Listen to Us: Black Survivors in the Mental Health Care System

In few days the Black History Month will finish and Spectacle is contributing to this important event by republishing an old and powerful documentary about institutionalized racism in mental health care. The documentary “Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System“, collects experiences of mental illness and the impact of institutional treatment on black people’s lives.

The trailer:

Unfortunately the experience of unlawful detention in mental health care institutions and the effects of the stereotype of being “black and dangerous” is still relevant today. We hope this document from the ’90, will raise awareness and contribute to make mental health care better.

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LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 – 1988

LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 (1988) from Spectacle’s Archive.

Despite Clause 28 (1988) Trailer from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

In the late 1980s and 90s, Despite TV, a collective of filmmakers founded by Mark Saunders (Spectacle Media) specialising in social and political issues, took an active interest in documenting and raising awareness of state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) persons in the UK.

In 1988 Despite TV produced a short campaign film, ‘Despite the Clause’, in response to the proposal of Section 28, a typically Thatcherite Local Government act proposed in 1986 and passed in 1988 which banned the “promotion of homosexuality”. The bill was proposed by the Conservative Party during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and purported to fear-mongering, homophobic tropes which portray LGBT people as deviant.

Section 28 was to have a damaging affect on LGBT individuals and, in particular, LGBT political and community groups, forcing them to limit their vital contributions to their communities, and in some cases shut down entirely for fear of legal backlash or censorship.

Despite the Clause features appearances from high profile activists including co-founder of Stonewall UK, Sir Ian Mckellen and Michael Cashman and M.P. Diane Abbott. In the film, Abbott, who was present at the proposal of the clause in the House of Commons, describes it as “A horrible, hysterical witch-hunting debate.” She also states that “The spirit behind Section 28 is a spirit of violence and intolerance to anybody that doesn’t conform, to anybody that’s different.”

Despite the best efforts of activists, Section 28 was ultimately passed and not repealed until 2003. Nonetheless, activists describe the resistance built against it as having a positive effect in establishing solidarity between LGBT people across the UK. Stonewall and other activists fought continuously for it’s repeal for over twenty five years. This campaign film subsequently remains a significant piece of LGBT history.

The full film is available for free here.

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Shaker Aamer finally released from Guantanamo

Today Shaker Aamer was finally released from Guantanamo and arrived at Biggin Hill Airport south London. Due to his 14 years of torture and ill treatment he immediately went to hospital for a check up and will later today hopefully be reunited with his family, including his teenage boy whom he has never met.

Spectacle, having followed his story since 2007, was at Biggin Hill and spoke to Clive Stafford Smith his lawyer and Founder/Director of justice charity Reprieve .

Clive was not informed that his client was arriving and used flight tracker to find out where he was landing. Shaker Aamer is a key witness to extensive human rights abuses including collusion in torture by both US and UK security services. Many believe this is the main, or only, reason he was not freed immediately he was cleared for release back in 2007 and again in 2009.

From Clive’s interview you get a sense of the tremendous character and strength of Shaker, his determination that no one else should experience what he went through. He does not want vengeance on his torturers and tormentors but a full inquiry into the people and powers behind the treatment of so many innocent people at the Guantanamo prison.

 

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System

This powerful and emotionally distressing documentary tells the story of black former mental health patients caught up in a psychiatric system reputed to be institutionally racist. These black patients became increasingly vulnerable to unlawful treatment and discrimination once The Mental Health Act (1983) permitted patients to be detained against their will.

 

These brave survivors speak out about their personal experiences and describe what it means to be black and mentally ill. You get the feeling that these people were misunderstood, misdiagnosed and racially stereotyped as “black and dangerous”. Furthermore, the disturbingly low lack of patient support for black patients also denied them the comfort and security of which they were entitled.

Their stories examine the harsher side of a typical mental health institution, in relation to the measures of control used upon patients. This includes factors concerning higher doses of medication, seclusion, control, and constraint.

In this documentary, former patients speak out about their life before, during, and after their incarceration. You follow them through their journeys of confusion and turmoil. Firstly, their struggles to understand their illnesses, and how they cope with the side effects of medication. Then secondly, their attempt to rebuild their lives and overcome their dreadful experiences that they suffered.

