On the 14th and 15th of July 2020, I will be joining a panel of local and international speakers who are part of a growing collective of working-class writers, thinkers, artists and researchers. All of them coming together to share, learn, empower and celebrate the contribution of working-class academics and creatives. The Working Class Academics: A Conference 2020, which will be hosted throughout virtual Zoom spaces of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, aims to shine a light on the brilliance of working-class academia.
The murder of George Floyd is the latest in a long line of atrocities and brutalities endured by the global Black community. This has a long history. Longer than is sometimes convenient for honest acknowledgement. I notice some commentators are referring to George’s ‘death’, which is a dilution of what occurred. George was brutally murdered by a Police Officer and the world has seen the evidence.
What is being visible?
Being visible as a writer of diverse background is seeing representation of what you do outside of yourself. Seeing books by working class writers, or stories and poetry, that you can identify with. Seeing and, after that, building a feeling and a knowledge that literature is an open door and access to it is only about stepping into it. That you can be from any background and take part. It is also about being invited to come through the door of literary festivals and events, to have your voice represented – not just as a token – but as a necessity and a part of the foundation.
When I die, I will be “the most qualified person in the graveyard”, I sometimes like to joke, as a way of highlighting the fact I now have so many qualifications (including a recently completed PhD), yet I am still poor.
I don’t really consider myself as an academic. Maybe I’m a ~cool~ academic. I consider myself an artist before anything else. I suppose that’s a bit poncey to say, innit? It’s alright, I’m gay so I can say it. But I guess I am considered an academic – I went to Uni a handful of times thanks to student finance (god bless – you’re NEVER getting that money back from me) fell in love with learning, and so… that’s that.