BNP Member's List Leaked - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

How would you feel having a racist living next door to you? Or even in the same neighbourhood...? Now, it's not that hard to find out, as a BNP membership list has been leaked online. I cannot hold too many sympathies; I went through teen summer camps to university days crossing paths with kids (uni overgrown kids) calling me a "f**king chink!" to saying the very original line, "Go back to your own country!" (my blog states I'm born and bred original EAST LONDON material you morons - read it and weep). Show me a racist across the street, and you'll see me on 'Neighbours From Hell'.

However, I do not believe that anyone should have their private lives (from family members to phone numbers) leaked on the net without any sign of permission of knowledge. That's the littliest bit of sympathy the exposed BNP members get from me - that I do not comply with the breach of confidentiality. Still, Nick Griffin and his cronies will not have my vote at the next elections - a lil understanding does not equal a big bag of love. But what did the good British people think of this news...? It was something reporter Ben Anderson and I felt compelled to set out and discover for Ctrl.Alt.Shift. Here's the article:

Vox Pops: Exposure of the BNP
In recent weeks, details of BNP members have been leaked onto the internet, exposing the names, home and e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers of the group.

On the BNP website they claim that enemies continue to parrot the claim that they are a "racist party" solely because "... the BNP unashamedly addresses itself to the issues and concerns of the indigenous British population, and because it seeks to ensure that British people remain the majority population in this country."

Nevertheless, the BNP are still perceived by many as a far right-wing, extremist party with a bad rep of evoking prejudice and racism towards non-white sectors of society - so we put this question to our youth:

How do you feel about the exposure of the BNP party members?

Also, despite the storm surrounding the list, BNP Chairman Nick Griffin has rejoiced over a silver lining: "The publicity about the high quality of our membership has massively improved our image. As a direct result we had more than 100,000 visitors to our website in one 24-hour peak period, and estimate many times more than that amount never managed to get through due to the demand on our servers. Those that did succeed in getting through read nearly two thirds of a million pages. This was double the previous record..."

Friend or foe of the party, we then asked:

"In this instance, is all publicity good publicity?"

Finally we tested the consideration of human rights and freedom of speech by posing the question:

"Do you think the BNP party should be banned?"

Orsi, 17:
"I don’t think information leaking like this is a good thing for any party, especially the BNP. I’m sure many of the supporters will not want to be named. I don’t think the increased awareness will necessarily be beneficial to them, because awareness doesn’t always lead to support. I don’t think the BNP should be banned though, as no political party, whatever their views, should be banned due to freedom of speech."

Michael, 18:
"I don’t know too much about the BNP, but releasing information like this is quite dangerous, especially when there are people out there who are anti BNP who can now access all of the information surrounding these members. I think raising the publicity of a party like this is also a bad thing, as people may read up on them and take their messages the wrong way. I don’t think they should be banned though; the BNP like everyone have a right to their opinion, even if I don’t agree with what they're saying."

Read the full list of comments here


Credit Crisis Survey - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Everyone's got money problems! And don't we all know it. However, since coming back from reporting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I've come to realise just how much lives in our Western world really do evolve around money. In the DRC, every penny counts - money buys food rations, which in turn, keeps families alive a bit longer; there's limited (if any at all) materials to be materialistic.

I won't stand on my high horse and claim from now on I'll never treat myself again in the January sales, besides, as Biggie put it, all the cash in the world doesn't come without mo problems. But I wondered how much the youth of our nation knew of the value of a buck, and if the state in the DRC could widen their perspectives. Here's my report on the credit crisis for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Vox Pops: Money, Money, Money
Credit crisis, inflation, recession, bankruptcy... money = debt... It’s a vicious cycle that’s got most adolescents screaming “I’m skint, I’m broke, I’m poor son!”

Obviously the money game varies from country to city players, retail workers to the corporate levels. Still, let’s take it down to the basics: how much money do we need to be happy? It is evident that much of our culture has evolved with the mentality to work and expand, less about being stable and more about being able to indulge in pricey luxuries – I mean, do you go large in McD’s when you could go standard, or do you ever buy two of the same clothing items but in two different colours?

More often than not, we buy what we want, not what we need.

Many would complain about our national minimum wage of £5.73 per hour, but surely that’s enough to live on: bearing in mind I was told in Congo that the average wage for a worker there is around 20 pence PER DAY! Over 15 days, not a single Congolese man or woman complained about having just enough to buy bread and perhaps some luxury items of rice and plantain for the week’s worth of feasts.

