This eulogy was written by Dr. Jeri Rose, who was Doctor of Chiropractic for Sister Somayah and for the Crescent Alliance Self Help for Sickle Cell before she moved to Hawaii. She asked me to read this for her here today.
On November 10, 2008 Miriam Makeba, Mother Africa died. On Dec. 3, 2008 Odetta Holmes died. Miriam was there to help Somayah home and they both welcomed Odetta. These great three singing women who sang for the African Nigretian people passed together. The other two were in their 70’s; Somayah was the baby twenty years early and not nearly adequately recognized and celebrated for her creative and beautiful songs.
She was Herowese Moore, Sister Somayah, Queen Negus; three names because this was one intense, complicated woman of whom we can say that she has died, passed over, will never visit Africa. Her death ends the possibility of her letting us see her do more. What she did not do, she did not get Cannabis legalized federally, but she did get to grow the plants in her yard for her own health. She did not go to Africa, but she did uplift those who were descendants of those who came here unwilling stolen from Africa.
She was not easy and she deserves a novel to illuminate her. I will try to avoid writing a novel here, but she was so much like all of us that she irritated us, and she was unique and fascinated us. Each person decides at some critical point in life how true to themselves they will be. Some give it all up to what society demands, some turn their back on that siren call of the herd and strike out on their own path. At every crucial turn, the decision is bartered and renegotiated. Every time Sister Somayah went to the VA hospital she went against her own path. She tried to create a community out of her own concern for her community. She was generous and yet she needed a similar generosity that she did not demand. Most of us learn a selfish survival skill to take care of ourselves and then if we also have heart and spirit, we look around to help those we can. This was not Sister Somayah’s way. She gave until she could give no more and then in her need she was invisible because she did not know how to ask for help.
She had acceded to society by joining the air force. That society owed her, so she felt no shame; she could go to the hospital it provides.
She had grown to support her people, joined the Black Panthers and served the children breakfast and survived the societal onslaught of the police attack on that group because of the wisdom of Geronimo Pratt. He had learned in the same war how to stop bullets with sandbags. They were prepared and that house was protected as no other Black Panther house. Geronimo Pratt went to jail on a false charge that was known to be false by the government that hid the evidence of his innocence.
That same government knows that the herb that could have saved Sister Somayah is innocent of harm, yet it continues to tell lies and cover up the truth about it because of power and greed. Every time Sister Somayah had to go to the VA hospital and get hooked again on morphine because she did not have enough herb to make her butter, she felt that she had failed her community and she felt a lack of love from that community that did not support her.
The truth is we loved her and could not love her enough. Perhaps only the mother she was calling upon in her last days could love her enough. However, we can leave here; leave this gathering knowing that we need to do more for each other to enable us to live our true path because it gets very lonely walking alone trying to live a personal truth. I know I am speaking a harsh truth, but it is one we need to all hear because the herd is stupid and the powerful are greedy stupid.
The planet is at risk because we use oil instead of making our fuel from hemp. A sick planet, the LA smog that poisoned Sister Somayah’s lungs, poisons all trying to breathe free in this place and we are all sick and need herbal medicine and clean air so we will not need so much herbal medicine and will be naturally healthier. The government sent me a pamphlet that said that 114 million tons of toxic pollution is put into the LA air basin each year. Only 9 million of those tons are smog, so even on a clear day, you are being poisoned and the government knows and allows it. Alcohol, commercial tobacco laced with 400 toxic poisons including uranium, are legal. The government knows and if it can keep you at your daily struggle for rent and food money, quietly getting sick and dying in its hospital temples of poison pandering to corporate greed, then it has won. Sister Somayah fought in the revolution that was not televised and there were no cameras there to tell the world of her death.
The corporations own the airwaves and pollute the air so they own the air. They own the water and food that supplies your bodies and alters your minds. Sister Somayah’s death might liberate you if you can learn to turn your back on the siren call of the herd concerned with fashion, cars, television, gadgets and goods. They are so busy that they can not find the meaning of their lives or have an inkling of being individuals. Until you examine the beliefs that you take for granted, thinking they must be true since they guide everyone you know, you are not a free person capable of knowing yourself.
Sister Somayah knew more than most that the society she was in was stacked against her. She lived in the light of that truth. She fell into despair and stopped eating and she was human and afraid of pain. She checked into the VA and allowed herself to be obliterated by morphine. That ending does not define her life.
Her songs, her art, her tenacity and love define her life. She was a glory to know, but she was like all of us mortal and frail. She needed us to help each other, and sometimes she was one of the others. She created the Crescent Alliance for Self-help for Sickle Cell. The Crescent of her cells and the Moslem crescent that engaged her loyalty did not prevent her from helping others outside of that narrow concern. She embraced everyone. She held hope for everyone until she lost that hope for herself. Her legacy is in her life. She calls us to find a way to keep ourselves loving and hoping together. She lived to see a president elected that signaled the end of the old racism.
Obama knows the consequences of the old racism. He is not black enough to know about the new racism. The new racism will eradicate the human race unless we stand up against it. We vote with our dollars and our awareness. The powerful only respect the dollar. The awareness turns away from the power that does not create a caring society. Stop bowing to the money the powerful offer for your allegiance to them. That allegiance will kill you. Find a way to live healthy and get out of Hell A. I don’t like the way sister Somayah did it, but she finally did leave it.
I know she is not lost to us; her heart left a large wake of love.