Children of the Windrush Rally Support in Birmingham

Crowds gathered in Birmingham City Centre in protest of the treatment of those known as the ‘Windrush generation’.

Campaign group ‘Children of the Windrush Movement’ organised the rally in High Street on Saturday with guest speakers such as Birmingham City University Professor Dr. Kehinde Andrews, anti-racism campaigner Maxie Hayles and community activist Desmond Jaddoo.

People waved Jamaican flags and placards that read: ‘Windrush generation here to stay’.

Rev. Desmond Jaddoo led prayers calling on people to ‘rejoice for the contributions of our elders’ while remembering those who had been ‘stripped of their jobs’ and whose ‘families had been ripped apart’.

Mr Jaddoo said: “Nobody wants to talk about our contribution. There are those who want to belittle our contributions to this country. We are here today to say enough is enough.

“Unless we unite and start looking out for one another, who’s going to look out for us. We have seen for many years that people are not looking out for us. Until we get proper black representation we will never get the justice we deserve.”

The Home Office has recently come under fire after it was revealed that Commonwealth citizens who have lived in the UK for the last 50 years have been detained, made homeless, sacked or denied health care because they have struggled to prove they are British.


The Prime Minister earlier this week issued a statement that she was “genuinely sorry” for the pain caused to victims while Home Secretary, Amber Rudd apologised for the ‘appalling actions of her own department’.

Dr. Kehinde Andrews, founder of the Organisation of Black Unity (OBU) and co-chair of the Black Studies Association, said: “We need to send a message to Theresa May, a message of amnesty and reparation. There are plenty of people that can’t come back to this country because of what this government has done.

“When we were invited here, we were invited not as citizens but as subjects. They only let us in because they were desperate. The country was gone. It was run-down. They had no people to build it. So, they asked our parents and grandparents to come from the colony and to rebuild the NHS, the housing, the drains – the whole country.

“For the last 50 years they’ve been trying to get rid of us and this is just the latest example of that.”

He added: “I was born and raised in Birmingham and I’m still a subject – subject to police brutality, subject to poverty, subject to racial discrimination but it’s not going anywhere.”

“Racism is as British as a cup of tea. It is what this country is built on.”

Maxi Hayles, said: “We must put pressure on this government. Who is next to be deported and denied rights? Are they going to turn on my daughter who was born in Worcester? Are they going to turn on my son who was born in Birmingham?”

“This government has endeavoured to murder and humiliate our people. We cannot allow this atrocity to continue.”



Birmingham Residents Patrol Streets to Tackle Rise in Crime

Residents in Handsworth Wood will start patrolling the streets in an attempt to help tackle crime in the area.

Street Watch, a joint partnership between police and local communities, has been introduced after 215 crimes were recorded there throughout February.

Though they have no powers to make arrests, volunteers receive special training from the police and are expected to commit to a minimum of two hours per month.

West Midlands Police said: “Patrols are non-confrontational and aimed at improving neighbourhoods by identifying issues such as graffiti and criminal damage.

“We have seen a huge improvement in community confidence and information sharing with the local policing teams.”

A risk assessment is also undertaken to ensure all parties are protected as much as possible.

Narinder Kaur Kooner, councillor for the Handsworth Wood ward, said: “None of us are professionals in this field but residents want to be able to look after our families and neighbourhood.”

Inspector Iftekhar Ahmed of West Midlands Police, who co-ordinates Street Watch, said: “Street Watch has operated well across the country.

“In the space of three months, we have set up schemes across the whole of the West Midlands and currently have 125 members, with interest growing on a daily basis. We are hoping to have 500 new members in 2018.”

Sukhvinder Kaur, a street watch warden, said: “Residents are usually happy to see us and there is a sense of reassurance that we are watching the streets. We have had people stop and speak to us and even come out of their homes.”

Community activist Desmond Jaddoo also welcomed the Street Watch initiative and said: “There is a greater need for partnership between the police and local communities.

“Communities have a proactive role to play in crime prevention.”

