and over again, angry at being told what racism is and is not, by those who are unwilling to accept it, when we challenge it, to repeatedly tell us “it’s not racist” but when asked what is racism is, they cannot answer, they cannot find the words to express it because its alien to them, they disconnected from it, so they resort to “you are uneducated”you misunderstand”…basically love, “you are the problem”. Well, I tell you this, if it feels like racism, then it is racism! And Exhibit B felt racist, so therefore, it is. I cannot give Brett Bailey much air time. He is a white privileged man who cannot face his critics head on, but prefers to hide behind Black People, using them to tell his supposed anti-racist story, in chains and shackles. He gets dramatic in his pontificating of anti-racism, breaks down on social media, laments on how important his work is for breaking down barriers, then turns around and watches from the safety of his hotel room, as Black women and men get beaten and tear gassed by fascist french police…but hey he say’s “the show goes on”. He is disgusting the most vilest of men I have ever had the displeasure of knowing exists, he is the new breed of racist the Neo-Liberal and this racist is most proficient in racism. If you are preaching an anti-racist message and you see real life people (not actors) experience the brutality and humiliation you claim to be about breaking down and all you can say is “…And I wish I knew that the man or woman who shed blood on the tarmac of St Denis on Friday night for what he or she stood for is okay”. but stand determined in your RIGHT that YOUR show must go on, the show that thousands of people have petitioned against, shed blood for, stood up for, and not even consider standing down…then I see you, we see you and our ancestors see you.
Photo: Thabo Jaiyesimis
After seeing the pictures and videos of the protest in France. I’m heartbroken, I see that is not about art, this is about Power, White Power and White Privilege and its arrogance and pompousness, we don’t think its racist and we are going to show. This show is being backed by governmental officials and leading academics, the petition was started by John Mullen, Historian at Val de Marne University, an academic who is now being insulted in the press. Why? Because he gets’s that this provocative exhibition is neither unique or brave and that putting black people in cages and having white people look at them, then dressing it up with fancy arty farty words is just pseudo quasi-intellectual babble trying to hide the monster that is it. I had the honor of being asked to take part in a director’s Q & A of the documentary “Concerning Violence” directed by Swedish, Göran Hugo Olsson. The contrast between his work and that of Bailey’s are poles apart, here we have a man who openly welcomes criticism of his work, doesn’t shy away from those difficult or challenging questions, who is totally aware of his own White Privilege, yet aims to tell a story of Black liberation with sensitivity working with some of our great leaders in freedom fighting, such as Angela Davis in “The Black Power Mixtape”, it is us who tell the story, he simply directs it, records it, shows it and in a world where White Supremacy doesn’t want to Black narrative or voice heard, I have to respect him using his own privilege to platform our voice.
You might say he is doing exactly the same thing “telling our narrative” …No, he’s not. He’s not relishing in enslavement, he’s not dancing in delight in the pain and suffering of millions of people. No, on the contrary, he uses archive footage and the beautiful voice of Ms. Lauryen Hill, as a backdrop for the excellent work of Frantz Fanon, to demonstrate Afrikan resistance to colonialism. It is there where, Bailey fails so miserably he sees our resistance as a “misunderstanding about his work” not realizing he is doing the very thing, he preaches that he is against. He hell bent on projecting his own fantasy onto us and if we object it is because we are “fascists with dreadlocks”.
French Protesters. Photo: Thabo Jaiyesimi
I stand with solidarity with France in their right to protest against Exhibit B. Brett Bailey must not be allowed to idly get away with his unnatural desire to play out his perverse deviant sexual fantasy of racist bondage and call it art, to want men and women to be turned on by their own guilty masturbation in their voyeuristic delight in Black pain and suffering by “gazing” at the horrors of the atrocities of times past, whilst completely ignoring the pain and suffering going on right under their noses. If Exhibit B is the champion and flagship of free speech, you can keep it, to date a staggering 43,000 people have spoken out against it and that wipes out all of those in support of it. What about their right to speak out, aren’t they being silenced? I would rather stand silent, if my speech impinges on another’s right to liberty, free from social injustice, discrimination and oppression. I want to see a life where we all have equal equality. A life where free speech is not just extended to those with power and with money, or those who colour is a token to an elite and privileged club. No I would rather say NOTHING AT ALL, if it cost my free speech is the beating of Black people in 2014, let my free speech that cost a nation of people their rights, die with me.