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Lioness for Liberation Presente!
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warriors of the Dahomey (present-day Beninmaj) were not an isolated
instance of female bravery in combat in Africa. Regiments made
up exclusively of women were known in many parts of Africa from
the Sudan to Zimbabwe, and in much of West Africa and Angola.
A member of Vasco de Gama's expedition along the coast of West
Africa reported seeing legions of perhaps 6,000 women soldiers
in West Africa some 300 years before the Amazons of Dahomey came
into being. And led by the redoubtable Queen Zhinga Mbande Ngola,
women of the Kingdom of Ngola in Angola fought well against the
Robert B. Edgerton, "Warrior Women: The Amazons of
Dahomey and the Nature of War" (2000), p. 140.
She had not
long passed the half-century mark, when her great and powerful heart
gave out. Fifty-three years young, with a spirit that was ageless
in its love and courage, Sister Safiya Asya Bukhari, has returned
to the ancestors.
She was many things to many people: daughter, mother, grandmother;
teacher, disciplinarian, soldier and comrade; former Black Panther,
former combatant in the Black Liberation Army, thinker, truth-teller,
activist and organizer. These were some of the many things she did,
in her short, yet extraordinary life. These things, while undoubtedly
significant, do not really begin to tell those who did not know
her, who she really was.
For many, especially
many of the nameless and unknown soldiers from various movements
still behind bars, she was a life-line. They knew that she would
do whatever was necessary to defend and, if possible, liberate them.
They knew that her great, loving Black heart would not turn away
from them, as they dwelled in bondage. She worked tirelessly for
Black political prisoners, like the New York 3, like Mutulu Shakur,
and others whose names may be little more than distant memories.
She was herself a former political prisoner, and spent almost a
decade in the dungeons of Virginia, and also spent several years
on that state's notorious death row. When she couldn't get the medical
treatment that she knew she deserved, she escaped to find the life-saving
treatment that Virginia denied her. But like her spiritual grandmother,
Harriet Tubman, freedom was not her's alone. She worked long and
strong for the liberation of her beloved Black people. What may
surprise many, however, was her original political orientation.
She came from a deeply religious, and (she would hate the word)
conservative family. As a bourgie sorority sister, she came to Harlem
to study the needs of the Black poor while completing her studies.
She thought people were poor because they were too lazy to work.
What she saw in Harlem, the poverty and hopelessness of the people,
as well as the deceit of the cops, radicalized her, and led her
to the gates of the Harlem Black Panther Party. She, who was once
a conservative, became a revolutionary. And she never, ever stopped!
It is in that
spirit that I share with you, the words of Safiya Buhkari, learned
through the raw experiences of Life:
The hard painstaking
work of changing ourselves into new beings, of loving ourselves
and our people and working with them to create a new reality; this
is the first revolution, that internal revolution.
I'm coming to
understand what the old ones meant when they sang the words, "The
race is not given to the swift, nor is it given to the strong, but
to him that endures to the end," and what was meant by the
fable of the 'hare and the tortoise.' Some people declare themselves
to be revolutionaries, members of one organization or another, i.e.,
I was one of the first Panthers, or I used to be a Panther;... and
only come out when there's some major celebration where Panthers
are on display; ... and live off of their former glory, not understanding
that it's not about what you used to be, but what are you doing
now. They ran a quick race, utilizing all for the moment and grew
tired and gave up. It may take a little longer to do it the hard
way, slow and methodical, building a movement step by step and block
by block, but doing it this way is designed to build a strong foundation
that will withstand the test of time and the attack of the enemy.
[Fr. S.A. Bukhari, "Reflections, Musings and Political Opinions"]
(unpubl. mss.) (1997)]
I say to you,
many who have known her, and many who did not; Safiya Bukhari was
a true revolutionary. Patient, constant, disciplined, and determined.
Safiya was a
Revolutionary, who like the Cuban internationalist, 'Che' Guevara,
was 'motivated by great feeling of love.'
It is truly
a shame that she left this life so early, but it can be said, with
certainty, that she lived her life with Freedom in her rifle scope.
She was a woman warrior who should be an inspiration to us all!
by making Her Dream, reality!
2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Check out Mumia's
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life
of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com
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is Final Free Mumia!
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.