A response to 'When will you be doing a White History Month?'

I would like to address various comments made on our status seeking poets to apply for our paid support slot. We have been accused of segregation and division and we are not okay with this. Freak Speak is about championing and reclaiming the 'otherness' in the world; allowing those voices a platform, a mic and an audience who are supportive and inclusive. You can see the Facebook post in question here.

"Posting that your looking for coloured poets...... like ya have to be black or mixraced to support black history month or say black lives matter......
That is part of the problem division...."

As we responded in the Facebook stream, we apologise if our wording came across as reductive. But, at what point have we stated that 'writers of colour' excludes the white voice? We haven't. We have said that we accept applications from all backgrounds and styles. White people have the luxury of being able to, as they please, denounce and claim the binary of their skin because it doesn't bear that heavy history in its melanin. White history is simply institutionalised 'his story', and white people have the freedom of language to deconstruct 'white' to call themselves pink and freckled and all lives and individualised history. There is no such easy escape from language or discourse for black lives.

Furthermore, the retaliation 'what about the white voice' is the embodiment of privilege. The white voice feels it has a right to be heard in any scenario; to correct, to belittle, to shout from the rooftops 'I am here and I have language and you will listen'. It is apparent on this status:

"Wonders when you'll be doing ..a white history month and white lives matter ? .....see it stinks. You have by default segregated everyone. We are all coloured in our skin and all lives should matter".

To quote one of my poems, we are stuck believing in the dynasty of opposition. This person clearly finds the concept of elevating the see-saw of society to put someone non-white on the higher end threatening. It is possible to have a celebration of one culture/heritage/skin without that meaning the deficit of another. The premise of this scenario, this poetry night, wasn't made for that white voice, that white history. My god, something that wasn't made for you, what a barbaric concept!

However, a white voice is being heard, because I am a white woman producing this event. And as a white woman, I want to showcase and support emerging writers in Cambridgeshire and beyond whose voices aren't being heard in a local scene, whose skin and heritage and culture have been, and are still being erased. What is wrong with that?

We are supporting black history month and black lives matter because we believe in all lives matter. Just as we have supported our local food bank and refugee shelters because we believe all lives matter. If you don't understand and support this decision to actively seek writers of colour to celebrate a movement for non-white voices, then you aren't the kind of poet we'd want to book at any gig.

 

You want to see a White History Month, by all means go ahead an curate your own event. See where that gets you.