February 21st, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. I created this work as part of my Archivos Subversivos series to highlight the parallels between this legendary leader and another hero of mine, Pedro Albizu Campos. Pedro Albizu Campos died exactly two months after Malcolm X on April 21st, 1965. Although he is listed as having passed from cancer, Albizu Campos had long been the subject of radiation experiments while a political prisoner of the US for leading the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico. In my book, that too would be an assassination.
Born in Brooklyn, raised in the East New York section of that borough, raised among my people which for me are both Puerto Ricans and African Americans, I understand that culturally, politically and ancestrally, we are the same tribe. Though I am a long way from Brooklyn, rematriated in Borikén, this understanding of my roots and essence, ancestrally, historically and politically will not ever change. My identity is not only rooted in my ancestors brought directly to Puerto Rico from Africa or from Curacao and the French Caribbean, as is my own family’s case, but from the understanding that Puerto Ricans and African Americans share a similar ancestral and political experience in the US and our liberation struggles are inherently, intricately interwoven. To think/ act otherwise, is to be complicit with the oppressor.
Though many Puerto Ricans take pride in Albizu having graduated from Harvard, we must also take pride in knowing his roots and his journey there and back. Albizu’s grandmother Ana María was an enslaved woman in Ponce. His mother Juliana was born on the “Campos” plantation. Upon the death of the plantation owner, Albizu’s mother left to Tenerías, a barrio in Ponce established by formerly enslaved afro-descendants after the 1868 abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico. It is there that he is born. Albizu started school at 12 years old and breezed through primary and secondary education eventually making his way to Harvard. (See Marisa Rosado’s biography, Las Llamas del Aurora, P.4) He rejected positions in Washington to return to Puerto Rico where he eventually became the most influential Puerto Rican liberationist of the 20th century. I juxtapose images of these two men, their families and struggle. It is necessary to understand our historic intersections to better ground in our solidarity and be more effective in a liberation struggle. Light to these two ancestors.