They looked at him, these strangers, as if they had known him all his life. He wanted to laugh in their faces, to stand up and wave his shackled wrists at them. But he turned, saw his mother’s eyes, and he confessed to a crime he hadn’t thought to commit.
On the outside she is black. On the outside there is nothing separating her from Maya Angelou, from Langston Hughes, from Etta James and Al Green. Because of her skin color she is a part of long-standing traditions by default. She immediately inherits everything that stems from having African roots.
And there is something beautiful in this, because it means she can always belong. It means she can enjoy decades of black history and feel as though it strikes a cord with her, personally, simply because of the ebony complexion her ancestors passed down to her.
It also means she has a responsibility.
You see, being black on the outside is one thing. It is a superficial layer that says to the world, she’s just another black girl. She’s got natural, spiraling curls and a wide smile, equally wide hips, and a southern drawl. She likes her grits and cornmeal and chicken fried, and she loves God first, always. She bobs her head to the rhythms in her head and she’s a family girl: ain’t that something.
She learned about famous black people in school just like everyone else. About the musicians and the poets and the activists, and before them the abolitionists. She never felt any particularly strong connection to them before, when she was little. But they were black, and she was black. And that was enough.
There’s nothing wrong with being black on the outside. But if she’s going to be black, she needs to step outside of these things that, while true, can also trap her in her own skin. She needs to embrace her history– all of her history– and re-define herself in a world where that history is rapidly repeating itself.
Suddenly it is as though it is 1965 again. She questions whether this is even possible, if she can actually live in such a world as this– where human beings are gunned down first and the questions come later. She wonders how long it will be before the riots break out, before the batons come down and the people retaliate with rage.
Her story is not unique. There are girls like her everywhere. She wants to change this, even if it won’t have an impact, even if no one remembers her name and she doesn’t make it into some hall of fame. She doesn’t know yet what she can do, but she knows this:
She is not Eric Garner
She is not Michael Brown
She is not Tanisha Anderson or Tamir Rice
She is not Freddie Gray
But she is their sister, and her voice is her weapon.
She can post hashtags that proclaim whose lives matter, she can protest outside of police stations. She can brandish her pen and write her grievances across the sky– however she chooses to do it, she must take injustice head on.
She recalls men who spoke of dreams, and men who fell fighting for their freedom. Like everyone else, she has read about brave women on buses and brave women in the underground. And she will feel a responsibility to do her part, to stand with her people.
And in her journey to discovering who she is, she will finally come to realize what being black entails.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others
Once united, a nation stands
Divided against itself
And where can it turn now
For a justice that never was?
I think of the streets
Of a home I have only seen
Less than a handful of times
I picture the flames that rise
The orange crack of burning
Revenge, licking at sun-blackened skin
This is my country?
My memories send me false
Pictures of quaint stores
And yellowed sandstorms
That drive everyone in, family
Huddled in a dark room, the
Ticking of idle generators
Our only soundtrack
Now the orchestra is led
By tyrants, conductors who
Wave their empty words around
Enough so that they keep the people
At bay, so that no one dares to
Speak against this justice
That has burned our blood
Here’s to a year full of accomplishments completed, dreams established, and goals met. A year of successful marriages and easy births, graduations and new beginnings, small miracles and huge opportunities. Let’s pray for a 2014 that brings joy to those who have seldom tasted joy, hope to those who have stopped believing, and faith to the weakest hearts.
Wishing you all a thriving and eventful 2014
I speak as you would, my Sudan
As I imagine how you feel
To be imprisoned by one man
His reign a fist of tarnished steel
I speak because I hurt for you
Because I wish to share your pain
His lies all hide behind what’s true
He works for what will win him gain
He held you down, submerged and drowned
Beneath a weight of selfish pride
He came and chose himself to crown
With no supporters at his side
You did not cry, my dear Sudan
Your tears would just have dried in sand
How could you have discerned his plans?
What would have helped you understand?
