Week 60 – Family Roots

Nine long months away, in which time I could’ve otherwise had a baby, were coming to an end, but not before a quick stop off in Beirut, meeting up with Lowkey, DJ The Last Skeptik and Shadia Mansour, and where I stayed with my Great Auntie Suzie. She told me about a time many years ago, during Israel’s crippling occupation of Lebanon, when she was shot [almost fatally] by an Israeli soldier, so I realised that these things must run in the family.

A few days later, I was back in the UK, just in time to embark on a speaking tour of universities around the country. Every event was a success, from kicking things off at Oxford University (ironic, considering they boyed me out by not letting me in a couple of years ago), to speaking my soul through the fire with Lowkey in Cambridge and Birmingham, to planting the seeds of revolution in minds from LSE and SOAS in London, to Leeds and Huddersfield up north.

My favourite talk was at Sussex University. About a week before, students had occupied a building in protest against the education cuts currently spreading across the UK. During the occupation of Sussex House, Academic Registrar John Duffy, and Head of Security Roger Morgan, locked themselves and other members of staff in an office in the VCEG corridor. They were constantly on the phone to police and presented it as a hostage situation despite the occupiers repeatedly telling them they were free to leave in safety, like every other member of staff in the building.

They used the faked hostage situation to demand riot police attack students. Scenes of yet more police brutality were quick to hit Youtube screens across the country. Six students were arrested and subsequently suspended from the Uni, including a close friend of mine called Syed. The management used this fake hostage situation to demand a High Court give them an injunction making future occupations illegal.

As if a “High Court injunction” would stop our struggle. The very next day, a demonstration of over 500 students resulted in 300 of them re-occupying the University, and it was here that I gave my talk to a rapt audience of around 80. Living under a different kind of occupation, but fighting for justice nonetheless.

The last stop on my speaking tour was up in Edinburgh, the city that plays home to my Dad’s side of the family. It was lovely to see my Teta and Grandad, who seem to have settled down with an English language school there after decades of travelling the world. Again, it seems that I’m the inevitable fruit of my family roots.

In fact, I was on my way to the school, walking and pushing a manual wheelchair due to the disgraceful inaccessibility of public transport to my [better] electric one, when I was passed by a police car. And the police can only mean one thing – trouble.

“Do you need any help?” the driver asked.
“Not at all.” I replied.

The police car continued on it’s way, but as I was crossing the road, I heard it pulling up, and the policewoman who had been riding in the passenger seat jumping out and running towards me. Within seconds, she was standing in front of me.

“Where are you going?” she began.
“Excuse me,” I replied, trying to walk past her. After a couple of attempts she wedged her foot under one of the wheels.
“Where are you going?” she repeated.
“Why on Earth would I tell you where I’m going?”
“Where are you coming from then?”
“I’m not going to tell you that either…”
“Why are you being evasive?”

“I’m not being evasive,” I replied, “but I want you to look around right now. How many people are walking up and down this street… but you have specifically come over and stopped me, specifically asked me where I’m going and where I’m coming from, for the sole reason that I have a wheelchair. That’s the kind of discrimination I refuse to tolerate.”

People don’t like to hear the truth, and the inevitable denials began. “No,” she said, “I just saw you crossing that really big road…”
“Is that illegal?”
“…and I was worried.”
“I can assure you that you don’t need to worry about me,” I replied. But the truth is, if she was really concerned about my well-being, she wouldn’t have stopped me in the first place.

“Anyway,” she continued, pointing at the wheelchair, “aren’t you supposed to be sitting in that?”

Some people will never learn.

10 responses to “Week 60 – Family Roots

  1. Unfortunately, that last quote was hilarious …

  2. Glad to hear the talks went well. And what a stupid bitch.

  3. sarah connolly

    Jody next time someone asks that question call their bluff and say yes but theres no one to push, so could you push me to ……. that’ll sort the kind from the nosey.

  4. Elaine Cook

    good to hear a bit of revolutionary activity has entered our universities once more.judging by the numbers at your talks young students are interested and they do care.keep at it boy.

  5. LOL

    I’m sorry, but it is too funny…

    But ridiculous at the same time

  6. Jody you were great last night at Purdue. I attended it with my husband who is Palestinian. It was sooo interesting. I am very devoted to the Palestinian cause . Ayman’s family is from Jenin. I commend you for going. I look forward to reading your blog. I hope to go to Palestine one day myself.

  7. What a shame I missed your speaking tour. I found out about you existence just a little too late.

    I look forward to reading the rest of your blog over the next few days. I miss Bilin. It was a huge inspiration and galvinsed my art more than probably anything else has.

    Take care and maybe we will run into eachother one day

    Mike

  8. It was absolutely fantastic hearing you speak at Sussex. Hope you can come back sometime next year. Keep up the amazing work… I know you will anyway

  9. Susan Murphy

    I had the privilege of meeting you briefly when I was in Al Arish with the convoy last March – little did I know that you would have Norman F. share your stage ~ thank you for your testimony. You put me to shame – I think you are a blessing to people of conscience and an encouragement to all of us who try to work for peace, truth and justice ~ you speak truth to power, truly. May you continue to be a very special blessing to all your “family” in Sheikh Jarrah, Gaza, and throughout the world – your life must have touched so many in such a special way ~ thank you ~ shukran ~ small words that hardly convey what I am feeling now.

  10. Don’t know Which I am more embarrassed of Jody; the police, Edinburgh, or women. Let’s face it, none come out of this episode looking too good. There is a particularly apt four-letter word for people like this, but as your innocent wee cousins are looking over my shoulder, I had better not put it in writing!

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