Black Cantabs commencement speech

Written as an audience address for the launch of the Black Cantab project

Finding our way through the present, via our past


Baltimore, Ferguson, Oriel, [insert zone of fissure, here] …

The present is heavy.

It’s very easy for us to get a sense of this on Facebook, on Twitter, or even in a stray look, or comment when wandering about our daily activities.

The experience informing popular global movements – a reenergised, activist blackness – finds its diffracted expression in normal lives, uniquely fused with normal experiences, in sometimes-painful ways. Our lives. This heavy present sometimes appears immovable. This may feel terrifying. It’s hard to wake up into a continued, and inherited, sense of déjà vu.

It is, however, in what we – and all of you gathered around this table – are doing, by pushing, by persevering despite the obvious pressures and forces that work to derail optimism, that we can sense not only hope but also examples of how practice can slowly undermine, and undercut, sedimented (supremacist) habit.

Being here, bringing the Black Cantabs project to life, delivers an affective force, which changes the “distribution of the sensible” – it changes what becomes normal.

How far do you recognise the feeling of constant complicity in something you feel paralysed to change? Recently, many have felt moved to their feet or to their retweet buttons by world events. This is good; it matters. Mattering is hard, not least because there will always be those who seem to matter more in an age of comparison.


What you are demonstrating through this project, your energy, and your inspiration is that there is no one proper way of dwelling in the world. There is only proliferation. And it is precisely in proliferation, that pragmatic change resides.

By not inheriting déjà vu, but – instead – proud legacy, we begin to embrace a beautiful politics of self-love (a radical movement towards self-assuredness). Through this, we begin to find ways of subtracting away from the crude logics of differentiation. We redefine the spaces we’re in. If we keep injecting energy – if we keep these radical, beautiful, important thoughts in motion – the opportunities for change will always be already present.

Let’s go, Black Cantabs; let’s go. Thank you.


Here is a news story about the project. 

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