" Madam Miaow Says

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Women of the Blues on today's final Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge, Resonance 104.4FM, 5pm

Bessie Smith, "Empress of the Blues"

Today live at 5pm on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge, Resonance 104.4FM, Charles Shaar Murray concludes his Guide to the Blues with Part 3, The Women of the Blues.

Presented by Anna Chen with Charles Shaar Murray.
Guest: Sarah Gillespie.

Today's final Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge of the series wraps with Charles Shaar Murray's Guide to the Blues Part 3: The Women of the Blues.

Singer, songwriter and fine artist Sarah Gillespie joins Anna Chen and Charles Shaar Murray to look at the history of the Blues, its dominance by women in the early years, and the current resurgence of female artists. From Jim Crow laws, the cotton fields and abject poverty in the former Confederate Southern states to the promise of the big cities, these women not only rose to the top of a major western musical genre, they helped create it.

Featuring tracks by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Clara Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Etta James and more.

Listen live (click on the Resonance FM widget in the sidebar) or afterwards online.

Full set of Madam Miaow on Resonance FM.

Resonance 104.4FM

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Oriental Pearl in late capitalism: warning

"Just be advised, boys ... You'll want to watch your step, 'cause what I am is, is like a small-diameter pearl of the Orient rolling around the floor of late capitalism — lowlifes of all income levels may step on me now and then but if they do it'll be them who slip and fall and on a good day break their ass, while the ol' pearl herself just goes a-rollin' on."

From Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

Monday, 14 April 2014

China's science and cultural contributions on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge, Resonance FM. Live 5pm Tuesday.

Tomorrow live at 5pm on Resonance 104.4FM, Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge looks at China's cultural and scientific contributions and inventions.  Guests: Elizabeth Lawrence and Paul Anderson.

Presented by Anna Chen. Charles Shaar Murray rides shotgun.

Tomorrow's Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge is themed around China's cultural and scientific contributions to the west from inventions such as the seed drill, hydraulics, the iron plough, the horse harness and gunpowder to music performance. Paul Anderson takes us through the historical political upheavals that have returned China to top position as the world's leading technoculture. Elizabeth Lawrence talks about Chinese contributions in western music. (Musique Concréte is postponed).

Listen live (click on the Resonance FM widget in the sidebar) or afterwards online.

Full set of Madam Miaow on Resonance FM.

Resonance 104.4FM

Saturday, 12 April 2014

British East Asian Artists and Diaspora music take the diversity debate into Parliament

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) artists demand representation that reflects British Society 

Last February, the British East Asian Artists wrote an open letter to broadcasters and culture minister Ed Vaizey about the pitiful almost non-existent representation of east Asians in the media despite being the third largest minority in Britain. Vaizey, who had been holding round-table discussions with black actors, including Lenny Henry about continued exclusion, immediately wrote back inviting us to participate in future round-table discussions.

British East Asian actor Daniel York followed up with a powerful piece on the racial pecking order and structural inequality in British theatre and television in which he quotes American sociologist David T Wellman numbering the "culturally sanctioned strategies for defending social advantage based on race”.

In every political and cultural sphere in Britain, Black, Asian and Mixed Ethnic (BAME) people are excluded (see my last post with an illustration of this dynamic in action).

Yesterday, I went to the well-attended Diaspora Equality in Music round-table discussion chaired by Rt Honourable David Lammy MP for Tottenham at the House of Commons.

Sixty or so people (mostly from the Black community) listened to Diaspora founder, Rose Nunu, lay out her objective of trying to ensure that BAME is at the heart of the music industry. "The Diversity landscape is not diverse," she said, requesting recommendations to change the landscape.

One startling figure she gave was that, while the UK music industry employs more than 100,000 people and generates £3.8 billion a year, 95.7 per cent of its workforce is white. At the current rate of loss, its questionable whether there will be any BAME representation in the music industry by 2020. The music industry is more fragmented now than at any time in the past 10 years.

Various lines of action were explored with a strong vocal presence from the business end aiming at increasing the workforce.