He spoke of the need for Street Watch to be able to tackle the differing issues in each neighbourhood and the fractured relationship between police and some communities.

He said: “More often than not, communities feel that the police pick and choose the crimes they respond to. It’s all about building bridges because people need to regain trust and confidence in the police.

“For areas like Handsworth Wood, there is the issue with the high rise in burglaries and fly tipping where as in places like Newtown, the issues are drug abuse and the high percentage of gun and knife crimes.

“You have to make sure the mechanism works for each individual area and that it’s sustainable.”

Talk of An Anti-War Government in Birmingham

People from all over the country packed into a meeting in Birmingham to hear ‘Why We Need an Anti-War Government’.

Stop the War Coalition (StWC) hosted the event, which took place at The Priory Rooms in Bull Street on Thursday, to mark 15 years since what was the largest demonstration in British history.

Guest speakers on the night included Stop the War Patron Salma Yaqoob, Moazzam Begg, Director for CAGE, an organisation aiming to empower those affected by the War on Terror, Stop the War Officer John Rees and rapper and activist Lowkey.

The meeting was chaired by anti-racism campaigner Maz Saleem and focused around Jeremy Corbyn, the former chair of Stop the War Coalition, with each speaker highlighting the significance of his 2017 election campaign that saw him win 40 per cent of the votes.

John Rees said: “For the first time in British history, there is a possibility of seeing a prime minister in this country who not only was chair for the Stop the War Coalition, vice chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament but one of the most longstanding and most principled opponents of imperialism and advocates of international solidarity that the Labour party has ever produced.”

Salma, previously a councillor for the Respect Party, spoke of people in the election being given ‘a real choice of anti-war government’ and a ‘vision of welfare, not warfare’.

This year, meetings have been held nationwide in places such as Newcastle, Bristol and Manchester.

The meeting in Birmingham took place to remember February 15, 2003 when two million people took to the streets of London in protest over the Iraq War.

The largest demonstration in British history was jointly organised by StWC, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain.


Recalling the march, Salma said: “People marched in solidarity and humanity for people who did not share their religion, ethnicity or nationality and to simply say ‘we are with you’ and our government is not speaking for us.

“As I walked and marched with pensioners, some of them couldn’t even afford to heat their own homes and yet made a choice between food and warmth.

“It gave me hope and I know it gave hope to millions of people around the globe.”

She also spoke of Birmingham’s role in helping to mobilise people during the London demonstration.

“It was Birmingham that sent off 200 coaches to London and we had huge contingents,” she added.

Lowkey, a musician who combines intellectual clarity with passion and integrity, said: “When the march took place and around two million people mobilised in London, you had a global mobilisation of around 30 million people. That is unprecedented in human history.

“Anti-war organising strikes fear into the hearts of those in the highest echelons.”

He added: “Britain is currently involved in 7 covert wars, though it would be hard to discern these facts from mainstream media. Its army is the fifth strongest in the world and it is the second biggest arms manufacturer.

“You have £3.8 billion of British made weapons being given to the Saudi government. They now have more British made fighter jets than the British Army have.

“Over the last three and a half years, the UK has dropped 3,400 bombs on Iraq and Syria at the cost of £133m.

That’s £133m not being used in the NHS and not being used to house people.”

Stop the War Coalition, which was founded in 2001 in the wake of 9/11 attacks, seeks to campaign against unjust wars.

Moazzam Begg, who during the 2003 march was held at Camp Echo in Guantanamo Bay, said: “You may disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on some issues but, one thing I know, he stood with us at a time when very few would, when people were terrified of siding with those accused of terrorism held in Guantanamo Bay.”

He added: “He stood many times with me on a platform campaigning for Shaker Aamer, who was held for 14 years without charge or trial in Guantanamo, tortured, coming back to the UK to meet children, some of whom he had never seen in his life.

“This was a 40-year-old living in Battersea in London.

“This wasn’t a story from Guatemala and somewhere in Africa. This was a story from Britain and nobody had the guts at that level to do anything. It wasn’t popular to do so, but he stood firm.”

