A common enemy of the sun: George Jackson and Samih Al-Qasim

The September 25, 1971 edition of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service is centered around a full page spread dedicated to George Jackson, their fallen comrade and Field Marshal whom San Quentin prison guards assassinated on August 21 that year. While the paper dedicated two consecutive editions to Jackson in late August and early September, this particular spread is notable for its encapsulation of the deep bond between Black and Palestinian liberation.

The right side of the centerfold is dedicated to a five-stanza poem across two columns. Just below the last stanza in the center there’s a hyphen followed by George Jackson in bold, capital letters. The left side is dominated by a centered portrait of Jackson, on top is the title of the poem and below it there is Jackson’s name and days of birth and death. The poem ostensibly attributed to Jackson, “Enemy of the sun,” was that of revolutionary Palestinian poet Samih Al-Qasim, whose poetry Jackson had copied in his own handwriting.

George Jackson in the sun of Palestine

When Black revolutionary scholar, artist, and activist Greg Thomas obtained a memorandum, first published on Liberation News, in 2009 listing and numbering the books taken from Jackson’s cell after his assassination, he found, listed at the end but four lines above the third volume of Karl Marx’s Capital, was Enemy of the sun, edited by Naseer Aruri and Edmund Ghareeb. With the subtitle, Poetry of Palestinian resistance, the book was published by the Drum and Spear Press in 1970 as an anthology.

In an article accompanying his exhibition and translated into english by Samidoun, “George Jackson in the sun of Palestine,” Thomas writes that, as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was transforming “into a radical Black nationalist organization that would rename itself the Student National Coordinating Committee, it also took a bold position in support of Palestine.” The position, he implies “co-drafted by Stokely Carmichael, who would go on to make history as a revolutionary icon of ‘Black Power’ and Pan-African movements for liberation,” resulted in dissolution of the group, as funding from “white liberalism in general and white ‘Jewish’ liberalism in particular came to a screeching halt.”

It was radicals in the former SNCC grouping formed press that published, Enemy of the sun, a book that, as Thomas concludes his essay:

“…was the same collection of poems seized from the cell of George Jackson (Black Panther Field Marshal), after his assassination by San Quentin prison guards on August 21, 1971: ‘Enemy of the Sun’ by Samih al-Qasim was even mysteriously published in the Black Panther newspaper under “Comrade George’s” name in a magical “mistake” that would cement a certain Black/Palestinian connection for decades to come.

Condemning Zionist imperialism and white colonial liberalism led to no crisis for the Black Panther Party, for it was revolutionary rather than a reformist organization from its inception.  The party issued at least three official statements on Palestine and the ‘Middle East’ in 1970, 1974, and 1980, besides anonymous Black Panther articles promoting Palestinian liberation as well as assorted PLO editorials in The Black Panther Intercommunal New Service, a periodical with a global circulation of several hundred thousand copies weekly in its run from April 25, 1967 to September 1980.

Whether or not this was really a “mistake” is besides the point. The fact that an anthology released the same year as Jackson’s assassination circulated through U.S. prison walls speaks to the enduring solidarity between the two struggles. As Thomas concludes in his article, Blame it on the sun: George Jackson and the poetry of Palestinian resistance:

“The ‘mistake’ of capitalist property and commercial copyright turns out to be a revelation, a sign of radical identification and uncanny connection beyond rhetorical declarations of solidarity” [1].

“Enemy of the sun,” – Samih Al-Qasim 

“I may – if you wish – lose my livelihood
I may sell my shirt and bed.
I may work as a stone cutter,
A street sweeper, a porter.
I may clean your stores
Or rummage your garbage for food.
I may lie down hungry,
O enemy of the sun,
But
I shall not compromise
And to the last pulse in my veins
I shall resist.

You may take the last strip of my land,
Feed my youth to prison cells.
You may plunder my heritage.
You may burn my books, my poems
Or feed my flesh to the dogs.
You may spread a web of terror
On the roofs of my village,
O enemy of the sun,
But
I shall not compromise
And to the last pulse in my veins
I shall resist.

You may put out the light in my eyes.
You may deprive me of my mother’s kisses.
You may curse my father, my people.
You may distort my history,
You may deprive my children of a smile
And of life’s necessities.
You may fool my friends with a borrowed face.
You may build walls of hatred around me.
You may glue my eyes to humiliations,
O enemy of the sun,
But

I shall not compromise
And to the last pulse in my veins
I shall resist.
O enemy of the sun
The decorations are raised at the port.
The ejaculations fill the air,
A glow in the hearts,
And in the horizon
A sail is seen
Challenging the wind
And the depths.
It is Ulysses
Returning home
From the sea of loss

It is the return of the sun,
Of my exiled ones
And for her sake, and his
I swear
I shall not compromise
And to the last pulse in my veins
I shall resist,
Resist—and resist.”

References

[1] Greg Thomas, “Blame it on the Sun: George Jackson and Poetry of Palestinian Resistance,” Comparative American Studies 13, no. 4 (2015): 244.

Loading

Share