from london with love: gal-dem

August 22, 2018

By Kuchenga Shenje for AFROPUNK


Throughout the twentieth century intercultural exchange between African Americans and Black Britons was rich, vibrant and more than a little unbalanced. You sent us Motown, and we sent you Shirley Bassey. You sent us James Baldwin, and we sent you Zadie Smith. You sent us hip hop, so we stepped it up with the bumper package of Soul II Soul, Naomi Campbell and Jeffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In the twenty-first century the digital revolution means that the pace of this cultural sharing has increased. We watch Love and Hip-Hop on the same day as you for example. For some reason Mona Scott-Young doesn’t believe we have enough thots to warrant a Love and Hip-Hop London. We are sending our best cultural envoys ‘BBZ,’ ‘gal-dem’ and ‘Black in the Day’ to dazzle AFROPUNK with how far we have come as Black Britons, but also as part of a reconnaissance mission to give us the run down on what we need to do to entice VH1 across the pond. From London With Love:

In September 2000, Beenie Man and Mya serenaded us into the millennium with “Girls Dem Sugar”. In September 2005, the user ‘Agent N’ on Urban Dictionary felt it necessary to provide the following definition:
1. Like Mandem is a group of men, galdem are a group of girls.

“Omgz look at dem mandem moonin’ dem galdem! Brrrrap!”

We thank Agent N for their service.

Gal Dem is a vibrant online magazine run by women and non-binary people of colour that has the UK media landscape shooketh. Started in Bristol by the editor-in-chief Liv Little because of her frustrations at the devastatingly dismissive whiteness of university life. The absence of an HBCU or any similar black educational or social institutions results in every Black British generation needing their new enfants terribles to speak their own truth and create their own power. After the British Black Panthers of the ‘70s and the BLK Art movement of the ‘80s, the ‘90s saw a movement towards diluted efforts to incorporate ethnic minorities into institutionally racist organizations while parroting the need for a post-racial response. Gal Dem are the women of colour vanguard who have created a platform for what Brittney C. Cooper calls our ‘eloquent rage’.

The Gal Dem team stay so booked and busy they were actually too occupied to comment. All is forgiven as they were understandably gassed and otherwise engaged with yet another of their infamous take overs. The Gal Dem takeover of The Guardian is a landmark achievement for a group of entrepreneurial millennial women so tapped into the zeitgeist of blasting open the doors of spaces and places that have traditionally been the playground for the Oxbridge educated elite. Their takeover at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington was not as homicidally infused as Killmonger from Black Panther’s visit was, but in terms of impact, they definitely slayed. The term takeover is markedly accurate for the decolonial way they slap readers round the face with veracity and all the public events they host have the scent of reparations in the air. On entry, they say to us “This space is yours. This time is ours.”

I felt this personally on their recently launched 12-month literature course, Rewriting The Canon, held monthly at the comfortably posh Liberty department store on the edge of London’s Soho. Run in collaboration with the publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove of Dialogue books in a wood panelled room, well-read aspirational working women of colour come together to share our intimate thoughts on our lives through literature and the hashtag #rewritingthecanon ensures a wider inclusivity.

Gal Dem are the seriously audacious sisters on the frontline who know how to turn up, and more importantly, how to organize and shout about it!

Join gal-dem at their AFROPUNK AFTER DARK party at Baby’s All Right on Saturday, August 25th. Tickets HERE.