last words of the unarmed

ghosts from the recent past’ exhibition at the irish museum of modern art in dublin, 2018.

on most nights
if you listen close enough
you can hear the echoes of the last words of the unarmed
whose names reverberate the chants of movements
that mattered long before they were cool

i stand on the shoulders of giants and freedom fighters
from bds to black lives matter
born of legacies before my time:
civil rights, decolonization and anti-imperialist struggle

are the reasons we kneel
we bow
prostrating
before god

we the people
from ferguson to gaza
south africa to kashmir

take up our grief in the streets 
light the establishment on fire with our fury
shout prayers into the night skies
wage a holy war against a system that claims to serve and protect 

the
people 
over profits
has always been profits 
over people

you say they’re just a few bad apples
but how could that be 
when one is known to spoil the bunch
and the rotten fruit kills 

don’t be deceived 
you see
george zimmerman, darren wilson, and amy cooper
were deliberately placed there

like a perfect game of chess
strategic and intricate in design 
to keep the emmett tills and trayvon martins of this world in their place

i can’t breathe
birthed a national slogan 
in legacy and death

say his name
no justice, no peace 
#ericgarner 

left for dead on the scorching pavement in july 
fo(u)r hours 
hands up, don’t shoot

say his name
no justice, no peace
#mikebrown 

failing to signal
is not a death sentence 
but apparently sleeping in your home is

say her name 
no justice, no peace
#sandrabland 
#breonnataylor

mental illness is not a crime 
and a child’s imagination 
wielding nothing but creative playtime energy 
is not a threat 

say his name 
no justice, no peace
#abdirahmanabdi 
#tamirrice 

if taking a knee
makes you a patriot
then what does it make you when you kneel for…

8 minutes and 47 seconds
on our necks?

#georgefloyd 
takes the world by storm
all smoke and mirrors, 
no fire this time

say his name
no justice, no peace 

more than 2000 still missing and murdered 
never forget
#tinafontaine was only fifteen 
verdict of yet another white, male assailant: not guilty 

say their names
no justice, no peace 
#nomorestolensisters

there is no just-is
when the ahed tamimis stand defiant 
against the unwelcomed presence of idf soldiers 
at the doorsteps of their homes 

brave and steadfast
feet planted, palms shaking 
they strike blows in the face of zionist invasion 
and resist the plunder of their birthright to exist 

i once heard that real justice is what love looks like in public 
it’s #rachelcorrie 
rising from the rubble in rafah

her memory bigger than 
a fleeting moment 
 of solidarity 

before the bulldozer that demolished homes
and dreams 
and the barrier between two worlds 

the privileged, the american 
and the underclass
the occupied 
the marginalized 

she knew this well 
before she died,
she wrote:

“i have a home.
i am allowed to go see the ocean”

spineless political class of the 1%
lie to us between their teeth
with clenched fists behind their backs

and media moguls spin a narrative 
where muslim is synonymous with terrorist
black with criminal
mexican with illegal 

our protesting becomes looting 
and they claim israeli airstrikes are in self defence 
against hamas rockets

we are the collateral damage
that no one cares to fit into sound bites 
memorializing through hashtags
will not bring them back 

whiteness reigns supreme
claims colour blindness as alibi 
while bombs rain down on baghdad 
and chokeholds tighten around the hearts of childless mothers everywhere 

on most nights 
when i shut my eyes tight
transported into the belly of the underworld

i imagine
an alternate universe 
where the echoes of the last words of the unarmed
reverberate a promise 

handwritten from the future 
sealed and signed 
by working class poets, artists, thinkers and healers

whisper,
we’ve already won.

lh
sept 2020 / feb 2021

A Critical Lens on Sister Solidarity

Over the past year, we have seen how the global mass movement of the Women’s March has rapidly gained momentum in harnessing the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. The public outcry came immediately after Trump’s inauguration in January last year. It sent a clear and direct message to the administration and those in power that we were not going to take their abuse lying down. It symbolized an intersectional solidarity between women and their allies* – the first of its kind. It was certainly empowering to watch a historic moment like this unfold before me nonetheless. People from all over the world took to the streets. Women mobilized together, and used their collective power to voice resistance. It was women who weaponized against a system that is so openly willing to exploit and sanction violence against its own people. It’s inspired and even given leverage to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. We’ve made some tremendous strides, and our struggles, our stories, and our demands are being broadcasted loud and clear across industries everywhere. My reflections here are not intended to trivialize the tireless work and courage of our sisters – this should never be taken for granted. However, I believe this to be an especially critical time to beg the question: can we, as women, honestly say that the same is being done in our own relationships with other women? I believe it’s important because unfortunately I still meet women who quite genuinely enjoy bringing other women down. They take pleasure in bringing them to their demise. So, this very question needs to be taken seriously, and I pose it here to really challenge ourselves to reflect on it with great intention and purpose. We need to look within, and be as honest and as open with ourselves as possible. Ask yourself: am I bringing other women up with me along my journey? If you are, ask yourself: in what ways am I supporting their success? If you’re not, ask yourself: why, and what can I do to change?