John Rees concluded the meeting by addressing Donald Trump’s forthcoming visit to the UK, saying: “Donald Trump is going to come and when he comes, he has got to be met with the most enormous demonstration.

“In February 2003, we had the biggest demonstration in Britain’s political history, but the record has stood for too long.

“I want to be able to say I was part of the second largest demonstration in British political history. That’s what we need when Donald Trump lands on our shores.”





Residents in Birmingham Vent Anger over HMOs

Residents in Handsworth Wood have spoken out against the rise in shared houses in the area, labelling them a ‘blight on our neighbourhoods’.

Fly-tipping from tenants in HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) continues to be an issue for residents who say ‘the beauty of Handsworth Wood is slowly being eroded’.

HMOs are properties rented out to at least 3 people who share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

Ruth Lockley, who has lived in the area for 38 years, said: “residents are struggling to maintain the cleanliness of their road whilst tolerating such a level of disruption to their lives.”

Recently, the Handsworth Wood Residents’ Association registered their concerns to the council over an application to convert 78 Handsworth Wood Road into a 14-bedroom HMO complaining that ‘HMOs in the area are already being visited by police regularly, giving great concern to neighbours.’

Currently, any landlord wishing to rent out a property as a HMO must apply for a licence from the council.

Each licence lasts five years after which it must be renewed.

Lorraine Briscoe, a resident in the Handsworth Wood area, said: “Many landlords are just interested in the money and not the effect a HMO can have on an area.

“They often let a room to one person who brings in two other people to share the one room.”

At present the council does not have any enforcement powers over private rented sector tenants but work closely with landlords of registered HMOs to improve accommodation standards.

A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “The council has approved an approach to consider the use of Selective Licensing powers, which will help us to identify where landlords are meeting safe and proper standards.

They added: “Handsworth Wood is one of the areas we would like to look at, however we would need to consult with residents before making any decision.”

Martin White, a resident who moved to Handsworth Wood in the 90s, said: “I have loved and still love living in Handsworth Wood but do notice that things have changed quickly over the last few years and I do think that HMOs are part of the problem.

“I am a landlord and have recently filled in the survey for Birmingham City council asking whether I thought licenses for landlords was a good idea.

“I don’t relish the idea of having to pay a licence fee, but if that’s what it takes to force landlords to be responsible, then maybe a proportionate, sensible license fee is the way to go.”


African Lives Matter Protest in Birmingham

A national anti-slavery march has taken place through Birmingham City Centre to protest slavery in Libya.

The peaceful protest, organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain Marxist-Leninist (CPGB-ML), sought to raise awareness of the enslavement and torture of black Africans.

People from all over the country assembled at 12pm in Pigeon Park carrying placards that read ‘Death to Imperialism. African Lives Matter!’

Reuben Lawrence, a member of the CPGB-ML, said: “My concern is this country’s government and their involvement with Libya. This is imperialism. Slavery in the 21st century is disgusting.”

The political organisation, which was founded in 2004, seeks to ‘bring an end to NATO and British government support for Libya’s slave trading’.

Reuben, 26, who spent four years in the army, spoke of the ‘lack of power’ in Libya after the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and said: “Under Gaddafi, Libya was a really progressive government and the standards of living at that time were one of the best on the African continent.

“Now because of British and NATO intervention, unfortunately we have this situation in Libya which is a complete mess.

“People are dying. People are being sold in the streets by mercenaries that are being funded and backed by NATO.”

The protesters gathered around Pigeon Park before marching through the snow-covered streets as they chanted “Black and white unite. African slavery is wrong.”

Reuben added: “What I hope for is to send the message to the government ‘no more interventionism in other countries’ affairs.

“This is what our government have caused.

They are complicit in what’s happening in Libya right now. The slavery, the tragedy, the humanitarian crisis”.

