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Safiya Lioness for Liberation Presente!

Long version: mp3, 3.88 MBs, 4:48

[Col. Recorded 8/28/03]

The women warriors of the Dahomey (present-day Benin—maj) 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 Portuguese.
— 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!

Remember her, by making Her Dream, reality!


Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.