For a second time, I have been invited to perform at the Cabaret of Freedom. It is once more happening on the week of my birthday, and it is among the most beautiful present anyone could ever given me, especially with the week I had been having. So, to find myself in the midst of so much talent, sharing my music, and celebrating the legacy of the legend that is James Baldwin, was the cake, the icing and the cherry on top.
Of course, I have a very specific opinion of the man. I have the utmost respect for the fire I believe his words, written or spoken have filled in many a heart, many a mind. I speak of the song of his verb with my own fussy tongue in a dedicated article. But there, in St John’s church that graciously hosted this gathering, I got to imagine aloud that his spirit was among us as I sang Swollen, then Your Way. Those two very different songs embody the two sides of the golden coin that is James Baldwin, respectively the fighter and the lover. It takes a lot of love for humanity to dare to fight where many arms have collapsed in surrender. It takes great passion to believe against the odds of an era and a home that bullies you into corrupting your real nature to fit within its unrecognised and diplomatically embellished shortcomings.
So I understand the letter of Jamaican poet Kei Miller1, revolting against the legend’s absence. It is the cry of a child missing his spiritual father. That cry strikes a chord or two when you understand the void created by a visionary who had answers to events that happened after his time. My mind echoed that cry so well voiced by the poet. Such insight, strength, teachings can only be all the more missed. Such voice and the power of such a reply could only make such a difference today.
Between the moving tales and stunning readings by award-winning writer Jackie Kay, SuAndi, and author and hostess Shirley May, the talented poets in Young Identity, the range of Segun Lee-French, the sweet voice of Billie Meredith, the audience at St John’s Church was spoilt.
I hope I have given as much if not more of all I wished to share on this unique occasion. What makes these moments even more worth it is when the audience catches your drift. All I can say is that having Kei Miller cry at my songs is the most hugging experience – after all I have heard the heartfelt candor of his work.
Christ almighty!! At Baldwin event at @McrLitFest, and tiki black’s songs has me in pieces! Need to stop crying before I read. 😳
— Kei Miller (@keimiller) October 13, 2018
Every comment is just a welcome hug and my gratefulness knows little bound.
— Rosie Garland (@rosieauthor) October 13, 2018
Being blown away by powerful new poems by members of @YoungIDmcr & the amazingly haunting & beautiful voice of singer Tiki Black
— Manchester Lit Fest (@McrLitFest) October 13, 2018
What an amazing evening at St John's Church Old Trafford for the Manchester Literature Festival. Fantastic poetry, prose and music celebrating James Baldwin. Wow!
— Winston Bailey (@W1nnah) October 13, 2018
One thing I did not expect was the anticipation. https://www.facebook.com/events/1819519191488787/permalink/1821852844588755/. Just check out how packed the event was. https://twitter.com/McrLitFest/status/1051180584750522370?s=19
The event organiser was James Walmsley and a host of amazing volunteers and was supported by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. The amazing Baldwin portrait featured is the creative oeuvre by Stanley Show.
- with new work inspired by Baldwin, commissioned by MLF, and sponsored by the Royal Literary Fund,