Information about The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) can be found on their website

Love Island: The Revolution Televised

On the official launch night ITV2’s Love Island, returning for its second series, quickly amassed over two million viewers as well as an additional one million followers across respective social media platforms. Yet even with its popularity among diverse audiences, it manages to remind me that ‘old sins cast long shadows’. Love Island and shows of this nature often present themselves as a distraction from the mundane, our source of escapism via our television sets. Part of the allure lies in the choice of exotic location; a taste of the fantastical while giving us a glimpse into the lives of people playing out before us. Love Island appears at times to be unintentionally giving us a microcosm of where society lies at present. An island where rampant licentiousness is promulgated over our television screens begs the question of whether programs like these help in lowering moral standards within society. When contestants are encouraged to flaunt their sexual exploits to an audience all too happy to celebrate this behaviour, then should we also view the fascination with love island as a by-product of social movements like the sexual revolution that took place in the 1960s, which sought to influence and shape how we view issues of morality and sexuality in society?

Love Island is a show centred around contestants (islanders) thrown together in a villa located in Mallorca. Just like all good reality TV shows today, the star of the show is the ever watchful video camera, the Orwellian ‘big brother’, capturing surveillance of the islanders’ every move and relaying back to audiences every sordid detail. Within Love Island the term ‘survival of the fittest’ takes on a literal meaning, as these contestants couple up with each other motivated by first impressions, which often boils down to whether a person is fit or not, ‘love’ (or whatever constitutes love nowadays) or friendship, while not forgetting the small sum of £50,000, the ultimate prize these couples hope to attain if they survive the island without being eliminated. Far from being a model for promoting healthy, monogamous relationships, the couples within the island have the option to ‘re-couple’, essentially swapping out partners as they feel, leaving the jilted partner vulnerable and open to elimination. Ultimately, as with the general trend within the world of reality television, the public vote often is a huge factor in determining  a couples’ fate on the island, with the couples who receive the fewest votes being sent home.

It is difficult to avoid the stark parallels and not view the sexual revolution of the swinging sixties as the precursor to this. The ‘sexual revolution,’ also known as the sexual liberation was both a social and political movement that aimed to challenge the conventional attitudes and social mores of the previous generation. The post-war babies of the 40s and 50s had now become soldiers and revolutionaries in their own right, conscripted into a battle to redefine sex. It built itself on the premise that sex could no longer be repressed by church and state and instead advocated for greater sexual freedom. Once liberated from being confined to the marital bed, it was now enjoyed by those unmarried. This resulted in an increase in divorce rates whilst simultaneously giving way to a dramatic decrease in those seeking marriage. With this new attack on the intimacy of sex, it quickly became a public affair as people took to the squares, parks and public spaces as communal sex was practiced with increasing fervency.

If the sexual revolution was to succeed in setting the world alight, it needed the right amount of fuel to ignite it and found it in abundance. The introduction of the birth control pill in 1960, giving women unprecedented access to new methods of contraception meant that they were now free to practice casual sex without ‘consequences’. Innovations in the world of medicine also allowed greater sexual freedom as sexually transmitted diseases such as syphillis were now treatable with penicillin. Of course, with heightened promiscuity among sexual partners, venereal disease was still rife. However, with the shift in attitudes this was celebrated in active rebelliousness and defiance, worn like a badge of honour immune to any social stigma and ridicule. Television also became a useful tool through out the sixties. As the social and political struggles of the sexual revolution gained momentum, television, still in its infancy granted an easier and more accessible method of transmitting the views and values of the movement. People felt the sense of interaction with the social shift occurring now that television had become an effective machine for normalizing sexual behaviour.

The sexual revolution was championed by other movements of the time, most notably, the feminist movement, who equated this sense of sexual freedom as a way of gaining equality for women. With more women entering the world of employment during this period, many feminists seized the sexual revolution as another milestone reinforcing womens’ right to choose their own sexual partners without conforming to the dictates of family or religious institutions. In retrospect, it becomes difficult to view the sexual revolution as anything more than declaring it ‘open season’ on the continued objectification of women, as often, their male counterparts in this revolution only found value in the fleeting and momentary pleasure during the act of sex. Whilst sexual gratification may have been attained by both parties, it gave men free reign to detach themselves of all feeling and emotion, ridiculing women who sought deeper relationships. Framed in those terms, it seems fair to conclude that the sexual revolution of the sixties never achieved its purpose in attempting to recreate a sexual experience devoid of personal attachment.

