How Do You Remember A Comrade?
Syd is a legendary figure in Tampa radical politics, a tireless organizer who refused to be pinned down to one project and fought for liberation in nearly every aspect of her life. She was a founding member of the Tampa Sex Worker Solidarity Network, took part and was even arrested in the ICE occupations in Tampa, and was a permanent fixture in many a rally. She had no illusions that power would simply wither away and die, nor did she lose any fire while facing the distinctly uphill battle radicals face in the South. Determined, fierce, I met Syd at one of Tampa’s most radical May Day Rallies.
“That’s a nice flag you got there.” A young woman dressed in black smiled at me.
“Yeah. The symbol has something to do with sex worker solidarity.”
“I know,” she laughed. “I made it.”
Even then, knowing nothing about her, I sensed something weird and powerful within. This was not your average leftist.
Her record in the community alone could testify to that, as well as her fully integrated grasp of capitalism and its malicious ways. On top of all of that I would later find out she was no stranger to the occult. Curious, though very skeptical.
Before the Tampa Bay Ice occupation she had sent me an encrypted message, asking what kind of spellwork might aid in direct action. I pointed towards Jesus Malverde, and said I’d gladly buy a statue for her to cultivate a relationship with The Generous Bandit. We had plans to eventually make our way down to Yeehaw Junction and engage in some crossroads work alongside other sex workers. While a guest at the recent Redneck Revolt conference in New Orleans, Syd made sure to stop at a local candle shop and had plans to sneak into a few cemeteries. A comrade she was with even asked if I wanted them to grab me some graveyard dirt when they got inside.
Not too long ago Syd told me she never got the statue. Pissed it had gotten lost in the mail, I decided I’d buy another one and deliver it myself. It’d been a minute since I’d seen her anyway, and I thought it would be great to hear about all the unrelenting work she had put in to make Tampa Bay the most radical, militant city in Florida.
Sydney Eastwin is dead.
She was 28.
“Someday you’ll call my name and I won’t answer, Someday you’ll reach for me, I won’t be there…”
Death is a constant companion to the struggle for a better life. 1.5 million perished in Algeria to defeat the supposedly democratic French state, the same country usually brought up for its “socialist” healthcare rather than open use of torture in the aforementioned conflict. 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters lost their lives fighting the United States. The amount of Palestinians killed by the Israelis in a war over basic human decency has filled the ground with more corpses than we can count.
The United States has its own killing fields: the streets of immigrant and black communities. There white men are state sanctioned to enforce “the law” as they see fit and to kill anybody that gets in their way. While tears stream down our face, the names of those taken by these monsters become words of power. We remember their last moments, resolve ourselves to never forget just who the enemy is.
Death doesn’t just lurk inside guns. The deaths of those who could have been saved if they had healthcare, who perish from diseases that could have been prevented, lie rotting at Capitalism’s altar. The miner’s cough in West Virginia, the skin cancer of a landscaper, all the fruits of lives spent making money for somebody else.
But there are still others. Others so often spoken in hushed tones. Sex Workers who disappear in the night, entire families never seen again after crossing an imaginary line in the desert.
Still to wait the victims of a mental war, who can’t take the never-ending violence propagated upon them by society. Hanging in closets. Slipping into red colored water in bathtubs. Found with needles in their arms. Gaping holes in the sides of heads, hands still clutching letters that start with the words “I’m sorry…”
All around us we are surrounded by the Dead, souls eaten alive by a system intent on turning beautiful, powerful human beings into numbers on a screen. Into dollar signs. The Left, traditionally an atheistic endeavour, offers a few phrases and moves on. The Dead are fallen, but we are reminded that eventually it’ll all pay off. Sighs of “Rest In Power” are followed by moving feet. The human once again becomes reduced from an individual to a mere transaction.
These people are more than fighters, more than all the battles or the struggles combined. They are part of something far more uncanny than materialist minds care to confront.
It’s time to change that.
Insurrection Beyond the Veil
In Hoodoo the Dead do not lie sleeping. They are everywhere, alive, and active in everyday life. Our ancestors watch over us, twist fate in our favor; the graveyard, far from a resting place, is a town unto itself filled with unique personalities and desires; they dead are called on, cajoled, entreated, and petitioned for everything from murder to a safe pregnancy.
Later tonight I will be traveling nearly two hours to a lonely, rural cemetery to get the help of a few people buried there. At the moment however, here at my desk watching the nearby sea grape blow in the breeze, I think about Syd. I offer a silent prayer that she find her way beyond the Veil. I tell her that, when she’s ready and only if she ever wanted to, I’d love her to help on any case in her realm of interest: the protection of sex workers, the liberation of the oppressed, the hexing of police.
I look forward to those days but I won’t rush them. I know I’m dealing with a real person, and most traditions say the recently deceased need time to adjust. This isn’t a tool to be used, or a nameless soldier to throw at a front line. This is the continuation of a friendship beyond the mortal coil pointed towards a political goal.
