Ep. 129 – Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (Poetry, History, Hope, and Honesty)

“We are the outcome of our own labour” – listen here

When I think of the living poets today whose work inspires me, who I’m also lucky enough to call friends or peers in the poetry world, I often think of Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan. The first time we shared a bill was April 2018 at the Migration Museum, at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Rock Against Racism march and wider movement that mobilised and unified hundreds of thousands of people around live music to oppose rising racism and British fascism in the 70s, at a time where Eric Clapton parroted Enoch Powell, skinheads were loud and proud, and even our sacred Bowie toyed with far-right politics during his coke-fuelled Thin White Duke-phase (both rock stars did eventually apologise). In between our sets, Suhaiymah and I, two twenty-something idealists considerably bringing down the average age of the room, bemoaned how slow the progress of anti-racist movements has been, and how Britain’s institutions were still wedded to the same racial prejudices as the 70s, whether the Islamophobia of the ‘counter-terrorist’ Prevent programme which leads to racial profiling in schools and universities, how the racist Met police force use violence against Black people, or how the Home Office’s enforcing of borders leads to needless death and separation. We even noted how there wasn’t a single dark-skinned Black person on the panel that evening. I can remember the conversation we had vividly because we also spoke about contemporary solutions, we spoke about how poets were part of the building and sharing of new languages and ways of thinking that can effectively show the same contradictions and injustices of the system, and help galvanize people into action. Since then, through her work in theatre, social commentary, lectures and teaching, and poetry, I’ve seen Suhaiymah consistently and in a way that is emotionally affecting every time, show the injustices of white supremacy for exactly what they are; brutally enforced white lies that keep millions in awful conditions to maintain an exploitative status quo. It’s a struggle to keep fighting for what you know to be right and just, even more so during a pandemic that tightens the screw on all our existing inequalities, but through the strength in her speeches, the clarity in her political educating, and the directness of her poetry, I feel like I’ve had a well of radically replenishing and honest art to return to, that has helped nourish and inspire me. It’s a pleasure to share this episode and Suhaiymah’s work with you, please go listen wherever you get your podcasts!

Ep.129 is available wherever you get your podcasts, incl Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Soundcloud. The full transcript will be here soon and the next episode will be with [REDACTED] and we’re continuing with weekly episodes until the end of February at least. Rest assured, lots of great poets coming up, stay with us for the journey!

Hope everyone’s keeping safe, keeping positive and testing negative, and staying hydrated both literally and conceptually.

PJ, The Repeat Beat Poet