Beverley Mason FRSA said there had been a decrease in BAME representation since 2011. (This reminded me of Caitlin Moran telling an audience that the majority of pop artists are now privately educated, nudging out the working classes from one of their few conduits of social mobility.)

However, Mason reeled off a list of figures showing how diversity was a reality factor in the cold light of economics: as the market place becomes more global and competitive, companies actually benefit from being inclusive, She said, "Diversity has to be embedded in the culture. It is a mindset, not an add-on to the budget like tea and biscuits."

The advantages include fresh sources of creativity and problem solving from new perspectives. Varied cultural background and life experience reward companies and organisations that embrace change. It takes good leadership to implement diversity and inclusivity but, as I've witnessed on the political left and in the arts, the white privately educated establishment have a vested interest in keeping out those BAME sources.

David Lammy said, "We get fantastic music because different music from across continents come together." Hybrids are always healthier than a mono-culture for all concerned. Despite Lammy having previously been Minister for Culture, "No-one from the BBC's phoned me up asking me to be on the board. I'm available."

When one speaker told of her tribulations getting one night of the Proms devoted to gospel for the first time but which was then dropped as a regular event, Lammy expressed the room's disappointment. "One night in a whole Prom season? This is unlike the US experience where the 40 per cent BAME presence is a permanent fixture. What would it be like if there was 10 years of that inclusion, and not just one?"

BAME makes up 40 per cent of London's population. Politics, the music industry and the arts trail behind even the Metropolitan Police in terms of numbers. In the legal profession, BAME representation stands at over 10 per cent. It is an alarming set of figures that needs to be addressed.

It was pointed out to cheers, that the music is diverse but the money and power behind it isn't. A speaker from the floor said, "The music industry is in the toilet," and urged musicians, "Don't work for a record company. Get seed-funding, set up your own companies, start an industry."

This was a fine as far as it went but I was soon getting the impression of small outfits scrambling around and manoeuvering on the Titanic while the ship goes down.

So it was interesting to hear another perspective from a speaker arguing that they needed support for those who already exist.

"We have a culture of diversity. We are scrapping for different corners while young people are dying. It's a culture and community that won't support itself. There hasn't been action at a movement level since Soul to Soul. We need to bridge the gap between commerce and community. There are larger and deeper issues, and those with power should be held to account until we see tangible results."

It remains to be seen whether music can be transformed into a channel of social change for the good. Will the corner of the industry as discussed here be challenging the power that relegates BAME to a resented add-on, or joining it in an unholy scrum for the advantage of individuals? Are we, as has happened in left politics, building a new establishment within the establishment? The debate is well under way.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Laurie Penny excludes woman of colour from debate about representation of women of colour

Pic: Anna and Laurie when we were both shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. (Neither of us won.) 

Eurasia? Or Erasure. The misuse of agenda: politics as entertainment and a schtick to beat up the upstarts.

Was it something I said?

You bloody ethnics had better bloody behave and don't try and tell the world what your issues are, WE'LL tell the world what your issues are.

How ironic.

You corner the market in leftism, bang on about BME inclusion and then exclude one of the few British east Asian minority women fighting these battles.

In an argument about the exclusion of women of colour from the British left, politics, the media and public debate, [five days after I appealed to her regarding the Trevor McDonald piece on BME exclusion in the Guardian in a debate that's currently blowing up], Laurie Penny today revealed in the following Facebook spat that, after one emotional phone call a year ago, she had decided to exclude me from the political debate (I believe this is called "no-platforming" and was already under way prior to the phone call which she's seized on as a pretext). But didn't bother to tell me.

Considering Penny was aware of the exclusion and exploitation concerning my unpaid work over several years for the UK left and what happened as a result, I'd say this was as good an illustration of what we're up against as you're likely to get.

While the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the American civil rights movement and Rock Against Racism in Britain show that white people can embrace and fight alongside their oppressed fellow human beings, there's a whole history of white cultural and political appropriation of the struggles of people of colour, and their concomitent erasure from the resulting narrative. It's even more gobsmacking when the perps purport to be on your side. The results are astonishing.

