Dream Defenders: From Ferguson to Palestine, We Cannot Rest

We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters. We come to a land that has been stolen by greed and destroyed by hate. We come here and we learn laws that have been co-signed in ink but written in the blood of the innocent and we stand next to people who continue to courageously struggle and resist the occupation. People continue to dream and fight  for freedom. From Ferguson to Palestine, the struggle for freedom continues. —Marc Lamont Hill

Who would have thought history would repeat itself yet again, so vividly and so soon? Just as underrepresented Black Americans and women in our country rose up decades ago to work hand-in-hand  and side-by-side in asserting their rights and freedom, today we see the beginnings of another revolution.

In the midst of the oppression facing the Black community in Ferguson and across the United States, as well as the horrendous crimes being committed against innocent civilians in the state of Palestine, a number of representatives from the Dream Defenders, #BlackLivesMatter, and various Ferguson anti-police brutality movements made history by taking a solidarity trip to Palestine. For months, Palestine and Ferguson have been empathizing and connecting with each other over social media, speaking with the anger and sadness of oppression.

The delegation gave a series of incredible testaments in an article for Ebony. As I read the statement of the Dream Defenders Legal and Policy Director Ahmad Abuznaid, I felt overwhelmed with hope for the connections being made:

The goals were primarily to allow for the group members to experience and see first hand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation. In the spirit of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the connections between the African American leadership of the movement in the US and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be reestablished and fortified.

As a Palestinian who has learned a great deal about struggle, movement, militancy and liberation from African Americans in the US, I dreamt of the day where I could bring that power back to my people in Palestine. This trip is a part of that process.

This coalition of Dream Defenders — the next generation of leaders determined to exercise their own independent collective power to fight for justice — walked through the streets of Palestine for the purpose of, according to them, “building alternative systems and organizing to disrupt the structures that oppress our communities.” The purpose of this trip was to connect with activists currently living in inhumane conditions under Israeli occupation and create unity between the oppressed groups by sharing their cause. Coordinated by #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, the 10-day trip to Palestine intends to demonstrate the intersectional links in diverse yet shared struggles against persecution — removing racial boundaries and testifying that every human deserves the right to be treated justly.

Another member of the delegation, activist Cherrell Brown, not only witnessed firsthand the extreme dehumanization of the Palestinian people, but also noted important observations of the ways in which the Palestinian and Black struggles diverged and intertwined:

So many parallels exist between how the US polices, incarcerates, and perpetuates violence on the black community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates the same on Palestinians … This is not to say there aren’t vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one another – and as oppressed people we have to do the same.

I cannot help but watch in awe at this beautiful flash-mob in Nazareth, Palestine organized by our very own bold American protesters from all over the United States. Their mission calls on all people of conscience to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign called forth by Palestinian Civil Society in 2005. As they state in the video’s description, the Dream Defenders were able to “witness firsthand the effects of Israeli apartheid and occupation, and to learn from the people who are actively resisting on the front lines.”

Through this amazing video and the powerful messages they are bringing home to us in their tweets and interviews, the delegation is shattering stereotypes and breaking down walls of Americans’ understanding of the occupation of Palestine. It is a moment that truly inspires me, as Cherrell says, “to reimagine what society could and will look like when we’ve dismantled this white-supremacist patriarchal and capitalist society.” Indeed, the Dream Defenders remind us that the only way we will succeed in our fight for justice and freedom is if we enjoin in that fight together.

I want us to take back things we can do in the now, as Americans, to raise awareness and action around Palestinian liberation … I want us to do it together. I want to bring back these conversations and stories in hopes that it will help add to this global struggle to get free. —Cherrell Brown