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A little over a year ago today, hundreds of students from dozens of colleges and universities arrived at Columbia University to participate in the 2011 National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. The purpose of the conference was to reinvigorate a national student Palestine solidarity movement by providing a space for student activists to coordinate, organize, and develop politically. The energy at the conference was palpable. Students that had been working together for months over the internet finally had the opportunity to build with one another in person. The workshops were packed as activists from all over the country learned from one another’s experiences, working together to create new campaigns and advance existing ones. The conference was not only productive for experienced Palestine solidarity student activists. During one workshop, entitled “How to start and successfully run an SJP,” students learned how to mobilize and sustain a cohesive student group, build relationships with school administrators, and effectively handle attacks from groups opposed to the rights of Palestinians. These same students have played a crucial role in creating new SJP chapters from California to Kansas.
On 2 November 2012, hundreds of SJP activists will once again converge, this time at the University of Michigan. After coming extremely close to passing a student government resolution calling for divestment from companies complicit in Israeli human rights violations more than a year ago, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) is excited to host the 2012 National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. SAFE has been working tirelessly with a body of national organizers to make the most of the momentum generated by last year’s conference in New York City. Specifically, this year’s program reflects the changing realities confronting student Palestine solidarity activists. While there is still an emphasis on organizational and political development, the conference will feature several workshops that address discrete challenges facing SJP chapters. For example, a “Know Your Rights” workshop will help familiarize students with their free speech rights and connect them with attorneys fighting back against attempts to censor and criminalize Palestine solidarity activism on campus. Another workshop will address the intersection of social identity and power dynamics within local and national SJP bodies, with an emphasis on gender and sexual orientation.
This conference is possible because students have chosen to make it a priority. There is no safety net. Each organizer volunteers hours of her time per week to fundraise and participate in countless email exchanges, conference calls, and meetings. Each individual’s dedication to Palestinian self-determination is supported by a commitment to one another. The 2012 National SJP Conference will be the product of a selfless team effort that reflects a collective desire to strengthen and sustain a national student Palestine solidarity movement that is independent, yet accountable to Palestinians. Although the conference is less than one month away, SJP activists that have not yet been directly involved in organizing the conference are invited to participate and attend. Community members that have cooperated with SJP chapters in the past are encouraged to support student activists in making this conference a success. Although each SJP chapter is responsible for creating and implementing its own agenda, the setting of a national conference gives student activists the rare opportunity to share their skills and ideas with one another in a space exclusively committed to long-term movement building. This year’s conference promises to have a lasting impact on the activism of its participants and attendees.
For details on the 2012 National SJP Conference, please visit http://sjpnational.org.
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