Listen to Us, filmed in the late 90s is an insightful and important viewing, and its a topic still widely relevant today. Little has changed within the last decade which indicates that the problem hasn’t gone away. However in spite of this, treatment received by various black ethnicities is continually less widely reported.

Statistically black people are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problem, and are three to five times more likely to be diagnosed or admitted to hospital for schizophrenia than any other group. Also when it comes the populations of prisons and secure units, black people are again over-represented.

There is still a way to go before this group can get the support and understanding they need to secure successful treatment. This documentary highlights these points and demonstrates that their voices still need to be heard, as the title Listen to Us indicates.

Buy Listen to Us on DVD click here

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CNN Update: Shaker Aamer on the Guantanamo Hunger Strike

CNN Update: Shaker Aamer on the Guantanamo Hunger Strike

A CNN video report uncovers the latest insight into the Hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. The report features testimony from Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to remain at Guantanamo despite never being charged for any alleged crime, and having twice been cleared for release in the past.

Shaker Aamer describes how inmates at Guantanamo (himself included) feel it is necessary to continue the on going Hunger strike which is now approaching four months,  in an attempt to finally secure the closure of Guantanamo.

The CNN video also describes the suffering that Shaker Aamer has experienced from being force fed, and explains the just cause for hunger striking when life inside Guantanamo is so intolerable that prisoners see no other option but to remain on hunger strike.

“I do not want to be force fed, I don’t want to die either, but this is a living death here in Guantanamo, so if I have to risk death for principle, this is what I want to do.”  – Shaker Aamer

The video also features Moazzam Begg, Former Guantanamo inmates and now a worker for an advocacy group Cage Prisoners. His appearance in the video places further pressure on the US Government to get Guantanamo closed down, remarking on the poor treatment of the inmates:

“They don’t get clean drinking water. They are getting stripped searched constantly. Sprayed in the face with pepper spray. Rubber bullets. All of that is true. But that’s not why they are doing this. They are doing this because there is no hope.” – Moazzam Begg

Meanwhile a speech by President Obama has questioned the US Military in their response  that “forced feeding is being continued so that inmates are kept alive”. Obama says “Is this the America we want to leave our children”

It appears therefore that the 103 prisoners on Hunger strike will not give up their quest to secure the closure of Guantanamo, while the US Military will continue to force fed them. For Shaker Aamer – prisoner 239, there is a strong determination to return home to his family after eleven years in Guantanamo. Shaker furthermore, shares his confidence for the hunger strike to be a success:

“This place is going to close sooner or later”… Don’t wait for too much longer or there is going to be dead people down here, and that’s not good for anyone.”

“I have been called 239 for so long, I fear my children my have to call me by a number for a while.” – Shaker Aamer

A Q&A with Shaker Aamer can also be viewed on the CNN page, along with related clips, and related headlines.

 

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Frankie Boyle on Hunger Strike over Guantanamo

Frankie Boyle on Hunger Strike Over Guantanamo

Original Article Source: Click Here

Last week comedian Frankie Boyle went on hunger strike in support of the 103 prisoners that are on a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.

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Image sourced from www.list.co.uk

Frankie Boyle has now joined forces with Clive Stafford Smith; a lawyer who went on Hunger strike recently in support of his client Shaker Aamer, the only British resident to remain held at Gutananamo. It has now been over a week since Clive Stafford Smith began his hunger strike.

The Stand Fast for Injustice Campaign is run by a group called Reprive. This campaign encourages the idea of hunger striking to rally support for the prisoners held in Guantanamo who continue to be force fed by the guards to keep them alive.

As a supporter of Reprive, Frankie Boyle donated the £54,650 that he was granted following a Daily Mail lawsuit last December. It has now been reported that this week, the actress Julie Christie has this week done the same thing in an effort to further promote the injustice of Shaker Aamer’s imprisonment.

Follow what Frankie Boyle said about his hunger strike so far on his Twitter page. There is also lots more information about Clive Stafford Smith’s hunger strike on the Save Shakar Aamer campaign, as well as other related articles and an online petition.

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Visit the British comedy guide for further new stories and features.

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Forced Feeding is Apparently “Not Uncomfortable” for Detainees

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The Hunger strike at Guantánamo has now been going on for more then 130 days. According to official figures, 103 of the detainees are now on hunger strike, and the number of detainees being forced fed remains at 30.

