Labi Siffre “Something inside so strong”
Labi Siffre has a wonderful voice and his compassion and understanding of life shines through his work.
First a little background on Labi, He was born in London as Cladius Afolabi Siffre, his
mother was of Barbadian-Belgium descent and he had a Nigerian father. Siffre was educated at a Catholic independent day school St Benedict’s School in Ealing. Despite his Catholic education, Siffre has stated that he has always been an atheist. Labi’s long term partner was Peter Lloyd. They met in 1964 and they were together until Peter’s death in 2015. Over fifty years is a long time. I’ll never manage that.
The background to the poem was the weeks when there was the appalling attack on Westminster and the divisive Article 50 was passed for the UK to leave the EU. On Facebook, I see friends argue and insults flying between people who should be working together. This week, I wanted to write something that reminds us all we have different ideas but we should never forget that we have more in common than divides us.
In 1973 I attended the inaugurating meeting of the Chile Solidarity Campaign in London. The military under General Pinochet had just ousted the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and begun a campaign of terror against the workers movement, resulting in the deaths of many thousands and the exile of thousands more.
The campaign was supposed to bring together the left in a unified campaign of solidarity but instead the meeting descended into chaos as the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party squabbled over who should be running the conference. Beside me a Chilean woman was in tears. She told me that this was the problem that led to the defeat in Chile; instead of fighting the enemy the left spent most of its time fighting itself.
I draw huge comfort from listening to”Something inside so Strong” by Labi Siffre. It is a song that gives hope and is as beautiful as any poem I have ever read. He remains as clear and incisive as ever. Labi has a blog that is well worth following called “Into the Light”
North and South
We all have that mental list of hurts and grievances
The memories of the bullies bitter words and fists
Lover’s parting accusations and cruel put downs
Scar tissue whose details are undiminished by time
We are a nation of differences North and South
We are a complex of languages East and West
We are Sunni and Shia, Protestant and Catholic
We are roasted vegetables and grilled steak
We all have a mental list of our mistakes and regrets
When we accused the innocent and ignored the guilty
The incautious remark and the insult we do not remember
But sits like a stone wedged in the heart of others
We are a nation of similarities Laughter and Smiles
We are a complex of shared experiences
We are a stranger’s smile on a sunny afternoon
We are Curry and Chips, Sunrise and Sunset
We all have a mental list of what make us stronger
When we stood up to those who point the finger
When we championed the blameless against the accuser
When we held hands and not grudges
We are a world of divisions that need healing
We are British and Europeans, Women and Men
We are Scottish and Irish, English and Welsh
We are stronger United and Weaker divided
©Jeff Price March 2017