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By Layla Kristy Feghali
“i have been locked by the lawless.
Handcuffed by the haters.
Gagged by the greedy.
And, if i know anything at all,
it’s that a wall is just a wall
and nothing more at all.
It can be broken down.
i believe in living
i believe in birth.
i believe in the sweat of love
and in the fire of truth.”
– Assata Shakur
Assata is a testament to the power and responsibility of human beings to transform what seems impenetrable and realize the wholeness of our liberation on all levels. She is a testament to the unseen forces within and around us that push us beyond where we thought we could arrive—the forces of life that insist on life, and the integrity of a fierce and self-respecting justice which seeps deep into the root of all which has been taken against the will of indigenous peoples and our homelands around the globe.
Assata is the humanizing force of love and connection that sculpts the wholeness of life despite all the traumas and tides of oppression that have aimed to fragment, divide, and conquer us from our selves and our capacity to thrive in self-determined ways. As women, as Black people, and Brown and Yellow and Red and Olive people whose lands, sense of wellness, right and purpose to live have been attacked and exploited for profit, whose traditions have been stolen and lineages suppressed, whose bodies have been imprisoned, violated, and detained, re-occupying the wholeness and life force of our bodies and homes, our power and purpose, our traditions, our histories, our hearts and spirits, our truths and rights, our humanity, our connection and capacity to love and be loved—our right to do so—is at the very heart of our liberation.
Assata is the warrior who makes whole all these things which have been severed and ripped apart. She is the raw force of truth that lives beyond our trauma-bound amnesia and dissociation. She is connection where connection means life. Assata is the power that remembers herself and the fullness of where and who she comes from– a conscious accumulation of all the love, resilience, and power that has made her and all the blood that has been shed to make life on this earth a reality despite genocidal threats.
Assata is a homage to her unyielding ancestors, and a walking embodiment of their wisdom, protection, and power. She is a warrior who fights with humility and who honors her place in things, and who does not ever neglect her capacity to enforce righteousness; she does not deny what has been lost and does not ignore the power of the life-defending forces that are steadfast in their presence despite it all. She does not surrender to the spirit of death and domination where it overbearingly abides nor where it inserts itself between the lines.
She is the seamstress of a lineage that is destined to resurrect its natural and righteous order to a life of dignity and respect for all living beings and lands, family and love that survives beyond the boundaries of exile and forced dislocation. She is the indigenous spirit of the Earth that cannot die.
Assata is a warrior who heals thru gratitude and memory and an indestructible dedication to life’s will to survive and re-member itself. She is resilience and the fearless fire of a justice that insists on reparations where they are due. She is the fierce and unapologetic power of a long-suppressed maternal justice which sweeps through the lands with a love that upholds the integrity of the whole and will eliminate all obstructions to its inter-dependent parts; a justice that insists on a respect for only the most righteous forces of life, and empowers the responsibility of each individuals’ power to make this a reality; a justice that nourishes life for past, present, and future all at once.
She is the woman, the sister, the aunty, the ancestor who occupies the power of her own soul reclaimed, raw and unwavering in her truth, discerning and relentlessly fierce in her fire.
She is the reminder that we have work to do, and the reflection that we have the power and urgency to do it.
She is the heart of our liberation, the breath of its very essence, and the miracles supporting us along the way. Assata Olugbala Shakur—“the one who struggles for her people with gratitude.” May this elder be honored and protected by our works.
“On slave ships,
hurling ourselves into oceans.
Slitting the throats of our captors.
We took their whips.
And their ships
Blood flowed in the Atlantic
and it wasn’t all ours.
We carried it on.”
– Assata Shakur
Layla Kristy Feghali is an Arab of Lebanese national origin who is currently based in California. Born and raised in the US, she worked for several years as a community organizer supporting the interconnected liberation struggles of Black, Arab, and Indigenous peoples, including youth, feminist, and queer communities throughout the diaspora and our respective homelands. Most currently, she is cultivating her commitment to revive practice of the ancestral forms of medicine which historically have kept our lands and communities self-sufficient, healthy, and in tact. She holds a Masters in Social Work degree in community mental health, as well as ongoing development in holistic and traditional healing, and training as an herbal medicine practitioner.