Reporters were allowed into the camp on what was believed to be a well choreographed and scripted guided tour. The reporters were allowed to see the force feeding equipment and were told how the medical team used this equipment upon the detainees. According to the doctors and the nurses, no prisoners had complained about this brutal force feeding procedure.

The guards at Guantánamo have been reported as being very patient with detainees. While certain detainees have been accused of throwing feces and urine at guards. This only re-reinforces the guards strategy of not negotiating with detainees, and instead subjecting them to procedures such as force feeding.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera obtained documents that explained the force feeding procedure which could last up to two hours. These documents described how time was a significant factor in ensuring the success of the force feeding procedure.

The tour showed prisoners mouths being covered with a mask while a tube (at least 61cms long) would be snaked down their nose until an x-ray or test dose of water confirmed the tube to be in the stomach of a prisoner. After being force fed, a prisoner would be kept in a dry cell without any water to ensure they did not vomit for 45-60 minutes. If the detainee was to vomit, this force feeding procedure would have to be repeated.

It was also reported that while this procedure was carried out detainees would be heavily drugged, hence their lack of complaints regarding the force feeding procedure. The identity of the detainees are being shared with the top officials at the Pentagon who apparently, do not care about violating medical ethics that force feeding concerns.

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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The Amnesty Group at Lewes Priory demands the release of Shaker Aamer

The case of Saker Aamer, the last british resident in Guantanamo, has not only upset people close to him. The amnesty group at Lewes Priory School found the indefinite detention and torture of Shaker Aamer wrong and wanted to do something about it. They decided to start a petition at their school which almost all students signed.

After the petition was signed they got the opportunity to visit the House of Parliament to speak with Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt about the release of Shaker Aamer.

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Is the UK really trying to bring Shaker Aamer home?

shaker postcard z 2011

The situation in Guantanamo is now getting worse. Prisoners claims that they are now being held in solitary confinement and are treated like dogs. They continue their hunger strike and 23 prisoners are being forced fed in a  room where they are being strapped down in a chair while a tube is being forced down their nose. This despite the AMA’s, American Medical Association, criticism of force feeding, saying it is horrible and violates core ethical values of the medical profession. Four prisoners are so weak that they are being shackled in the hospital to prevent them from dying.

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo, fears that he might die in the prison. He hopes he does not, he hopes he will be released before that so he is able to hug his children. A wish that seems will not come true in the near future.

According to the Pentagon, the UK is in no rush to get Shaker Aamer out of Guantanamo. This despite the Parliamentary debate about Shaker Aamer’s release and claims made by foreign secretary William Hague and defense secretary Philip Hammond that they are trying to lobby their counterparts in the US over Shaker Aamer.

At the same time it seems that UK might not meet up with those “conditions”  US have for releasing a prisoner to the country. These claims are being dismissed by Shaker Aamer’s UK lawyer Clive Stafford Smith who says that UK has the best record of taking care of released prisoners.

It seems like there are a lot of excuses to not release Shaker Aamer to the UK, and it also seems like it is getting more and more urgent to get him out of the prison. The question is is it only the US who is the problem or does the UK government have an interest in ensuring a key witness to Government collusion in torture never gets freedom, justice and his day in court.

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Obama finally speaks about Guantanamo

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Due to the growing hunger strike at Guantanamo President Obama has now been forced to react. In a recent press conference Obama admitted that the prison had to be closed. He also mentioned that he did not want the prisoners to die and that we had to reflect on why America is doing what they are doing.

Meanwhile the decision to send more doctors and nurses to Guantanamo are now being criticized by AMA, American Medical Association, who claim that it “violates core ethical values of the medical profession”. But US officials seem to be more afraid of the bad publicity of a detainee dying than from torturing the prisoners by forced feeding.

With all of this attention on the prison and a renewed promise from Obama to close Guantanamo, let us all hope that the prison will be closed sooner rather and later.

If you are from the UK, keep on pressuring your MP’s to engage in debates regarding Shaker Aamer’s release. If you are from outside the UK, put pressure on your government to demand Obama close the prison forever and ensure that the prisoners get a new life.

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice ( New Version) and  Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

Click Guantánamo for more blogs
Or visit our Guantánamo project  and Shaker Aamer project pages for more information and videos.

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