When I started writing this, it was only 8 days into 2021. COVID-19 is stalking all lands. The vaccine distribution line is the abyssal line. The United States of America is being very disunited. The oppressed are still being oppressed and the obscenely rich are still amassing obscene amounts of wealth. Though we are all glad to escape 2020, 2021 has not brought the automatic refreshing we promised. I am saying this to remind us, that stepping into a new calendar year does not miraculously make all things new. We have to actively make change happen. Looking back matters. By looking back we ensure that we learn from the past. We take the lessons with us, from the good and bad. We look back so that we can do better in future and not drive further into perdition.
To summarize 2020 on the blog: initial hopeful naivete, decolonisation, COVID panic, FACE, decolonisation, #BlackLivesMatter related despair, hopeful reflection, decolonisation in Africa, #EndSARS, decolonisation, decolonisation, decolonisation…. FADE OUT
2020 on the blog started with a reflection on how troubled 2019 had been, if we only knew! But I concluded that 2020 was time for a fresh start and the hope and promise of newness that a new year brings [ha! ha!]
It was quickly became clear that #COVID19 would be the story of 2020. I wrote three blog posts which were directly focused on the pandemic and its effects. One was a poem. One was a short mournful reflection on how we are unable to really function surrounded and confined by death and dying: how do we write? The third was an article asserting how humanity’s devaluation of human life, was replicated in the fault lines of the pandemic: Numbers, Names, Bodies & COVID-19
‘There are many lessons that we are told this pandemic teaches us, how it exacerbates the weaknesses and wickednesses of our systems, how our fault lines have deepened and our privileges become more obvious and overt… our dreams for the world are currently too small, our visions currently too limited, our structures unwise, unsustainable and unsafe. We must let our dreams and visions do more than continually reproduce an uneven world. A world where the lots of those who must die so that others may live, have always been unfairly cast. We must learn that humanity has always been dealing in death.’
I also wrote two posts as a direct response to the killing of George Floyd and the global protests that followed. One was a poem which lamented humanity repetition, how time and time again, we revisit this place, this valley of tears. Time and Place. The other was an article which responded to the suggestion that #BlackLivesMatter protests increased racial tensions. A suggestion which ignores the the fact that those racialised below the abyssal line have ALWAYS lived with racial tensions… The article was called, We Were Witness to an Execution.
‘Racism is a thief. Of breath. Of peace. Of time.
Time we could spend doing other things. Laughing. Dancing. Living.
Lives that never will be lived. Dreams stolen before they are fully birthed. Thief.’
2020 witnessed massive protests in Nigeria against police brutality. #EndSARS. Using a refrain from Les Miserables as a narrative device, I wrote a reflection on how the protests themselves were a sign of a more fundamental problem: A state and a world that has failed its people. A state and a world where human value is tied to how much humanity can bow to the order that means some must die so that others may live and live large: Red, the Blood of Angry Men or Some Reflections on #EndSars.
As I often do, I wrote movie reviews. Two in 2020. The first was a review of the movie ‘Just Mercy’ titled Just Mercy or Just Justice. In the review I argued, that the comparatively heavy power of the state is often ignored in our quest for ‘balance’ and objectivity. Yet, asking for mercy, presupposes that the state is unmerciful. Once again I ask, who gets justice and how much justice is too much justice? I ended the year with a review of the movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In the review I used the framing of the song Strange Fruit to ask: who owns whose culture? what does a legacy of strange fruit, a legacy of racial terror mean for how we view the past and the present? What future can we hope for free of the past? The Other Strange Fruit in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
‘The first scene is the real crime scene. Stolen land, stolen labour, stolen riches, enjoying stolen culture. And in the final scenes, across time and space, are the other strange fruit. They may not be hanging from trees and swinging in the breeze, but there is still a strange and bitter crop. Still. This final scene makes no sense without the first scene. Still.’
The movie was an emotional watch. Very much because, among a mouth-watering stellar cast, it also starred Chadwick Boseman, who earlier in 2020 went to his rest. At the time when Chadwick Boseman joined the ancestors, I wrote about how life and what it requires seems to preclude the possibility of rest, even when we are fighting for our lives, fighting against the normativities inscribed in our bodies, as the machine takes us: We Who Believe in Freedom… For Brother Chadwick On the work, ableism and being able to rest
‘with the passing on of our Brother Chadwick, I have been reflecting on what those words actually mean: We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We actually cannot. If the world was different, not enfolded as it is, into oppressive and exploitative structures of racism, ableism, misogyny and capitalism [among others] I suspect that Chadwick may have taken time off work after his diagnosis. Maybe. But ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest.’’
This year, Forever Africa held as a series of webinars. In a video summary, I try to capture the spirit of what was an engaging and energizing series of cross-continental conversations. Looking forward, with hope. FACE 2020: Summary in Videos
One of the reasons why I started this blog was to create a platform for sharing knowledge. As such, I love creating reading lists, especially because they can be crowd source via social media. There were two main ones on the blog this year that were collected in this manner. One was for new law students. The second was An Anti-Racism Reading List (coincidentally created before we embarked summer of reading lists!). It was shared quite a lot later on. Were the contents read or acted on? Who knows?
On Africa (it’s called Foluke’s African Skies!): I explored law, politics and international media coverage especially in light of COVID and the questions about Africans [not] dying. I also wrote a critique of knowledge production structures that seem incapable of imagining African futurity as even possible, and definitely not dynamic. African Futurity as Forgotten History
‘Africa and Africans have a long history of being written into darkness. The written word has weighed heavy on us. Used to name and label and distort and deform. Used to know and unknow Africa, till all that remains is an extended history of non-recognition of personhood. We are constantly written into darkness.’
I have often written of the reconstructive possibilities afforded by decolonisation, while also being quite wary of institutional co-optation of the term. There were, therefore, quite a number of articles on decolonial thought: discussion of what it means to disrupt and linear time. The final one is my favourite, however. In it, I reflect on the content of the special issue of The Law Teacher Journal that I guest edited. The Law Teacher Special Issue on Decolonising the Law School.
2021 has begun with a bang. Yet there is still a lot of work to be done if this wretched earth is to survive. If we are to build futures in which we all may flourish. Each morning gives us space to build worlds otherwise. In the little things. In the everyday. May each drop of change become a flood.
In 2021 I wish you joy, laughter and peace. But most of all I wish you rest and refreshing. Even though there is still much work to be done. And the darkness still threatens. Remember, you can only take one step at a time. Do not be overwhelmed. 2021 is ours – one step at a time, one day at a time. 2021 is ours, while its light lasts.
Aluta continua. Victoria acerta.
Let us be kind, let us be bold, let us be present… while the light lasts.