The cycle spins, from start to start
And justice rules where evil falls
Revolt is rooted deep in hearts
In answer to the people’s call
And call they have, so bells will ring
The streets are full of freedom’s men
We dare not ask what Fate will bring
Until the lies are dead, and then
And then, my loved Sudan, you’ll see
What freedom means, what it can do
The echoes of your liberty
Will bring the joys of joy to you
Your streets will overflow with it
That force igniting every man
The fight in each will be well lit
So that you may become SUDAN
Without a man to call you slave
Your chains will shatter into dust
And then on maps, we will engrave:
Sudan, the nation of the just
“Servitude kills, but just war brings every soul to life” ~Friedrich Hölderlin~
Fighting for a cause is seldom black and white, never easy. But then again, nothing ever is. Many people who are wont to advocate peace wish for matters to fit into neat and tidy boxes, each labeled with its respective name. They long for a Utopia in which government does not exist and yet chaos never manages to take over. But such a world does not exist, and never will.
We live in a world that has depended on the false rings of liberty since the first governments tolled the bells of freedom, sure of the long-lasting impact that such an establishment would have on the emerging world. As such, we yearn and look for liberty in every aspect of our lives; in the way we expect to be treated by others, in the way we view our own philosophies, in the way we see government and what we think its role should be. As soon as we realize that a freedom has been taken away, that we are denied our rights, that is when government becomes a separate entity, a threat.
As soon as leaders decided that government needed to exist in order for chaos to be extinguished, freedom became – ironically – a privilege and not a God-given right. If our governments allow us to maintain these liberties: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion – can they not then be just as easily taken away? Like a monetary fund, something to be given and taken at will? How, then, is this freedom?
It must be recognized and believed that governments exist to serve and protect their people. The opposite should never be true. Once a nation’s leaders have decided that they are invincible, untouchable – that is the moment when freedom becomes jeopardized. Then governments become ever-hungry piranhas that feed upon the fear and weakness of their citizens, citizens who realize too late that they have become prey.
What, then, is justice, if freedom can be compromised and stolen? Do the two not walk, hand in hand, on the same foundations that wished to rid societies of anarchy and injustice? We perceive strong, stable and fair governments as just, we watch criminals in courtrooms, where justice is meted out in the form of a vote. Innocence blurs with guilt, fairness with unfairness, until it seems impossible to determine the truth. To our friends the optimists who see life as the black and white, the right and wrong, this is a rude – and disheartening – wake-up call.
Suddenly reality is staring us all in the face with her own Truth, and we are forced to re-wire our minds to consider this, to angle the camera from an entirely new perspective. We realize that we are “born free, and yet everywhere we are in chains.” This sparks a heat in the depths of the soul, a flame that ignites with furious determination, with renewed vigor acting as the gentle breeze that feed the spark until it transforms into a roaring fire. Suddenly we are acutely aware of the facts, our minds and bodies buzzing with the thrill of knowing the truth, our will pushing us forth until we choose to act, subconsciously and by default.
The moment in which our body and soul are at harmony, reaching a unanimous and final decision to act, this is the moment, the pinnacle of potentially reaching true Freedom. For when we are willing to fight for justice, that in itself is a liberty strong enough to transcend every fallacy that existed beforehand. But actions suggest responsibilities, and once the decision is made, once plans are enacted and positions delegated and a vision kept in mind – once the problem is addressed from all angles and scrutinized with depth and understanding, only then can justice be found and freedom attained.
It is with utmost pride that I say it gladdens me the Sudanese people have finally opened their eyes to the truth, that they have acknowledged the dormant government and its inactivity in all matters that are relevant to the growth of the country. It has taken a quarter of a century, but the bells are once again tolling, this time with a louder echo. They call upon the angry businessmen, the exasperated store-owners, the excited youth. I hope that they continue ringing, until the streets are free of bloodshed, until the last shot has been fired, and the people realize that violence is never effective.
To fight a war against injustice, we must strip away all tendencies toward brutality and understand that justice is born only from just means. With our words, with our creative imaginations, we need only to drive our forces through the walls that use corruption and deceit as their mortar.
Join in the call that has become a universal appeal for freedom:
الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام
Indeed the people have woken themselves from a long hibernation, spanning a period of more than two decades, and they are prepared – I have every confidence – to rise and stand up for their personal liberties, so that they may elect an effective government.
As a Sudanese youth growing up in the United States, it has been a personal struggle for me to accept that the Sudanese people have sat back and taken this abuse of power in complete silence. I harbor the most enthusiastic of thoughts that this decision to take initiative will have a lasting and positive impact on the future of Sudan.
Let no one say that our people are lazy, that they don’t have the ability to stand up for what they believe in. September has marked the beginning of an end and the start of a new beginning. God willing, the outcome will be both productive and peaceful.