Just as television played a crucial role in promoting this revolution to a wider audience, it feels like mainstream media are more than happy to pick up the baton dropped by the ‘soldiers of the sixties’, with television shows such as Love Island, the brainchild of a socially flawed movement. Together with the introduction of social media platforms, media corporations appear caught in a web of their own contradictions. On one hand, often leading the fight in efforts to combat and police the so called ‘dark side’ of the web in an era where with the click of a button, audiences are transported to a world where the effects of the sexual revolution are clearly seen, a world where sexual immorality is exploited all in the pursuit of profit and at the same time, television broadcasters are reverting audiences back to an age that celebrated licentiousness with shows that amount to nothing more than dramatized version of the swinging sixties.




The Nigger in the Woodpile

To think that politics had moved on from the days of Enoch Powell and his ‘Rivers of Blood’ address in 1968 would be to, at least on the surface, appear oblivious to the Conservative party and their long history of racist outbursts. In 2008, David Cameron faced surmounting pressure to suspend Lord Dixon-Smith, a Tory peer who described the government housing legislation at the time as “the nigger in the woodpile”. The fact that he was the Tory minister for communities and local government only brought with it more condemnation of his remarks. Now we fast-forward nine years and we are again made privy to how at ease members of the government are with rehearsing this racist rhetoric as Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in addressing concerns over whether the inability to reach a finalised trade agreement with the EU spelled out the UK’s downfall, stated “Now I’m sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that, but my response and my request is look at the detail, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Now we get to the real nigger in the woodpile which is, in two years, what if there is no deal?”

Miss Morris has since been suspended, amounting to nothing more than a poor attempt at damage control and has profusely apologised. This is merely a last ditch attempt to close the proverbial stable door after the horse has bolted. Or should we see her statement instead as a ‘gift horse’ – a chance to address Britain’s sordid involvement with the Atlantic slave trade, imperialism and colonialism? The response from the press and politicians alike, all in a bewildered state of shock at even a hint that the Tory party might house racist politicians is ironic considering the badly run EU referendum campaign which hinged itself on immigration as the remedy to Britain’s social ills as well as Adolf Hitler suddenly trending on the tongues of politicians like Boris Johnson, as if Hitler is a great reference point for how to run a campaign without racist undertones.

The term “nigger in the woodpile” as with most divisive terms that carry negative connotations, over time lend themselves to revision and as such, has come to describe something that is concealed and hidden from plain sight, and yet this by definition attempts to gloss over and conceal its true meaning. As unintentional as Morris suggests her remarks were, there were other colloquialisms that would have undoubtedly driven home her message while avoiding unnecessary controversy. The term refers to the smuggling and concealment of runaway slaves via the Underground Railroad throughout the 1800s at the height of slavery. The desperate struggle for freedom from the bondage imposed by slave-owners resulted in slaves hiding in stacks of pulpwood on board carriages as their only viable escape route.

Will the government impose the same standard in rooting out hate speech when it exists within the confines of their own party. With so much of the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy casting an overshadow on the wide chasm that exists between the ruling elite and ethnic minorities, it is difficult to imagine the mere suspension of Anne Marie Morris as an adequate bridge to build trust when our history and culture becomes a platform for political puns and public ridicule.

