Once more, all that is human drowned in the sea

“I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this”

Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who changed history, who sparked and sustained a movement against patriarchy, colonialism, injustice, imperialism, racism, misogyny. Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who continue to move a nation forward. But 150 women, children, men died – were murdered – off the coast of Libya, and the story that is told cannot stand. The story that is told is so much noise “tragedy”, tragedy, tragedy. Fear: feared drownedfeared deadfeared deadfeared drowned. These reports empty tragedy and fear of all meaning. As activist Helena Maleno has noted, Europe and the United States have militarized the borders into death zones, zones of necropolitics, necrocapitalism, necroborderlands, in which people are killed or abandoned to die. Criminalize all attempts at rescue or support, militarize the spaces between nations, criminalize those who seek rescue or support, fill the waters with sharks, and then, when the refugees and asylum seekers drown, call it a tragedy of monumental proportions. 

And now the surface of the Mediterranean is as it was the week before, as it will be in the weeks ahead, unbrokenand all that is human has drowned in the sea, as we walk in circles, intoning, “Tragedy. Fear. Fear. Tragedy.” The tragedy is in the mirror as is the farce. I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this … “but the dogs are in the street. The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished.” I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this. I made a mistake.

Jose Campos Torres
by Gil Scott-Heron

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life, poetry trends

That awareness, consciousness, poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets

And therefore, my friends, brothers, sisters, in-laws, outlaws, and besides — they already knew

But brother Torres, common ancient bloodline brother Torres is dead

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more words down about people kicking us when we’re down

About racist dogs that attack us and drive us down, drag us down and beat us down

But the dogs are in the street

The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished

It has scarcely brought us the comfort we suspected

The recognition of our terror and the screaming release of that recognition

Has not removed the certainty of that knowledge — how could it

The dogs rabid foaming with the energy of their brutish ignorance

Stride the city streets like robot gunslingers

And spread death as night lamps flash crude reflections from gun butts and police shields

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But the battlefield has oozed away from the stilted debates of semantics

Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming

The reality of our city, jungle streets and their Gestapos

Has become an attack on home, life, family and philosophy, total

It is beyond the question of the advantages of didactic niggerisms

The motherfucking dogs are in the street

In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers

In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers

In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers

Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn’t need no new niggers

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But dogs are in the street

It’s a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around

It was turned around so that right looked wrong

It was turned around so that up looked down

It was turned around so that those who marched in the streets with bibles and signs of peace became enemies of the state and risk to national security

So that those who questioned the operations of those in authority on the principles of justice, liberty, and equality became the vanguard of a communist attack

It became so you couldn’t call a spade a motherfucking spade

Brother Torres is dead, the Wilmington Ten are still incarcerated

Ed Davis, Ronald Regan, James Hunt, and Frank Rizzo are still alive

And the dogs are in the motherfucking street

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I made a mistake

(Photo Credit: Miriadna.com) (Video Credit: YouTube)

Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean

Helena Maleno Garzón at a workshop

The year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost, sinking into the sea bottom as it reveals the sinking of our own collective humanity. Last year, over 5000 women, children and men drowned in the Mediterranean. The year before close to 4000, and the year before that, a little over 3000. This year, the reported death toll hovers just over 3000. That “success” is largely due to draconian measures that have sent refugees back to slave markets and brutal prisons in Libya and life-in-death in Morocco. Spain has replaced Italy as the preferred port of entry for those seeking a life, be they called migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers. Such is today’s morbid mathematics that over 3000 innocents drowned in one body of water in one year is touted as “success”. This is who we are … or not. Helena Maleno Garzón is a Spanish activist and journalist based in Tangiers. Working with Caminando Fronteras, a human rights group founded in 2002 that monitors and reports on the Spanish – Moroccan borders, Helena Maleno Garzón has spent the last years documenting, working with, rescuing and insisting on the dignity of migrant, refugees and asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean, and for that refusal, she is described as a criminal by both Morocco and Spain.

Two Spanish cities – Ceuta and Mellila – sit on Morocco’s coast. In 2015, Helena Maleno Garzón described the two enclaves as “the most heavily guarded borders in the EU to keep out African migrants.” Two years ago, Helena Maleno Garzón described a scene of mounting violence, excessive and illegal use of force, and preventable tragedies, such as the massacre of 15 African migrants on February 6, 2014, at the El Tarajal beach, in Ceuta. As a Liberian woman refugee explained, “We are subjected to ongoing institutional violence when we reach the border. This can range from denial of access to basic rights, to torture, physical abuse, and even sexual violence. What you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer in transit.” In the intervening years, that fraction has grown as it has intensified. After 15 years of engagement in the area, Helena Maleno Garzón and her colleagues at Caminando Fronteras have declared that the area is now a war zone.

And so, the Moroccan government, at the behest of the Spanish government, has charged Helena Maleno Garzón with smuggling and human trafficking. The Spanish government tried the same trick a few years ago, but had to withdraw the charges earlier this year. Earlier this week, the Moroccan court postponed Helena Maleno Garzón’s trial until January 10 of next year. In Morocco and in Spain, many are rising to Helena Maleno Garzón’s defense. Across Spanish social media, #DefendiendoAMaleno appears next to #NoEsDelito. The defense of Helena Maleno Garzón rejects the criminalization of assisting others in need.

Helena Maleno Garzón stands trial for asking which is the greater crime, to cross a border, to assist crossing a border or to maintain that border with lethal force?  Spanish policy mirrors European policy, and “what you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer.” Look into the mirror. Let us move closer to the water’s edge, grasp one another’s hands, encircle the Mediterranean, and speak the names of every child, woman, and man who died in the sea or at the hands of border guards while trying to find haven. Let us do so for the sake of humanity.

 

(Photo Credit: El Pais / Caminando Borders)