So how would our youth survive on rations? We took to the streets of London to ask the following:

Do you know what the national minimum wage is? And what would you like it to be?
What is the minimum amount of money you could live on per week?
And finally, the average Congolese worker gets paid 20 pence a day. How would you handle living on such expenses?

Gulcin, 24, Holborn:
"I'm guessin' the minimum wage is around £6 or £7 an hour. Ideally though I'd like it to be around £10. I spend around £150 per week on food, shopping for clothes and transport. And as for 20 pence a day, that's crazy, that's just not possible to live on."

Danny, 18, south-east London:
"I think the minimum wage is around a fiver. It should be about £6.50. I spend roughly £300 a week, maybe a little less, for going out, rent, travel and general socialising. If had only 20 pence a day, I just wouldn't eat, I don't think I'd survive. You'd need to go out and find more work."

Read the full list of comments here


Soul: ID Interview - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

So... I'm back in the country, following a grueling 14-day reporting trip in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was emotional and testing, and how am I welcomed back from this journalism trial/adventure? With a review job of a soul group I've never heard of - NO REST FOR THE WICKED.

But I wasn't sulking for too long, hearing how Soul: ID was made up of reps from Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC - a welcomed touch of hope and blissful unity; especially after coming back from a country that has been ravaged by a decade-long African civil war. Though now based in the Western world, Soul: ID represent that peace can be found between the most hostile of nations - and perhaps back in Africa the corrupt powers that be need to wake up and listen to the music. From the DRC to Soho, London, here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift feature from a night of pure soul:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ Soul: ID
What a grotty scene - from piss-soaked alleyways to flailing, wet scaffolding, the winding streets of Soho, London, have never looked so glamorous. So thank God for Soul: ID.

Revue Bar, London was graced with a bit of TLC by this Afropean four-piece. After a largely tedious and unmemorable October 22nd, it was real nice just to chill to the organic drug of raw soul music.

Synchronised, symphony, simply brilliant. They’ve travelled the world delivering beats like ‘Is this Luv’ and ‘Sex Love and Philosophy’. The smooth movement of these grooves transformed the venue into an old-school jazz café – what a rip you couldn’t spark up in there.

The old question always appears in a review: so what was so blimmin' special about these guys? Hmmm...

Well to start with, three quarters of the Soul: ID gateau are from war-torn countries. Gorgeous songstress Tchaï hails from Burundi, super Dad’D derives from D.R.Congo and slick V comes from Rwanda, producer and drummer Urban Deep completes the group who have come to be known as ‘ambassadors of peace.’

The turbulent history of their native lands holds no resonance here. They are a compassionate unit with their ‘peace and love’ image, lyrics and mentality. Each one is proud of their background and together they are making giant strides to portray harmony beyond borders – one notable achievement came last year as Soul: ID became the first Urban Act to play live in Rwanda.

Urban Deep took some time out to tell Ctrl.Alt.Shift more about the group and their mission for a global state of musical cohesion:

What is Soul: ID all about?
There needs to be more of a break down between economic and social barriers in order to create unity in a place like Africa. With music we send out that message, we like to think we are initiators of peace for the people. We know a record won’t change the world but it can help.

Read the rest of the interview with Urban Deep here


DRCongo: The Final Hours - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Reading back on this, it definitely wreaks of something soppy, but hell! - this final Ctrl.Alt.Shift report from the Democratic Republic of Congo rounds up two of the most memorable weeks of my life as of yet; a trip and journey that only furthered my passion and drive raising awareness of the injustices screened from sight simply too often in the UK:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Thursday November 06, 2008

Tears and goodbyes

On our final day I think we were all feeling a bit numb about leaving this mad world of cratered roads, swarming street children, roaming HIV orphans, minimalist villages, a non-existent system... the glory of the Congo.

From sunrise the reminiscing began. Some were taking pictures and filming the surroundings just in case they forgot the sights, sounds, scent and stenches of the DRCongo. I said farewell to my gecko roommates, and Gomu, the scandalous yet lovable Del-boy salesman of our compound. With sweat ambling across my 15-day old tache, for the last time I told him "Mbongo ezalité" meaning "I don’t have any money."

To leave our mark, and show our appreciation, we held an exhibition displaying our favourite pictures which portrayed our life-changing experiences. I chose one of the Kasangulu schoolboys hanging out of the barred windows of a building that I mistook for a jail. The other portrayed a tireless cassava cutter working in the pouring rain. The walls retold our story.

