Please Help Enoh Meyomesse!

Image

 

when


            i


              get out


                                    of here


          a different man


          i’ll be

i’ll bear no grudge against the earth


i’ll bear no grudge against the sea


i’ll bear no grudge against the forest


i’ll bear no grudge against you
 

 

i’ll pile up mounds of joy within my heart


i’ll pile up mounds of exultation in my heart


i’ll pile up mounds of jubilation in my
heart


because


             i will have overcome you


             solitude


             despondency


             despair


             hatred


             hardships


                            which have no name
 

                                   HUMILIATIONS


             i will have


                                    OVERCOME


                                                         you all

when


            i


              get out


                                    of here


            a different man


            i’ll be


 


policemen


   officers


      magistrates


         prosecutors


            judges


               handcuffs


                   cells


                        derision


                             mocking


 
UGH!


 
all i will have left is you


dark shadow of death


to


            a


                        gi


                                    tate


                                                            MY SOUL

 

In conjunction with PEN International, YorkPEN would like to bring to the forefront of our campaigns, the case of writer, historian and president of the National Association of Cameroonian Writers – Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse.

 After a year in prison prior to his sentence, Enoh Meyomesse has finally been sentenced to seven years in prison. His sentence is an alleged “complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold” which PEN believe is politically motivated and are calling for the Cameroonian authorities to quash the sentence and to restore Enoh Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally to his normal life.

 We have also been informed that not only is Enoh Meyomesse allegedly wrongfully imprisoned, but that his right to free speech has been revoked, with his current literary works confiscated and use of the prison’s computer room prohibited. To read some of his past work, like the one above, please follow this link: http://www.englishpen.org/a-world-of-poets-enoh-meyomesse/

 YorkPEN implore you to take action to help restore writing facilities to Enoh Meyomesse and to campaign for his release.

 Ways to help:

 1)    You can write a letter to the prison administrator in protest of Enoh Meyomesse’s treatment and imprisonment. Follow this link for help and inspiration for the content of your letter and the address to send it to: http://www.englishpen.org/cameroon-author-enoh-meyomesse-prevented-from-writing-in-prison/

 2)    Send a letter of support to Enoh Meyomesse. Email yorkpen@yusu.org and we will forward on your message to him.

 3)    Write to the Cameroon High Commissioner to appeal for Enoh Meyomesse’s liberty, or you can fill out the sample letter. For all this information, follow this link: http://www.englishpen.org/a-world-of-poets-enoh-meyomesse/

 To keep helping:

  • If you are a student of the University of York, you can join our society and come to our meetings – Tuesdays at 6.15 at the Deramore Arms. For any information, just email yorkpen@yusu.org
  • Join English PEN and receive their updates on other international cases and opportunities to help: http://www.englishpen.org
  • Can you translate French-English? We’re looking for translators for Meyomesse’s work, to be published online. Do get in touch!

 

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Vote no to the No Platform Policy, yes to free speech

As you may or may not be aware, YUSU is holding a referendum on a ‘No Platform’ policy next week. If passed, the policy gives the staff of YUSU the power to choose who speaks at the University.

It states that if a student lodges a complaint about a speaker coming to York, the 5 full-time YUSU officers vote on whether a speaker will be allowed to speak. The new powers would award the Union the ability to deprive them of a platform.

This policy would compound extensive powers the Union already wields over speakers. YUSU can dictate the subject matter of some talks – including the outright banning of certain topics of discussion – an entitlement it used several times last year. The new power would be a much more disturbing movement away from the culture of free speech. If passed, it would not only undermine the very protection that societies seek under good union, but would deal a harmful blow to true academic debate.

There will always be people who disagree with a speaker’s views – it is the very nature of political debate. Without disagreement, debates do not further. Picture a debate in the House of Commons with only one party on both sides of the room – the air would be stale with agreement, and the antagonistic fizz that drives progress long bubbled away. True debate requires an argument of two sides, even if not necessarily in the same room at the same time.

Yet the proposal presumes that attendees of a talk would be brainwashed by bigoted propaganda, an assumption both patronizing and insulting to the swathes of students who may go to see speakers for various reasons. The vast majority of us see ourselves as independent agents who explore our own beliefs and ideas, and who are both willing and able to disagree. The institution of any university exists as a place of debate, and should not be mistaken for a political mouthpiece. It is in such privileged institutions that we come to understand our enemies, precisely so that we can undermine them.

I am not condoning racism or fascism. It is far too easy, however, to frame this policy as an attack purely on the BNP et al, without considering its long-run implications for other speakers whose ‘controversial’ views are, in fact, best explored in the speech itself. This is not a curtailing of free speech for the speaker so much as the society who invites them – this policy would send out the message that the Union is only willing to represent students whose views accord with its supposedly neutral views. At this point, you may argue that I am misrepresenting the function of this policy, available here. Among other traits, it proposes to deny platforms to those who “Reject the principle of popular sovereignty as the sole basis of legislation, and/or the right to free speech.” Muse on the irony of the final phrase for a few seconds before moving on.