Mexico: A Tale of Two Cities

Colonialism is the immovable stain on the fabric of humanity. A nation free from its grasp may strive to erase its dark past, yet its indelible marks remain on the land and its people. Survival of the fittest, they brand it, the strong devouring the weak has become the blueprint for mass murder, providing ample justification for military occupation, the raping and pillaging of lands, the dehumanization of a people ultimately stripping an entire nation of its identity. Those that opt to defend and protect their homeland face imprisonment and death. The skewed and twisted ideologies borne out of greed, racism and a flawed theology inspire men to lay waste to whole communities.  Only when submission is seen as the only viable option is hegemony allowed to run its course, convincing a nation that their actions are morally justified, its people now contained inside the walls of their invisible prison, enjoying faux freedoms. Despite the efforts to take control of an occupied land and its indigenous people, resistance remains and victory is measured in terms of independence. And yet, as much as any oppressed nation feels a sense of liberation, the shackles of influence left behind are harder to remove.

This is the reality I saw all too clearly while travelling through Mexico City. Five hundred years sit between present day Mexico and the Mexico which the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés would have encountered in 1519, but its history is in plain view, only for those paying attention to it. There is a strange dualism that exists within the walls of this historic city, two separate cities weaved into one, each relaying their own narrative. It is no coincidence that both the Metropolitan Cathedral housed within the Zocalo that flanks the Templo Mayor or the Catholic church of Santiago in Tlatelolco within the Square of the Three Cultures, are both erected on top of Aztec ruins. Their positioning feels all the more intentional, another statement signifying dominance; Roman Catholicism, the import of Spain superseding the archaic, primitive religion of old. It is worth noting that though Cortés succeeded in desecrating the Aztec temples, known for the worship of multiple deities, most notable being Tlaloc, the god of water and Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, yet the endless canonisation of saints and the worship of Mary, to the point where Jesus appears a mere afterthought seems to have replaced the old religion only to end up with more of the same. Though Roman Catholicism now accounts for roughly 80% of people residing in Mexico, there have been huge strides within archaeology to excavate the majority of the Aztec sites. It feels much like the resilient spirit of a people, proud of their heritage and ancestry displaying their history for the world to see.

Whilst the Mexican people relish in their rich history, I often wonder whether time has been somewhat kind to the memory of Cortés. After five hundred years, he still cuts a splendid figure, his legend unmarred by the atrocities he committed in the name of the Spanish crown. Should the slaughter of thousands of innocent people and the theft of their homeland based on an ideology rooted in ethnocentrism be seen as piracy or even better still terrorism? Then again, the Spanish colonial period could also be seen as a balancing of the books with history coming full circle. After all, the Aztecs, after initially migrating to what is known as the Valley of Mexico and founding Mexico-Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) immediately implemented a system of expanding their sphere of authority and influence by carving for themselves an empire consisting of neighbouring tribes they conquered. Ultimately history is decided by its winners.

Much of ancient Aztec worship was rooted in their sacrificial system. Human sacrifice was a constant feature based on the belief that blood was the an essential component needed to enable the sun to rise every day, and became the theological framework by which they fought wars against neighbouring tribes, taking prisoners for human sacrifice. New discoveries in archaeology are beginning to shed more light on the culture surrounding Aztec human sacrifice.

It is a notion which continues to be one that we gaze upon with utter disbelief and one that seems to offend all our moral sensibilities. Our common response to these seemingly inhumane, archaic, primitive forms of worship is to look upon them with disgust and to vilify this ancient civilization that has much to teach us. As i visited these sites, I began to wonder just how the Aztecs would view our willingness to sacrifice our children on self made altars of ‘financial burden’ or the ‘altar of inconvenience’ all in the name of reproductive rights. When placed in juxtaposition with the Aztec sacrificial system, is abortion any less inhumane because our tools are sterilized or it takes place under the safe haven of a clinic?







Donald Trump, the 45th President

The crowd that descended on Capitol Hill to witness the swearing in of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump seemed sparse in comparison to the turnout in 2009 for the outgoing president, Barack Obama. But for Trump and his sea of supporters, this was a victory nonetheless. On the inaugural platform, in the spirit of democracy, Obama and Trump seemingly put aside their party politics and greeted each other with pleasantries and for that moment at least, the whole of Capitol Hill remained calm and oblivious to the acts of vandalism and revolt from anti-Trump protesters that engulfed much of Washington. In that sense the various choirs that participated in the inaugural ceremony such as the Missouri State University Chorale with their beatific voices helped to drown out the deafening sounds of dissension that has beome the defining anthem for much of Donald Trump’s political campaign. Unlike the voices that commanded a sense of stillness and tranquility to the proceedings, Trump and his administration will now take on a fractured and divisive country in the most turbulent period of America’s history.

