Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un
(To God we belong, to God we return)
First and foremost, my heart, thoughts, and prayers go to my brothers and sisters we lost in the Bronx Fire, to their families, to their loved ones, and to our shared communities. I am praying for you, I am praying for your families, and I am praying for our communities. I am praying for forgiveness for our failure as a society.
"The condition in which they lived caused their death"
Those were declared by Sheikh Musa Drammneh at the Bronx 2022 Funeral Service for those 17 individuals, 8 of whom were children, the youngest of whom was a 2-year-old named Ousmane Konteh. Less than 75 years ago, Mamie Till declared those same exact words at the open casket funeral of Emmett Till on September 6, 1955. In 75 years, what conditions have changed?
On the day of the funeral Sheikh Musa stated:
I want the world to know that had these people lived in mid-town Manhattan, we would not have had the funeral. They would not need space heaters. The condition in which they lived caused their death. And it is preventable.”
We, as a society, must ask ourselves, what are these conditions? What are the laws? What are the regulations? What is the enforcement of regulations? What are resources or lack thereof contributing to these two disparate worlds?
This pain and this memory reminded me of similar incident. An incident that was also preventable. An incident that impacted people of colors. An incident that impacted immigrants. An incident that was caused by the condition in which people lived. An incident that resulted from willful negligence.
On June 14, 2017, in London, a flat caught on fire in Grenfell Tower that resulted in the death of 72 individuals. A public investigation is underway and Phase 1 of the Executive Summary of the report found “compelling evidence that the external walls of the building…did not adequately resist the spread of fire…on the contrary, they actively promoted it.” A similar investigation and inquiry must be launched for the Bronx 2022 Fire. We must understand that these conditions and remove the circumstances that perpetuate them.
We must understand the geography of inequity. We must understand how our global society can create similar circumstances on two opposing sides of the Atlantic Oceans. We must recognize that our actions or lack thereof impact our most vulnerable peoples. I find it quite ironic that this incident took place in the Bronx, which is a part of New York City.
On the Statue of Liberty it reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
What are we doing with these huddle masses?