I know it’s been almost two weeks since British grime artist Stormzy’s performance at The Brit Awards. But it’s still resonating with me, loudly.
Young black kids growing up need to see representation of themselves in high places, and they need to feel that if they do great work in their respective fields, they will get acknowledged for it.
Stormzy’s win was an important moment.
Not only did he pick up Best British Male and Best Album awards for his groundbreaking debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, but he also gave an incredible performance; uniting religion, social commentary and a celebratory anthem all in one performance.
Opening with his gospel track ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2’, accompanied by back-up singers sporting balaclavas, he brought us back to his debut album’s remarkable cover art. This song resounds with me deeply, as I grew up in a strongly Christian household, where church was the norm for me every Sunday.
But just like Stormzy, as a young black man growing up in London, the temptations of the “endz” were always around me. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I was able to navigate through many difficult situations I was faced with growing up, however.
Then came ‘The Moment’. It was a freestyle for the times, going at Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of the Grenfell tragedy. Stormzy could have just used his platform to perform his hits, but he chose to use it to go at the powers that be. The words have been widely reported, but bear repeating: “Where’s the money for Grenfell?/ what you thought we just forgot about Grenfell?/ you’re criminal, and you have the cheek to call us savages/ you should do some jail time, you should pay some damages.”
Stormzy points the finger back at the government
Some in the media continue to get in a twist over this. But these words echo the sentiments of so many ethnic minorities growing up in London. We see the government ignoring our communities and instead police target us, assuming that most of us are criminals.
Stormzy points the finger back at the government, for ignoring us. Stormzy is speaking for the masses, ironically doing what the politicians are supposed to be doing. He is a force to be reckoned with. As a powerful black man, who is not scared to speak out, he is a serious threat to the old ways; as we are not used to seeing someone of Stormzy’s background in the powerful position he sees himself today. I love it and I want to see more of it.
He also used this moment to shout out the Oscar-nominated Daniel Kaluuya and model Jourdan Dunn, who are both significant people in the entertainment industry making noteworthy strides forward for black people in places were black faces are very uncommon. These are black people who are breaking down barriers for those coming after them.
As a grime fan, I love seeing our golden boy shutting things down at The Brits. But more importantly as a young black man growing up not too far from him, it gives me and others like us hope that we can rise up and become stars. We all complain about knife and gun crime in urban areas of London, but the problem is representation.
If you cannot see yourself in high positions, you will never believe you can get there.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
But with examples such as Daniel Kaluuya, Jourdan Dunn and Stormzy all managing to break into the mainstream, this will have a domino effect. A disenfranchised youth will start to believe that they can be in those positions of power themselves.
My hope is that our youth can go from loving gang culture to wanting to be successful and recognised entrepreneurs. Because if Stormzy can do it, why can’t you?
Main image: NRK P3