19 June 2020
As we collectively consider what Emancipation means, I would like to share my thoughts and experience. As a native Somali, I was born free as my forbearers were before me. However to understand the military and financial pressure which continues to pervade global policy, we must turn back a few chapters.
As a people rooted in oral stories, my Parents and Grandparents shared with me the reality of a free continent. The highest position among my folks is that of the camel farmer. These pastoralists would walk their camels from the Gulf of Aden to the Atlantic Ocean and back. Camels drink sea water as part of their metabolic need to go so long without fresh water. To this day, you will find Somali camel tenders bringing their herds to the Gulf to drink.
Human life began in East Africa. When the Europeans returned, it was not for a homecoming but to pillage our land and people. Colonialism was a means to control the resources and labor of our territories. As an independent peoples, the Somali insisted on signing a treaty with the British on their ship. This enforced maritime law and resulted in Somaliland becoming a protectorate rather than a colony. My Ancestors prayed, and asked if such an arrangement was unjust, to sink the British ships in the harbor. To prevent Somali born foreigners, our agreement required European pregnant women to leave our shores by the second trimester.
Ahmed, an elder family friend and camel tender who has passed, shared a story of his predecessors making the trek back from the Atlantic with their herds and being stopped at a border that didn’t exist when they were heading west. A country had been declared and a border established in our free territories. They were able to pass enroute back to Somaal (both the name of My People and My Homeland) but were warned they would need documents next time.
This is one of the many effects of colonization: separation of peaceful peoples who for millennia had traveled in their Great Grandparents’ footsteps across Ancestral Land.
The concept of Manifest Destiny was applied far and wide as strangers “discovered” inhabited lands and claimed to “liberate” them by creating imaginary lines on their maps to hoard resources in their own self and national interests. Every single wealthy nation on Earth owes their current status to these policies.
What kind of person thinks his interests supersede the needs of the population already present?
If I brought my family to your home unannounced, we moved in and expected first dibs to your fridge, pantry, bathroom, phone, remote, vehicles and so on, would you consider this reasonable or just?
The crisis we face in America and globally is rooted in centuries old failed theories of superiority as a justification for theft of person and property. Theories that have fallen flat again and again while the theft has continued into the new millennium to the present day with only thin veils in name or method.
For instance, neocolonialist policy controls vast swaths of resources around the world by dictating the terms of trade for native resources.
Imagine the anxiety you have felt for yourself, your family and loved ones as you’ve gone to the grocery store, the gas station or done other mundane tasks during the pandemic. Now multiply this across every task you do or have done since adolescence. And then again intensify this sense of anxiety until it becomes dread as you relive any interaction you have had with police or authority. When you begin to feel physically ill and mentally exhausted, you have just crossed the threshold of what the global suppression of Human Rights for my Sisters and Brothers is like. Now apply this across the past 20 generations of your family tree and anybody who looks similar to you.
Awareness of the U.S. begins early on even in rural Somaliland, fifty years and 7200 miles away (11,500 km). What many people in America cannot see from within is how Democratic Ideals and the Promise of Freedom act as a beacon across Our Planet. The other side of this coin is when we do not realize these ideals, we fail not only ourselves, our communities, our neighbors and Our Nation, we also act to extinguish the hope held in hearts around the globe.
Unfortunately even our home of Vermont underpinned with a motto of “Freedom and Unity,” hate and ignorance still flourish. This week racial epithets have been directed at me.
I encourage everyone who reads this to consider the stories of your forbearers. Discuss them with your families, friends, co-workers and community. By considering our interwoven pasts, we may find context for our present, and guidance in realizing our ideals in the near future.
Peace, Power and Blessings,
Mahdi Ismael Ibrahim
Btw: If you have the time to volunteer and/or means to donate, please look for organizations in your community. Here is a worthwhile list to consider: https://lifehacker.com/1843852418