Friday, May 05, 2006
Go well Brother Damu; 1952-2006
Today May 5th, 2006 there is a deep sadness in my heart. A rock and a pillar in not only the peace movement, but also the African American peace movement have passed on. Damu Smith the founder of Black Voices For Peace and the national Black Environmental Justice Network succumbed to colon cancer.
Brother Damu spent years fighting environmental racism, particularly in the South. Brother Damu was a key leader in the anti-Apartheid movement and fought police brutality in Washington, DC and around the country. Brother Damu was diagnosed with colon cancer last year while on a peace mission in the Occupied Territories. He then not only fought for his life, but against racial disparities in the health care system.
I will remember Brother Damu for many things, but one I will remember more than any is his ability to tie the issues of oppressed peoples all over the world together to stand as one against demagogic powers. Whether he was traversing through small towns in rural Mississippi or confronting soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah in Palestine, Brother Damu stood out as that one voice crying out in the wilderness.
But what touched me most was his ability to challenge African American elected officials to live out their “so called” claims of fighting for the “Little guy.” One could always find him trying to meet with senators and representatives, in particular those in The Congressional Black Caucus challenging them not too be always seeking re-election by going out trying to raise money and appease lobbyists, but rather urging them to do the right thing now: “If your gonna be a one term congressperson than so be it, but make sure you fought for what’s right rather than what’s right for you”, he could be heard to say.
Brother Damu taught me how to go against the grain. He taught me how to have the courage to do justice and have compassion, even to my enemies (And believe me I have many!)
The things that touched all of our hearts; racism, poverty, lack of health care, war, famine, touched Brother Damu’s heart even more. In September of last year, he spoke at the first annual Unvarnished Truth Awards in Washington, D.C.
I’m tired of seeing hungry children get up in the morning. I'm tired of seeing people living with AIDS, who don’t have the power to help themselves because they don’t have the resources to do so. I'm tired of seeing people tortured and oppressed. I’m tired of seeing all of these things, and as Fannie Lou Hamer said, well, she’s sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, she understood in order not to be sick and tired of being sick and tired, she had to get up off of herself, after she prayed to her god and said, “Give me the strength to do what I need to do to transform this world.” And so, out of the poverty of Mississippi and the violence and terrorism of Mississippi, this woman, Fannie Lou Hamer, rose up to do what so many of us have refused to do, and that is, to speak truth to power and not be afraid to do it.
I am no longer afraid to speak truth to power Brother Damu, you taught me that.
Go well my Brother.