Celebrating Writing with a Reggae Rhythm; the Annual Black History Month Takes Place, Graham Young Looks at a New Book Celebrating the Work of 10 Black Poets from the Midlands

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Byline: Graham Young

ts origins date back to 1920s America, but Black History month has been celebrated annually in October in the UK since 1987, the year when Diane Abbot became the first black woman to be elected as a member of parliament.

Morgan Freeman has previously criticised the of such a narrow, month-long window, saying 'Black history is an American history'.

What we need more of, perhaps, are timeless books like Celebrate Wha? Ten Black British Poets the Midlands, by Eric Doumerc and Roy Mc-Farlane.

Publisher Smokestack Books, says its aim is to "celebrate writing with a reggae rhythm, born out heady mixture of dub, grime and performance poetry, politics, music, anger and laughter".

Featured poets include: Moqapi Selassie ('People are dyin as I speek, dyin lack a food fi eat'); Kokumo ('But what do you have to say / Wen yuh destoy de foujndation de elders lay'; Marcia Calame ('Sometimes my silence hurts me Especially in my own four walls'),; Martin Glynn (The teacher / the preacher / Who down / And ...reached yer) and Chester Morrison ('Reading is something, we should all enjoy / Whether we are men, women, or boys).

Co-author Roy McFarlane was born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage. A community development worker in Dudley and Walsall, he was Birmingham's 2010-2011 poet laureate.

"The book is a carnival of poetry that portrays the and culture of people living in Birmingham as as looking at issues that continue to affect our community, locally and globally," says Roy.

Read them aloud and you feel the energy in its syllable, words full of life, to be spoken, to be released outside the confines of verse and page. "These poets don't do 'poetry' because they have answer. It's because they have it flowing through pens, emanating from their voices, gesticulating from their performances."

Once of the University of Birmingham, where he taught French and studied Caribbean poetry at the Centre for West African Studies, Co-author Eric Doumerc's post-doctoral research has focused on Birmingham-based Black British poets and he now teaches English at the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail in France.

to i"In the first 10 months of 1961, 113,000 people arrived in Britain from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean," Eric explains.

"The West Midlands conurbation became a home the early migrants and then simply home for the British generation born in Britain of West Indian parentage."

" What Eric hopes the book will do is to give recognition(to poetry writers equal to that of musicians. "It is well known that the Black Caribbean presence in the Midlands gave birth to a new musical tradition, British reggae, bands like Steel Pulse and is and the Two Tone ska revival. "The cross-pollination of punk, rockabilly and reggae produced interesting hybrid forms and the region is now on the map as a great mecca for reggae ska lovers.

The poetic contribution of West Midlands black poetry has always been either ignored or overlooked.

"The poets in our anthology are all of West Indian parentage and, with the exception of Kokumo, were all born in Britain. …