More than 60 leading Black and Palestinian artists and activists are featured in a new video highlighting challenges that both communities are confronting, including militarized policing and the prison industry. The video features Ms. Lauryn Hill, Danny Glover, Cornel West, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Sapphire, LisaGay Hamilton, the Baha Men, Dream Defenders Co-Founder Ahmad Abuznaid, Yousef Erakat (fouseyTUBE), and others holding up signs such as “Gaza Stands With Ferguson” and “They choked me on video. I said I couldn’t breathe,” referencing the murder of Eric Garner in July 2014. It comes on the heels of an 19 August 2015 statement signed by more than 1,100 Black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations that calls for “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle” as well as a boycott of private prison company G4S and other corporations profiting from Israeli occupation.
Black-Palestinian solidarity is neither a guarantee nor a requirement - it is a choice. We choose to build with one another in a shoulder to shoulder struggle against state-sanctioned violence. A violence that is manifest in the speed of bullets and batons and tear gas that pierce our bodies. One that is latent in the edifice of law and concrete that work together to, physically and figuratively, cage us. We choose to join one another in resistance not because our struggles are the same but because we each struggle against the formidable forces of structural racism and the carceral and lethal technologies deployed to maintain them. This video intends to interrupt that process – to assert our humanity – and to stand together in an affirmation of life and a commitment to resistance. From Ferguson to Gaza, from Baltimore to Jerusalem, from Charleston to Bethlehem, we will be free.
During the summer of 2014, state-sanctioned racialized violence was on full display by the United States and Israel. For fifty-one days, Israel used sophisticated weapons technology with precision-targeting capability to kill 2,200 Palestinians, including 535 children, to demolish or damage 140,000 homes, to destroy 319 businesses, thirty-six fishing boats, and 42,000 acres of agricultural land, and to target critical civilian infrastructure, including Gaza’s sole power plant. In many instances, Israel targeted unarmed civilians: it shot fleeing civilians in Khoza’a, killed sixty-six Palestinians in Shujai’yeh in sixty minutes, shot at UNRWA schools sheltering civilians on seven different occasions. In perhaps the most chilling attack, Israeli missiles targeted four young boys aged eleven to thirteen playing soccer on Gaza’s shore. Throughout the operation, Israel, an occupying power, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, and the US’s most unique ally, claimed it was exercising its right to self-defense and blamed the mounting death toll on Hamas.
Four weeks into Israel’s onslaught against the besieged Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, an officer shot to death Mike Brown an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. Darren Wilson shot Brown six times, twice above the chest at close range. Brown died from gunshot wounds to his head and chest and was left in the middle of the street for the next four hours before his body was removed. This scenario of unchecked racialized state-violence continues centuries of anti-black violence in the United States. A March 2014 study conducted by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.” Together with the still-fresh exoneration of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed Black teenager, it functioned as a climax and precipitated a national mass movement and convergence upon Ferguson. Ferguson police initiated a military response replete with Kevlar vests, helmets, assault rifles, armored tanks, curfews, and tear gas. Throughout these violent attacks, US mainstream media disproportionately focused on the destruction of property and dealt with the killing of Mike Brown as a singular incident thus obfuscating the material and structural violence endured by Black communities.
In the course of resilience against the merciless edge of state-violence, protesters in Ferguson held up signs declaring solidarity with the people of Palestine. In turn, Palestinians posted pictures on social media with instructions of how to treat the inhalation of tear gas. Organically, an analysis emerged highlighting similarities, but not sameness, of Black and Palestinian life, and more aptly, of their survival. During the Baltimore protests against systemic deprivation and sparked by the murder of Freddie Gray, Palestinians recognized the protests as an uprising and a number of Black protesters renamed their convergence an intifada, bridging the struggles against state-sanctioned violence from the bottom up. Since the devastating attacks on Gaza and in Ferguson, the assault on Black and Palestinian bodies has continued unabated. As we mourn the lives of Tanisha Andersen and Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Ali Dawabshe and Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and Nadeem Nowarah, we are making connections between the systems of violence and criminalization that makes Black and Palestinian bodies so easily expendable.
The onslaught on Black and Palestinian lives is rife with a discourse of victim-blaming that softens the edge of systematic violence and illuminates the dehumanization process. This video is a message to the world as much as it is a commitment among ourselves that we will struggle with and for one another. No one is free until we all are free.