Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Truest statement of the week

 It has become a righteous ritual: the recitation of the names of those whose lives were snatched away by the armed agents of the U.S. state. Mass movements were assembled around the names Oscar Grant (2009) ,Trayvon Martin (2012) and Michael Brown (2014), prompting women of the movement to launch the #SayHerName campaign  in 2014, to “lift up” the stories of Black women victims of police violence, “who they are, how they lived, and why they suffered at the hands of police.”

The ancient ritual of “pouring out” libations on the ground to memorialize the beloved dead was popularized by Boyz II Men and Tupac Shakur in the Nineties, and has long been incorporated in formal and informal recognition of the deceased heroes and heroines of the Black liberation struggle. 

But what of the scores of political prisoners that the U.S. state has condemned to a social death in the world’s largest gulag? These men and women still struggle under the most hellish conditions against the same enemies of humanity that hundreds of thousands rallied against in the George Floyd mobilizations. “Free Huey,” “Free Bobby” and “Free Angela” were once rallying cries that energized millions. But seldom are political prisoners’ names shouted during today’s mobilizations against the murderous U.S. mass incarceration state or the global imperialist killing machine. Who is “lifting up” their stories and telling a new generation “who they are, how they lived, and why they suffered at the hands of police” and jailors?

This is a grave political error, not an oversight. Movement activists of today will inevitably become the political prisoners of tomorrow. Some have already been sentenced to long terms in prison for alleged “crimes” in Ferguson and Baltimore during the rebellions of 2014-15, and agents of the state have doubtless drawn up lists of “Black Identity Extremists” (whatever the current official categorization) and their non-Black allies, for surveillance and arrest when the political time is right. Others have died mysteriously. Unless folks are under the delusion that victory over the “fascists” is imminent, the condition of political prisoners should be a deeply personal, as well as political, concern to all activists and their families and friends. The cage doors will clang shut for many of us before this struggle is over, in addition to all the libations that will be poured for the dead.

-- Glen Ford, "Political Prisoners: 'Say Their Names'" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT).

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