This whole episode has raised ugly memories of working for no pay for several years, going into debt (which I'm still paying off), in order to ensure that the left causes Laurie and her friends support — including the anti-Iraq war movement after 911 among others — had a presence in the media. (Not to mention doing the key publicity work out of solidarity — again for no pay — for one of her fellow white Oxbridge coterie which broke them into the public eye.) And its ostracising consequences.

Feminists are supposed to protect their sisters from the forces of patriarchy, not feed them to it.

"Culturally sanctioned strategies for defending social advantage based on race.

I am expected to placidly embrace my exclusion and erasure over years. I regard that as unhealthy and corrosive. It's "self-deprecation" and "humility" that got me walked over by Laurie's mates in the first place and it's one of the devices used to keep you silent and in your place. This absolutely has to be challenged. Women aren't allowed to be angry or finally get to stand up for themselves after years of exploitation. And that goes double if you're a woman of colour. Triple if you're from Hackney. Well, I am angry. Bloody angry. So there. With brass knobs on.

As Laurie herself writes in her New Statesman piece:
First, the media misrepresents, throws out lazy stereotypes that perpetuate oppression. And then it shuts us out, denying us a voice, allowing us to speak only as token demographic representatives rather than as reporters, writers, authors, columnists, critics. The media is an industry that produces culture, and both of those elements need taking apart and ramming back together in a way that works for more of us who actually create and consume it. [Italics mine]

[EDIT: Or as she writes in an end flourish on the subject of pubes, "It’s about how silent you’re prepared to be in the face of social injustice."]


FACEBOOK Friday 4th April 2014

Laurie Penny
about an hour ago
Boom. http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2014/04/where-are-real-outsiders-new-media
[EDIT: this is Laurie's latest piece not just about outsiders, but the experience of east Asian women in the media and politics. My experience is a vivid example of what happens to women and women of colour on the left but it transpires that the parties involved are to be protected.]

Anna Chen: Laurie Penny, if only you would acknowledge actual real-life flesh and blood women of colour struggling in the left and bringing progressive issues into the media. I've lost count of the times I've sent you links and asked that you raise awareness of precisely those activities you say you wish for (such as earlier this week) to no avail. Rendering those of us doing this work invisible (and inaudible) while striking heroic poses on our behalf is unattractive and unhelpful. It's lovely of you to speak on our behalf — it would be even nicer if you helped gain us a platform to speak for ourselves instead of burying us even deeper. Or at least publicly acknowledge the fact that some of us already exist. http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/p/o-radio.html

Anna Chen: Here's another one you steadfastly refuse to acknowledge while writing about poor minorities in the abstract: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../why-is-left-failing...

LP: Anna, the reason I don't promote your stuff more is not because you're a woman of colour, it's because last year you screamed at me for an hour down the phone and I'm wary of engaging with you.
[EDIT: It should be noted that the phone call LP cites as the excuse for her ostracism was about … her ostracism of me, which was already well under way by then. She'd written a piece about abuse of women in the SWP at the time of the rape allegations and the walk-out, ignored the well-documented account of how it happens written by a woman to whom it happened — unless rape of one's labour and other creepy behaviour doesn't count — and then ... cited positively one of the white Oxbridge SWP males who'd been party to the perpetuation of that abuse. She legitimised an abuser, also shutting up a woman of colour, a woman of the left, whilst refusing to be challenged on it or even discuss it.]

LP: I promote the work of a great many women of colour, have promoted your work in the past, and I think you're a great writer.

Anna Chen: It's a matter of principle, Laurie. It's if you think the work deserves an airing. I'm so sorry I was upset by the exploiting abusive behaviour of some of your white male pals who you DO promote and was clearly distressed and in tears. Thanks sistah.

Anna Chen: White left woman acting as gatekeeper. So what's new?

LP: I'm sorry, Anna, and again, I respect your work a great deal. You were clearly upset, but you seemed to think that made it okay to literally yell down the phone for a very long time, late at night, whilst I was also distressed. I listened. I am listening now.

