Hi, folks! I’ve got something a little bit different to you today. A short while back, I was lucky enough to be invited to perform at the Youth Voices 4 Justice Benefit show at Six Ways Erdington Baptist Church. It was a great night, to raise the profile of the National Family Fund and custody death issues, which I’m going to tell you all about.
It was organised by 4WardEver UK, a community collective providing news and information sharing services for our readers and members. Their purpose is to provide a one-stop-resource for case profiles, news and event details, useful resources, statistics, appeals, and more in relation to deaths and abuses whilst in custody; including the death penalty, other injustices and human rights abuses in the UK and internationally.
Custody death organisations are often considered to be controversial, despite statistics showing that it is actually a problem, and so the event organisers struggled to find a venue that would put the show on. Eventually, they settled on Six Ways Baptist Church in Erdington, a little outside Birmingham’s city centre in one of the suburbs, and so that probably contributed to the (relatively) disappointing turnout.
But there were still a couple of dozen people there, and it seems to me that the problem with putting on an event like this is that people don’t really think about it unless they’ve been directly affected. One of the things that I learned from the evening, though, is that custody deaths could affect anyone – it’s not just IC3 males from underprivileged areas, because it can happen to women and children too, even at psychiatric institutes where people are supposedly being detained for their own safety.
I think the problem is often that people don’t want to be seen to be criticising the police. I’m not a huge fan of the police, but I’m not exactly NWA either. I see the reason for their existence, and just hope that I’ll never have to deal with them. The problem is that they’re only human, and humans make mistakes. Ultimately, though, if that mistake costs someone their life then they need to be held accountable.
The families of the victims of custody deaths are offered little to no support, and for every one large case that you hear of in the media, there are a dozen others that go unreported. Even when you do hear about it, it’s usually in an abstract way, and you don’t tend to realise that it’s not just a story in a newspaper – it’s a real human being.
Which is why I decided to do a write-up of the event, to get the word out. I’m going to have a quick chat to you about the night itself, and then list a few places where you can go to find out more.
Now, in all fairness, there was a lot of waiting around at the event, but that was partly because we got there early and partly because there was a break for food, which was a nice touch. Throughout the event, we heard the real-life stories of the people who’ve been affected by deaths in custody, and there were a group of relatives there as guests of honour.
The evening was kicked off by the screening of a film called ‘BURN‘, a grass-roots documentary which takes a look at why Tottenham burned during the London riots, including at the deep-rooted reasons behind it. We were also treated to musical performances from Lil D (a rapper and film-maker, who was also documenting the night) and Call Me Unique, a singer-songwriter who used a loop pedal, an acoustic guitar and her voice to blend together a bunch of different genres.
Then there was my performance – I did a couple of poems, including Anonymous’ White Mask of Freedom, Automatic Po-Po, Fear and Groupthink to name a few, although I’m pretty sure I did more. It’s hard to tell – I went in there with a plan, but then I didn’t follow it. Standard!
All in all, then, it was a fantastic evening, and a pleasure to learn more about the causes and to find out how to support them. Speaking of which, be sure to check out the links below to find out more about some of the organisations involved, and be sure to keep your browser pointed to DaneCobain.com to hear more about new shows, new poems and other new news.