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This week Black Girls Book Club launch a festival, while the Home Office deports people to places they’ve never been

21 Oct 2019

Photography via @bg_bookclub’s Instagram, badge made by @dorcascreates

Protests, commuter punch-ups and political posturing we’ve seen it all. The streets of the UK were filled with pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit marchers, Extinction Rebellion targeted the London tube system in their latest round of direct action activism which backfired and descended into violence, and Boris has sent a letter to the EU asking for an extension even though he previously said he wouldn’t. To look like a man of his word he sent the letter … but he didn’t sign it. So the EU said that the letter “changes nothing”. It’s all very confusing.

Here’s what else went down this week.

Black Girls Book Club launch first literary festival

With a line-up of black womxn writers including: Saidiya Hartman, Emma Dabiri, Candice Carty-Williams, Dorothy Koomson, Carmyn Garrett, and Funmi FettoBlack Girls Book Club’s (BGBC) first literary festival is set to be truly iconic. The month-long festival celebrating Black womxnhood is named The Salon. “For some the hair salon, BGBC or other Black spaces are the only type of therapy we can afford or feel safe in,” the BGBC wrote on Twitter. 

“We shouldn’t have to have this space. We really shouldn’t need it. But when black literature and narratives are so often silenced or papered over in mainstream society we really felt that we had a responsibility to the Black womxn writers that we love to give them a platform that allows their work to be given the respect it deserves,” co-founder and director of BGBC, Melissa Cummings-Quarry told gal-dem.  

Inspiringly named one of the top live literature events in the country, The Salon aims to turn the idea of a traditional literary festival on its head. Melissa said: “It’s effectively going to be a month-long BGBC party and y’all are all invited” 

Melissa is extremely excited about their tribute to a queen of black literature, Toni Morrison. “I expect it to be an incredibly edifying experience that speaks to the soul – allowing us to celebrate the life of an incredible woman,” she added. 

The Salon will start on October 15 at The Curtain. You can buy tickets here

Get to know the 1983 Nationality Act

“The psychology of the hostile environment policy is designed to break your spirit. It’s designed to pressure you into submission,” Bumi Thomas hauntingly described as we shared a single chair in the corner of a darkened art gallery. The full-time jazz and folk musician was born in Glasgow in 1983, two years after her sister Kemi. Between Bumi and Kemi’s births, the UK Home Office introduced the 1983 Nationality Act that meant children born in the UK were no longer automatically British citizens, and now the pair are threatened with separation. “We’re finding is that there was a breakdown in communication. Can you imagine how many people didn’t know their status would be affected, and still don’t know now?” Bumi passionately asks. 

The sisters’ parents met and studied in the UK, settling in Glasgow in 1974, before having their children and setting up the area’s first black hair salon. The family moved to Nigeria when Bumi was three, and she returned when she was 18. With a birth certificate, drivers license, and national insurance number, she didn’t look to get a passport until she wanted to go on holiday – something that is now being used against her. 

After being cross-examined at her hearing this week, Bumi hosted her first Border Natives event in collaboration with Amnesty International. 40 people turned up to the live music evening that aims to connect those affected by the 1983 Nationality Act with access to specialists in fields of law and mental health, who can help them get access to the support they need. You can sign a petition to support Bumi here.

This comes as Furaha Asani, an academic at Leicester University, has been threatened to be deported in three weeks time to the Democratic Republic of Congo – a country she has never visited. The Home Office also denounced the phrase “go home” as an example of a racist hate crime, despite emblazoning vans with the same slogan in 2013.


• We’re extremely excited for the release of Who’s Loving You?, an anthology of stories by women of colour about love, sex, and desire, edited by Sareeta Domingo.

• Haringey Borough football players abandoned their FA Cup qualifier against Yeovil Town because their black players were racially abused by fans. 

• London’s Met police plan to ensure their officers can continue to share data on victims of crime with the Home Office. The deeply concerning practice includes victims of domestic and sexual violence, eroding public safety for the most vulnerable in our society. 

• Kenyan athletes are killing it as usual. Brigid Kosgei has beaten ‘Poo-la’ Radcliffe’s marathon world record by 81 seconds, setting a new women’s world record time of 2:14:04.

• American tennis player Coco Gauff won her first WTA singles title at the age of 15.

• Frank Ocean responded on Tumblr to criticism over his new queer NYC club night PrEP+ being named after an HIV prevention drug and reimagining a world where it had been readily available in the 80s.

• The children of immigrants to the US are reportedly being taken from deported parents and permanently ‘adopted’ by American families.

K-pop star Sulli, 25, died by suicide in her home in Seongnam, prompting scruitiny over the highly-pressurised industry and its “toxic fandom”.

• Gina Rodriguez displayed her anti-blackness in an Instagram video where she sang the n-word, followed by a hollow first apology, followed by a second try. The actress has a history of gaslighting the black community, previously saying there were a lack of Latinas cast in Black Panther (lol), and saying black actresses were paid more than Latina actresses. 

• Homophobic chicken shop chain Chick-fil-A, which donates money to anti-LGBTQ+ groups, has been forced to close after Reading Pride protested its opening

Facial recognition AI can’t identify trans and non-binary people, new research has shown.  

• Plus-size rapper Chika, who appeared in a recent Calvin Klein billboard campaign, has hit back at trolls claiming she was promoting “unhealthy living.”

• A proposed statue of Gandhi in Manchester has been met with criticism on account of the Indian’s “well-documented anti-black racism”

• Meghan Markle opened up about how her treatment by the British press has affected her mental health. Read about her ongoing harassment

Moment of the week

Is there anything more heartwarming than this video of the sublime Malorie Blackman announcing that #Merky Books will be publishing her autobiography in 2022! 

This article is a part of gal-dem’s Race Review column, a weekly news roundup centring the issues faced by people of colour.