By far, today's highlight was the presence of all the partners we had met over the past two weeks. All the organisations travelled, through hell, high water, rain and sardine-tin buses for an hour of us saying thank you. My group even opened with the song "We are marching in the light of God" as respectful payback to the HIV-awareness singing crew of Vorsi Congo who stunned us with their vocals last week. I would've opted for Oasis's "Stand By Me" but either way the standing ovation was well worth the rehearsals.

We gave little key-rings to our translators, exchanged emails and hugs. I told songstress Betty Mizele how much I was going to miss her, which caused her to break down in tears - trust me, that wasn't part of my plan.

Through all the emotion, tears and goodbyes, our message was clear - DRCongo was amazing, and too good of a nation to let slip into the shadows as just another war-torn hustling and struggling country. We know there is war, we have seen the poverty - but we will glorify the warmth and strength of the Congolese people who set some examples for those back home.

Have you ever seen 'The Beach', when Leonardo Di Caprio returns from months of paradise to the mundane, tedious routine of his Metropolitan life? I think we all fear that as we ready ourselves for the nine-hour haul back to the chills of London town. But it's evident we are ready to campaign and spread the word; scarred by the injustice, knowing of the war in Goma and the immanent change in history this country faces, and instilled with the passion of the people - I have a feeling the repercussions of this trip might be different from the average.

Thanks for the memories DRCongo.

This story can be sourced from here


DRCongo: Fastest Football Skills Ever - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

No word of a lie - this Chadrac boy I met in the Democratic Republic of Congo belongs in the Premiership - and no league lower. I've had my fair share of glory days in junior and teen football camps, failing to breach the ranks at either Leyton Orient or West Ham (blame the dumpling shaped bod), but I saw quality and calibre potential rise up to the top, and so I say without doubt that the saddest part of this survivor's story is that it is unlikely Chadrac (nor his beautiful and skilled female companions at the NGO HUNO) will ever leave the borders of the DRC. Life is just not that fair to them. Here is their story which I documented for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Wednesday November 05, 2008

"Even if we save one child, we have made a difference."

Emile Namwira and his group move at snail-pace. On average they get about 25 regular street kids per week coming in to learn about moral, human and civic issues as well as electoral education. But as Emile says, they give and teach what would not be given or learnt otherwise.

HIV orphans from 8-18 years old are guided by Emile and his small staff. After being ignored and marginalised by society, they are sought after by HUNO, who patiently address each child, working on reunification of the families, and getting the children to react to issues in society through "talking, voting and petitions as oppose to violence, force, hostility and war." With HUNO also offering skills such as sewing and driving, as well as encouraging community service and group activities such as football, they stand tall, deterring self-destruction and teaching the basics that the Congolese street children simply don't have.

Emile introduced my team to a class of promising young girls, all trying to get their lives back on track. We stood in on a sewing lesson as they showcased their skills. Three of the girls asked about English women, before chucking marriage proposals at me (not for the first time this trip might I add). The persistent bunch disregarded the fact I was taken - 18 year old Fatou Giselle said: "That's alright, but do you want a Congolese wife?" To spare feelings, I resorted to lying, making the claim that English men didn't get married until their thirties. I'm not proud, though I had to laugh at the flattery from the girls.

The women had sown gifts for us - traditional Congolese gowns. They were remarkable, beautiful, striking garments. 16-year-old Hornnella gave me mine, before telling me how HUNO had reformed her, giving her a purpose, friends, dreams of being an engineer, as well as realistic hopes of getting married and having three kids.

As I was taking note, she threw in "And you? Do you want a Congolese baby?" To be honest, I wish I could've done more for her, but a wedding ring and a bassinet were certainly not what had in mind.

I retreated to the football pitch (dusty sectioned area) to have a kick-about with a few of the HUNO boys. Oh the humiliation! A little runt done me up leaving me looking like a fat Sunday-league pub baller. Ten nutmegs later and his lightening sandaled feet left me 4 - 0 down. I hit back with a single consolation goal for the England side, but by then the damage was done.

Pride aside, 17-year-old Chadrac took a breather and told me of how HUNO was recuperating his situation. The boy had been homeless since contracting HIV at the age of eight. He was made a garden pet by his family, not allowed near the house. When $150 went missing from the household, Chadrac was blamed and cast away like an unlucky omen.