The inaugural address, lasting the duration of twenty minutes recaptured earlier themes of nationalism, protectionism and the patriotism of the American people while delivering a verbal assault on the Establishment that has dominated Washington, reminding us that “Today we are not merely transferring power from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the people”. Does this transferring of power include the segments of society like women and the disabled that were often denigrated and made to feel powerless, or should we now cast all of Trump’s previous statements in to a box and file it away under “locker room talk?”

The tone and delivery of his inaugural address appeared intentionally devoid of all the ambiguous language that is commonplace amongst previous presidents. Trump seemed to dispose of the political prose in favour of straight talking in a dialect aimed at reaching all America. Though his lack of prowess on the podium of politics has become an indictment of being unqualified for the newly assumed position, in time it may prove an aid in pointing out the dissimilarities between his government and the Establishment he hopes to topple. The address was very heavy on promises, without the slightest indication on how he was to deliver on them, and on numerous occasions, the new president resorted to his default campaign catchphrases such as putting “America First”. I suppose just how he plans to implement his policies will become much clearer in the days and weeks that follow. Hopefully, statements referencing “the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen so many lives” will not just be reduced to clever soundbites, but instead we will begin to see the ways he seeks to combat these issues. Often the address took a more socialist slant with an eloquence similar to that of his predecessor suggesting that “whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky and they are infused with the same breath of life by the Almighty creator. At this juncture it is difficult to discern whether this reimagined utopia Trump speaks of is just mere hyper-patriotism keeping with the traditions of the inaugural address dating as far back as 1789 in Washington’s own address.

There is undoubtedly an air of uncertainty when considering what shape a presidency under Trump will take. Perhaps this was communicated early in the inaugural ceremony when the Missouri senator Roy Blunt recited a letter from Major Sullivan Ballou addressed to his wife, Sarah. Written in 1861, the letter speaks of Sullivan’s resolve in the heart of battle. Certainly Blunt referenced this letter, hoping to stoke the fires of patriotism and nationalism lying dormant in the citizens of America but the line that unintentionally seems to capture the shared sentiments for those in America and elsewhere with a heartfelt poignancy is: “Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure – and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me”…

The Night the Secular Stole Christmas

The sacred space that Christmas once occupied in celebrating the birth of Christ seems to be disappearing at a rapid pace, leaving in its place a festival void of all religious value. For the millions that partake in this festive event each year, Christmas has been reduced to its warm sentimentalities such as the decorated trees, the pandemonium of last minute shopping, the exchanging of gifts and the family gathered round the dinner table. It has been suggested that relatively few people ‘have any idea of the process by which the heathen elements have become mingled with that which is obviously Christian, and equal obscurity prevails as to the nature and meaning of the non-Christian customs.’

Addressing the culture’s readiness to remove anything remotely Christian from this religious observance may begin to shed light on why so many varying faith groups feel at ease partaking in the celebrations. There was a time when a robust Christian theological framework was a prerequisite for celebrating a Christian festival. Indeed, there are many contributing factors to consider when trying to map out a clear trajectory of how we reached this juncture.

This melting pot of worldviews came to a head in 17th century when religious leaders known as the Puritans banned Christmas on account of its unbiblical origin and put forward a motion to view Christmas as a day of repentance as opposed to a day for idle feasting. Even in Britain, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, Christmas was removed from the list of holy days with the threat of imprisonment hanging over ministers who preached on Christmas Day. The contention around Christmas continued well into the 19th century when Christmas Day became an official bank holiday.

