Salam Jones

Salam Jones is a pioneer of the new generation East London Bangladeshi cultural scene. In 2012, he set up Hope n Mic which runs every last Friday of each month, bringing together young people from different backgrounds to perform in various languages. Mr Jones, a Carpenter by profession, was born in 1970 in Sylhet and moved to Britain with his family at the age of five. Mr Jones has been writing poetry since his early twenties. His writings mainly reflect his personal experience and observation of the political and social struggles faced by immigrants and minority communities in London. In 2013, he published his debut novel ‘Days of our Wives’ and in 2016, he launched ‘Bangladesh Diaries’ a photographic journal of the life and culture of Bangladesh which is based on his travels across the country of his birth. 

Listen: Earliest memories of living in East London
Listen: The sociological changes in East London within the Bengali community and identity conflict of Bengali youth 

Poems by Salam Jones

I Remember:
If I cast my mind way back
and remember all those racist attacks,
forcing the boys to roam the streets in packs,
oblivious to so many undisputable facts.
If I cast my mind way back,
before we became part of the government stats.
Before they passed the anti-discrimination act.
Way before Tony Blair had even heard of Iraq.
I remember, how it used to be.
The difficulty we had, my brother and me.
The only two brown faces you could see,
running the playground, pretending to be free.
I remember the misery and the fear that we
felt from the right wing National Front party.
Due to the technicality, better known as the BNP.
The technicality being, the were responsible for killing Altab Ali.
I remember back to the year 1978,
when Brick Lane was full of so much hate.
The violence we faced, served to intimidate
you kids can’t relate, your minds just vegetate
Your food is served to you on china plates,
while we had to wait at Downing Street’s gate,
simply to demonstrate. I was dragged before a magistrate,
before Mrs Thatcher was willing to listen or negotiate.
I remember going to school wearing second hand clothes.
God only knows why dad went down that road.
I suppose, with 6 kids to feed it was an overload.
Being the only Asian family living on our road.
I watch the next generation as each one of them grows.
Needing no explanation as each one of them glows.
Happy in the thought that they won’t be suffering blows.
Like I did, that left me to deal with broken nose.
I remember when we lived amongst Jews.
And everything was cheap including cigarettes and booze.
And the Highlight of the day was the 9 O’clock news.
And none had even ever heard of substance abuse.
You kids still can choose, with so much to lose.
You just haven’t a clue, so to hell with you’s.
So many choose to abuse, Brown or white which do I use?
Is it any wonder that so many are suffering the blues.
I remember when none of us owned our council flats,
and New Road was full of rats as big as cats.
When there was some level of respect between all the blacks
and only whites were responsible for racist attacks.
Now the police, they have operation trident to combat
gun crimes in hackney, that’s where it’s at.
And according to official DVLA stats,
your car was in far less danger of getting hijacked.
I remember when we still respected the law.
Police officers were actually held in awe.
But the service was poor, and we were left feeling sore.
Now I am the first to scream funk the law, hardcore
you violate my rights and kick me to the floor.
I retreat to one corner and choose to ignore.
And growing much bigger than I have ever been before,
knowing that one day you bastards I’ll be back for more...
I remember the first car we bought was a VW Jetta.
When our bhabi came over and the first time we met her.
I remember mum passing away knowing we’ll never forget her.
I am not saying follow everything to the letter.


After freeing myself from all my despise
and having sifted my way through all the lies
I’ve come to realise, how much time flies
and how much I’ve contributed to my own demise
to all those that I’ve criticised, analysed, patronised
and even downright terrorised
I realise, that it’s to you , I have to, apologise
even though we will never be friends
I must set new trends, make many amends
not just big up with my Benz
as means to many ends
at least that’s what my holy book recommends
life does look clearer without the coloured lens
I know what’s dearer than the Benz or the friends
the truth depends, on the number who attends
the day, you’re driven away, to be spiritually cleansed
I remember it well, I remember the smell
I held her hand and heard what she had to tell
she knew in her heart that she wouldn’t get well
so I promised my mother I would take care of her girls
the day she died, I wanted to yell, was tempted to sell
my soul to the main man from hell
but managed to shake off that hard exterior shell
and find that light at the end of the tunnel
people live and people die
it’s always been that way, can’t change it even if u try
the only thing you can really do is break down and cry
and smoke some drugs to get occasionally high
people die, I won’t deny, I won’t even question why
I was grateful for the opportunity to say goodbye
but deep down inside, I breathed a sigh
and wondered if the promise of heaven was nothing more than a big fat lie
even though she didn’t know, it was her turn to go
even though she didn’t know, her life would have ended so
she took me aside, and taught me to owe
to neither friend nor foe
now I refuse to let go, of these righteous principles, although
at times of woe, despair and sorrow
it’s so easy to forget, and sometimes neglect
and live your life like there is no tomorrow

(c) Salam Jones 2006