Suheir Hammad is an award-winning Palestinian-American poet, author and political activist. She was born in 1973 in Amman, Jordan, to Palestinian refugee parents and immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, New York, when she was five years old. Her creative work is a unique blend of the stories and sounds of her Palestinian-American heritage and the vibrant language of Brooklyn, especially hip-hop.
The poet Naomi Shihab Nye has called Hammad's work "a brave flag over the dispossessed." Hammad writes from flesh and bone to flesh and bone. She is fueled not only by her own remarkable experiences as a writer and a woman and an immigrant and a Muslim, but also by stories her parents and grandparents told her about life in their hometown of Lydda (now Lod, Israel) before the Palestinian exodus in 1948, and then about the suffering they endured first as displaced persons in the Gaza Strip and then as refugees in Jordan. From all of these influences emerges Hammad's poetry and other writings--bold, defiant, passionately committed to the dignity and worth of all human beings and to the use of nonviolent means in standing against, and ultimately transforming, those Powers that negate and destroy.
In the video below Hammad performs "What I Will," a feisty statement to the Powers about what she will not do for them. The text of her poem has been provided for your convenience.
I will not dance to your war drum.
I will not lend my soul nor my bones to your war drum.
I will not dance to that beating.
I know that beat.
It is lifeless.
I know intimately that skin you are hitting.
It was alive once, hunted, stolen, stretched.
I will not dance to your drummed up war.
I will not pop, spin, break for you.
I will not hate for you or even hate you.
I will not kill for you.
Especially I will not die for you.
I will not mourn the dead with murder nor suicide.
I will not side with you or dance to bombs because everyone is dancing.
Everyone can be wrong.
Life is a right, not collateral or casual.
I will not forget where I come from.
I will craft my own drum.
Gather my beloved near, and our chanting will be dancing.
Our humming will be drumming.
I will not be played.
I will not lend my name nor my rhythm to your beat.
I will dance and resist and dance and persist and dance.
This heartbeat is louder than death.
Your war drum ain't louder than this breath.
Note: If for some reason you can't see the viewer above, click here to watch the video on YouTube.