I recently finished a beautiful poetry book titled MIGRITUDE by Shailja Patel. It’s a mix of poetry, story-telling and political history of East Africa.
This piece is called The Making (Migrant Song)
So I make this work from rage/ for every smug, idiotic face
I’ve ever wanted to smash into the carnage of war/ ever
encounter that’s left me throat choked/ with what I dared
not say/ I excavate the words that hid in my churning
stomach through visa controls/ words I swallowed down
until over the border/ they are still there/ they knew I would
come back for them
This is for the hands/ hacked off the
Arawaks by Columbus and his men/
lopped off Ohlone children by Spanish
priests/ baskets of severed hands
presented at day’s end/ to Belgian
plantation master in the Congo/
thumbs chopped off Indian weavers by the British
I make this work/ because I still
Israeli soldiers shot and killed a nine-year-old girl in he Gaza strip.
She was carrying a large bag and ignored warning shots.
What’s the protocol for a nine-year old in response to warning shots?
But I can’t say that Israel is the apartheid South Africa of our times. The only country in the world whose constitution allows torture.
What does the world “Islamic” always precede the word “terrorist” when the word “Catholic” never preceded the world “Nazi”? and why has the Catholic Church never excommunicated Hitler?
Meanwhile, Pepsi buys up water rights in Central Africa, but keeps the water dirty, except for what it bottles to sell back to those who live there.
I want the gutters of Berkeley to float plastic bottles, like the ditches of Nairobi. I want the poodles of New York to choke on plastic bags like the cows and goats of Zanzibar.
“The Lion sleeps Tonight” grosses fifteen million dollars worldwide while south African Solomon Linda, who wrote the song, gets one dollar for the copyright and dies at fifty three from poverty.
Yes, I’m exploding. Like the internal organs of four hundred dolphins sonar-blasted to death in the Indian Ocean by the US Navy.
Yes, I’m outta control, like the billions of dollars Africa pays each year to the global North. For debt by colonial regimes and military dictators, debt inherited by newly independent African nations.
Someone comes into your home. Evicts you at gunpoint. Occupies your property. Mortgages it three times over. To banks who know they’re lending to thieves. Should you repay that debt? With penalties, late charges, 4% interest?
We all love to see bodes from Africa that move. We all love to move our bodies to rhythms from Africa. But we are terrified of African bodies that speak.
Here’s how Empire strokes itself:
A Ugandan farmer earns two hundred
shillings for a kilo of coffee beans. A cup of coffee at your
nearest cafe sells for five thousand Ugandan shillings.
Here’s how Empire congratulates itself:
Favourite American torture technique: blast Metallica
music at victims until they scream, weep, lose bladder and bowel
control. Metallica’s James Hetfield is proud that my music is cultural offensive. If they’re not used to freedom. I’m glad to be a part of the exposure.