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MEND Volunteer Speaks at Black Lives Matter Rally by Stand Up To Racism Sheffield

MEND Volunteer Speaks at Black Lives Matter Rally by Stand Up To Racism Sheffield

Categories: Past Event Articles

Thursday June 11 2020

Amina Shareef from our Sheffield Working Group recently spoke at an online rally for the Black Lives Matter movement hosted by Stand Up To Racism Sheffield. The event was organised to show solidarity with those protesting police brutality in the US, as well as in the UK.

In her speech, Amina discussed a mural of George Floyd by Syrian artist Amir Aziz to draw out transnational struggles against oppression:

This image on the last standing wall of a Syrian street exposes the transnational significance and symbolism of “I can’t breathe.” This image prods us into acknowledging that “I can’t breathe” captures more than just the cry of anguish suppressed too long and now released by a people brutally enslaved, exploited, and expelled into the rotten margins and dead-end ghettos of modern American life.  Indeed, this image narrates a story of displacement, dehumanisation, and immiseration of a planetary dimension, enduring through and created anew by historical and modern forms of imperialism and colonialisation.

And so this image gives “I can’t breathe” its global substance. “I can’t breathe” is a Muslim woman gagging on a headscarf dragged off her head, a headscarf as noose around her neck. “I can’t breathe” is the hooded detainee, illegally extradited, smothered by the darkness of his hood as his body is captured and transferred into sites of torture and lawlessness

“I can’t breathe” is an Islamic intellectual, silenced by the accusations of rape, taken as political prisoner to politically suffocate a Muslim spiritual revival. “I can’t breathe” are the floating bodies who lungs carry the waters of the Mediterranean, bodies only naturally fleeing the armed conflicts and economic famines of our manufacture.

“I can’t breathe” is thus a symbol. It is a symbol of a type of life that can be cut off from oxygen, a type of life that can be cut off from bodies, a type of life living in brown, black, Muslim, dissenting, refuge seeking bodies that are worth nothing. Worth nothing because those bodies are not really human. Not really human, they can be gagged, hooded, silenced, dispossessed, drowned, tortured, detained, gassed, and denationalised into the spaces of death. By spaces of death, I do not only mean the death lived in graves and ashes, but I also mean a social death. A kind of death lived whilst still alive. A death lived by the living.

The living dead is embodied in the spaces of abandonment. The living dead lives unemployed, un-educated, deprived, impoverished, dispersed, broken down. The living dead live across the globe, in our cities here at home, in our terrace housing, our streets, our carceral system, in refugee and concentration camps of our making. The living dead is what we created. It is what we created when we decided that not all lives matter.


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