Powerful stories about the lived realities of Black people that must be heard
For Black History Month BASW's anti-racism visionary Wayne Reid reviews Black Lives Rising ...
Published by Professional Social Work magazine - 5 October, 2021
Black Lives Rising is a very timely and ‘finger-on-the-pulse’ publication, given the post-George Floyd and resurgent Black Lives Matter era that we find ourselves in. This book embodies and articulates Black radical thought in a way that is usually confined to private spaces with close family and friends – not mainstream publications.
I’ve read several books on the experiences and perspectives of Black and ethnic minority people living in Britain (The Good Immigrant, IC3 etc) and co-written my own (Outlanders). However, Black Lives Rising is in a different league.
For a start, the book is a selection of fictional short stories. Stories that force you to ‘quantum leap’ and look through the racial lens of various members of contemporary British society. In each story, the diversity of perspective and unpredictability is both captivating and stunningly realistic.
Three stories that particularly stood out for me (without being a plot-spoiler), include: the lifecycles of Black workers support groups; a delivery company that delivers its own form of racial justice and a heartfelt monologue from a boy that never speaks.
As a writer myself, I have to be honest and say I read this book with a mixture of envy, marvel, intrigue and rollercoaster emotions. I thought I possessed a decent vocabulary, but I don’t have the necessary accolades and superlatives to categorise this artistry.
Ameke somehow infuses an atmosphere of Tales of the Unexpected, the heartbeat of Black Lives Matter (and Black liberation) and artfully weaves the lived realities of Black people into this genius pocket-sized nuclear rocket. Every story is consistently and instantly absorbing.
This book will have you either laughing, spellbound, shell-shocked, crying or visualising a better tomorrow within a few chapters. It had me fanboying, but also (admittedly) a bit scared in places… I’m not easily stirred by books, but this one had me reflecting on my own worldview on many different levels.
Ameke’s style will be labelled as extremist by some - but the narratives in his stories should not be muted - and instead debated. I commend Ameke for bravely and skilfully tackling very complex issues like violence, racism, religion, spirituality, class and social justice – and doing so with clarity, creativity and scholarship – which leaves you wanting more.
The peppering of infuriated expletives and controversial viewpoints illustrate Black perspectives which are rarely published (and often tone-policed). This book is essential, timeless and compulsive reading for anyone interested in Black liberation. I hope it generates open-minded discussions and healthy debate in the quest for racial equality. I don’t write this lightly, but this book is a 10/10 - all the way.
I look forward to an interview I have scheduled with Ameke in the near future to discuss his motivations for writing Black Lives Rising, to gain some insight into his worldview and to explore his ideas for Black liberation globally.
Wayne Reid (Anti-racism Visionary)
(Written in a personal capacity)
Black Lives Rising by Chiatulah Ameke is published by April Gloaming Publishing