On the Death of George Floyd

Photo source: https://images.app.goo.gl/XxzsT8SiYxwL. Instagram: johnboyega

Between 2013 and 2014, I first time heard about the Black Lives Matter movement, and reading through about it helped me to realize that the African-American people still facing systemic racism even today. The shooting of black people incidents such as George Zimmerman, teen Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown by the police officers was brutal and was unacceptable that lead protests and unrest in Ferguson in New York.

Before knowing about Black Lives Matter movement, I had heard about Martin Luther King’s story during a group discussion of Theology class at college which allow me to browse about his powerful speech of ‘I have a dream’ which expressed his significant dream that one-day black people would enjoy their freedom as a dignified human being in the society and being the citizens of the world with equal rights to fulfill their potentials and that their rights are respected. In 2009, this dream was fulfilled as it reflected through the winning of Barrack Obama, the first elected black president in US history.

Reading the history of slavery of black people, apartheid in Africa and colonialism across the world by the westerns for which my country was also experienced one made me somehow feel connected to the pain of injustice that the African-American people had experienced. In 2008 I watched The Great Debaters, a biographical drama movie depicted three black students from Wiley College who were coached by their teacher (starred by Denzel Washington) to win in a public speaking competition against Harvard University students. Apart from the heat of competition that attracted me to watch this movie, I was also able to get to know the how African-American community had to endure lynching that limited their freedom of expression and their rights as citizens and human beings in the USA.

Watching a trailer of Frederick Douglas’s biopic movie also again brought me another cringe of the bitter truth of slavery in the USA. Other times this year I watched another African-American starred movie such as Hidden Figures, Madea, and Get Out, these three different genre movies, starring mostly African-American actors and have different stories but they present similar themes about injustice towards black people in the USA. Perceiving similar messages portrayed in these movies allowed us to understand that racism exists and it is a serious matter to look at and to learn to eliminate it by cultivating respect towards every people regardless of their skin color, race and ethnicity.

This week, I read the news about the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who died after being knelt on the neck for almost nine minutes by Derek Chauvin, a Caucasian Minneapolis police officer in Minnesota who came to arrest Floyd for suspecting him of passing a counterfeit $20 bill in a deli. This incident reminds me of a scene in Madea movie series where Madea (starred Tyler Perry) and his friends were stopped by an aggressive Caucasian police officer to check the driving license and treated them so harshly but fortunately, they managed to leave. Unfortunately, how heartbreaking it was that Floyd, who had lost his job as a local restaurant employee due to stay-at-home-order during the COVID19 pandemic had to left his two children at this tragic death. Despite Derek Chauvin and the other three police officers have been fired from their post and the mass protest had shown the rage for this incident to demand justice, this is again another incident where police brutality and racism could take people’s life for a lame reason. George Floyd’s death is another tragedy in how power is misused by the authority who supposed to not necessarily shot people to death when arresting them. This tragedy is truly a bitter truth of how brutal racism is and that the battle to eliminate racism is still going on in a country that was known for its spirit of freedom and human rights preaching. 

I am actually living a thousand miles away from Minnesota, USA and as I saw this horrific incident, I reflected how the police institutions in my country, Timor-Leste, also had a similar issue with some of its police members misbehaved and some even cause death of innocent civilians. This reflection brought me a thought that proper training about human-rights and racism as well as anger management are important to be included for police training as they are guardians of law and order in the society and not the ones who exercise their mental instability towards the people during conducting their duty. Yet most importantly, I realized that learning and understanding about racism and its impact to people’s lives in the society and the world are crucial as a first step to prevent the racism as well as learning to promote respect and tolerance towards difference among the people in the society and the world, and for this, it shall start now.  

The Longing for Palm Sunday this Year

Timor-Leste, a small country located in Southeast Asia that once ruled by Portuguese for some hundreds of years and then occupied by Indonesia during 24 years. It is the a country where a majority of population is Catholic and Catholic church is one of most influencing institution in the country. Being a Catholic religion follower is to comply and attend the relevant ceremonies held such as Sunday morning mass and other festivities celebrated through the mass. It has became a custom for the Catholic followers to attend the mass and to many other Timorese people, the religion itself is seen as the identity while they also continue to keep the traditional cultural beliefs in the believing power of Uma Lulik (Sacred House) and the blessings of the ancestors. The cultural belief and the faith compliance to the religion has been assimilated well.

