Thursday, 7 May 2009

NO BLACKS, NO GREENS, NO HAWKS

Multiple Barriers to Honest Working in 21st Century Cosmopolitan Liverpool

As a building designer, I have always found it fascinating to see how traditional peoples worldwide manage to create beautiful and functional buildings using whatever Mother Nature surrounds them with. I myself will now try and construct a narrative of some recent life experiences out of three short phrases:

NO BLACKS
I am probably about £100,000 worse off than I would have been, had certain individuals in Cosmopolitan Housing Association Liverpool been as honest and well-meaning as I - in my naivety - mistook them to be. I contend that I have been double-crossed on not one, but two occasions, where the concepts of mutual benefit and good faith would have resulted in two beautiful buildings being added to my portfolio of work. The needlessness and illogicality of those individuals' actions have led some to speculate that their motives were racially motivated. I am, after all, an African man in Liverpool.


NO GREENS
We all now acknowledge the seriousness of the issue of Climate Change. It is likely that even Cosmopolitan will have reserved some seats on the environmental bandwagon. When I invited them to climb aboard my modest little car in 2005, I looked away briefly, only to find myself reeling in the gutter, with bruises all over my bank account, and no car to be seen: they had gazumped me! The car is probably being fitted with new number plates and its solar-powered engine being replaced with the most noxious type of gas-guzzler as I write.


NO HAWKS
An employee will be on his best behaviour if he knows that he has the kind of boss who watches him like a hawk. In this case however, numerous attempts at formal complaint and appeals for investigation were met with deafening silence and blinding darkness. I am happy to credit my African ancestors with this newly-made-up proverb: "When looking into the sky for the hawk, be mindful of the ostriches on the ground". With scrutiny of this level of intensity, would it be unreasonable to fear that if one searches behind Marybone House's clean facades, one might find festering there much more malignant malpractice?

As I continue to rebuild my life from the debris of broken dreams, I think of a Spike Lee documentary I have recently watched, about 4 Little Girls murdered by white racists in Birmingham, Alabama, the year after my birth, and also of thousands in other parts of the world whose lives are still being shattered by mindless cruelty of infinitely greater proportions than I have suffered. I am thankful for the timely reminder that harder trials have been, and are being endured by braver people than I. I am also inspired by the fact that by galvanising the civil rights movement, Alabama led to Obama.


I am thankful to Cosmopolitan too, for teaching me the kind of lesson I missed in University when preparing for what used to be the gentlemanly profession of architecture. They have also helped me discover an apparent gift for words, in the process of penning numerous plaintive paragraphs, seemingly in vain, to the powers-that-be. On the rare occasions that they were responded to, the replies were constructed with lines not notable for their elegance or sincerity, but which, if there is any justice, will surely help mark the positions of one or two professional graves.


Gifts are meant to be shared, so I have sent notification of this tale far and wide - to friends, construction and housing professionals, council officials and members, journalists and broadcasters, etc. Please feel free to share it with others too. I will take full responsibility for any embarrassment or offence caused, and will happily stand up and be counted. It's time somebody did.


I would also like to share another gift with you: the story of the giant whose example inspires me to "keep laughin' instead o' cryin'". Paul Robeson's story is much more worthy of your attention than mine is, and his detractors were far more numerous and powerful, if no less unsophisticated, than mine are. My play, Call Mr. Robeson attempts to tell his epic story in a nutshell. I have also decided to publish this blog on the sixtieth anniversary of a notable visit he made to Liverpool, about which I once wrote in Nerve Magazine. He and other gifted people inspire me to keep dreaming of a world of justice and fairness, to keep believing in humanity, to realise that it is infinitely more fulfilling (even if often frustrating) to be creative and cooperative, rather than destructive and selfish, and finally to remember that though the road may be long, the climb steep, a change is gonna come.


Correspondence between Cosmopolitan and me
(zoom in by following instructions on the "view" tab):

1. Overview - TA to CHA: Unanswered appeal to board -
page1; page2; page3
2. TA to CHA. Oriel Rd. Next Steps?
3. CHA to TA: Waiting.
4. TA to CHA: Oriel Rd. first complaint
5. CHA to TA: Not interested in Langdale Rd.
6. TA to CHA: Langdale Rd - What's goin' on?
7. CHA to TA: Good faith re. Langdale Rd.
8. CHA to TA: Sorry, no complaints procedure.

Posted 25 June 2011: Notes on Report commissioned by Cosmopolitan
Posted 27 June 2011:
Special Thank you note at Everyman Theatre Closing Performance, 24 June 2011
Link to comment written in response to Architects Journal article, 15 June 2009