Artists as Activists – Seminar & Recital (17 Nov 2017)

Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio, Faculty of English
9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

Malik Al Nasir, British Guyanese poet & activist
(protégé of Gil Scott-Heron)


British Guyanese poet and spoken word artist ‘Malik Al Nasir’ (Malik & The O.G’s) discusses how colonialism and slavery destroys identity and disrupts the historical transition of cultural self-awareness for the black Diaspora. Malik describes his incredible lifelong journey and how he took back his Afro-South American cultural identity, in a post-colonial world and how he is
reasserting his cultural roots through arts and activism.

Malik discusses the significance of genealogy, anthropology and DNA in establishing “who we actually are”. Malik states “My own journey back to Guyana to re-connect with my South American roots was actually both a quest for lost family ties and a search for historical truth. Discovering I had an indigenous Amerindian grandmother further complicated an already convoluted sense of self and the discovery of my Scottish aristocratic slave-owner ancestry, will offer the basis of a paradigm shift in how we view Transatlantic slavery – as it was practiced in Demerara, South America”.

Malik will address the issues of “Assimilation vs acculturation” – with a reference to the annihilation of his own cultural identity in the UK and how the art form of poetry – coupled with the activism of his mentors Gil Scott-Heron & The Last Poets, combined to both educate him – from an almost illiterate
street kid to an academic with a master’s degree – and shape his own activism resulting in his cultural awakening.

Finally, to contextualize Malik’s activism, he will explore the significance of the “Black Arts Movement” in America and his own place in that continuum, via Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, to continue their legacy. He will elucidate upon the role of the “Artivist” (artist / activist) in the realignment of cultural identity against a backdrop of colonial bias.

Organized by Yesternight Productions, Fore-Word Press Ltd & the Centre of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge.

All welcome, free event.

Academic and professional profile: Malik holds a BA Hons. (Geography & Sociology), a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip – Applied Social Research) and a Master degree (MA New Media Production). He has performed at Cambridge University (UK), Carlton University (Ottawa, Canada), and York University (Toronto, Canada). He is a director of publishing house Fore-Word Press Ltd. and production company Yesternight Productions Ltd.

Malik’s book of poetry and prose ‘Ordinary Guy’ was published by Fore-Word Press in
2004 under his former name (Mark T. Watson). WATSON, M. T. (2004). Ordinary Guy: a collection of poetry & explanatory prose. Fore-Word Press poetry series, v1., Liverpool, Fore-Word Press.

Much of the poetry in Malik’s book was recorded with musical accompaniment and released on CD and digitally in August 2015. The double album is entitled: ‘Rhythms of the Diaspora Vol’s 1 & 2 Ft. Gil Scott-Heron & The Last Poets’ (Mentis Records). (

Malik’s poetry was also the subject of a documentary film: ‘Word-Up From Ghetto to Mecca‘ featuring Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets and a critique of Malik’s poetry by UK dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

The film was released in cinemas in 2011 and will screen again this year at Cambridge Picture House, as part of a series of events in honour of Gil Scott-Heron during Cambridge Jazz festival 2017.

Further information:

The Revolution will be Live! Kim Jordan Plays Gil Scott-Heron + Malik & The O.G’s Ft. Rita Carter. Friday, November 3, Cambridge Junction

Cambridge Jazz Festival 11-26 November 2017:

Centre of Latin American Studies events: