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Conference highlights Black-Palestinian intersectionality

Conference highlights Black-Palestinian intersectionality

The Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary recently held a conference titled “Racialized States and Popular Resistance: From Chicago to Jerusalem.” The three day conference was organized in response to “the increased and continued use of militarized force against civilian Black populations in the United States and against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The conference focused on the intersections between the Black-American experience and the Palestinian experience especially in light of Black-Palestinian solidarity during the protests in Ferguson. About 150 attendees registered for the conference, including more than 50 students.

A diverse array of speakers were featured in the conference from organizations including Friends of Sabeel North America, American Muslims for Palestine, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries and American Friends Service Committee. The full lineup of speakers can be found on the Garrett-Evangelical website.

According to Dr. Barry E. Bryant, Associate Professor of United Methodist and Wesleyan Studies at Garrett-Evangelical, diversity was a priority when it came to choosing speakers. He joked that he did not want White Christian males to be the prominent leaders of the event.

“We had the issue of diversity in mind from the very start, and we wanted the speakers to represent Jewish, Christian, as well as Muslim in terms of theology and religious practices,” Dr. Barry said.

The speakers covered topics such as police violence, child detention in Israel/Palestine and  anti-black racism and racism towards Arabs and Muslims, and Palestinian liberation theology.

At the end of the conference, conversations turned to the forms of action and resistance that can be waged against the violence of racialized states.

“The final session of the conference essentially asked, so what? How do we transfer all of this into action, so the theory into activism,” Dr. Bryant said.

Overall, he said that the conference was about re-identifying the connection between Black lives and Palestinian lives.  He argued that intersectionality between these two issues is not new, and that Black and Palestinian lives have been closely related since the 1960s.

“The Black community here is learning a lot from the Palestinians, and the Palestinians are also learning a lot from the Black actors here. So I hope in the future that those ties can be increased,” Dr. Bryant said.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is a graduate theological school located on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

 According to Dr. Bryant, Garrett-Evangelical has always had a prominent voice in support of Palestine. In particular, the school has historically had a relationship with Friends of Sabeel North America (FASNA), an international peace movement founded by Palestinian Christians.

Dr. Bryant said that the diverse expertise and support of the Garrett-Evangelical faculty and administration made the conference possible.

“Between liberation theology, between post-colonial theory, between critical race theory, we have faculty members who bring their disciplines to bear on the Israel-Palestine conflict. And so when we started planning the—what was a rather controversial topic—we had faculty support and administrative support. Our president, he didn’t agree with everything we were saying, but was willing to defend our right to say it,” he said.

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