With the Corona Virus Pandemic affecting the world due to it is easy to spread among people, the Government of Timor-Leste has applied mandatory lock-down to all the territory after one positive case was confirmed in late March and the church also has been requested to suspend all religious activities and gatherings a week before the lock-down. The suspension of the religious activities, in particular for catholic church goers however is seen as an unexpected change in the religious customs as it stopped them to not attending the mass as usual as people are required to stay home, limit the movement, to do physical and social distancing and to maintain hygiene. In social media like Facebook, there was a video of local man protesting church to not suspend the mass ceremonies and there were others who posted how they missed the ambience of the Sunday mass.

Today in Catholic religion is the celebration of Palm Sunday. It is the Sunday before Easter that begins the Holy Week. Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of the Lent commemorating the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect. Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory and has been used on Palm Sunday as the symbol for the commemoration.

As I saw that there is the longing from many Catholic fellows to attend the palm Sunday mass, following are some of the pictures of Sunday mass shots I took in Baucau from 2015 to cure the longing.

A Flying Airplane

When I was still a little kid

I love to see the airplane flying high across the blue sky

It was to me like a surprising magic visitor for my plain afternoon

It looked like  a tiny mosquito in the sky’s huge ceiling

As I laid down on a tiny green grass covered ground

I would wonder and asked myself;

“Why does that airplane looks so tiny?

Was it because my eyes are too small to see it?

Is it because of I am looking at it as a child? 

Will an airplane still look tiny even when it does not fly?

Can it see me from high up there?

Does it know that I am now looking at it in admiration?

and so my question went on and on until I almost fell asleep on the ground

Mom called me in a loud voice to get back into the house.

The airplane had gone away.

‘See you again airplane,” I said before leaving the ground.

May Day— A Phone Call with My Dad

Today is May Day

I said to my father via phone call

“What is May Day?” he asked

It’s a day off for workers dad

It’s a day off for you as a worker,

I replied. He laughed.

“What? Really? Oh dear, you must be kidding me

when could a worker have a day off in his life?

Perhaps when he is getting sick or about to die.

Workers meant to work everyday to earn income

and to sustain his life

Just look at me my dear

Since I was a teenager I had learnt to be a worker for a lifetime

learning one skill to another skill and grow with it

from being a farmer in your grandparent’s rice-field

then a young military boy for gun-keeping task during 1970s of our country’s resistance

learning to become an electrician, a builder, a repairman, a servant

then learning to become a tailor.

Today I am a tailor while at the same owning a small clothing business

with the profits only enough to afford your education

and a bag of rice for everyday meal.

But you know what I love tailoring the most my dear

I love how my hands cooperates with the sewing machine

and turns the textile to a school uniforms

isn’t that a magic, my dear?

As I sell that magic for $10 to $20 US Dollars each

people keep coming ordering the magic I create

they said they loved it so much when they wear it

and now I have so many orders stuffed on the table at my tailoring shop dear

how could I take the day off my dear?

I am not a fancy office employee like you my dear,”

I sighed, dad is laughing.

But dad, please, do take a day off

you deserve it you know, I insisted

“Alright darling, but after I finished the orders”,

my dad replied and the phone call ended.

Today is May Day

is it really a day off?

Dili, May 1, 2020.

Do You Remember Our Christmas?

Moris iha Tempu Molok COVID-19

Ho pandemia virus Corona ka COVID-19 ne’ebe oras ne’e ejiji ema hotu tenki hela iha uma, mantein hijiene no halo distansia fiziku no sosial muda tebes ita nia lalaok moris loron bainleet nian. Iha Timor-Leste mos aplika ona Estadu Emerjensia ka Lockdown hodi limita sidadaun ida-idak nia direitu ba movimentu no atividade sosial sira.

Jeralmente, sosiedade Timoroan sei fo reajen ba mudansa ne’e ho laran-husu oinsa mak pandemia bele muda sosiedade nia moris sai oinseluk hodi kria limitasaun hanesan ne’e? Iha loron bainleet ita hare’e ema lao ba mai ho livre, joven sira tuur iha estrada laliga rai, ema halibur malu iha uma hodi halo atividade oioin. Oras ne’e lalaok sira ne’e menus ona ka ita sei la haree durante tempu Estadu emerjensia.

Fotografia hirak tuir mai maski husi tinan lima ka neen ba kotuk mai ha’u sai fali hanesan pedasu nostaljia lalaok moris loron bainleet hirak ne’ebe ita halao ka haree molok pandemia COVID-19.

VZ, Marsu 2020.

In Birmingham

One fine day

I would like you

To be here with me

In this city of Birmingham

You will be my tour guide

showing me around

And makes me listen

To all your bittersweet stories

On how your first time was

When coming here

As an immigrant

From our little country

Sometimes unknown

To this country

VZ