Although very problematic at times, but I won’t get into that right now. Maybe stay tuned for a future post?

We need to do a better job in raising each other up. We need to hold the one thing we all share in common to a higher esteem – our sisterhood. We need to show it more respect, and handle it with the care and dignity it deserves. Our sisterhood is a sacred entity, and it’s about time we wake up and treat it as such. We need to commit ourselves to being better to one another by unlearning this internalized behaviour. For far too long, we’ve been conditioned from a young age to see other females as competition. It’s internalized through the process of socialization, and this form of socialization in turn can produce outcomes that nurture systemically-rooted issues for us women.  These subliminal messages are reinforced over and over again. It’s an age-old narrative that’s normalized in the media we consume, in the schools and workplaces we attend, and by the very adults we grow up to love and trust. It’s implicit as much as it’s explicit in nature, which seems to suggest that the thoughts influencing this behavior are sub-conscious. We sometimes don’t even realize when we do it or why it’s even happening. But when we actively participate, we are in essence feeding into the hands of a patriarchal system that’s meant to keep women in their place. We internalize the misogynic ideologies that underpin the second-class citizenry of women. The ways in which this operates on a systemic level needs to be acknowledged, but it’s no excuse. We still need to hold ourselves accountable nevertheless. Accountability in this case means bringing awareness to one’s own individual behaviours and interactions with women. But it also means checking your privilege. Yes, even as a woman. The reality is that some women have more privilege than other women. You see, who we are directly informs the power and privilege we have. For example, although white women are marginalized because of their gender, they still benefit in many ways because of their racial identity – which may also include other privileges based on their class, sexuality, and/or ability (although this isn’t necessarily always the case). So, we can see how this is further complicated by the varying contexts and realities that exist when gender intersects with other identities that may either work to marginalize or privilege us. Now it’s easy for us to get warped into an “oppression Olympics” mindset. And I urge us to resist this way of thinking altogether. It’s counterproductive, and will only make us feel helpless, petty, and vindictive towards one another. It’s no one’s fault for having privilege. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for having it either. I refuse to participate in shaming and blaming women for it. What I will not tolerate however is the refusal to name oppression, especially when it does not implicate us directly. The truth is, even if we are not directly affected by it, we are.  

My point is that if we are really serious about being committed to achieving gender equity, we must develop a critical understanding of how race, class, sexuality and other differences contribute to further oppressing women who may be different from us. Use your privilege for good. Use it to give other women a voice and space to liberate themselves from the shackles of oppression. Otherwise, what you’re doing is actively being complicit in further marginalizing women who don’t share the same identity-based privilege you have. So, if our personal and collective objective is to successfully liberate ourselves as women, we need to be inclusive of all women – including and especially Black women, Indigenous women, poor women, immigrant women, rural women, Muslim women, disabled women, lesbian queer and trans women, as well as any intersecting identities of the like. It’s either all of us, or none of us. We need to recognize that our liberation is bond to one another. True liberation can only ever be realized through the stronghold of sister solidarity and allyship. So long as another woman is unfree, I will never myself truly be free, even when her shackles are very different from my own. It’s up to us to break the vicious cycle. We cannot let them pit us against each other. We cannot afford to see each other’s wins as losses. Men certainly have a role to play here too. But it’s up to us women to lead our own liberation. Let us embrace being and becoming our own heroes. The power we have when we come together is astronomical. It’s an incredibly powerful force – one not to be reckoned with. Together, we can defy all possibilities. We can, and will, overcome. We wield the strength of steel, and carry the courage and resilience of all women who came before us, and those who presently ground us. They fought tirelessly for us, and their spirits continue to live within us. We must have the critical consciousness to realize this if we are ever going to unleash our greatest and most powerful potential. So, let’s all take a step back and reflect. Let’s be honest and critical with ourselves, starting with the way we treat other women in our lives. So, I invite you, my dear sisters, to let this knowledge and awareness empower you. Let it empower you, and together let’s empower each other. Because whether you realize it or not, we’re all in this together, and I want us to envision a future that’s kinder, more compassionate, and more loving than ever before. Women have always been at the forefront of revolutionary change, and women will continue to be the ones coming together to fight for a better world for many, many generations to come.

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