LP: I'm confused - do you or do you not want me to act as a gatekeeper? Is your problem that I'm not promoting YOUR work, or that I'm just promoting the work of the wrong women of colour? That article quotes two women of colour [Ed: both American and America-based] whose work I find definitive on this topic.

Anna Chen: Sorry, I thought you were listening then.

Anna Chen: At thie risk of repeating myself, this: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../why-is-left-failing...

LP: I am listening and trying to make sense of this, and I think everyone with a platform in media has a duty to promote the voices of people of colour. What that duty does not involved is allowing particular people to be as vile as they like to you personally and then letting them tell you what you should and should not promote. Sorry.

Anna Chen: I wasn't "vile" to you, Laurie, although do go ahead and twist it to save face. I thought I was crying on the shoulder of a sistah who was aware of what happened. I was trying to work out why you've been promoting people who were oppressing me and this is vile?

LP: I don't know what piece of that article you're referring to. But, as I said at the time, I thought this - http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../ethnically-cleansing...- was excellent and it had me punching the air.
Ethnically cleansing working class history: my Guardian article | Madam Miaow Says

LP: No, Anna, you weren't crying on my shoulder, you were haranguing me and accusing me of things I didn't do.

Anna Chen: Would have been nice if you'd said so about my piece at the time. If one phone call where I was clearly distressed after years of abuse can turn you so fast and so easily then I can only conclude it's an excuse. Becaue I don;t think you are as frail as you make out.
about an hour ago

LP: Your issue was that I quoted someone with whom you have fraught history, who you're saying exploited your work and ideas. I appreciate that that was difficult for you, which I didn't intend, and I listened, but I didn't deserve the subsequent extended period of yelling. And as for 'I don't think you are as frail as you make out' - you have no idea about my mental health, so please don't speculate.

LP: Anna - I believe I did say so about your piece at the time - I tweeted it, IIRC. If I didn't that's my oversight and I apologise. But this isn't a deliberate conspiracy on my part to shut you out of this conversation.

LP: I don't control this conversation, I just write about these issues because they're important, like you do.

Anna Chen: You made a decision to exclude the only east Asian woman fighting the fight — you just said so above, This is the same old story of a white Oxbridge person deciding who gets seen and heard … and who doesn't. You are part of the problem, not the solution, Laurie.

LP: Um, what about Julia Carrie Wong, who I refer to and quote extensively in that article, who is East Asian, and definitely fighting that fight?

LP: What about Suey Park, who I also refer to in the piece, or any of the many other East Asian women writing and campaigning wonderfully about race, gender and media?
about an hour ago

LP: Did you actually read the article, or did you just check whether you were mentioned or not?
about an hour ago

Anna Chen: No, I saw those names, including Suey Park who I have already defended on the BEAA page. This, after I'd previously brought your attention to the fact that minorities in the media is a live issue earlier this week at my FB page. But there you go again deciding who exists among women of colour.

LP: Anna, it wasn't you who brought my attention to that fact - like I say in the piece, I've been inspired to write this piece by Julia Carrie Wong, Zeynep Tupfeci, Suey Park and others over the past several weeks. I'm not 'deciding who exists among women of colour', I'm deciding, as I decided the first time you screamed at me, that engaging with you is not something I should be doing for the good of my own mental health. I will continue to respect your work and to promote it, but not because I've been ordered to on pain of another denouncing, but because I think that despite being personally horrible to me, you are a great writer with important things to say.

Anna Chen: It's gone from yelling to screaming, Laurie. Make up your mind. G'wan, ratchet up all the excuse you need for your behaviour. And, of course, your mental health is the one that counts. As they say, check your privilege.

LP: You did both, Anna. And I don't need to excuse my behavior - I haven't done anything I'm ashamed of, apart from stand up for myself.

Anna Chen: Funny, that's what I thought I was doing … Standing up for myself. Even funnier: some people seem to be allowed to stand up for themselves … and others aren't.

LP: I don't believe you've been attacked, Anna. Have you? I thought the issue was that I hadn't included you in an article you thought you deserved to be included in.

