Sunday, February 15, 2015

"CAPITAL LETTERS"/TEDx Sydney text

Hey everyone,
I am extremely late on this, but you know, I had a novel to write the past couple of years so I've been distracted! Here are the lyrics/words to my TEDx speech at the Sydney Opera House. Very honoured that so many students are studying it in English, or choosing it as a text to analyse. All the best! Much love,
Omar


CAPITAL LETTERS

i knew none of their government names back then. back then,
some of the most wondrous people i knew were self-destructive,
talented vandals who took to relationships with mallet & saw.

there was beauty in the streets, you could see it everywhere,
in fishtails & donuts, the silver cursive that slanted off tyres,
in spraycan fumes & opals of oil,
in kickflips & crossovers, cuts & kebab shops
in sneakers that cluster-hung like grapes on powerlines

and in that… something.

could they see it too?

the generation who printed a crystal font on its bloodstream?
the entrepreneur with czech pistol
and silencer as thick as a ballerina's wrist?

this was the australia i saw.

no don bradman
no pavlova
no coastline etched in shale
no white sails of the opera house NO.

these were suburbs inscribed on scarified earth,

an alphabet of exiles far from lands of birth,
I'm talking pittance workers & remittance senders,
custodians & the kids of immigrants, you know the ones,
the ones heard about, not from, the ones talked at, not to,

the ones on the margin made to feel very small
in other words,
us.

each day, like smoke, i unwound up the stairs.

I smelled many cuisines, I heard many tongues.
in flat 7 a macedonian man said "Shopraish brother?" as he massaged his elbow.
the tongan woman in flat 16 said "maloelelei?" as she prepared for her third night shift in a row,
my mother and father said "assalamu-alaikum" when i entered flat 26

I learned that in Malay culture,
a storyteller is named penglipur lara -
"dispeller of worries", "reliever of sorrows,"

the name also given to a garden of delights where all cares are lost.

And what delights, what insights in stories, what power to give voice to the worlds inside.

But there are many kinds of stories.

I heard

carnivorous tales lope down gentrifying streets.

the hiss of talkback serpents,

the whistle of go-back-to-where-you-came-froms,

I lost faith & leapt into the whirlpool.

Reckless hours, pilled & powdered, full of sex & camaraderie.
part of me knew on days like this,
the timer ticked, history slipped,

we skipped words like stones from our hands,

words that that couldn't be retrieved
like love like hate, like us, like goodbye.

Yet somehow

somehow,

I found that something,

like a magic key connecting ancient and new,

I found it
on beats, breaks, tapes and acetate,

unordained lionhearts on thrones self-made.
Do you hear what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about Tupacs and Lauryn Hills Tupacs,
Rakims, Nas's, Kendrick Lamars,

Public Enemies,

syphoning El Haji Malik El Shabazz.
Jimblahs, Deltas & Brad Struts, Ozi Batlas,
Hilltops & Horrorshows, Def Wish Casts & Koolisms.
Do you hear what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about the numberless underground kings & queens

who taught us the power of our voices, of nonconformity,
that each lyric
each windmill
each scarred "45
each fan of paint from a nozzle
was a story aching to be told,

unfolding before us the fractals of cosmos & starlight,

a world suddenly unbearably bright.

So linger now, linger with me.

Consider that somehow,

despite the broken bottles & tatted bigotry

we could still own that something,

be that something,

something airborne,

gold shot,

beings arranged in a calligraphy of rhythm & rebellion,

people with so much damn resilience
it is impossible not to smile.

So let it play, that something, let it play.

Weave your stories into nets,
drag them behind zig zagging  decks,
zooped up cars, trams & trains, through streets & sunsets,
trawl for the things you thought you'd lost.

Because you, me, US, we are more than statistics,
more than misfits,

we are more than "your dreams are unrealistic."
This is the paint that drips from each brick,

the spirit that soothes the weary limb,

this is the new scripture of our lives,
spelled skyscraper high in CAPITAL LETTERS — BOLD.

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