Since then he has been living in a box, fending off other kids who beat him for having HIV, scrounging in the trash alongside rats for leftovers. Though HUNO don't have the means to accommodate him, the Ronaldo-moving street kid is being taught to drive, and is now part of a football team organised by HUNO. Nevertheless Chadrac is still a lost boy, claiming: "I didn't steal the money. I am innocent. I still don't know why I was pushed out of my home."

Before I left, I handed Chadrac my old Beckham Adidas Predator boots. They cost me little to discard, but meant ever so slightly more to the boy judging by his wide smile (even though they were three sizes too big). It was unfortunate we had to rush away in our van due to the rain and fear of mudslides. With the HUNO girls crowding around our vehicle, I could only catch a glimpse of Chadrac, who ran around the corner to wash his feet and put on the Predators, coming back just as we drove off. Through the window he gave me thumbs up.

This story can be sourced from here


DRCongo: Feminism & Gender Inequality - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

It's hard not to get heated up when I witness gender discrimination, it's even harder not to speak out when you hear it's the norm in the culture. That wasn't the intentional message of a Congolese college I visited, but that's certainly what I took from it. Unfortunately, a meeting with the students that was arranged to illustrate progression for women in the DRC, instead demonstrated how much of an uphill struggle some Congolese women still face - leaving the females in my reporting group feeling disheartened, silently feeling lucky they had not been brought up with such unjust oppression. Mr Brightside will tell you it's still great that at least the women are being supplied with education and access to schooling; in a country where good education facilities are scarce in general.

It's true, and I would never devalue how far the country has come - but it seizes to stop me cringing some of the behaviour I heard in that room. Here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift report:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Tuesday November 04, 2008

The cause and affect of a project do not always meet in the middle. Today, that was the case as we visited the gender equality programme of CONAFED.

The dream was there. The plan was golden. Co-ordinator Roger Mukmba promised more action in the transformation of his people: "We are working towards more female leadership and less women used as inferior tools in the workplace." He stated how far the country has come, claiming Parliament decided after the war that a minimum of 30% of people in each workplace would be female, and that a type of P.S.H.E would be integrated into schools to raise awareness of gender power and equality - Roger called it a "noble wave of studies" spanning from nurseries, to universities to the workplace. He even addressed the "not so uncommon" issue of girls in school being marked down for denying sex with their professors, and how CONAFED was offering counselling and ways of campaigning against this disgraceful form of discrimination - such as having the victims wear T-shirts stating "I cannot move up to the next level of education because a professor is exploiting my rights..." (How you fit that on a T-shirt? Beats me). I was immediately cynical of how effective and slow this technique could be, but I thought I'd let Roger prove to me what leaps and bounds CONAFED were making.

Despairingly, the dream fell on its fat and naïve face as we met Congolese students at the University of IFACIC (so-called examples of CONAFED's progress). Even though we were told at the beginning that there are now 75% female students at the institution, and that CONAFED and IFACIC were encouraging women to learn and take active responsibility in society - the room wreaked of male bravado and female disempowerment. The girls seemed to huddle together, having their answers stamped on or just shushed away by the authority of their fellow male colleagues. My question of "How do women get out of a 'sex for grades' situation?" was never directly answered - tangent after tangent got me heated and impatient. My own female colleagues were stunned to an uncomfortable silence as the Congolese men regurgitated: "Women are like grass to the sheep here" and "If a woman gets raped for wearing a mini-skirt that is her own fault for wearing such clothes" - both in ignorant tones that implied 'That's just the way it is.' At the back, our Congolese translator Chris walked out, he himself appalled by the words of his countrymen.

I pressed further, desperate for a silver lining. I almost had to force one of their female students to tell me (without interruptions from the men) what the deal with sexual harassment in IFACIC was. 25 year old Santa Tembo's answer was astonishing: "six out of 10 girls are harassed here, but they cannot speak out as it will bring shame on the girl and cause her grief in society."

Read the full article here


DRCongo: HIV Projects & Freedom - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

What a hectic day in the DRC. But one that was well worth it; in a country with many regions and villages that still regard HIV as an omen, a dirty and evil virus - it was a relief to find so many projects working hard to offer those living with HIV a path back into society, via jobs and other opportunities. Here's my report for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Monday November 03, 2008

"I just want to be free..."

Freedom is highly underrated. The majority of us have it, in the form of schooling, parents and a community. We live, because we are allowed to live. In the DRC, one of the biggest stunts on this dream is HIV - a virus that can exile any Congolese man, woman or child into the shadows of society, and as it stands the UN estimated (in 2007) that 1.3m Congolese people are battling against this fate (including 110,000 under-14's and 143,000 pregnant women). The organisations I encountered today stated that bullshit has got to stop.