As humanity has always done.
The Dead are no stranger to politics, whether called up in a secular sense to recall past injustices or outright summoned. The Zimbabwean liberation war saw the spirits of ancestral rulers, speaking through their mediums, authorize armed resistance to the colonial regime. In Rojava the streets of every city and town are lined with photos of young men and women who died in combat, just as in Palestine the pictures of those slain by the IDF often stand right where they fell. The fascists, whether out of a desire to exploit this human experience or an actual belief in the power of their dead, pull out all the stops when it comes to funeral rites.
The case for remembering the Dead, of not just remembering them but bringing them into our lives, is something difficult for many Leftists. In a world where all that waits beyond the tomb is nihilistic emptiness why waste the energy?
In a secular sense I think even atheist comrades might gain much from a rite of remembrance. A simple ritual of candles and reading aloud the names of the fallen helps remind us how far we’ve come, how many lives have fought the same war we fight. How much blood as been lost in pursuit of a dream. If you truly believe nothing waits for you when your corpse finally drops than you can take small solace in the idea that your name, your life, will be reanimated in front of those committed to the same things you are.
“It’s a responsibility we have on our shoulders to continue the fight,” said Heval Merwan, a comrade in Rojava. “To put their dreams and their thoughts in practice, to walk on along the way. It’s something difficult, something hard and something sad. For this, we have these collective moments of remembering and minutes of silence.” Heval noted such rituals seemed to “create collective energy,” and that he felt fallen comrades “are with me in my head and give me strength to continue.”
For some people that’s simply enough. But that’s for the folks still on the fence.
Even in Rojava many graves are marked with a plastic bottle of lentils, beans and rice placed at the head of the fallen, an old Kurdish tradition providing “food for the road afterward.” The majority of the world believes not only in life after death, but that the Dead are more than capable of interacting with the living. The West, itself hardly of one opinion on the matter, is the aberration. Only in the tiny materialist pockets of humanity are the power of the Dead denied.
This denial of life after death is more of a cultural trope than any kind of reality. Mediums have been tested under double-blind laboratory conditions and were able to report accurate and specific information about deceased people when no sensory information could be plausible for where they got their information. In the United States 43% of people believe the Dead are quite capable of visiting them, 61% believe them, and 18% have seen it happen.
For those who know the afterlife is not merely an idea but something you can hear and smell I ask a simple question: how do the revolutionary dead fit in your prayers? In your ritual? When that time of year comes around to give thanks to those that come before us, should we not extend our energies and candles to souls who’ve fought for our liberation? Souls like Syd?
If you are a witch, wizard, conjurer, or magician involved in insurrection perhaps it’s time to set aside at least one time of the year to feed and care for the revolutionary dead. To honor their lives and ask for their aid in our struggle against the odds. Sadly their ranks will only swell, and as healers we have a duty to those lost in the darkness. Many pass on unsure or even unable to come to peace with what’s happened. We have a responsibility to care for them. With that care comes power.
It will also get you thinking about your own demise, and the change in shape that comes with it. A conjurer’s afterlife is far from boring, and I hope all you magical people leave behind plenty of instructions to those that might need it on how to summon your aid.
If you are non-believer I implore you to at least gather your friends once a year for a moment of reflection. Something as simple as a lit candle, a reading of the names of those lost, and a vocal “thank you” for all they accomplished does wonders. It will also keep alive the memories and lessons those beautiful souls brought into your life, even if they feel far away.
This is not a chore, or some enforced duty that takes away from your life. This is an act of love, of friendship and humanity that rises above all divisions and differences like gender, sexuality, race, and occupation. Even above death.
Isn’t that the world we want to live in anyway? Why not live it now?
I suppose I’ll end this with a new experience I had, one that gave me a jump while writing this article.
At some point downstairs, heating up pasta and draining another beer, I felt a presence. In the kitchen, at the table, was a smaller woman with long hair. One I couldn’t see with my eyes.
Sufficiently startled, I felt positive this was Syd. How is hard to explain. It wasn’t so much how she looked, the image itself kind of appearing as if it was behind frosted glass, but the way she spoke and the energy she carried just seemed to click. Some deeper part of me, right below my lungs, just knew who it was. I thanked her for everything she’s done. I told her I was writing about her, something she seemed happy about, and I asked if she had any advice to comrades still among the living.
“Keep fighting,” she said. Even if the odds were stacked against you and the enemy you fought still remained standing.
“Others will pick up the fight where you left it. And you’ll be there to join them.”
Dr. Bones is a Hoodoo-slingin’ Florida native and Egoist-Communist spitting pure vitriol and sorcerous wisdom at a world gone mad. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.
His poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism can be found at Gods & Radicals and The Conjure House. He can be reached by email, twitter, or facebook. Want to do him a favor? Help keep him alive for as little as $4.99 a month.
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