A group of activists, artists, musicians and journalists on the frontlines of the struggle against racist policing in the United States traveled to Palestine earlier this month to build on the growing bonds of solidarity between the Black American and Palestinian liberation struggles, which have intensified since last year’s uprising in Ferguson, Missouri.
The historic delegation — which included lead organizers from Dream Defenders,Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100 and Hands Up United — spent ten days linking up with Palestinian activists. The group witnessed first-hand what it means to live under Israeli occupation and apartheid.
Since returning to the US, the group has released a powerful video of a flash mob demonstration it staged in Nazareth — a city in historic Palestine — in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against Israeli settler colonialism.
“We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters,” says journalist Marc Lamont Hill, kicking off the demonstration.
He continues: “We come to a land that has been stolen by greed and destroyed by hate. We come here and we learn laws that have been cosigned in ink but written in the blood of the innocent. And we stand next to people who continue to courageously struggle and resist the occupation, people who continue to dream and fight for freedom. From Ferguson to Palestine the struggle for freedom continues.”
With a drumbeat in the background, participants gather in a dabke circle as Charlene Carruthers, national director of the Black Youth Project 100, and Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, perform a beautiful rendition of “Ella’s Song.” (Dabke is a traditional Palestinian dance.)
The action goes on to feature moving performances by poet Aja Monet and St. Louis rapper Tef Poe (Kareem Jackson), and ends with the chants, “Palestine to Ferguson, end the occupations! Ferguson to Palestine we fight to free our nations!” and “Black lives matter!”
In a statement, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors explained why she helped choreograph the flash mob. “The offering of visible solidarity is both healing and courageous and allows for our work as organizers, artists, militants and healers to signal to both the State of Israel and America that the current movement for Black liberation is on the front lines of fighting against the occupation of Palestine,” she said.
“The group decided to do the action as a call for people to support the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign that Palestinian civil society launched in 2005,” added Ahmad Abuznaid, legal and policy director of the Dream Defenders and co-organizer of the delegation.
Since white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown last August, sparking an uprising for racial justice that swept the nation, there has been growing awareness about Israel’s role in training US law enforcement agencies in the methods of domination and control that have sustained Israel’s decades-long occupation and disenfranchisement of Palestinians, enabled by billions of dollars in military aid from the United States.
“The parallels that can be drawn between the occupation in Palestine and the occupation of predominantly Black neighborhoods in the United States cannot be ignored,” said Hands Up United organizer, Ferguson protester and delegation participant Tara Thompson.
The growing realization that their oppressors — the United States and Israel — areworking together has ignited an outpouring of mutual solidarity between a younger generation of Black Americans and Palestinians. Although it began on social media, with Palestinians offering Ferguson protesters advice on how to deal with tear gas, this solidarity has since carried over into real life, as demonstrated by the latest Dream Defenders’ delegation to Palestine, which was preceded by a visit to St. Louis by Palestinian students from the occupied West Bank’s Right to Education Campaign. The Palestinian group met Missouri-based activists demanding justice for Black lives cut short by racist policing.
“Palestinians were the first to reach out, sharing ways to protect Ferguson protesters from tear gas,” continued Thompson. “We were honored to stand in solidarity by performing the flash mob in Nazareth. It was a small token of our appreciation. Our struggles are aligned which makes it imperative that our people be aligned.”
Video from Dream Defenders
Text from Electronic Intifada