'Today the headlines clot in my blood.
The evocative poetry of Namoi Shihab Nye appears regularly on this blog.
Naomi Shihab Nye is a Texas based, Palestinian-American poet, writer and author who is the daughter of a Palestinian born father and an American mother.
She recently published an opinion piece in the Washington Post about her childhood and family life in Ferguson Missouri and Jerusalem, in which she connects up events in Palestine with those in Ferguson (the US city where massive protests and riots followed the police killing of Black teenager Michael Brown in 2014).
My father and his family became refugees in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. They lost everything but their lives and memories. Disenfranchised Palestinians ended up in refugee camps or scattered around the world. My dad found himself in Kansas, then moved to Missouri with his American bride. He seemed a little shell-shocked when I was a child.
Ferguson was a leafy green historic suburb with a gracious red brick elementary school called Central. I loved that school, attending kindergarten through sixth grade there. All my classmates were white, of various derivations – Italians, French-Canadians, etc….
At 12, I took a berry-picking job on “Missouri’s oldest organic farm” in Ferguson. I wanted the job because I had noticed that the other berry-pickers were all black boys. I’d always been curious about the kids living right down the road whom we hardly ever got to see…
Summer 2014, the news exploded…
Of course, we wished Hamas would stop sending reckless rockets into Israel, provoking oversized responses. Why didn’t the news examine those back stories more?
Oppression makes people do desperate things. I am frankly surprised the entire Palestinian population hasn’t gone crazy. If the U.S. can’t see that Palestinians have been mightily oppressed since 1948, they really are not interested in looking, are they? And we keep sending weapons and money to Israel, pretending we’d prefer peace.
We send weapons to Ferguson, too.'
In an recent interview Naomi Shihab Nye stresses the responsibilities of writers and citizens to connect up events in disparate places to expose the exercise of unjust power and domination.
'I really did feel like I was hallucinating the whole summer with both Ferguson and Gaza in the news. I felt like if I didn’t say something, what kind of writer am I? If I don’t figure out some way to make a connection. Maybe the connection is slight, but I think the connection of domination and injustice is strong. My dad used to say Ferguson was a tinderbox waiting to explode. We asked him, “What is a tinderbox?”