Linton Kwesi Johnson

the progressive commissioned this portrait for an interview with linton kwesi johnson, a lyricist, black panther, and one of britain's most celebrated poets. below is my favorite paragraph from the article. when asked why he decided to start his own music label, mr. johnson answered:

self-activity is the only activity. if you want to change your situation, you have to build independent institutions - social, cultural, political institutions - in order to advance your struggles. and that's basically the philosophy that i have adopted. starting my label was just practicing what i was preaching.
this idea speaks to a quality that i admire enormously in those who have it. it's a pet peeve of mine actually that so many people ~ myself included ~ don't seize the reins of their lives more tightly. i've met actors who don't audition because they plan to be discovered. i've met artists who want to make a living at it but never show their work. lonesome people who want to find true love but never go on dates. disgruntled workers who hate their jobs but will not look for new ones. i have to remind myself often that the world doesn't owe me anything. if i want something, i have to go get it. i have to work for it or fight for it or at least say "yeah, i do, i want that." i need that reminder as often and as loudly as i can get it.

mr. johnson is offering an even better notion: don't just fight for your dreams. build them an arena.

© 2007 rama hughes