In the wake of the London riots, Speech Debelle decided to give away a new track featuring Roots Manuva and Realism. Along with the track came this reflection on the riots. Even if one does not agree with the message below, I found it to be an interesting read and believe that there is some truth therein. Moreover, I believe that this letter in an effort to begin a dialogue that was otherwise muted by the wave of violence in early August.
‘I wrote this track months ago for my second album, and it wasn’t due for release until next year. But after the events of this week I want to give it away right now. I feel it could give insight into the hearts and minds of some of the people that have taken part in, not only the peaceful marches for Mark Duggan in Tottenham and the Smiley Culture march for justice, but also I believe it speaks of the frustration of many young people who took part in the rioting and the consequent looting over London and areas of the UK. I am not attempting to condone, I’m attempting to be a voice of understanding.
It’s without doubt that what these young people have been doing is destructive and shameful. Their greed for material things and appetite for destruction is unhealthy and selfish. It is not how we should live as a society. BUT I have to say destruction has become a form of communication and expression for so many young people.
These young people are not aliens dropped down from outer space on Friday night, they are our children. They go to our schools and are taught the curriculum our government has set out for them. They watch the films we write direct and produce and star in. They fantasize about computer games we imagine and sell them. They eat the food we produce packed with e numbers and feed them. We cannot say there is something wrong with them without acknowledging there must be something wrong with us as a society.
They are a big part of our future and we contribute to the creation of our futures. They are a continuum of what has come before them.
In the same way a child takes in the feeling of comfort from their parents about the environment they’re born into, they take on the fear and frustration of the environment they are born into. You cant have a conversation with an average person these days without them complaining about banking debt and how it affects them, the university fees, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the role our government has played, the phone hacking and media attack on privacy, the rise of the cost of living and cuts in services and education because of the greed of the privileged minority.
They hear these cries from the adults of this society and they have it right there in front of them on their TVs saying “this generation of young people have less opportunity then the generation before them.” They have been fed these things but cannot express these feelings of frustration in a mature way because again, their form of expression has become destruction and their environment provides them the fuel. This does not mean these frustrations are not real.
People have asked why they are destroying buildings and property from their own communities but they look at them as just buildings that do not belong to them, and never will. Only people who cannot envision a positive future will take part in the destruction of their own community and if we acknowledge that, then we to ask the question why somebody so young feels they have so little to look forward to? I cannot allow myself to de-humanize these kids and see them as my enemy.’
Speech Debelle 9 August 2011