LP: The reasons for that are: your work isn't what inspired me to write the piece, and I'm hary of engaging with you anyway because of the way you have treated me in the past and the way you continue to treat me.

Anna Chen: One phone call, Laurie, is sparse to put it mildly. But suddenly it becomes an entire campaign. Not attacked? Tell that to ACTUAL people of colour struggling in the media and in the left.

LP: Which is consistently rude, aggressive and invasive - like right now, with these spurious attacks on my private Facebook wall. I'm sorry the white male left treated you like shit, I truly am, but it isn't my responsibility to stand here and let you take that out on me, when I have not personally done anything to hurt you, and when I try hard all the time to check my privilege and promote women of colour.

Anna Chen: There I go standing up for myself again. BAD ethnic. You cosied up and continue to cosy up to the people who were attacking me, the people who were oppressing me and I'm supposed to say, aw, how cute? I wonder if Julia Carrie Wong and Suey Park know you're excluding a woman activist of colour in their name?

LP: I'm not excluding you, Anna, I just didn't mention you.

LP: I don't believe that writing one article means I'm suddenly setting the entire agenda for this conversation. And no, 'standing up for yourself', like 'being distressed', are not synonyms or excuses for the horrible way you've behaved in the past. You were clearly having a hard time, so I just drew a line under it and decided not to engage any more. I don't know at this point what you'd have me do differently.

Jack: This exchange, while non of my business, does remind me of when people gang up on Noam Chomsky for supposedly gatekeeping because he failed to give them a shout out or write a thesis on their particular pet subject/person/issue.

Anna Chen: Yas'm! *tugs forelock* LOL, sophistry for what you already said was a deliberate decision to exclude ... "the reason I don't promote your stuff".

LP: That's the reason I don't promote your stuff all the time in general, though I do sometimes. The reason I didn't promote you this time is I didn't draw on your work as a primary source, but on several other women writers of colour.

LP: And please stop it. I'm not asking you to tug your forelock. You're being unbelievably childish.

Anna Chen: Jack, when someone is as vocal about these issues as Laurie and then proceeds to do the same thing she purports to be criticising, then I think that requires a deeper exploration than simply taking it at face value. It's not about "promoting my stuff", it's about being honest about the actual debate and not pretending it isn't going on with real people.

Anna Chen: I live this stuff, Laurie. You're just playing with it.

LP: Which I'm doing. Just not with you, because I personally believe, and I think a lot of writers and campaigners would agree with me, that this issue is not all about you, ‪Anna Chen

LP: No, fuck that, Anna, I may have white privilege but I experience sexism in the media every day, I live a great deal of what I'm writing about here whilst acknowledging that others have it worse. Do NOT come on to my private FB and accuse me of just 'playing' with an issue that affects my entire life as well as the lives of those many, many people I love.

Anna Chen: And you're going out of your way to make it not about me in any way, shape or form, even as you are decrying the lack of women of colour in the left and in the media.

LP: ...well, it ISN'T all about you.

Anna Chen: Wow, Laurie, queen of "me-me-me". You made a decision after one distressed phone call to render my work on the left invisible while decrying our invisibility, happily coinciding with your dealings with the same white males on the left who dished it out. And you can't see that?

Anna Chen: Again: ‪http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/.../why-is-left-failing...

LP: "Laurie, queen of "me-me-me"" - um this is my FB wall.

Charles Shaar Murray: Last time you and Anna met (at The Hovel) you had the grace to be embarrassed. Glad to see you've done such a good job of getting over it.

LP: Embarrassed? I was unnerved to see someone who had so recently given me such a pile of grief on the phone in my own house without expecting it.

Charles Shaar Murray: RETCON.

LP: The fuck?

LP: Please don't gaslight me ‪Charles Shaar Murray.

Anna Chen: Google is your friend.

LP: Right, you two know better than me what I was feeling at a particular moment in the past.

LP: This has officially crossed the line from ridiculous to creepy. Please both of you get off my Facebook wall. Find someone else to scapegoat, or don't, but either way, do not contact me again.

