Stormzy, Top Boy, Windrush - The clear and present Danger of Tokenisms’, and their First’s.
Stormzy's performance, on the main stage as Glastonbury's headliner act, was greeted with a first, of which with media "spin," and racially charged anecdotes, acted as an anointment subconsciously sincere to the word of God- a performing Stormzy akin to the body-politic that represent the ode to a joy- And even though, referencing the sanctity of God might be a vernacular spin a' stretch too far, Stormzy's performance, in some manner of union, was a portrayal of an emotional symbolism of a past codenamed Black, and in stunning effect a chronicle archiving the methods, and junctures of a moving history, unresolved.
It goes without saying that Black culture is religious, which is to say that the culture stands in fear of the God ancestors gave the culture before whom the culture shakes. Consequently the media did goad a rapping affirmation, and by prodding at the black underbelly, with the incisive monotony conducive with race and racism in the UK, Black people, whether Stormzy fans or not, by virtue of creed did watch the stage lights cover the very black of Stormzy's complexion. And whilst the baptism of water symbolically poured over every facet of “oppressed” skin, amongst the black diaspora; the relation of a reality, via the eloquence of African oral heritage was shared, the immediacy in which expression evolves and revolt was very much felt, and confronted with the actual or potential significance of pride, the tokenism of good will remains the assumption that such an act of clemency has the power to transform the static racial quo, when it is thin, passionless, and sincerely noted when the "common" review of the performance, was left to debate whether it was really Skunk Anansie; the first.
The cultural basics of black music, and how the music itself supports these basics represent both the medium, and impulse of black culture; by way of lineage, by the confidence of tradition, and whilst the underlying narrative of race and racism, on a Glastonbury stage juxtaposed a visionary black man, in the grand scheme of things- genocide, oppression, generational poverty- the stage act, maybe not for the first time dancing a jig notably paled, and still pales in significance. And though revellers cheered, for whatever emancipated reason, or not, and reviews were written, and culturally significant comparisons were deservedly made, away from the oral heritage, the tokenism; within the confides of a minority still symbolically acts as something that will help dissipate the singularity of a "Stormzy" performance, on a "white" platform; the all purposeful "first", in many respects a symbolism conjuring up visions of sunlit housing estates, where liberated looks no longer slur their p's and q's, even though after many firsts the crux of the racial viewpoint is still holding a staunch, unliberated gaze.
Top Boy is a British television crime drama series, first broadcast on 31 October 2011 on Channel 4. Set on the fictional Summerhouse housing estate in Hackney, East London, the series follows the lives of a group of people involved in drug dealing and street gangs, primarily set against the backdrop of generational poverty. After the first initial social traction a second series began airing on 20 August, 2013, and in November, 2017, it was announced that following interest from Canadian rapper Drake, Netflix had revived the series, making it possible for Top Boy to premiere on Netflix globally on 13 September 2019.
“…pathological? Subversive? Is it unremorsefully Deviant?”
The plot is a story like any other- where each event affects the next through the principle of cause-and-effect- and as such, within the layered dynamics of drug-related utopian pursuits, particular nuances standout, like the analogy such as Top Boy is Greek Tragedy, when all the players are subject to the whims of the gods. (In this case, the institutions.) Top Boy, for the most part is written how people actually talk - not how they talk on TV, a drama series that accentuate the societal issues that create the crime, and how for a lot of people, especially those at the "bottom", it's all just a numbers game. Fundamentally, Top Boy is a drama series, under the banner of entertainment, telling the story of the school system, and how it's doomed to fail and keep replacing the cast; the system they’re rooted in, a drama series that allows inner-city empathy, and malevolent condolences to engage with beautiful, flawed, appalling people, all of them trying to deal with a fucked-up world.
