Saturday, August 14, 2021

"Every second street name is a shout out to my captors": Roger Robinson's "Citizen I"

In Roger Robinson's "Citizen I", from his collection "A Portable Paradise" (Peepal Tree 2019), an immigrant to the United Kingdom in danger of being deported  after decades in the country observes that "[e]very second street name is a shout out to my captors." A shoutout is a public acknowledgment of someone who has made some kind of contribution to an individual, institution, or culture. Here, the speaker has made that contribution by doing the daily, low-paid work that keeps a society running, yet streets are named not after such workers but after those who became wealthy and influential by enslaving their ancestors – who also did the work that kept society running. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 August 2021)


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