The upper deck of the Washington Avenue Bridge in the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus carries a rich — and vivid — tradition and background. Each year, over one hundred of the University’s most prominent student groups paint a message of choice on a self-selected bridge panel. The paintings immortalize the diversity of the student body and its wide scope of campaigns and activities, and they present them to the hundreds of thousands of pedestrians that walk through the bridge every year.
This year, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the University of Minnesota reserved a panel and painted an image of a boy, barefoot and wearing tattered clothing, standing with his back to the viewer in front of rubble and an apartheid wall. When asked what the image represents, SJP President Amina Maameri said that it “best graphically depicts the constant struggle of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. [The story behind Handala] goes further than just catching your eye.”
At a time when the Palestinian narrative is intentionally marginalized on college campuses (specifically through criminal investigations and external pressure from warhawk lobby groups), even the smallest of gestures in solidarity with the Palestinian people is necessary to put an end to the occupation. For an entire year, pedestrians will be unable to avoid noticing the inhumanity and destruction that befalls the people of Palestine. Pedestrians will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to the determination and the strong will of a Palestinian people inching toward the freedom they, like everyone else, deserve. Pedestrians will no longer be able to avoid the issue.
All it takes is a simple bridge panel — a billboard of sorts — to spread awareness which, without a doubt, is the first step towards achieving a self-sovereign Palestine.
Sami Kishawi with additional reporting by Amina Maameri