Anna Chen: The line you have taken here has as much verité as your response to Greg Palast when he told you what he witnessed between me and your friend when he was in the SWP. Imagine my surprise to learn that you pretended not to have known about the events. How sisterly is that?

LP: I did no such thing. I said I didn't and couldn't know precisely what went on at the time because I was not there.

LP: I am unfriending you; please don't contact me again.

MEANWHILE ... in another part of the Facebook forest ...

LP: 45 mutual friends
I said that after a phonecall A YEAR AGO in which you yelled at me for an hour, I decided not to engage with you anymore. I didn't decide in advance to 'exclude' you from an article I didn't know I'd be writing. You're twisting the facts, and you'll probably delete this comment, but please don't outright lie.

Anna Chen: People can read the entire thread and make up their own minds. Talking of lying, it wasn't me who urged people to vote for the LibDems at the last election and then claimed on TV that they hadn't voted for them … Unless you told people to do what you had no intention of doing yourself. You wouldn't do that ... would you, Laurie?

I told the exact truth. You're behaving appallingly right now. I've asked you not to contact me again, please stop.

Let's rewind to the beginning of the week ...

Anna Chen shared a link 31st March
I may do a great job making occasional radio programmes for the BBC once in a blue moon. I may make a good fist of making stimulating radio series for Resonance FM. I may be have been "the best press officer in the country" according to Paul Foot. I may be different, add diversity and offer an intelligent progressive perspective, but I still can't get a look-in when it comes to BME representation and a paid job in the media. (Tagged) Paul Mason Owen Jones Laurie Penny http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/31/sir-trevor-mcdonald-warns-risk-apartheid-media

LP: · 45 mutual friends
Am I tagged in this so I can share it?
31 March at 22:52

Anna Chen: Do you think it should be shared?
31 March at 22:52

LP: · 45 mutual friends
Yes, I was just wondering.
31 March at 22:53

Anna Chen: Laurie, you often have things to say about BME and women and solidarity and all that, as do others in the media. I just wondered, too, if you had any thoughts on what I wrote.
31 March at 23:18

Owen Jones: Cheers for this. I spoke at a BAFTA event the other week, and the audience was incandescent at the institutional racism of TV, radio, the media etc. Actors, producers, and so on shared their experiences, and I left far more educated than when I was arrived, but the anger really impressed me - made me think there's surely a basis for organising this and launching a campaign to challenge it?
1 April at 09:05

Anna Chen: Thanks, Owen. Absolutely. The British East Asian Artists went into battle over the shameful way the RSC continued the archaic practice of yellowface casting. We wrote to Ed Vaizey after he'd pledged to do something about lack of non-white faces, and he's responded positively. Letter exchange at this page: http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/p/rsc-orphan-of-zhao.html

LP: · 45 mutual friends
I didn't write about this, though, this is about New Media and doesn't mention Trevor McDonald.
3 hours ago

Laurie didn't have any thoughts. Neither did she share. But she did write the New Statesman piece about the exclusion of people like me … who she just happens to exclude.

BAME artists take the diversity debate into Parliament.

Harpy Marx writes

Angry Asian Woman Suey Park writing on Colbert: @Suey_Park A founder of Hashtag: #NotYourAsianSidekick

Fascinasians Juliet Shen, another founder of the Hashtag: #NotYourAsianSidekick

Julia Carrie Wong in The Nation: A very serious problem with very serious journalism

British East Asian Artists

There are serious consequences for not humanising minorities through representation.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

St Ives in a bygone era: short film by Alban Roinard

A wonderfully clever short film made of St Ives in Cornwall, superimposing old black and white shots of the same views, made by Alban Roinard of St Eia Films and posted by St Ives Films.

St Ives is where I often do all my best poetry and music performances for the May Literature and September Arts Festivals with Charles Shaar Murray and friends, and I know it well. So it's fascinating to see my old haunts as they were a century or more ago.

Also a must-see for anyone familiar with the town and Porthmeor Beach, here's The Boilers of the Alba.