Indeed, much of the time, we invite bigoted speakers for the very purpose of allowing them to lambast themselves. Just think back to Nick Griffin on Question Time in 2009, and question whether the idea that ‘platforms’ are necessarily positive for the speaker still stands. Or, what of speakers who hold questionable private beliefs, but are here to talk about dance, microbiology, tennis, or their latest novel – not their views on, say, their home country? The policy makes no mention of the reasons for inviting the speaker, or their topic, which may be wildly exaggerated and misrepresented by opponents.

Furthermore, the concept that the members of the Union are both politically neutral, and suitably studied in the kinds of issues associated with this form of censorship, is debatable. I mean no personal disrespect when I point out that the majority of us voted for the Sports Officer to look after our rugby tours, not to make value judgments on the merits of a speaker. With a voting majority of only 1 person in a 5-person vote, the final decision would be both arbitrary and unrepresentative of the 16,000 students the Union represents.

And while the current committee may well address the merits each speech honourably, YUSU has a vested interest in avoiding the kinds of people who bring ‘bad press’ and who are likely to get External Relations on their backs. Sadly, it is much easier for the Union just to vote against a speaker in order to avoid the hours of emailing and risk-assessment that they might entail. All too easily, subsequent committees might relax their standards of interrogation. In doing so, they would undermine the very protection that sovereign societies seek under YUSU.

Democracy is a fundamentally uncomfortable situation – while it gives us the right to vote for our own beliefs, it also affords others the right to vote for theirs. If YUSU is able to block a society’s right to free expression, then we will have voted to bend the rules of democracy to serve only our own purposes – not those of democracy. That is not the function of a solid union that claims to represent us all.

The referendum begins at 9.00 Thursday 3rd May (this week) and runs until 12.00 Wednesday 10th (week 3). Take the time – vote NO.

Gillian Slovo at York

This term, The Dept of English and Related Literature at the University of York welcomes Gillian Slovo, distinguished South African born writer and President of English PEN, as its John Tilney writer in residence.

This is extraordinarily exciting for us at York to have such a key player amongst us and we urge members of YorkPEN studying English Literature to get involved with the workshops she is running. Seb

gillian_slovo

The information below has been written by Professor Hugh Haughton at the University. 

Biography

Gillian lives in London. She is a novelist whose thirteen published books include five detective novels, a family saga, Ties of Blood (1989), and a thriller, The Betrayal (1991). Her family memoir, Every Secret Thing (1997), which tells the story of her parents, the prominent anti apartheid activists, Joe Slovo and Ruth First, and the impact of their political engagement on their family, was an international best seller.  Her novel, Red Dust (2000), set around a fictional hearing of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, won the prix RFI Temoin du monde in France and was made into a feature film of the same name starring Hilary Swank and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Ice Road (2004), her novel set in Leningrad of the 1930s, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Her most recently published novel An Honourable Man (2012) is set in nineteenth century Khartoum and London and tells the story of General Gordon’s disastrous expedition to stop a Jihad.

Gillian also has created verbatim plays. Her co-authored Guantanamo – Honour Bound to Defend Freedom (2005) played, among other places, in London, Stockholm, New York, and  Washington DC.  Her verbatim interviews with women politicians was part of  the 2010 Tricycle Theatre’s Women, Power and Politics season, and in 2011 her verbatim piece, The Riot (2011) played to sold-out audiences both in the Tricycle and in Tottenham’s Bernie Grant Arts Centre to where it transferred.  Gillian is also a   reviewer for several English newspapers and for the radio review programme Saturday Review, and she is a columnist whose main subject is her mother country, South Africa.  She is President of English PEN, a position she has held since 2010.

How to get involved!

Gillian will be taking two weekly workshops for undergraduates and graduates of the Department as well being available for individual consultations with students wanting to discuss their writing. The workshops will take place weekly throughout the term (with the exception of June 30th) at 11.15 and 2.15 on Thursdays, starting in week 3 on 9th May. Students will be given a chance to sign up in the first week of term. The individual consultations will also be on Thursdays and take place between 4.30 and 5.30 in her office, Derwent D/J/002.

Numbers will be limited to 16 per workshop, and students interested in taking part should sign up for one of the two slots by Doodle, following the link below:

http://www.doodle.com/igr24gqvi64txdrt

Gillian will also be taking part in a Writers at York event, ‘PEN, Justice and the Creative Process’ with the crime writer Margie Orford, President of PEN South Africa, at 5.00 on May 23rd.

She will also be giving a reading at 6.15 on 5th June in the Bowland Lecture Theatre, followed by a reception. All members of the Department and University are welcome to attend.