A Note Before Wading

By M Thandabantu Iverson

Assata Olugbala Shakur
Assata Olugbala Shakur

Once during contemporary times, on a plantation somewhere in this country, one of our sisters escaped and ran away. You can imagine what the Masters Association did: They put her face on a parchment and called her a criminal for having the guts and brains to run away. Then they promised a very few dollars to the poor Whites and Browns and Others of All Colors trying to survive the shadows of the plantation, if they would pledge allegiance to the profit god and seek out the runaway and bring her back-dead or alive. Then, just to secure their system of coercion and control, the slavemasters selected a handful of the enslaved who had fully accepted their dehumanized status to ride along with the poor Whites to help with the capture. Others of the enslaved were told that if they dared to imitate the runaway they would become criminals as she had, and would also suffer her soon-to-be-accomplished fate.

Yet all the enslaved did not listen-even when the slavemasters found some smooth-talking, smart, natty-suited and shiny-shoed slaves to deliver these messages of terror and intimidation.

There were so many more oppressed than speakers of lies. In plain sight, they remembered what all the slavemasters had done, and what liars had said, and talked amongst themselves, and found poems and books they had not read, and went to work and called in sick, and went to the fields and construction sites and began to dig tunnels, and prayed in closets for justice and judgment, and cared for their neighbors as they cared for themselves, and went to zumba and learned new dances, and stole all the slavemasters’ whips and made ropes and tied them around each other’s waists and waded into the waters, following the runaway’s song…

Dr M Thandabantu Iverson is a professor of Labour Studies and a writer.

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