10/30/2009

MTV Staying Alive Foundation - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

I was always a massive fan of MTV Base. I used to just play it full blast in the house whilst getting ready for school, or when I was jamming with my friends (my parents weren't so fond of the 'noise'). So as an MTV follower, it was brilliant to hear they continue to progress in my current world (of fighting global and social injustice with Ctrl.Alt.Shift) through the MTV Staying Alive Foundation; their multi-platform HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign. Great music artists + great campaign = great success! Here's more info from a night meeting and greeting the Foundation faithful:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ The MTV Staying Alive Foundation
Beyond the canap├ęs and free drinks, I went to a function on Tuesday night (October 27) in Camden, north London, that actually left me feeling a little more than just bloated and tipsy. Dare I say it, I was seriously inspired when I came face to face with the grantees and volunteers of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. We’re not talking music television here, we’re talking saving lives.



Staying Alive began in 1998 – MTV’s global, multi-platform HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign. The funny thing is, the name did ring a bell, after all the project is currently the largest of it’s kind in the world, with announcements, websites, events and programming aimed to educate and empower young people in 50 countries most affected by the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. With ambassadors including Kelly Rowland and Travis McCoy (Gym Class Heroes), I had heard the rumblings of this amazing scheme over the past few years, but it struck a new chord meeting those involved in the ever-developing Staying Alive Foundation – the initiative launched in 2004 to extend the ethos of the campaign at a grassroots level.



Immediately I realised what amazing strides Staying Alive has been making, talking to HIV-awareness community workers Jacqualine Kowa (from Kenya), Natalia Cales (South Carolina, US), and James Fofanou (Sierra Leone) who had all flown in to tell their stories. Memories of my 2008 trip to HIV orphan camps in DRCongo came to mind when James said “The figures we use are important, and I’m not talking about money. ‘Two’ people, means two lives, and if you don’t help them, those two will be dead in two months. Therefore every bit of help from Staying Alive counts as lives are on the line.”

Read the full article here

10/27/2009

Guardian BNP Article Abuse - My Response - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

I got some serious 'publicity' for this one. On average I've barely got over 5 comments for any of my past articles. However, my latest anti-BNP stunt (alongside Ctrl.Alt.Shift and Don't Panic) and review for the Guardian received over 200 comments in a couple of hours - a personal best! Nonetheless, this was also the first time I've received severe abuse and distain from my readers; some claming what I did was "pointless", "stupid", some even took time to offer better grammar (which they got wrong anyways...) and suggestions to walk into a mosque in a pink leotard (don't ask!). Where do I turn from this learning curb? Towards more investigative reporting and provocative stunts! Otherwise how else can I expose corrupt and unjust powers that be for what they are, how else can you spread awareness for those that need such issues thrust upon them at a different, perhaps more in-your-face slant, and why regret or hesitate further on when those that aren't irritated, offended and/or abusive are actually inspired and enlightened - click here, read the comments and you'll see what I mean. My only quarm is not being able to read the moderated (i.e. removed) comments. Bring on the democratic banter I say. And to my peers - if you truly want to be a journalist, don't fear speaking out and standing aside from the 'in-crowd'; it's how every movement and resistance begins. Here's my full response to the cynics:

Editor’s Blog
Let’s jump straight in – click here and have a read:

I wrote this article for the Guardian website, a short opinion piece on the British National Party stunt we (Ctrl.Alt.Shift and Don’t Panic) did on October 15th, when a multicultural bunch of us rolled down to Dagenham East, London, to try to attend a BNP meeting and sign up to the party. It also happened to be on the day they officially allowed ‘ethnics’ to join, and a week before BNP leader Nick Griffin’s now infamous appearance on BBC’s Question Time.

Enjoy the stunt:


Now, as a journalist, you should never expect masses of feedback. Even my mum hasn’t read my articles (sorry mum, I love you if you are reading this). But the response to the Guardian piece was astounding – it was published at lunch time on Sunday October 25th, and by Monday morning I found near 200 comments.

Of course I was smiling, that mark was a new milestone for my wee journalism career. Though my dimples soon got washed away, amid scrolling through wave after wave of readers stating what we did was “pathetic”, “pointless”, “childish” with a “stench of student activism”. And those were the comments that didn’t get removed by the Guardian moderators…

To be fair, the abuse was in-between comments of praise and support, but I’d be a fool to deny a tiny spark of aggravation lit up inside me. However, seeing red, was shortly followed by laughter, and relief.

