By Leila Nassereldein (on behalf of the DIY Diaspora collective)
- Can you define the terminology: ‘Punks of Colour/Diaspora?’
Firstly, humans aren’t crayons.
The coloniser wrongfully applied “other” status to the globe’s majority, leaving the oppressed, the heterogeneous oppressed, unifying through their adjacency to the European “norm.”
The term “people of colour,” from which “punx of colour” lends meaning is of course problematic, though I must add that I cannot speak for the collective as a whole – for many celebrate the term. And true, it is a useful means of unifying those afflicted by the colonial agenda today.
But “colour?”…As opposed to the “absence of colour?”… Well it doesn’t take long to notice the many-layered issues at stake with the term and significantly, it underscores a salient issue: that is, the linguistic connotations we are using to resist the historic oppression of our people are the connotations given to us by the oppressors themselves.
And for that reason, the three-day festival will address identification, labelling and heritage through workshop, discussion and exhibition, in a safe and creative environment that, fingers crossed, will go on to fight colonisation with decolonised language.
- Why is there a need to have the definition apart from the Punk community as a whole?
It became apparent in our first ever meeting that we – as a diverse group of individuals, who had in varying capacities dedicated vast portions of our lives to perpetuating the raw sounds and d.i.y. ethics of punk – had in scenes across Europe, Australia and North America, faced racism. Some of us had been marginalised and treated atrociously when performing; others had been the butt of prolonged racist abuse – told to accept it as a mere joke because, as they reiterate, punk is “anarchy and equality,” it does not see race. However, what we see as the lone “other” is discrimination – ignorance of this is the mark of white privilege.
Seeking redress for not only the censorship of punk’s origins (see proto-punk band Death, who as three melanated brothers, were doing this shit early!), the collective has secured a space for the celebration of non-European punks currently making music, and for all those that have come before us.
- Do you think that this separation is a good thing?
A separation? We are not in a position of power to create a separation; a separation pre-existed the collective by hundreds of years. The aforementioned ‘definition apart’ referred to in the previous question is an unfortunate consequence of society’s wider systematic racism: we are working to amplify voices systematically muted; to remember musicians forgotten in the history of punk, to resist white supremacy.
- Why do you think there needs to be safe places/venues for you to meet and perform?
A safe space is one which will not tolerate bigotory or racism – more’s the question, why isn’t every space a safe space?
- What do think of the U.S. Afropunk movement?
James Spooner’s documentary Afro Punk is significant in so far as it uncovers a hidden history of punk. I recall reading in an article once that he’d searched ‘black punk rock’ online in 2001 and nothing came up . The documentary served to change that, and in that sense, Decolonise Fest has similarities with the movement’s early origins. However, that was a long time ago, and Afro-Punk is less about punk rock now, with a multi-genre line-up, festival performers have included Grace Jones and Lauryn Hill, but also welcomed the likes of unsigned d.i.y. punk bands such as Big Joanie – set to play Decolonise in June. I don’t want to criticise a movement that’s doing a lot to foster creative freedom, but the d.i.y. diaspora punx are committed to the small scale, authentic punk environment – Decolonise Fest will differ from AfroPunk in so far as ticket costs will be kept low, with pledges to grant concessions to the unemployed, the weekender is committed to accessibility, to widening participation, and crucially, to the passionate sound of punk rock – all at a distance from corporate sponsors.
- Are you aware of what is happening worldwide regarding the POC movement?
I doubt I am aware of everything, no, but I am aware of the term’s usage in predominately U.S liberal/progressive circles.
- What would you say to the critics who believe that there shouldn’t be colour/race divide within the Punk community?
I would ask them if they mean shouldn’t or isn’t? I would ask them if they suffer false consciousness, and I would ask to what extent they currently benefit from the status quo.
- Can you tell me more the Decolonise Fest and why you decided to do it?
Decolonise Fest is a collaborative effort stemming from the points raised above. We, the collective – which comprises of London-based writers, film-makers, photographers, musicians and activists with non-European heritage – are working towards an engaging and varied programme comprising of visual art as well as sound. The festival will cover a wide genre of punk : crust, hardcore, lo-fi, riot grrl, garage and post-punk with plenty of opportunity for skill sharing, debate and discussion through workshops and talks. For the colonised, by the colonised, Decolonise Fest is a radical event, instigatory and celebratory, with a unique platform for colonised punks to lay claim to the roles they’ve played in the history of punk: DIASPORA TO THE FRONT.
(Decolonise Fest will take place at DIY Space for London at 96-108 Ormside Street, London, SE15 1TF on the 2-4th June 2017)
- What is the future for the POC movement?
I’m no soothsayer, so I do not know what the future is for the movement. I just hope that any movement serving oppressed people consider the limitations of the labels used, seek strength in unity and discussion, and forward themselves critically.