Suheir Hammad is someone who crossed my path quite by accident in a bookstore in the mid-1990s. There I espied her book of poems, "Born Palestinian, Born Black." I glanced at some of the poems and liked their content.
Then several years elapsed before Suheir Hammad came to the fore of consciousness again. And that was when I saw her on CSPAN as part of a forum. Now that I've just finished reading this book of poems, I feel that I have been witness to a conscious and prophetic voice speaking in clear and at times raw language of the struggles of oppressed peoples both here in the U.S. and in the Middle East. What Hammad expresses in this book, everyone needs to read and strive to understand.
There is one poem, in particular, in this book that deeply resonated with me. Its title is "Manifest Destiny", a term I first learned of as a child more than 40 years ago. (But did not come to fully comprehend til I began seriously studying American history in high school. It is a title that defines the vision the U.S. had of itself in the 19th century as a nation with a messianic mission to establish itself as a continental nation spanning both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. "From sea to shining sea.")
Without further ado, here are the words from 'Manifest Destiny' that left their mark on me a short time ago:
"in a state of police
cops act as pigs treat men as dogs
mothers as whores
the bold youth of a nation hungry and cold
an entire nation of youth behind bars grown old
the mace and blood did not blind we
witness and demand a return to humanity
"we braid resistance through our hair
pierce justice through our ears
tattoo freedom onto our breasts
"we be political prisoners walking round semi-free
our very breath is a threat
to those we rather we not read
and think analyze watch out and fight back
and be human beings the way we need to be"
Seldom were truer words spoken, given the state of the world today on New Year's Day, 2019.
"BORN PALESTINIAN, BORN BLACK: The Gaza Suite" should be read and re-read by anyone concerned --- both in the mind and in praxis --- with the ongoing issues of life, justice, education, and freedom who believe that the world can be made better by humanity for the benefit of all life now and in the future.