Bring on the naysayers (who I thanked in my own response comment). They are the snobbish cynics that should inadvertently fuel the engine of every social justice-seeking activist.

As I said in my fight-back feedback, the manner in which we combated the BNP will be questionable to many, but the reality is that to get the average young and apathetic voter to think about these issues you need to deliver a message outside the box. And what may be ‘pointless’ to the pessimists may be inspirational to the optimists.

Part of my job at Ctrl.Alt.Shift, which I love, is to inspire those of mine and the next generation who are lost in social issues and politics (it’s an easy place to lose your bearings). When opportunities (like the BNP stunt) arise, I seize upon them; to take those around me who want to get more politically active, to join the frontline of an issue we do think is worth challenging. In the aftermath, the so-called “pathetic” display of activism seizes to be a waste of time for the participants (and all those who’ve read the story) who came away feeling more engaged than ever in the system, its dark side and its scandals (which of course do not exist in the BNP exclusively).

The cracking whip of the cynics can beat to the sound of “You Marxist hippy” or “You wannabe revolutionary” – but no ignorant tosser is going to give me doubt or regret over our actions against a fascist party – and nor should they deter you.

May the abuse roll in, as goes the saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’, and I’d love to hit 300 comments by Friday. If you’ve got the time, click on the link and show your support, and defiance of the wet blankets.

With love, respect and appreciation,

Dwain

Now, sing along:

10/22/2009

Top 10 BNP On Question Time Moments - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Wasn't this just appalling, and ever so uncomfortable to watch...? I'm no fan of Nick Griffin and the British National Party, though I would have preferred a Question Time session that did not focus on berating the BNP for being racists - that much I know already. It was like looking at a lost child getting bullied in the playground (rightly bullied for being a symbol of ignorance - but still, bullied). I would much rather have watched Griffin speak about his ridiculous policies and beliefs uninterrupted - as oppose to him having to constantly defend verbal onslaughts by his fellow panellists. Let the Griffin shoot himself in the foot, as oppose to us firing the pointless rounds. Still, I doubt he won over the British public with his stuttering display - and if you didn't get to see it, here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift run-down of the top moments from the QT day:

Top 10 BNP On Question Time Moments
Last night (on October 22nd), Nick Griffin and the BNP finally got their platform on national TV, appearing on Question Time. Here’s the run down of the top moments from the evening if you didn’t manage to catch the grilling of the Griffin:



1. Over 500 anti-fascist protestors rallied outside BBC Studios in West London before, during and after the broadcast. A small number jumped the entrance gates and managed to get within feet of the Question Time studio, resulting in the arrest of six. Nevertheless, the show ran smoothly.

2. Author and critic Bonnie Greer, who was a guest panellist on the show, has admitted she had to restrain herself from slapping Griffin’s smug mug; after the BNP leader’s definition of the origins of "indigenous" British and the BNP's website account, she shut him down with "Your history is a joke!"

3. When questioned about the Holocaust denial, Griffin said “I was not convicted of it” and smirked at host David Dimbleby.

4. When asked to explain why he had previously expressed admiration for Hitler and the Nazi Party, Griffin replied “I can’t explain it.” Clever boy.

5. Griffin has now been dubbed the "Dr Strangelove" of British politics by Labour's Jack Straw after attempting to claim the mantle of Winston Churchill.

6. Griffin was accused by the panel of making up facts, after stumbling through statistics regarding how much of the UK population weren’t happy with the immigration system.

7. Griffin was asked by the panel about when he was quoted describing immigration as “genocide”. He was also questioned about a conference in America in 2000 where he was photographed with Mr Duke, the former leader of a Ku Klux Klan chapter. He denied the immigration statement, saying he was “misquoted”, and that he was “appalled” by the term “genocide”. However he affirmed the KKK was “totally non-violent”. Hooray for that then.

8. Nervous and angry from the start, Griffin said early in the show “I am the most loathed man in the country.” I can’t say he’s the most loved now…

9. One audience member briefly touched upon the BNP’s recent change in policy to allow non-whites, after being forced following a legal battle with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in August. The full story, including Ctrl.Alt.Shift and Don’t Panic’s stunt to infiltrate a BNP meeting and test the non-white policy, was published in the Evening Standard, London Lite, broadcasted on Channel 4 news, BBC London news and ITV’s London Tonight. Click here for the full video!

