It is with profound sadness that the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation learned today of the passing of Damu Smith, a former member of the US Campaign’s Steering Committee and the founder of Black Voices for Peace, a member organization of the US Campaign.
Felicia Eaves, Vice-Chair of Black Voices for Peace and a US Campaign Steering Committee member, reflected that “Damu was an inspiration to all of us. I especially will be forever grateful for the wisdom he shared with me as he was a dear close friend and mentor.”
Damu attended the US Campaign’s founding conference in Chicago in 2002 and from then onwards was an instrumental part in its development. Damu spoke out relentlessly and passionately against Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians and also consistently articulated a positive vision of Israeli-Palestinian co-existence based on peace, justice, and equality.
In 2005, on a delegation to Palestine, Damu fainted and had a seizure before a Palm Sunday peace procession. While in Palestine, he was treated by Palestinian doctors and nurses before being diagnosed with colon cancer upon his return to the United States. In an interview with the St. Louis University School of Public Health newsletter, Damu spoke highly of the “quality care” he received from Palestinian doctors and nurses.
Nadia Hijab, Co-Chair of the US Campaign, stated: “When I learned of Damu’s passing, my heart filled with sadness, while my mind filled with all the images of him from our work together. He was always willing to speak for justice – passionately, eloquently, and with great humor. Using that last quality, he won over disgruntled and hungry participants after one conference dinner that offered too little too late, proving he could persuade almost anybody to do almost anything. We’ll miss you, Damu, in so many ways, and we will carry forward what we have learned from you”.
Damu founded Black Voices for Peace as “a group dedicated to mobilizing the Black community in concert with people of goodwill of all races and nationalities to protest US military aggression in Iraq and elsewhere around the world, and to lobby for redirecting the billions of dollars the Bush administration is spending on global U.S. military operations and support of the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian land to funding for universal healthcare and access, for education, jobs, housing, environmental protection, equal justice, reparations and other critical human needs.”
Black Voices for Peace was Damu’s culminating project in a life spent dedicated to advancing numerous causes for justice and human rights. According to the Washington Post, Damu “came to Washington from St. Louis [his hometown] in 1974, arriving on a Greyhound bus with $100 in his pocket and a commitment to justice and mercy in his heart.” In the ensuing years, Damu became a pillar of the anti-Apartheid movement, a trailblazer in raising awareness of environmental racism, and a tireless campaigner for nuclear disarmament.
A previously scheduled celebration and fundraiser for Damu, who like more than 40 million people in the United States did not have health insurance, will take place tomorrow night, Saturday, May 6, 7PM-2AM, at Solar Eclipse, 2820 Bladensburg Rd. NE, Washington, DC. For more details, http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=119789486&url_num=2&url=http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/spiritofhope3/message/18 - click here .
Funeral and memorial information for Damu is not yet available. For a biography of Damu and informational updates, please http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=119789486&url_num=3&url=http://www.damusmith.org/ - click here .
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation extends its deepest condolences to Damu’s family and friends. In Damu’s honor, we plan to uphold his life’s work by continuing to advocate for human rights, justice, and dignity for all human beings.
It is only with the heart that one can see clearly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. (The Little Prince)