NSJP conference builds upon nationwide movement
Last weekend, San Diego State University hosted the annual National Students for Justice in Palestine conference, attended by members of SJP chapters from across the country.
This year’s theme was “From Campuses to Communities: Building a Vision for the Future,” centering on strengthening relationships with regional communities and building a national organizing structure in order to democratize and further enhance the national solidarity movement.
Young Palestine organizers spent three days attending workshops by people and groups like Anakbayan, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán), and Palestine Youth Movement, as well as hearing from experienced Palestinian activists like Rasmea Odeh and Lara Kiswani.
During the opening plenary on Saturday, Rasmea Odeh Skyped in to the conference and spoke in front of hundreds of her supporters.
“I was born and raised in a war zone. I’ve been struggling with my people for close to seven decades…In spite of this reality, I have worked hard to be positive and active, and help my people–especially women–to fight for our rights…” Odeh said.
She spoke of the concepts of justice and perseverance which she has embraced her entire life.
Odeh was followed by Lara Kiswani, a co-founder of SJP at UC Davis, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), and member of the local Palestinian folkloric dance troupe Al-Juthoor of the Arab Shatat.
Kiswani urged the audience to question concepts of solidarity, noting, “For those of us who see ourselves as part of the struggle, we must ask ourselves: what is at stake? Whether we are Arab, black, brown, poor, queer, white, Jewish–there is a role for everyone in the struggle for Palestine. Because apartheid Israel plays a role in a different shape or form in each of our lives.” Kiswani presented an unapologetic approach to the ways in which she has bridged her community and campus organizing, such as leading campaigns like Block the Boat and Stop Urban Shield Coalition.
Making connections between campus and community in the hopes of Palestine solidarity organizing remained the most talked-about topic of the weekend. Jaye Cho, a member of Anakbayan USA and alumna of San Francisco State University, said, “When folks are really interested in seeing that these aren’t single issue struggles, they really get out there and bridge communities to their campus work.” Groups like Anakbayan and MEChA led workshops solely on the concept of organizing beyond student power and continuing solidarities with Palestine organizing.
The conference closed with a lively cultural night and closing plenary, which included messages of Black-Palestinian solidarity organizing from Kristian Davis Bailey and Suhad Khatib. The NSJP conference opened and closed with a message of transnational solidarity, one received by SJP chapters all across the United States.