by Alagi Yorro Jallow
‘Roaming the night’s streets’ stuck in my mind since high school is this passage which I memorized during our study of Alex la Guma’s “A Walk in the Night.”
“I am thy father’s spirit,
Doomed for a certain term to walk the night
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away.” – Shakespeare’s Hamlet
I was fascinated by the inspiration behind La Guma’s title drawn from “Hamlet.” Like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, La Guma’s characters restlessly roam the night in Apartheid South Africa, haunted by crimes committed against them, crippled by their own personal failings. They in turn hound the system that robs them of life itself, “till the foul crimes done in [their] days of nature” are avenged.
April 10/11, 2000 Student massacre, to date, I still remember one tragic character – Journalist Omar Barrow and a Red Cross volunteer of sorts – whose last moments gripped my mind. After being shot cold blood at close range at the Red Cross Headquarters, Knifings, he’s placed in an ambulance and wrapped in the warmest blankets, soft and clean, and the whitest sheets, white as cocaine. All his life, he’s only known old smelly threadbare blankets. His only moment of dignity is in death.
It strikes me, that so many tortured souls roam the night’s streets, and upon their tragic death, we wrap them up in the softest sheets of dignity too late to make any difference.
At the ending of dictatorship and, in the throes of the Gambia’s nascent democracy’s woundedness. Now I find myself needing to find anchor again as we go through the woundedness of the Gambia’s fledgling democracy that have come with so much anger oozing out of unhealed scars, loss of life, and malignant hate. Remembering April 10/11 Student Massacre so perfectly reflect the storm brewing over a young nation struggling to hold itself together, but daily surrendering to the savage seduction of propaganda, the spread of malice, the rejection of what is true, and using God to stamp every prejudice and loath for fellow humans.