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Before you scream ‘All lives matter’ without specific mention of why ‘Black lives matter’, it will serve you well to educate yourself about the history of persecution against people of African descent. Perhaps, a good place to start is with the song “Strange Fruit” recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. This revolutionary song was painfully influenced by the lynching of two black men in Indiana which was witnessed by Jewish communist teacher and civil rights activist from the Bronx, Abel Meeropol. This song which was originally a poem, reminded Holiday of her father who died from a lung disorder after being turned away from the hospital because of the color of his skin. She was moved to use her celebrity platform to lyrically protest and the result was the song of the century.
STRANGE FRUITS IN COTTON TREE BACKDAM
Fast forward to almost a century later, smackdown in the rural part of the English-speaking South American country. A search party sets off in the fruit-filled back dam of Cotton Tree, Berbice for two missing teenagers from their community. After hours of exhaustion, they stumbled on mutilated and mangled bodies of Guyana’s most valuable human resource. The strangest fruits of them all, the very likes of which Holiday achingly referenced from deep within in her song. Understandably, they felt the same anguish and volcanic eruptions within which was experienced by Meeropol and Holiday. Cotton Tree is within the orbit of that bountiful region of Guyana where there is even talk of silk being available in the area but never known for such strange fruits.
When strange fruits pop up with extreme violence and wounds inflicted with symbolic marks, it usually points to the existence of a system that allows the perpetrators to feel comfortable enough to commit such unspeakable acts with no fear of consequences. Here, there is no system being controlled by the state to give any succor to such acts as was the case of the US in the 1930s where the Jim Crow laws institutionalized racism and gave open refuge to those who lynched African-Americans. Therefore, it is possible that the system exists at the communal level. These acts are seldom perpetrated by a few individuals. In such cases, there is always a vigilante group and aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and community members are very aware of such developments.
WAS IT A HATE CRIME OR PLAIN MURDER?
According to the United Nations, ‘Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated by bias or prejudice towards particular groups of people. To be considered a hate crime, the offence must meet two criteria: First, the act must constitute an offence under criminal law; second, the act must have motivated by bias.’ Such bias is driven towards a certain group of people due to their ethnicity, race, religion or social standing. It is reasonable to conclude, this was a hate crime.
There is absolutely no doubt, the brutal symbols of chop marks on the bodies of Joel Henry and Isiah Henry were indicative of a hate crime fueled by untamed disdain for a particular group of people. In such circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that other weapons of choice were available but as the noose, chops were the preferred way of inflicting fatal wounds to send a message.
The author is convinced about the possibility of this diabolic act being committed to by some vigilante group formed to protect the community. There might be more strange fruits in Cotton Tree back dam.