Friday, 14 October 2016

The power of the words

An article written By Danny Keen

Me, We.  Me, We”.  The American author and Pulitzer prize winner, George Plimpton said that those two words should be in the Oxford Dictionary of Poetry as the shortest poem in history.  Those two words were spoken by a great man at the lowest time in his life.  He had proved himself to be the greatest in the world at what he did, but he upset the authorities with what he said.  “The power of words” can get you in a whole lot of trouble!  The American authorities tried to take away that man’s ability to earn his living, but he found another way.  The university campuses were full of students who were happy to pay to hear him talk, and he stood in front of them and spoke those two words “Me, We.  Of course that man was Muhammad Ali. “Me, We” is a call for inclusiveness.  It is a statement that we are all the same under the skin of our race, creed or culture.  Only four letters that hold a vast wealth of meaning for the whole world.

Those words remind me of a Jamaican phrase.  Its a Rastafarian expression.  Again it is only a handful of letters, only five letters.  One more than Muhammad Ali’s “Me, We”.  It goes like this “I and I”.  These five letters are also a call for unity of humankind.  A call for brotherhood and sisterhood.  Essentially the Rastafarian movement is a movement of peace.  They revered Ethiopia as the sacred home of black people.  They searched for a King of Kings.  In 1962 Jamaica, the country of my birth, became independent from Great Britain.  Free of control by the British authorities, large landowners instigated a rout of Rastafarian squatters in the hills near Montego Bay.  Eight Rastas and two policemen were killed.

History shows that whenever black people stand up for what they believe in the authorities try to crush them.  Here is a quote by the great freedom fighter Angela Davis…  “Poor people, people of colour, are much more likely to be found in prison than in institutions of higher education”.

Foremost of all the great black people who found themselves in prison was Mahatma Ghandi.  Here is a quote that I really like…  “Nobody can hurt me without my permission”.  Mahatma Ghandi was very familiar with people in authority trying to hurt him.  His words give hope to all those who find themselves oppressed.His words were the inspiration to another great man to carry the fight for freedom and equal rights forward.  Martin Luther King Junior has so many powerful and meaningful sayings that it is hard to find just one, but here are two…  “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend”.  This again is a call for unity amongst disparate peoples.  Here is another…  “I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear”. It seems that whenever a black person is really good at their job the authorities try to cut them down.  Jack Johnson was the best at what he did.  He was a truly great man.  He was the first black heavyweight champion of the world, and also the last for a long time.

The authorities used their power to prevent black boxers from gaining the heavyweight crown for many years after Jack Johnson.  He was just too good!

Jack Johnson was the inspiration for the phrase “Great White Hope”.  These words are attributed to the writer Jack London.  They searched the whole wide world for a “Great White Hope” to beat Jack Johnson, but one could never be found.

Jack Johnson was asked what would he like to be written on his tombstone.  He said “Just write.  He was a man”.  And what a man he was!

There is something significant about all the black people whose quotes I have used.  Mahatma Ghandi, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson and Marcus Garvey.  They all suffered persecution by the authorities.  They all went to prison for their beliefs.  They all went to prison for the power of their words!

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