By Veli Mbele
For much of this week, the meaning of the concepts of ‘memory’, ‘erasure’, ‘amnesia’ and ‘remembering’ was swilling in my head.
I was thinking about how there is a massive – global-multimillion dollar industry that is singularly dedicated to distorting or completely disabling Black people’s capacity to ‘remember’.
I thought about how there are many ‘respected’ Black people, who are (knowingly and unknowingly), shareholders in this global industry based on anti-blackness.
I thought about the fact that the primary site for the violence of erasure, amnesia and dismembering is the Black body. But also how the Black body is our primary instrument for the retrieval of, preservation and defence of exististential memory.
But how does the Black body do all this when it is the primary site of all manner of anti-black violence? This entire thought process was sparked by my reflections on the experience of a Black Brother called Amadou Diallo.
Diallo was killed 21 years ago by the police in AmeriKKKa.In a song dedicated to him and titled ‘Diallo’ by Wyclef Jean and Yossou Ndou, there is a line that in my view aptly captures the existential conundrum that the Black body finds itself in, in the world as we know it.
The line goes ‘Have you ever died, only so you can live.Have you ever lived, only so you can die again’.This living to die and dying to live is an existential conundrum that is common to all Black bodies, regardless of their social status or geographic location in the world.
It is an existential conundrum that epitomises the oxymoronic nature of the concept of Black life. Below is an essay I wrote earlier this year to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the murder of Amadou Diallo.
Diallo’s brutally murder reminds us that the lynching of Black people by the police in AmeriKKKa is not a mistake and that is has been happening long before Black Lives Matter was even a brain wave. In fact, the very axis around which AmeriKKKa and the world revolves is Black death.
“Our heart is heavy but we are joyful, because of your smiles, your hugs, and your wonderful celebration of Amadou’s life”
These were the emotionally-heavy words of Mama Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo,last year at the Bronx Community College, in New York. This event was held in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the murder of Amadou Diallo.
I always make the point that the global white- controlled mainstream media or academia will never and should never be expected to highlight or critically reflect on the global phenomenon of anti-Blackness.
For this reason, at every opportunity, I encourage my generation of Black activists and writers to investigate and find stories that help educate us about the place that Blackness continues to occupy in the world that is violently constructed by whiteness.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the brutal murder of one of our own, Amadou Diallo. On the evening of 4 February,1999, 22 year- old Amadou Diallo, from Guinea, West Afrika, was confronted by four white cops, on the doorstep of his apartment in New York.
Before he could make sense of all that was happening, he was sprayed with a hail of bullets and killed. The cops fired a combined total of 41 shots, 19 of which struck him.They claimed it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ as they had mistaken him for a wanted rapist.
When he reached for his wallet, they ‘thought’ he was reaching for his gun.He wanted to show them his identification.No gun was found at the murder scene. Only his wallet and beeper.
All four cops were found not guilty.In honour of Diallo’s memory, the Haitian musician, Wyclef Jean performs a deeply melancholic song titled ‘Diallo’.
In an attempt to capture the horror of Diallo’s murder, Wyclef sings:
“Have you ever been shot forty-one times?
Have you ever screamed and no one heard you cry?
Have you ever died only so you can live?
Have you ever lived only so you can die again, then be born again from these enemies, on the borderline
Who’ll be the next to fire forty-one shots by Diallo’s side?
Twenty one years later, the story of Diallo is a rude reminder of the position of mechanical and automatic fatality that our black skins place us in as Black people.
This is our lived reality regardless of our social status or geographic location.And no amount of marching, speeches or campaigns against police brutally will permanently end this mechanical terror against the Blackbody.
The only solution is for Black people to destroy the current world and build one wherein the sanctify of their lives will define the nature and character of the world.
The world as currently constructed is violently anti-Black. In the meantime, the Black world must never stop talking about Diallo and calling for justice for him and many others like him.
Veli Mbele is an Afrocentric essayist, political historian and secretary of the Black Power Front
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vernac News.