Aug 6, 2009

Speaking for/about/with the dead

I've said before, I agree with Arundhati Roy that no one is voiceless, some are simply less heard. I actually think even the dead are usually not voiceless. Their writings, recordings, or simply their lives continue to speak to us. But certainly it is more complicated, speaking with the dead.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the U.S.'s most famous political prisoner, touches on it in this poem (spoken in the video, written below). Thanks to open anthropology for pointing me to it.


Can I speak? Can I speak about our dead at this celebration? After all, they are the ones who made it possible. Can someone say that we are here because they are not? Is that permitted?

I have a dead brother. Is there anyone here who doesn’t have a dead brother?

I have a dead brother.

He was killed by a bullet to his head. It was the before dawn on the 1st of January, 1994. Way before dawn the bullet that was shot. Way before dawn the death that kissed the forehead of my brother.

My brother used to laugh a lot but now he doesn’t laugh any more.

I couldn’t keep my brother in my pocket, but I kept the bullet that killed him. On another day before dawn I asked the bullet where it came from. It said: “From the rifle of a soldier of the government of a powerful person who serves another powerful person who serves another powerful person who serves another everywhere in the world.” The bullet that killed my brother has no nationality.

The fight that must be fought to keep our brothers with us, rather than the bullets that have killed them, has no nationality either. For this purpose we Zapatistas have many big pockets in our uniforms. Not for keeping bullets. For keeping brothers.

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