Monday, August 16, 2010

'We Are Our Own Liberators': Review of Book by Political Prisoner Jalil Muntaqim

‘We are our own liberators’

Review of a book by political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim

Published Aug 15, 2010 10:14 PM
By Kit Aastrup

After a three-month wait, the book is finally lying on my table with its shiny cover in brown and purple with a photo of Jalil Muntaqim taken some months before he was incarcerated at the age of 19. Consisting of more than 36 years of prison writings by Muntaqim, this second edition contains numerous updates, poetry and additional essays.

This is not a book you read from page one in sequence. I started with the “Last Word” by George Jackson: “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of the situation, understand that fascism is already here. That people are dying that could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your life in revolution. Pass on the torch, join us, give up your life for the people.”

This collection represents some of the significant contributions Muntaqim has made to the Black Liberation and New Afrikan independence movements. It is not bedtime reading. His poems are strong and multilayered and his analytical insight is sharp as a razor. One of my favorite essays is “The Criminalization of Poverty in Capitalist America.” Though it was written years ago, it is still relevant today.

He added another after 9/11: “America reaps what it sows.” “In the 60s, U.S. progressives evolved the slogan, ‘Bring the war home!’ The question is, what will be the slogan this time, now that the war has been brought home?

“Free the land!!”

I really like the poems “What color is your blues?” “Scream Black,” “Outpost,” “Chairman Fred and Captain Mark,” “The Bush Family” and more. The following poem was written after the assassination of Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda RĂ­os by FBI snipers on Sept. 23, 2005:

My machete is adorn, draped in red
And green, sharpened with the blood
Of a patriot whose life beckons.
Viejo, I hear you from a distant land,
Your words of liberation, freedom and
Independence cuts the wind of tyranny,
the howling ravishing wolves of the U.S.
neocolonialism and exploitation.
The ancestors speak through you on this
137th anniversary of El Grito de Lares,
telling our youth NOW is the time to
restore and rebuild our nation.
Their echo’s reverberates into chords of
Afrikans drums and coqui rhythms with the
Sweetness of cocquitos — Libertad,
Libertad, Libertad, Libertad, Libertad —
We will not forgive or forget!
We will heed the call!
We will champion the Patriots!
We will free our nation!
For our machetes are adorn, draped in red
And green, sharpened with the blood of
A patriot whose life beckons.

Muntaqim calls on the Black progressive forces in “A challenge to the Black Bourgeoisie” to take the lead in building national campaigns and mobilizations within a popular civil and human rights movement. “The struggle for the preservation and restoration of democratic and civil rights must evolve towards a struggle for human rights, which in turn will take the class struggle for national unity toward the final and complete destruction of corporate-capitalist class exploitation and racist imperialist neo-colonial oppression.”

This new edition of the book is published by The Arissa Media Group, Portland, and is available on
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