Bocas Lit Fest

by Ashlee Burnett, #bocas2018 Youth Blogger

Facts are often hard-hitting. They make swallowing the truth bruise your throat because of how harsh they are. We still welcome them, even though pain exists. Knowing the facts feels like a cool and soothing breeze on the wound.

At the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, you will know truth. You will experience a rude awakening in every sense of the word, through knowgasms and the birth of ideas. There is absolutely no doubt that learning will not escape you. It’s amazing how the festival appeals to every niche you can think about. It is not just a festival of books, it is a festival of life — what keeps us going and inspired.

The name Afua Hirsch will go down in history, as someone who is unapologetically frank and honest in her writing and commentary. The Old Fire Station became a history museum, where buried knowledge was exhumed for inspection by the UK journalist and author of Brit(ish), Afua Hirsch, and the Festival Founder and Director, Marina Salandy-Brown.

Brit(ish) speaks on race, identity and belonging. The conversation explored nationalism and the ethnic tensions in contemporary Britain. Being stuck between Ghanaian heritage and a mixture of white and Jewish, Hirsch has always been asked “the question”…

Where are you from?

Imagine being born in a place that does not recognize you, a place that defines you as not “British enough” or “other”…

As a black woman, as she’d call herself, Hirsch has been racially profiled, being forced to show her ID upon entering the university she attended, whilst the white folk walked in freely without having to prove they belonged there. The main theme of her conversations targeted marginalization, how race and class play a huge part in Britain, that even in a land that encourages the mantra of not seeing race, race is still a big part of the viewing.

Of course being that loud on a topic, partaking in panel discussions, writing columns will step on “conservatives’ toes” but Hirsch encourages, “You’ve got to be relentless with your facts. You’ve got to be the grownup in the conversation, in the face of hysteria.”

The conversation on race is always a touchy subject. People shy away from it because it brings things out of the closet, the monsters they hide under their progressive wear. The only way to move forward is to talk about it, acknowledge that it does exist. This is why the work of Afua Hirsch is so important. It hosts the conversation whether or not you like it. It forces people out of the closet of denial, to show their true colors, to share what they have always wanted to say.

Afua Hirsch, flanked by two of the 2018 NGC Bocas Lit Fest Youth Bloggers, Ashlee Burnett and Apphia Barton.

“Race is a system, it’s a structure that has been invented to distribute advantage to certain groups. Saying you don’t see race means you don’t see history. You become a part of the problem instead of the solution.” — Afua Hirsch.

The world, this country, needs people who aren’t afraid of the work or the conversation, people who are bold in their truth, whose knees aren’t weak to stand up for their beliefs. Afua Hirsch has proven that to achieve this, you must refuse to bend to fit in, even when everything or everyone is against you.

Ashlee Burnett is a 20 year old poet and teaching artist with The 2 Cents Movement. Her blogging and poetry explores social commentary, politics and body politics. She blogs at Ashlee Burnett.

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