“You can’t fight violence with silence”: George the Poet’s video on hate crime

Old Elizabethan George Mpanga – aka George the Poet – has released a powerful video of him reading a poem on hate crime to coincide with the anniversary of the murder of MP Jo Cox.

It is now a year since the 41-year-old MP was shot and stabbed by a far-right extremist in her West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen. More recently, police have reported that hate crimes are on the increase following terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. This week, a worshipper at the Muslim Welfare House mosque in Finsbury Park died after a man drove a van into a crowd outside.

George (OE 2002–2009) released the two-minute video in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to encourage people to report hate crimes. He has achieved growing fame for his spoken-word work, recently performing in front of the Queen at the Commonwealth Day Service in Westminster Abbey.

""Headmaster Neil Enright said: “George’s poem is a timely reminder of the need for vigilance against all forms of hatred.

“I trust his example will inspire boys here at the School to stand up for causes greater than themselves in line with our mission statement, which urges boys to achieve fulfilment by ‘seeking to make a contribution to society rather than pursuing only personal gain’.”

The poem addresses issues such as inaction in the face of hatred and misinformation about those who are the victims of hate crimes. It begins with the following lines, which are reprised later in the poem:

""The defining characteristic of a hate crime is not actually hate.

It’s prejudice.

‘We use the word the word ‘hate’ to define it

Because the prejudice is born of a hateful climate.’

Thousands of events have been taking place around the country to celebrate Jo Cox’s life. Her husband, Brendan Cox, who was behind the idea of the anniversary events, has urged the country to unite against hatred.

George’s poem ends with the words “You can’t fight violence with silence”, before cutting to the address for the web page of the Equality and Human Rights Commission at which people can report hate crime – equalityhumanrights.com/hatecrime.

""David Isaac, chair of the commission, told the Independent: “We will not go back to a ‘them and us’ culture where distrust and hate exist, and the best way to help end prejudice is by talking to each other and understanding our various communities.

“The Commission is calling for a zero-tolerance approach to hostility and hatred, and I would urge anyone who experiences or witnesses hate crime to report it.”

George’s poem has been reported by a number of news organisations. He is thus the second Old Elizabethan poet to make headlines this month: on General Election day, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn published a poem commissioned by his party from Anthony Anaxagorou (OE 1994–1999).