10. Following the show, Nick Griffin said today he was the victim of a "lynch mob" audience drawn from a city that had been "ethnically cleansed" and was "no longer British".

As a proud born and bred London boy, of Mauritian descent, I salute you Mr.Griffin and your whimsical palaver.

10/15/2009

My Age Of Activism - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Coming back from a record-breaking steamy summer of lethargic lazing-about, it's been good to get back into the activism/journalism/police-get-off-my-back swing of things. I don't know what it is about September that kick-starts that mood, whether it's the sun saying goodbye for another year, or the fact students are back in action... either way, here's my latest editor's blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift which features taking on the BNP and trying to evict a few corrupt Lords; a report that screams 'Boy, I've been busy!':

Editor's Blog
Ctrl.Alt.Shift blog specialist Bibi van der Zee once wrote how activists can get ‘lethargic’ and chillaxed over the summer period, as whatever beaming sun the UK provides is seized upon with tanning lotion and the shortest of short shorts. In hindsight, I dare not disagree, as my summer of potential love and rays was reduced to tears and sweat behind the confines of my office lap top, bitching at the cries of laughter coming from the happy-go-luckies outside. Call me bitter? Hell no, I love this job.

Minor self-sympathy put aside, the activism season is well and truly back in motion. Amped students are back in school and making movements, we all gear towards a vital time in the climate change battle (click here for more Road To Copenhagen info), and I’m pitching a FOR SALE sign on the House of Lords… okay, let me explain that last one.



The Lords have been the most unholy of creatures, in particular Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor. Earlier this year, the naughty boys got caught out by Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists seeking amendments to government legislation in return for cash. The Lords graciously agreed to help, putting the whole integrity of our legal system in jeopardy, and tainting any faith left that our government is a finely oiled democratic machine.

The punishment for such exploitation of power? On Monday (October 11th), the bad boys (still talking about Truscott and Harper here, not Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) just strolled back into parliament. Their six-month ban was over, but the distaste in my mouth was still there.

Please click here for more on the Lords scandal story...

So, what do activists do when the distraction of the summer sun disappears? Geared up by Don’t Panic’s Heydon Prowse and joined by fellow Ctrl.Alt.Shift star James Prosho, we all headed to the frontline, with a polished FOR SALE sign (also stating ‘F**king Corrupt’), and pitched it up right in front of the House of Lords gates. We all hoped the message would be read by the guilty parties, but who knows, as it took little more than eight minutes before the Met’s finest tore it down...

Read the rest of the action here

Guardian Article: Invading The BNP

This is an article I wrote for the Guardian following a stunt alongside Ctrl.Alt.Shift and Don't Panic - as a crew of us non-white British citizens rolled down to East London to try and attend a BNP meeting; in a mission to test their non-white policy, just a week before Nick Griffin's now infamous appearance on BBC's Question Time. We were literally booted off the premises without proper reason. All coverage can be viewed below. I'd like to send Mr Griffin a massive hug in the post and promise him he can't catch anything from the colour of my skin... :

Manhandled out of a BNP meeting
If Nick Griffin thinks his party is misunderstood, perhaps he should tell the cronies who shoved me out of a pub...

So, 8 million viewers tuned in to witness a trembling fascist man child get browbeaten by political hotshots. Wasn't Question Time epic? Not really.

Those who know a little about the British National party (BNP) learned a little more. I, however, am still wondering why I can't join the BNP. After all, they now have to allow non-whites into the party following a ruling by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.













As a Mauritian British citizen who wants to see a better UK, I thought Griffin's contingent would welcome me with open arms when I tried to join the party last week – instead I (literally) got shoved out the door.

In a nutshell, it's fair to summarise that BNP supporters at the Eastbrook pub in Dagenham on the 15 October seemed outraged that 10 "ethnics" were seeking membership at their meeting. Not that we were surprised. In my job as deputy editor for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, a project designed to give a new generation the tools to fight global and social injustice, I've become accustomed to people in power saying one thing but meaning another...

Read the full article here

And below's the video footage: