Bleeding Ireland and Black America


Fall Road is deserted. Only a few dirt-caked, barefoot, Irishmen can be
seen shivering in the adjacent park. We walk past the Catholic neighborhoods
knowing, at any moment, buildings might explode and automatic weapon fire could
lacerate the air on every side of us. Belfast is charming, apart from the harsh
reality of guerrilla warfare and terrorism being common occurrences. For the
first time, throughout my three month tour of seventeen different European
countries, I feel truly threatened. The tension carries itself into a nearby pub
where an old man asks ?Are you jus daft? Or do ya have relatives here?? His
words hinted at my grandfather's blunt, yet kindly, expression concerning his
birthplace in N. Ireland, ?If you haven't been there yet, don't go there.?
I can remember the lyrics of a Naughty by Nature song blaring over my
car radio, ?If you have never been to the ghetto, don't ever come to the ghetto,?
as I put in a tape. My thought stream continues as it takes me to another place
where guerrilla warfare and terrorism are a part of daily life.
The gunshots and unruly pitbull barking registers over the calm of the
wet playground. Trash strings the streets and every dwelling has an eight foot,
black, metal fence circuitously about it. Two white faces gape over the hood of
a parked Cadillac. Besides the police parked down the block, they are probably
the only Caucasians in a five mile square radius. Two companies of drug dealers
fire at will scrambling for control of a superior capital making outpost. Even
at nine o'clock in the morning the combat tract roars on.
I was one of those faces peering over the car hood with horror and
revolution in my eyes. N. Richmond is a product of the same type of oppression
and violence that hacks deep into the people of N. Ireland. In the logical
evolution of an oppressed people a civil rights movement was essential. ?It was
necessary to bravely confront our most explosive issues as a people:
Racial[religious, gender, class...] hierarchy and the maldistribution of wealth
and power.? 1If only for a brief moment we achieved this, at least it happened.
We must study the past in order to get to the future. If you don't know where
you came from, how can you possibly figure out where you are going and that is
why many people stay rooted in the same place.
For centuries, England has kept Ireland under its colonial thumb,
starving its people and manipulating them as slave labor. England stole much of
Ireland's homeland and gave it to the Protestants allies from Scotland. Earlier
this century, England divided Ireland into two, claiming the six northernmost
counties as its own. The large number of Protestants, who remain loyal to the
Crown of England, have created a system of oppression similar to the Jim Crow
laws of the US. Oppression and second-class citizenship have limited the
Catholics of N. Irelands opportunities and taken many lives. A Civil Rights
movement was the only logical step. But first, we must discuss what lead up to
this logical step-the history.
In January 1919, the Anglo-Irish War began with the first shots being
fired at Solobeghead. Over the next year, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC-
British Loyalists) became the target of a Sinn Fein (The beginning roots of the
IRA) terror campaign By mid-1919, the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood-Part of
Sinn Fein) had infiltrated the leadership of the Volunteers (Irish Militia) and
were directing its pace on the violence. In an effort to assert control of the
group, Volunteers declared the Army of the Irish Republic.
Britain responded with violence. Special forces were sent over to impose
curfews and martial law on the Irish. These forces became known as the Black and
Tans after a popular Limerick hunt group, and because of their dark green and
khaki uniforms. Another force of veterans from the Great War, called the
Auxiliaries, joined them. Thus began a pattern of assassination and reprisal.
The IRA employed guerrilla tactics, using duck and cover strategies to attack
British troops. Their knowledge of the countryside made up for their lack of
arms. On 21 November 1920 IRA squad assassinated 14 British officers,
effectively destroying the British Secret Service in Ireland. In reprisal, the
Black and Tans fired on a crowd watching a football match at Croke Park. Twelve
people were killed, including one of the team players. The day became known as
Bloody Sunday.
After several months of mass bloodshed, a compromise was met and a '
Treaty of Allegiance to England' was signed by Ireland. This split the IRA into
pro-Treaty or anti-Treaty forces. Treaty loyal troops