Wednesday, February 26, 2020
A Message of Solidarity
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached in the Main Prison visiting room at Angola by a Rastafarian brother. The Louisiana Network for Criminal Justice Transformation and the Rastafarian congregation at Angola have become allies in recent months, so he took that moment to meet me face-to-face. After fifteen or twenty minutes of conversation, the brother, who had sneaked into Building A because he heard I would be there, told me that the Rastafarians and the Islamic fellowship would be celebrating Black History Month together on February 23rd.
"If you write something to the group," he said, "I'll read it."
I had a lot on my plate right then. Responsibilities at the university were demanding my attention and I was about to leave to spend five days in Oakland, California, for a prison abolition national conference. But I couldn't turn down such a golden opportunity to be introduced by this man to yet another segment of the population at Angola in such a lovely way.
With no other "free time" for the purpose, when I got on the plane to go to Oakland, I pulled out a pad and pen and wrote the following. The word is, they liked it. So as February comes to a close, I'll share it with you.
Greetings, my Rasta and Muslim brothers.
It is a great honor to bring you salutations on this auspicious occasion and I am humbled indeed by the opportunity.
I can well imagine that some of you may be less than thrilled – or at least a bit confused – by my inclusion in your event. And I don’t blame you for having these feelings. There are too few times and spaces where people of African descent can gather without so-called “White Supremacy” forcing its presence upon the moment.
How are you to know how much I have been affected by African men and women raised on the Continent; by men, women, and children who carry the DNA of the cradle of civilization; by writings, music and art of the oldest, richest, and most diverse collection of creativity on the planet?
After all, you cannot even see me before you today to judge from my voice, my body language, my facial expressions exactly where I’m coming from.
So I will ask the Ancestors to bless me with the purity of heart to bring a True Word. And I will ask them to bridge the gaps of our understanding that we might cross the chasms between us and break down the walls of race, class, and gender to birth a new world that honors us all as the wondrous expressions of Life we have been created to be.
I bring you a message of Respect for the cultural contributions of African peoples who birthed human civilization at the beginning of time.
I bring you a message of Gratitude for the Spirit African peoples carried from the Motherland in their own boats before Columbus and in other bloodier ships in a dark, dark time that smelted the iron of your history into the steel of your present day resolve to be fully who you came to be, whatever your challenges have been or are.
I bring you a message of Peace that the heart that beats in your chest and the chests of those you love will know at a level deeper than time that you are not beautiful because you have survived; you survived because you are beautiful.
And I bring you a message of Hope that flows from the One that means – and has always meant – to make the first last and the last first.
May those who see the Truth act in the Truth they see.
May those who have ears to hear, celebrate their Oneness of common Soul – conceived in Africa, nourished by wisdom born of pain, and rising to overcome the brutal oppressions of our current world to lead the human race to the land of milk and honey where Love will reign and Africa will shine.
One love. In sha’ Allah. Ashe.