Highlights from the 2014 National SJP Conference

Last month, more than 500 student organizers representing nearly 120 colleges and universities from all over the country convened at Tufts University in Boston for the fourth ever National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism from the U.S. to Palestine,” a strikingly fitting theme building on the previous year’s commitment to connecting the Palestinian struggle with other social justice causes, especially those in our backyards here in America.

T-shirts bearing the logo design for the 2014 National SJP Conference are prepared for distribution on the opening day of the gathering. Photo credit: S. Damra

Boston-based hip hop group Foundation Movement performs at Saturday’s cultural Night of Freedom at Tuft University’s Cohen Auditorium. Opti Browne, far right, drapes a Palestinian flag around his neck. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

A conference attendee looks at the weekend’s program after checking into registration. Photo credit: S. Damra

Panel discussion on funding behind groups seeking to suppress Palestinian rights activists on campus. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

One of the conference attendees shows off his Palestine flag engraved ring. Photo credit: S. Damra

Two members of the Columbia University Dabke Troupe smile as they receive applause during one of their performances at the Night of Freedom cultural show. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

Among its many goals, the conference sought to shed light on the ways the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s occupation is tied to the struggle against anti-black racism, ongoing colonialism and land annexation in other parts of the world, and the alarming shift towards militarism and government-sponsored violence. Conference attendees also reiterated their commitment to resisting all forms of discrimination, including but not limited to gender inequality, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and social classism.

Opti Browne of Boston-based hip hop group Foundation Movement performs at Saturday’s cultural Night of Freedom. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

Students raise their hands in solidarity with the people of Ferguson following violent police crackdowns on demonstrations protesting the murder of 18-year-old black American Mike Brown by a white police officer. Photo credit: S. Damra

Lakota drummer Ira Blue Coat performs at Saturday’s Night of Freedom. The evening’s culture show featured performances by guests from a variety backgrounds. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

An ensemble from the Edward Said Conservatory, featuring Tamer Al-Sahouri on the oud, singer Nadine Shomali, and percussionist Alber Basil, perform at Saturday’s cultural Night of Freedom. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

A grassroots water rights organizer from Detroit addresses the crowd of conference attendees with a statement of solidarity with Palestine. Photo credit: S. Damra

Registration continued through the second day of the conference, with students arriving from every region in the United States and even from Canada. Photo credit: S. Damra

Students listen attentively during a workshop titled, “The History and Tactics of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS)”. The workshop gave students a foundational understanding of┬áthe history of the Palestinian BDS call and presented them with divestment strategies taken up in cities and communities around the world. Photo credit: S. Damra

Max Geller of Northeastern University’s SJP speaks during a panel on funding behind groups seeking to suppress Palestinian rights activists on campus. The panel was shared with Fidaa Elaydi, Linda Tagini, and Sara Kershner.

Tens of workshops were scheduled throughout the duration of the conference, each uniquely designed to give students the hands-on experience necessary to create actual change on their respective campuses and in their respective communities.

One such workshop presented an oft-forgotten but immensely important issue: environmental justice. Conference attendees drew connections between the frequent destruction of natural resources in Palestine to the gentrification of urban landscapes in Detroit to the total appropriation of land that has defined Hawaii’s recent history. In each case, the workshop attendees identified ways that the environment has been misused or stolen as a way of driving out an indigenous population. Students worked together with the workshop organizers to come up with creative strategies aimed at addressing and rectifying environmental injustices in their lives and in their communities.

Attendees of the Environmental Justice: Water Rights from Hawaii to Detroit to Palestine workshop participate in an activity where they were asked to draw their ideal home. Palestinian children who have participated in this kind of activity in the past emphasize the importance of having a home without drones flying above, tanks parked nearby, or bulldozers knocking in walls. Photo credit: S. Damra

Attendees of the Environmental Justice: Water Rights from Hawaii to Detroit to Palestine workshop share their hand-drawn depictions of their ideal homes with others. Students grew to better appreciate that “home” can mean very different things to others. Photo credit: S. Damra

Students pay close attention to Saturday’s keynote address which highlighted the importance of recognizing and identifying with other social justice issues. Photo credit: S. Damra

The Columbia University Dabke Troupe performs an original dance and step routine during Saturday’s cultural Night of Freedom. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

The Islamic Movements of Palestine workshop, like all other workshops held at the conference, was so full that some students had to sit on the ground. This workshop explained the origins and politics of some of Palestine’s most popular movements. Photo credit: S. Damra

Brooklyn-based poet Tahani Salah performs a moving piece during the Night of Freedom cultural event. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

At the close of the conference, attendees and guest speakers joined the program organizers for one final time to renew their commitment to social justice. Nobody left without reigniting their passion to identify and ease the vulnerability of others and ultimately to bring positive change to their communities.

Spoken word artists Darkmatter perform at Saturday’s cultural Night of Freedom at Cohen Auditorium. The duo’s poetry engaged issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

The Columbia University Dabke Troupe lines up on the stage during an original routine featuring elements of the traditional dance from all over Palestine. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

Conference participant and community organizer Kristian Davis Bailey takes a moment to gather his thoughts and catch up on work in a sideroom. Photo credit: Christopher Hazou

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