RPG Avenue, Street Seen and Monkey Sounds

Guest writer Davy Carlin with the final instalment of his story of life experienced as a young black person growing up in a politically turbulent West Belfast.

So as I looked out the window of the taxi I had seen that we were approaching Beechmount - Beechmount Avenue, also known as RPG Avenue (Rocket Propelled Grenade – launcher). I believe that it was called RPG Avenue after seeing attacks from such, against the Brits – yes, I remember those days. 
 Yet in recent years I can remember going down that street with comrades from the Anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement, doing our regular paper distribution. I can also remember before that, delivering a few copies of Street Seen, A newspaper other comrades and I had set up with a paper distribution eventually of thousands. Street Seen was a grassroots mobilising newspaper with homeless and houseless persons at the fore. It had also seen activities from collecting clothes and providing education classes through to street marches and occupations of buildings. Having at one stage been homeless myself, having such direct experience of such, I had found gives you far greater understanding, insight, and drive to tackle.

I thought also, that despite my glazed eyes, that one’s innate intelligence/ consciousness, personality to care, to help, is always there. May it be buried at times deep below layers of trauma and trouble; it though at times battles through, within a flicker, a spark. 

And if the battle is won, then it can come forth in all that it is. I also thought of those comrades of recent years past, and of the sound times, which brought a smile to my face. 

Yet that smile had gone as I had thought of the most recent of times wherein it had seen Marie and I with such comrades and thousands of others march from RPG Avenue up the Falls Road, against Britain's, once again, internment of Irish Citizens. 

Such thoughts and anger, then threw me back in time, and to the entrance of RPG Avenue – it was the mid/late 70’s. 

I wasn’t allowed to go too far from my street I had thought, (yet I had snuck out of the house loads of times and had travelled far and wide) – as I walked past RPG Avenue.

And as I dandered up the road towards the Falls Park to collect conkers {rather than the plastic/rubber bullets, and shell casings I usually collected} – trying to bring some childhood normality into my life, I heard the sound of the engines. 

With that I had clenched my fists, felt the sweat on my body, as I bowed my head waiting for the onslaught from the passing Brit tanks. Waiting for the monkey sound or a brutal racist name, waiting for a banana skin, a bag off ‘water’, or worse thrown out at me. But maybe they will just pass and let me be today, I had thought. 

Anyhow, I was not with childhood friends so would not feel even more scundered. I was not with relatives so would not also have to fear for them getting a beating to protect me.

That day, at that time and at that place, it was not the odd one or two; I did not on this day see or hear any other Brit trying to stop them. As the first and then the second Saracen slowed to my stride, firstly had come the words, then a few things had been thrown, then a monkey sound came from one Saracen then one from the other, then others joined in. 

And as I walked, head bowed, hit by what they had thrown, with the monkey sounds and words in both tanks now growing louder as maybe all were now joining in – they followed my slow stride.

Inside I was dying, crying, hurting, and ye know, I had witnessed, endured, and survived things deemed far more brutal, but I have to say, such things (from the Brits) had a profound impact on me – they really did, as it had on my child mind, which was part of further helping it to rip. 

Then I quickened my stride and turned in the other direction, and soon I was breaking into a run, back down the Falls, as I felt my insides change, as I felt my eyes beginning again to glaze over. 

And as I arrived down beside my old school, with eyes fully glazed I looked upon glass, liquid and wrapping, hidden for such times – and with that I made my way onto the road – with my head no longer bowed, with fear no longer within, with my eyes – and more – then being sparked into blaze.

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