Damu Smith

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Damu Smith in 2003

Damu Amiri Imara Smith (1951 - May 5, 2006) was an organizer for social justice movements, living in the US.


  • Yesterday, I watched the President, in his inauguration speech, mention “freedom” twenty-plus times. The day before, I heard his stone-faced, reactionary nominee for Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza, speak so insensitively about the issue of torture. George Bush doesn’t know anything about freedom, because he’s not hearing the cries of the Haitian people. He’s not hearing the cries of the Palestinian people who live under the boot of Israel’s brutal and barbaric and racist occupation of the Palestinian people. He does not hear the cries of the Iraqi people. He does not hear the cries of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He does not hear the cries of the people in the Congo where the United States policy of so many years created the division in that country that we’re seeing right now. I didn’t hear him talk about the people in the far region of the Sudan. I didn’t hear him talk about the people in the ghettos and barrios of America. I didn’t hear him talk about the working people of our country who don’t have a living wage and don’t have health care. I didn’t hear him talk about our youth who are dying in our streets and our children who are going hungry every day. I didn’t hear him talk about any of these things. He knows nothing about freedom. We know everything about freedom. We’re the moral authority of our nation. Our responsibility is to be the other voice and the other authority because there’s a dual authority in the country. There’s one authority representing the reactionary and evil and criminal policies of this administration, and then there’s the authority of people who love and yearn for justice and peace and human rights.
    • Speech at Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington D.C. after the inauguration of George W. Bush (2001)
  • The visits to Cairo (Illinois) totally transformed my life. I made my decision on the bus leaving there that I would commit my life to the movement of social justice and Black rights. I knew I would use whatever I learned at college for the struggle of black equality and black liberation.

Interview with Democracy Now (2005)

  • You can tell people to go get screened, but colonoscopies cost money, from $700 to $900 every time you go. People who are uninsured, and that’s 44 million people in this country, 40 million partially insured, 164 million people in this country who are in health jeopardy because they don’t have access to some form of health insurance. We’re talking about a situation where people don’t have the possibility of getting screened. So we can’t just talk about getting screened, we have to talk about how we can organize and protest and raise the fundamental public policy issues including the need for national comprehensive universal health care, and that’s what the Spirit of Hope Campaign which has been mobilized around my situation is doing, to raise these issues of universal access and racial disparities in the health care system.
  • We’re talking about the need for health justice for all, and that is also linked to the issue of our nation’s priorities, Amy. We can’t talk about health justice unless we talk about the war in Iraq? Why? Because we’re talking about $400 billion being spent on war and occupation, when people in this country don’t have fundamental access to health care. Billions of dollars are being spent on research and development for space weapons, for nuclear weapons technology. Dr. King said that when a nation focuses on these kinds of things, our priorities are out of whack.
  • It’s a disgrace that we live in a country where people have to face these kinds of obstacles to quality care.
  • In the region called “Cancer Alley” between Baton Rouge and New Orleans along the Mississippi river, there’s scores of impoverished, mostly African American and poor communities living in close proximity to oil refineries, plastic production facilities and literally seven days a week, nearly 24 hours a day, those communities are being rained on with some of the worst toxins and chemicals imaginable. So people are very, very sick. Children in those communities miss school because they have high rates of asthma and other severe respiratory problems, and there are very high rates of cancer in that region of the country and in other parts of the country where people of color and poor and working class people are disproportionately exposed to sources of pollution.

Quotes about Damu Smith

  • There’s a lot of dogmatism in movements, a lot of finger-wagging, a lot of angry voices, but with Damu, he met you where you were
  • In my estimation, he’s one of the greatest organizers that this country has ever had.
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