And whilst some critics reviewed Top Boy as a drama involving “virtually no preaching at all”, and “a sense of morality was everywhere”, and scenes drew attention to "banter on stairwells", or "the melancholy beauty of the city at night", standout nuances also include an entertainment industry feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade, and how it has become possible to streamline Black heritage, as well as stealing from those who themselves are stealing the lifeblood from a city, and a culture. According to socially aired guardians of an already repeatedly appropriated culture, it is a perceived “entertainment” that fundamentally is a parasite leeching off the culture of drugs and the generational users, it does not articulate the complexity of the plotting and the courageous nature of the storylines, there is no brilliant dialogue, and under the scope of a diaspora attached to a matter of union, of which Top Boy centres around, the cultural connotations of contemporary black principle remain argued, challenged, and opposed- Leaving questions such as: is Top Boy pathological? Subversive? Is it unremorsefully Deviant?
As a matter of reference, regarding the strained appetite for Top Boy, since the seventies the “ghetto” narrative has left its mark on a range of cultural productions, of which customarily include music videos to ghetto lit, from vogue to motion picture, from unruly uninhabited child of the thoroughfares to alternatively spelt taglines. And borne out of the tokenism afforded Top Boy; being the “class” of drama series it first was, for the “kind” of people that have always been the social subject-matter they are, the re-affirmation, through the medium it has chosen as shown how the tokenism effect, can ultimately entrench itself in a stereotypical mould that is hard, and virtually impossible to break.
And none more so than the treatment of the children of the Windrush generation- a generation who moved to the UK from the Caribbean- and largely against the backdrop of a struggle to avert Enoch Powell’s kitschy divination about a race war from coming true. And as such, asking your everyday black people in the UK, chances are they’ll be able to relate the picture of every few weeks they are afforded another exemplar of the stubborn survival of antagonism and indifference. And yet, the undemocratic nature of the injustice such as the Windrush scandal- the illegal and immoral displacement of the Windrush generation and her children- is a scandal so staggering that prime ministers, and home secretaries have been forced to apologise.
What the Windrush saga has shown is the ruthless politics of contemporary Britain, in which apartheid and ignominy indiscriminately wins votes, despite the wrong in denying people what are evidently their moral and legal rights, despite their contribution to society and culture, despite their first; of which was marketed as an inaugural precedent- preceding all others in time, order, and significance- a first of which should have cemented Britain’s commitment to ridding her shores of persistently intolerant people, the saga demonstrating that despite the first; the intolerance reigns as forthrightly as the laws ratified by British monarchy government.
Tokenism, in the context displayed- what does it mean? What does it say?
While Stormzy's mega performance was labelled a first; that raw energy, whilst allowing himself to be vulnerable and fully inclusive at the same time, because he was black, because the act is the moral, neatly framed like those civilising proverbs barely hanging on the wall of an unfurnished residence, beneath the ability of Stormzy's act able to add charm to an oral sadness, the tokenism of the first, after many firsts and generations later is still the singular adverb that is fundamentally a first, many times over. And as long as Top Boy, and other T.V. cases in point, since the 70's are viewed by a Black diaspora as a slow and protracted model; as far as racial identity and its non-harassed advancement is unwillingly concerned, dancing symbolic jigs, or dramatizing stereotypes, despite legendary voyages, what’s required is still a visionary and realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of racial cohesiveness. And despite these sought after firsts, middle-aged black folk, and their young still harbour dreams of storming Westminster in a red, black and green liberation jumpsuit, the generation still teaches the next initiation about pictures of pigs shooting down boys just like you in the instant replay, and Malcolm X quotes still hold reverence.
Alas, the Black “position” still articulates the customary social assemblies and principles, and indisposed upsets that conceive unpleasant enticements, an understanding, sadly appreciating the empathy that we are- society as a whole- wrongly overuses the oral heritage's finite resources, and subject to a social rationale, where the goal needs enough, and maybe not more, as to what tokenism has come to mean; to do "excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way"; will, and might never be a first oral mantra to be proud of.