Who today remembers Marikana? Who today remembers Heather Heyer?

“This silence calls out unconditionally; it keeps watch on that which is not, on that which is not yet, and on the chance of still remembering some faithful day.”
Jacques Derrida, “Racism’s Last Word”

August 16, 2017, marked the fifth anniversary of the massacre of Marikana, in which 34 protesting miners were killed by the police, in the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces since the March 21, 1960 Sharpeville massacre, when security forces killed 69 people. August 16 2017, people gathered in Charlottesville, and around the world, for the memorial service for Heather Heyer, murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, August 12. Both commemorative and memorial events were marked, in social and news media, with injunctions to never forget and to always remember. We will not forget you. #RememberMarikana #RememberHeatherHeyer #NeverForget. Will we remember Marikana? Will we remember Heather Heyer?

We may have a trace of memory within, but that is not remembering. If we remembered, meaning if we held the moment or the event or the person(s) present in their absence, five years would not have passed as they have, and, five years from now, who will `remember’ Heather Heyer? I don’t mean that last question as a condemnation, but rather something to study and engage with, as those memories and remembrances will engage with us … or not.

34 miners were killed by bullets on a hill in South Africa. Their names are Tembelakhe Mati, Hendrick Tsietsi Monene, Sello Lepaaku, Hassan Fundi, Frans Mabelane, Thapelo Eric Mabebe, Semi Jokanisi, Phumzile Sokanyile, Isaiah Twala, Julius Langa, Molefi Ntsoele, Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala, Nkosiyabo Xalabile, Babalo Mtshazi, John Kutlwano Ledingoane, Bongani Cebisile, Yawa Mongezeleli Ntenetya, Henry Mvuyisi Pato, Ntandazo Nokamba, Bongani Mdze, Bonginkosi Yona, Makhosandile Mkhonjwa, Stelega Gadlela, Telang Mohai, Janeveke Raphael Liau, Fezile Saphendu, Anele Mdizeni, Mzukisi Sompeta, Thabiso Johannes Thelejane, Mphangeli Thukuza, Thobile Mpumza, Mgcineni Noki, Thobisile Zimbambele, Thabiso Mosebetsane, Andries Motlapula Ntsenyeho, Patrick Akhona Jijase, Michael Ngweyi, Julius Tokoti Mancotywa, Jackson Lehupa, Khanare Monesa, Mpumzeni Ngxande, Thembinkosi Gwelani, Dumisani Mthinti and Mafolisi Mabiya. Heather Heyer was killed by a car in the streets of the United States.

Today is Friday, August 26, 2017. Who today spoke the names of these 35 martyrs? Who stopped what they were doing, today, and “remembered”. Who re-membered them, who re-called them, who conjured them … today?

In November 1983, an exhibit entitled “Art contre/against Apartheid” opened in Paris. Jacques Derrida contributed an essay, “Racism’s Last Word” to the catalogue. Derrida hoped that Apartheid would be the name “for the ultimate racism in the world, the last of many.” He saw the purpose of the exhibition as creating a memory of the future: “A memory in advance: that, perhaps, is the time given for this exhibition. At once urgent and untimely, it exposes itself and takes a chance with time, it wagers and affirms beyond the wager. Without counting on any present moment, it offers only a foresight in painting, very close to silence, and the rearview vision of a future for which apartheid will be the name of something finally abolished. Confined and abandoned then to this silence of memory, the name will resonate all by itself, reduced to the state of a term in disuse. The thing it names today will no longer be. But hasn’t apartheid always been the archival record of the unnameable? The exhibition, therefore, is not a presentation. Nothing is delivered here in the present, nothing that would be presentable-only, in tomorrow’s rearview mirror, the late, ultimate racism, the last of many.”

The unnameable showed up on that hill in 2012 as it did in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017. The late, ultimate racism, the last of many, has not yet ended; it is alive and killing, taking lives, threatening entire populations. When we speak the names of the martyrs, we speak their names in a raging ocean of unconditional silence, the silence of the massacred, and we cannot yet claim to remember them. That faithful day has not yet come, and we are not yet at racism’s last word. Instead of promising to remember and to never forget, let us try as best we can to speak the names in the hope that someone might hear, might understand, and might, might, just carry it on.

(Photo Credit 1: The Journalist) (Photo Credit 2: Mike Nelson / Variety)

About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.