Macabre of the Silenced

Macabre of the Silenced
Black July Commemorative Poetry Night

By: Ahalya Kathirkamanathan


What is Black July and what is the significance for Tamil people and the Tamil Diaspora?

During the riots of July 24th to 29th 1983, hundreds of Tamil people lost their homes, their possessions, and their lives.  The Tamil people in many areas within Sri Lanka were systematically targeted, tortured and murdered for merely for being of Tamil identity. It was blatantly clear of polarization that exists between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority. These attacks carried out against the Tamil population were witnessed by the Sri Lankan government who continued disregarded the evident polarization.

The racial tension between the Sinhalese and Tamils started at the time of independence in 1948.  One of the most significant moments whereby a clear distinction between the two groups of people was established was in the passing of the Sinhala Only Act in 1956. This made Sinhala the sole official language of Sri Lanka and consequently, it resulted in many Tamils protests against the legislation. With this act, the Sri Lankan government failed to recognize the language of the Tamil population. Through such government actions, the language, culture, and education, and overall identity of the Tamil population were in jeopardy and even peaceful Tamil protests were met with malevolence and rigidity from the Sri Lankan government. Another significant example of the attempt to rid Tamil cultural symbols includes the burning of the Jaffna library in 1981. During this incident, the government officials took part in the ethnic book burning of priceless manuscripts and documents that were central to Tamil culture and preservation of it.

After the killing of 13 Sinhala soldiers, many angry Sinhalese mobs attacked Tamil populations all across the country, and even Tamil prisioners were murdered with iron rods and clubs.  Curfews were set and raging Sinhalese mobs wandered the streets searching for Tamil people to humiliate, torture and murder. In fact, these mobs had voter registration lists which made helped to identify Tamil homes. Tamil people were slaughtered with axes, raped, and burned alive.  In many instances, Sinhalese families hid Tamils in their homes to save their lives.  This anti-Tamil pogam of 83 led to many to flee their homeland and take refuge in Western countries.

The Black July atrocities fueled the fire for a bloody genocide that ended in 2009, and Tamils in Tamileelam are still denied basic human rights and left to pick up the pieces of their shattered homeland, family and culture.  The hundreds of innocent lives massacred in these riots should never be in vain.  We must keep the memories alive and preserve them like burning candles to remind of where we come from. We can never forget those who were forced to give up their lives nor will we forget how the future remains grim for those living in Tamileelam. These are the silenced voices, and we must bring light to the unbearable hardship and persecution they face everyday.

As we are well aware, throughout the month of July, there are many events to be held in order for us to come together to reminisce . The Black July Poetry Night is one of those events presented by the Education and Career Development Council of CTYA. At this event, we kindly ask everyone to share your stories of struggle to break the silence.  Raising your voices with poetry at the Macabre of the Silenced poetry night where artists and audience members unite to create the voices for those who have been silenced for over five decades will be a great way for us to reconnect and remember the horrific riots of Black July 1983.

EVENT Information:

Macabre of the Silenced
Black July Commemorative Poetry Night

Sunday July 14 2013 4:30 pm

Central YMCA Auditorium
20 Grosvenor


The proceeds from this event will go towards Thazhumbakam – The Tamil Genocide Memorial Museum

Interested in performing? Email

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