Below is a short extract from Railton Road, an edited section of my novel Black Lazarus. Railton Road has just been published in the Summer 2009 issue of Harvest magazine. If you like what you're reading, please track down a copy of the magazine and treat yourself for Christmas. This is one beautiful new literary journal that really deserves to make it.
His first night at the rebel squat Sonny dreamt he was ancient Africa, stretched out wide and deep centre-globe, cradling a people. On his lower left shoulder in southern Togo, with their mahogany faces caked with thick white clay-paint, the Anlo-Ewe people stamped thanks to the sky God Mawu-Lisa. The blood of young goats sank warm and iron-filled into the sandy earth of villages of his decolletage.
Sonny dreamt he was Africa, and the Songhay people were conjuring spirit Hauka which danced light-footed across the black earth ridges of his startled nipple, trapped inside the bucking bodies of taken tribes people. Village messengers, djembes slung across backs, gently drummed their cryings up and down his ribcage, rocking him back to sleep. Sonny dreamt he was ancient Africa, and his history had no beginning. He dreamt he was forever, remembering more than centuries.
The rebel hub at 121 Railton Road was inhabited by fiery likeminded black youth from all over England. The occupants of Railton Road were bell-jeaned, dome-afroed, Dr. Martened and muscle-T’ed: as bad and black as they could possibly muster themselves to be, with yearning amber eyes filled with each other and runaway tongues drooling with the chant of equality. A hive of activity, the squat’s many bedrooms were wall to walled with mattresses and tatty multi-coloured blankets. The shop in the property’s lower half was busy twenty four seven with placard making tables and the day and night thunder and the thud of an aging printing press. The cauldron-like pot in the informal cooking pit of the property’s small garden was always brimming with enough for everyone. So much so that almost half a thousand random brown folk with little aspiration toward black empowerment dropped by the place as if it were a soup kitchen, trading an hour’s work manning the printing press or distributing pamphlets for shelter on a particularly bitter night or a steaming hot meal.
As a result of ongoing police harassment and eviction attempts, the hand-painted sign permanently tacked to the front of the property read: LEGAL WARNING: THIS PROPERTY HAS BEEN OCCUPIED BY SQUATTERS. WE INTEND TO STAY HERE. IF YOU TRY TO EVICT US, WE WILL PROSECUTE. YOU MUST DEAL WITH US THROUGH THE COURTS. Time and again the Railton Road Panthers were arrested for squatting in the property but despite double deadlocks, police barricading and barred windows, they inevitably scaled, fought or burrowed their way back in after their release...