Message From Exile
(Written by Nehanda Abiodun)
Carry it on now.
An Excerpt from “Life Underground”
By Nehanda Abiodun in BLU 9
In the past I’ve resisted writing what it means to be underground, using security as an excuse, not wanting to give my enemies any more information than they already had. But I was fooling myself. The real reasons I didn’t want to take on the task was because it meant looking honestly at what my being underground did to some people that I love; that I had to relive some painful moments; and that I had to finally find out if I had forgiven myself for my errors as well as the hurt that my decisions had caused others. I cannot write about underground in a technical or theoretical way, I can only write about the cause and effects as I lived them.
“Nehanda Abiodun: Life Underground”
Life in Exile
There are those who might feel sorry for me, being in exile, separated from family and friends, they shouldn?t. I made certain choices in my life and those decisions came with certain consequences. My only regret is the pain that my family suffered. Those of you who have children I?m sure can understand the hurt in my heart and guilt that I go through for leaving them. Fortunately we are healing as a family, them loving me unconditionally as I love them; so once again I am blessed.
Having not been able to yet meet my granddaughter, hug my children or my mother when I want, thinking about my comrades in prison and how much we have to do so they and we can be free are things that make me sad.
Nehanda Still Smiles
What makes me smile is a very long list. Listening to my 7 year old granddaughter tell me her definition of the word awesome, knowing that my mother is the radical dissident resident in her nursing home (you gotta know Large Marge to understand); my daughter?s stories about her brother; thinking about Mutulu in the clinic years ago doing the ?Whip It,? Chinganji?s ?Lucy moments;? Featherdance?s wedding; Jafari?s unending patience with me; young people who think I have all the answers and me knowing that I some times don?t even know the questions; Catherine dancing on the table last new year?s eve. Mari writing me and telling me of her recent marriage, her being at peace spiritually; Dana?s face when in moment of forgetfulness, calling me a fool (it was all good, she forgot I wasn?t her peer, we were in girlfriend mode); a baby?s smile and a vivid sunrise are just some of the things that make me smile.
The Role of the Intellectual in Liberation
I see no difference in the role or responsibility of an intellectual than I do a day laborer when it?s a question of freedom. Everyone has some sort of talent or intellect that would be of value to our liberation. It?s a question of finding out what talent we have to offer and giving it unselfishly to our struggle for self-determination.
Is the intellectual any more important than the person who organizes the people to understand the theories of the intellectual or the person who defends the protest and rallies or for that matter the person who does childcare so that parents can attend the demonstrations? Was it not the house servant that secured information about the master’s movements and plans that enabled various slave rebellions to be of some success? If we look at Cuba as an example we will see that their triumph was in part due to the fact that women and men from all sectors of the society made contributions to defeat Batista and no one has been excluded, regardless of education, race or gender from defending the revolution.
If you?re a writer, write about the revolution; if you?re a teacher, teach revolution; if you?re a painter, paint the scenes of freedom; if you?re a computer specialist, design the leaflets; if you?re a community organizer, organize the next rally; if you?re an MC then rap about Kwasi Balagoon, Sandra Pratt and Mtayari Shabaka Sundiata. There?s a job for everyone and no one who is willing to make an honest contribution should be turned down or discouraged from doing so or made to feel that what they donate is not needed or appreciated.
There were many people who contributed to my political development. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Fanon, Phoolan Devi, June Jordan, DuBois, Robert and Mabel Williams are a small fraction of the intellectuals who have influenced me and are probably familiar to most, but there are a number of political theories and opinions written by lesser known intellectuals who have contributed to my political consciousness. I?d like to think that my development is an ongoing process and have opened myself up to learn from many sources.
Political prisoners Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and David Gilbert provide in-depth analysis of both current events and the past victories and errors of the Black Liberation Movement and the role and participation of the white radical left respectively. I am very grateful for the writings of women like Audre Lorde, bell hooks and Angela Davis for their theories regarding feminist thought. Drs. Adewole Umoja, Jafari Allen, Mukungu Akinyela, Akinyele Umoja, Sisters, Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur, Marilyn Buck and Afeni Shakur have also been very important to my learning process.
I learn a great deal from young people whom I?m fortunate to have in my life. I?m honored that youth from both the US and Cuba have embraced me, opening their hearts and allowing me to enter their lives. Their energies have often been the fountain that I draw from to revive my commitment to struggle.