Co-ordinator Jean Lukela of RENOAC said: "We will work hard. We will change for the better." His project depicted just that objective - evolving with and for those HIV+ (such as Jean himself). Since 2002, RENOAC has liberated 2500 people living with the disease through various activities, giving computer training and jobs to those turfed for having the virus, as well as running a flour mill to produce food to the most poorly of the HIV infected - as Jean said: "Money is not given for nothing. We educate our people with HIV awareness and activities to state their value in society."

Back on the road, and I stole some time from our interpreter Solange to get her take on the HIV camps we were visiting today. Despite having lost two uncles and two aunties to the disease, she so nonchalantly proclaimed: "HIV is something you learn to deal with. It can be a standard part of life. People do not need to fear it." Her unbreakable spirit and respect for the virus gathered further substance as our day continued.

We came to OVJS to envisage the dreams of organiser Maguy Mfumu, who has developed a youth programme for those struggling with HIV. Regardless of her own HIV status, she now has 56 adolescents under her wing, (many of whom are HIV orphans living with the disease) trained in sewing and making clothes. Before we left, six of the female workers let us know how their lives had been 'normalised' with the help of Maguy and OVJS: Nadaj Balinga, 23, Soulange Ngama, 20, Benedict Mansanga, 19, Falan Mayayila, 18, Lovette Mbumbo, 18 and 17-year-old Rutt Wombo - my Congofied aspiring versions of Beyonce, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Rhianna, Christina Milian and Cassie. All the village girls loved to dance, sing and they were mad about clothes including the extravagant self-made ones they showed us. The difference was that Maguy's crew lived in an orphanage, fed on rations and as Nadaj stated: "If we had even £20 to spend, we would put it towards more materials, equipment and stalls to work with." Bear in mind Mariah Carey probably pays someone that much to hold her chewing gum...

Read the full article here


DRCongo: On First Glance... - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Let's call it a humbling two-week experience I'm likely to hold as a pivotal moment in my journalism career. Reporting from the DRC rejuvinated my passion and dreams for travelling, reporting from around the world, interviewing some of the most inspirational people in the poorest conditions.

We're talking serious poverty, the type you breeze past on melodramatic adverts here; with families feasting solely on a loaf of bread for the week, kids running barefoot through s**t on the streets, shacks instead of houses. But beyond that I still found more natural beauty (from the people to the surroundings) in the African country than any UK monopolised metropolitan city. And from the 10,000+ words I came back with (scribbled down shorthand in a small dusty pad), I felt the need to portray this side of the DRC - how they live and strive on, less of the sob stories and more of the success (though admittedly much easier said than done with the war and corruption in the country), and what we need to be doing here to assist their hard-fought progression. This is the first brief report I wrote for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, very early into my trip:

Postcards From The Edge: DRCongo
Sunday November 1, 2008

Seven days, 33 degree heat, 4 villages, landslides, invasive geckos and consistent rude awakenings = 1 trip to remember. Bear in mind we are only half way through this experience, I have had a pretty substantial taste of the Congo. It's the people, the culture and their mentality that has opened my eyes, and in more ways than one.

On first glance, it is hard to see kids bare foot and walking 6km to school, mothers strapping their babies on back selling plantain attached to their heads, countless young men sitting on the side of roads contemplating over what to do next...poverty and strife comes in many forms...

But please let’s not be patronising.

Two nights ago the tiny village of Nkandu welcomes us with tradish Congolese food, dancing, fables around a fireplace with shooting stars in the sky...call me soppy, but it was pretty freakin great. Such sentiments and warmth has been recurring aspects in Congo. The majority has infectious smiles; they love their country, their people, those who want it work hard, they don't complain, they have astounding faith and welcome us outsiders with open arms and a plate of foo foo.

The package looks damaged, but the inside is golden.

I wouldn’t even dare look down on these people, as some evoke such happiness and belief than seems too much of an effort back home. Do I envy their aura? I guess I do a little. Do they envy my smoking, drinking, clubbing lifestyle? It seems not so much.

Of course this is just my perception, but the Congolese folk have humbled my preconceptions of being another Westerner with all the right answers. We obviously have a lot to learn too.

As Felix, our amazing Congolese translator said:

“In your eyes of course we look poor. But in our hearts we are richer than you can imagine.”

The link to the article is here