This poem was written for a VENT event in York raising awareness of women’s rights and rape across the world. I wrote it when I was angry, and inspired by female activists over the past 100 years.
IF YOU TOLERATE THIS…
In York, 100 years ago in 1913
The suffragettes committed what some might call terrorism
They used explosive chemicals to blow up post boxes
In envelopes labelled to the PM, Lord Asquith
Based in their HQ, now Blue Fly bar
They made women’s right their hometurf war
They were radicals, the militant faction
Not making petitions but taking direct action
Here’s another blast from the past
When Dr King said: “One day, free at last”
Some Black Americans screamed back loud
“Fuck one day, freedom NOW”
Rosa Parks, who would be 100 this year
Sat on a bus and refused to stir
Not because she just felt like it out of the blue
But because we was part of an existing activist doing what they had to do
Female Anarchist Assata Shakur said: “Nobody in history has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who oppress them”
Here’s the Emma Goldman, who tied dancing to revolution
No Gods, No Masters, No Borders, No Nations
Here’s to Florence Reece, who in 1931
Penned the great picketline song ‘Which Side Are You On?’
There’s the bosses in their towers, we’re picking at the crumbs
When they chip away our rights, join or build a Union
Here’s to Pussy Riot, could it ever happen here?
Where music and activism get you locked up for 6 years
Here’s to Kate Tempest, Poly Styrene and Eve Libertine
Here’s to Patti Smith, Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear
In 2010 in York streets we cried with schoolchildren “march strike occupy”
Now those kids are off to Uni, or not, so is activism about compromise?
I’ve stood before riot police but their visors masked their eyes
I get annoyed with partisan politics and Trade Union hierarchies
And the reason I’m so angry is I probably listen to too much punk music
All my Facebook friends and twitter follows are socialists and anarchists
Is this hot air and youthful romanticising
Have I watched too many Ken Loach films or read too many Guardian articles?
Check my privilege, white, male, heterosexual and cisgender
The only thing I cling to is at least I’m still bloody northern
And even then, it’s York!
Let’s cut beyond the rhetoric and revolutionary talk
The cuts they made to the arts are tokenistic and sadistic
Education is a right not a fucking privilege
ATOS declares disabled people fit for work
As a result, 73 people die every single week
The NHS is getting privatised, where’s parliament democracy?
Maybe we forgot about it when we waved our flags for the monarchy
They get tax breaks on second homes
Whilst the bedroom tax traps people with nowhere else to go
This isn’t just Tory-bashing, they may vote against equal marriage, refuse the existence of poverty
But under a Labour council, we still have food banks and a reliance on charity in the city
What’s on the rise in the UK: here’s a quick list of troubles
Deportations, evicts, house repossessions, homelessness, the far right and the suicide levels
So why do Tory and Labour cuts only affect young people, disabled people, ethnic minorities and, well, essentially the poor?
So, is it time to believe they’re waging a class war?
If you don’t agree with this, fine, I’m venting, getting stuff off my chest
But I promise you one thing, never mind your privilege
If you tolerate this, then you’ll be next