Sunday, 16 October 2016

From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation

Dear Colleagues,

Just a short post to thank Brian Richardson for visiting Ruskin College on 13th Oct to deliver a blistering session, as part of Black History Month, on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the context of police, racism and the state. 

Bryan is a highly regarded barrister author and activist: ( and came to Ruskin last year to discuss his last book, Say it Loud. Here is a link to a review:

The session was very well attended by students and staff. I was really pleased to see such a high take up by students, and that Brian's session was grounded in an historical appreciation of the roots of the BLM movement in the history of brutal racist oppression, violence and murder suffered by black people across the history of the US. Brian quoted from a recent article he'd written for Socialist Review which helped provide insight and rigour to his talk:

At the heart of Brian's talk (and a core thread of his article) is that a history of exclusion and marginalisation has found modern form in the recent brutal deaths of a series of young black men at the hands of police officers. The notion that black lives matter is a stark, simple phrase designed to articulate justified rage and anger.

The article showcases the first book to document this nascent movement. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s book, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, provides a coherent account of the lineage of a modern movement with a history of repression. As Brian states in his article:

Taylor’s book goes on to demonstrate how the treatment of black people within the US criminal justice system is the most gruesome aspect of an overall experience of marginalisation and exclusion. African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts, the net worth of white households is 13 times that of black households and black life expectancy is four years lower than that of white Americans. In short, there has been a 25 year long period of increasing inequality.

The book is available to purchase here:

The long struggle for freedom is the essential thread of Taylor's book, and I shall certainly get 'round to reading this. By sheer coincidence I picked up whilst browsing in Ruskin's library Michael Honey's classic account of the Memphis sanitation workers dispute in 1967-8. Going Down Jericho Road is a seminal account of Martin Luther King's last, great battle as part of the US civil rights movement before he was murdered. It is a particular favourite of mine as it provides, alongside Jessica Tait's Poor Workers' Unions, an insight on the role of organised labour as principally social movements in the context of the civil rights movement.

Thus Taylor's book helps provide new students of black civil protest in the US, and internationally, with an up-to-date account of the emergence of the movement in historical context. Many thanks again to Brian for providing such a coherent historical means of linking BLM to the past, with an eye to the future.

In Solidarity


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Writing for a Blog: Some ideas

Dear Colleagues,

Later this year I will be running an evening course at Ruskin - one of the 'digital evenings' that form part of the exciting range of Courses for Interest: (sign up for a
session - you'll love it!)

Having written this blog for a number of years - and commented on others' blog posts - I volunteered to run the session on 6th December, Write Your Own Blog.

Although I haven't yet decided on the definitive content, I have spent a little time this afternoon thinking through the rationale of maintaining my blog - which is largely connected to issues of pedagogy - and wanted to write up some short notes (and provide links to useful blogs as resources) as part of thinking through my lesson plan for the session.

This blog started - as the header reads - to maintain contact with students/activists that I meet from across the UK and internationally. At the time I was working for both Ruskin College and the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) and this involved teaching on a significant number of short courses (and the MA at Ruskin) on a massively diverse range of trade union/employment relation issues.

Writing to reflect upon activist teaching and learning:
Sharing the outcomes to support trade union renewal
The teaching and learning would typically be quite intense and there would invariably be on-going discussions to be had and lessons to learn. Thus my first post appeared on 22nd July 2007 as a way to write and reflect upon my teaching and keep in touch with colleagues. I thought it valuable also to post pictures from this teaching (look at bottom right-hand side of the blog)  to provide a material insight on people/places/context that reflect my teaching throughout the year.

As my teaching changed at Ruskin - particularly when I became full-time to run the MA ILTUS - I started to focus also on writing/research that I though relevant to activists/officers, but the accent remained on sharing ideas from my teaching that I thought relevant, particularly in the global debate around trade union renewal.

There are many really good blogs out there - not least across the labour movement - and I'd recommend a scan of those indexed by TIGMOO:

Similarly, there are a number of notable politics blogs worthy of scanning from time to time - whether to gain an insight on good, and poor, approaches to writing:

More generically, there is plenty of sound advice on (a) creating your blog and (b) writing blog posts, for example:

My own, simple advice, on writing a blog - which probably reflects the advice/guidance out there is wrapped around several questions:
Be prepared: Think about your writing as much as the blog itself.
Why? Why are you writing and why will others want to read it? You'll see that most advice suggests that you have a good sense of what will motivate others to want to read your blog, and to keep coming back. This question will also help you look around the different options for a free (or priced) blog and to think about structure/design/layout etc. I didn't think enough about this when I started and although Blogger is OK, it doesn't have the range of layout/design options that WordPress does.

How? How will you keep yourself motivated to keep writing, not least so that the content is fresh and, linked to the above, relevant? It is a struggle to think of something good/relevant to write about on a regular basis.

What? Linked to the above is a concern both abut what you'll write about, but also whether it is written coherently and is readable. I will often write-up the text for my blog on trains and then proofread and edit in the evening. It can take a long time to (a) think of something good to write about and the (b) to write it up so that it is readable. Keeping a blog is as much about the craft of writing - as it is about the tech-side of blogging - so be prepared to spend time writing as much as typing.

When? Linked to the above, how often do you want to add content/posts? I have no formula here, but this will depend on your response to the Why question above Try not to set yourself up to be too ambitious. Life indeed gets in the way, and writing content takes time. If keeping a blog stops being fun and interesting your blog may well end up in that massive, virtual dustbin of blogs since abandoned

That's it for my advice! I am certainly no expert, but what I hope to cover during the Ruskin session in December is some sense of (a) how and where to start and (b) how to keep going.

The rest really is about your imagination and creativity.

In Solidarity