These frequent attacks on Christmas often seem to be guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It is plausible that the church set 25 December as the date in which to celebrate Christmas as a rebuttal of the winter solstice and the festival Saturnalia held in honour of the Roman deity Saturn. This festival began on 17 December under the reign of the Emperor Augustus but by the end of the empire had progressively extended to seven days, ending on 24 December. Saturnalia existed as a gathering and a communion of sorts where participants enjoyed gambling, feasting, the exchanging of gifts and an affinity for spending money. The Greek philosopher Libanius remarks that it eventually gave rise to a heightened sense of materialism among the Roman elite.

Saturnalia brought with it a reversal in societal norms with distinctions between social class and status being set aside. Slaves were permitted to dine with their masters in a banquet usually reserved for the privileged.  It is important to note that these elements that are entrenched in our understanding of a modern Christmas were hallmarks of a pagan worldview long before Christianity was established. Against this backdrop, Kelly (2004) rightly points out that “Christmas provides a sense of prayerful or at least moral behaviour in sharp contrast to pagan license”.

Brumalia, which began on 25 December was essentially a feast to commemorate the shortest day. As the cold winter season became an obstacle to the livelihood of Roman citizens within agriculture and hunting, Brumalia was a time where people would offer sacrifices to the deity Saturn through intermediary priests. This was then followed by Sigillaria, where parents gave dolls to their children. Though there are similarities between the two religions, Golby and Purdue (2000) state: “the pagan winter festivals were closely linked with the affirmation of man’s relationship with the forces of nature and his ability to placate and encourage them’ whereas Christianity presented nature as being subordinate to its creator and emphasising the importance of Jesus’ birth.”

From the year 280 until 342 A.D, a bishop was vested to govern the region of Myra located in what was formerly Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). During his lifetime, he lived to see three emperors ascend to the throne – Diocletian, Maximilian, and Constantine. This bishop was born to wealthy parents who tragically died while he was still young leaving him a small fortune. During the Emperor Diocletian and Maximilian’s persecution of Christianity, he was exiled and imprisoned. In 325, he was invited by the request of Constantine to attend the council of Nicea to help wave off the Arian heresy sweeping through the church. Throughout his life he became renowned for his humanitarian work and acts of generosity. His name was Nikolaos of Myra. Today, depending on where you are in the world, you may know him by one of his many monikers – In France he is Pere Noel, in Germany and Austria he is Christkind, but to the majority of people he is Santa Claus.

Many erroneous falsehoods have fed the legend of Santa Claus, who far removed from the real historical figure of Nikolaos, has re-emerged as a mythic being who for the most part, ‘seems to be descended from a hodge podge of figures, none of whom have any connection to Christmas or Jesus of Nazareth’ (Lowe 2010:2) The term Santa Claus first became embedded in our conscience, when ‘Old Sancteclaus’ became the central theme of a 1821 book entitled ‘The Children’s Friend, in which he appears on Christmas Eve. As if back by popular demand, he makes a second appearance in Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 prose ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas, this time furnished with a reindeer and sleigh and an ability to climb down chimneys.

Santa Claus brings with him a deluge of issues and concerns. In a culture that are all too happy to disseminate lies to young children, Santa is now presented as an alternative to Jesus, a redeemer figure. In the eyes of the impressionable, his red robes exude importance and a certain majestic quality while his long white beard denotes age, maturity, wisdom and experience. As well as being omniscient as relayed in the festive jingle, ‘he knows when you’re naughty or nice’ as if attaining a sort of Christ like judicial office whereby he can judge the hearts and motives of children, Santa Claus harnesses the ability to perform miracles. Restad (1995) suggests that “Santa combined characteristics of God, Jesus, and human parents into a presence embodying love, generosity, good humour, and transcendence”.

In some ways this image of Santa helps to perpetuate society’s bent for materialistic greed where he is able to provide every child’s desire with a resounding ‘yes’. Restad demonstrates a poor framework for the message of Christmas when he said: “the Santa myth made available a person that could further the child’s understanding of religion and fortify symbolically the parents own sense of the same”. It still remains that if parents together with educational and religious institutions fail to make clear distinctions in highlighting the person and work of Jesus, the sanctity of Christmas will forever be lost to us.