Academic journal article Social Justice

Poetry in Honor of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Academic journal article Social Justice

Poetry in Honor of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Article excerpt

ON NOVEMBER 10, 1995, TO THE OUTRAGE OF THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS community, Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, along with eight other members of the grass-roots environmental and political organization he led and helped found, for struggling to defend the Ogoni people against the continued rape of the environment by the oil companies (notable Shell Oil) that is leading to the extinction of the Ogoni people.

On April 17, 1996, in Berkeley, California, a memorial tribute was held for Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other martyrs, where this poetry, written especially for the occasion, was read. It was my privilege to attend the tribute and to share in the denunciation of this horrendous injustice. We are grateful to the poets for allowing us to publish their poems in this issue of Social Justice.

Defiance Unfurling

by Jack Hirschman*

   Ken Saro-Wiwa
   we remember
   who remembered.
   Ken Saro-Wiwa,
   who wouldn't let
   origins be digitaled
   into dead info.
   An izibongo for
   Ken Saro-Wiwa
   fought for the
   unfolding enfolding
   dignity of the
   human community.
   Ken Saro-Wiwa,
   whom the engines
   of the bux-driven
   earth raping
   oil suckers of Shell
   had killed for the
   crime of being
   a faithful son
   of the world's peoples.
   Ken Saro-Wiwa
   Emerging now with
   New-born meaning
   Since his murder
   Agitating for a
   Revolution necessary to
   Overthrow the oiligarchic
   Warmongers everyday
   Infecting tribe as
   Well as broken family
   All over the poisoned world.

   Ken Saro-Wiwa
   presente, presente,
   spirit of defiance unfurling.

* JACK HIRSCHMAN (P.O. BOX 26517, San Francisco, CA 94126) is a poet, translator, and activist from San Francisco. He is also a journalist for the People's Tribune and a member of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America.

The Disgrace of Shell Oil

by Mali McGee*

   Icky oil all over our feet
   Black waters
   Our food has run away
   Plants have gone bad
   Oil's taking over
   A man stood up to help the people
   But they killed a kind soul

* MALI McGEE (1215 Versailles St., Alameda, CA 94501) is eight years old and is in the third grade at Otis Elementary School in Alameda. This poem was written March 17, 1996.

Periodic Table

by Diane Wang*

   How does it happen?
   Night Raiders torch the village
   Rich delta inflames
   Nine men hanged
      --explain this to me.

   Begin with hydrogen
      the lightest, most simple
      molecule in the universe.
   Begin with carbon
   long chains hungry for linking.

   Begin with sunlight on seas
   prehuman and therefore at peace
   except for the slow tearing of the land,
   planet pushing down doughy continents
   fermenting dark sticky petroleum.

   Begin with the species
   that learns to burn
   sticks, coal, blubber,

   The clever species
   industrious, learns to burn
   heretics, enemies, villages,
   hungry for chains, for life. … 
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