Friday, February 10, 2006

Naked and in Shackles

I expect to spend the day writing love songs to the world but I pick up the newspaper and see the photograph: Two young black men, stripped naked and shackled, laying in pools of blood on the prison floor. I see that of course the editors have squashed the photograph down to the size of nothing, hidden it away in a corner, and given the headline to the Medical Association. What good is a press that is more concerned with advertising revenue than in providing us with free flowing information? In another paper four days later the headlines are that a police tribunal will invistigate the latest beating allegations against the police force, not an independent body. And then finally I see they report that the police commissioner says the “investigation” into last month’s uprising, breakout and killings at the prison are “going quite well.” Going quite well? What the fuck are we talking about, Carifta? I keep seeing the image of the two young black men, naked and shackled and bloodied on the floor and keep hearing the voice of a friend who happens to be a black woman, who when speaking with me about this keeps referring to “the prison overseer.” The overseer? It takes twenty minutes of hearing this word over and over before I can sort out in my own head what the matter is. I don't go into it with her but do say, Sista, they are prison guards, not overseers. We don’t have overseers anymore. Then I look at the photograph again. Shackles. The men are naked and in shackles.

“We have put the past behind us,”
So goes the culture police.
“We cannot let the tourists be upset,”
So goes the mercantile elite.
“The investigation is going quite well,”
So says the obedient commissioner.
And the people turn the lights out in their eyes,
Newspapers shrink the photograph
Down to a palatable size
Of two naked men in shackles
Beaten into blood
On the prison floor,
But the streets are quiet,
Not one outraged bishop is knocking
On the parliament door.
Not one woman or man is startled
By the sight of the modern day slave,
Someone needs to take the whip for God’s grace,
We the masses were bred to believe.

At the time of this writing not one Government member has apologized to the public, to us. Not one Opposition member has spoken out demanding immediate action. We must demand it of them. Demand that they launch a full scale investigation, (a Commission of Inquiry?) into allegations of rampant police brutality. Demand that they begin immediately to plan for the building of a new prison facility that meets international human rights standards. Demand that they investigate these photographs, find out who took them, who the shackled men are and how they are. Demand that prison guards responsible for the inhumane treatment of these men be charged and tried.

At the time of this writing not one religious leader has spoken out in the name of human rights since these photographs surfaced. What a bunch of useless men they are, all falling over one another to have something damning to say when some Gay folks come through on a cruise ship, leading mobs down the street and stopping just short of burning crosses and lynching someone; but they have nothing to say when they see photographs of two of their young sons being tortured, those Christian Council hatemongers, those intoning clerics are silent now, they love to see the wrath enacted that reminds them of their god.

We must do the speaking out. Ours is the generation that cannot and will not be silent in the face of police brutality, we cannot and will not be silent and let another decade go by knowing that behind the tourist palaces we are harboring a gaol where human rights atrocities are going down every day. We are the children of the sixties, we are the daughters and sons of righteous protest, we believe in justice, we believe in humane treatment for all human beings, even for convicted criminals. We are the generation born from the generation who put flowers into gun barrels. We mean to raise our children in a place where there are no gestapos, no overseers, and no silence in the face of horrible injustice.

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