Standing in Solidarity with the Palestinian People
By Claire Gilbert and Mina Remy
By Claire Gilbert and Mina Remy
Here in the office of Grassroots International hang many pictures of our partners from around the world. One we all love features a beautiful Palestinian girl proudly hugging a huge turnip grown in her family’s garden plot. In fact, we so appreciate the picture that we created a greeting card with her image and story, and many recipients have asked: “What happened to her? Where is she today?”
Here’s her story.
Millions of Brazilians are marching today (July 11) in another demonstration of the vitality of national social movements. The demonstrations taking place in different major cities across the country follow last month’s historic marches.
Building on the political momentum created by the massive mostly youth-led demonstrations, today’s show of force will include both organized labor and social movements, marching side-by-side to demand political reform and expanded constitutional rights.
Ingredients: 183 member organizations. 88 countries. 5 continents. 500 representatives of 200-plus million women and men. Numerous allies from movements of women, indigenous peoples, fishers, pastoralists, environmental/climate justice activists and more. One global peasant movement. All with fearless commitment to social, economic and gender justice.
Our Palestinian partners frequently tell us: “To stay – and, frankly, to exist – is to resist.” I heard this same message during the 3rd International Youth Assembly of La Via Campesina (LVC). In a world where the ability to live a dignified life as a small farmer is increasingly challenging whether in Iowa or Indonesia the act of staying, and in some cases “going back” to the land is an act of resistance and courage.
On this Earth Day, I’m inspired to share a story of the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC). One of Grassroots International’s US allies, BMWC organizes in indigenous communities, going up against powerful corporate interests in the fossil fuel industry, and engaging in movement building toward a vision for a transition to an economically and ecologically just society.
Cicero Guedes, a former sugar cane cutter turned land rights activist, worked in Campo dos Goytacazes, a settlement in Brazil. There he organized with the Landless Workers Movement (MST) to help families achieve what he had received: legal claim to land as part of Brazil’s agrarian reform movement.
For his tireless work, Cicero was murdered, shot more than a dozen times while he rode his bicycle to the fields. His assassination seemed intended to send a message to other would-be land rights activists: organize and you will pay the ultimate price.
Peasant farmers from Brazil’s central plateau delivered more than three tons of fresh vegetables and homemade cakes, cookies and cheese to local schools last week. This was the first delivery as part of the National Program of School Meals (PNAE) and marks a significant step toward food sovereignty in a region threatened by the expansion of agro-fuels plantations and GMO seeds.
Spearheaded by Grassroots International partner, the Popular Peasant Movement (MCP), 40 families delivered the locally grown, organic food to local schools in Goiás state. And MCP families are already working in the next batch.
Vaikuntha is a young Savaara (an indigenous tribe from east central India) man I met in Bhimaavaram village in East Godavari district of India's Andhra Pradesh (AP) state on a site visit with Yakshi (a Grassroots grantee). Thirteen years ago, he finished 10th grade and went back to his village in Srikakulam district. The school he was in was in a different area, and he didn’t like the fact that they made him and his other Savaara friends take more Hindu sounding names like Vaikuntha or Mahesh. There were a lot of young people back in his village. They had many questions about what kinds of development serves people.
Bhoodevi (second from left) is a young Savaara woman from Srikakulam district (county) in Andhra Pradesh (AP) state in India. Her name means Earth Goddess or Mother Earth. The Savaaras are an Adivasi (??d??v??si/ literally, earliest inhabitants) indigenous group that straddle the forests and hills in the border regions of modern day AP and Odisha states in east-central India. In Srikakulam they along with the Jataapus form the core of the indigenous population.
The future success of global social movements depends largely on cultivating the next generation of activists. With the support of Grassroots International, local groups around the world are organizing creative social, political and environmental awareness programs explicitly engaging youth. Below are a few highlights from some of the grants we made this past year.
On my last program visit to the Middle East, I had a chance to spend two days with Stop the Wall Campaign (a Grassroots International partner) staff and leaders throughout the West Bank. Through all of our conversations, two distinct but complementary themes arose – steadfastness and fierce determination from farmers who had been in the struggle for decades, and creative vibrant energy from youth who have recently taken on leadership in their local committees and in the broader movement.
Janaina Stronzake is a youth leader within Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) – the largest peasant movement in Latin America with over 1.5 million members.
From her humble beginnings, Sayra never imagined the profound impact she would have on the global movement for food sovereignty.
GAZA CITYLast night, I dreamt of Haiti. Something about the scene felt eerily familiar. The visions of people trapped under folded sheets of concrete, children crying out to family members they would never see again, and incapacitated hospitals overflowing with the dead and injured were so vivid that even after I opened my eyes, I still thought I was there. And then the early Islamic call to prayer brought me back to where I wasI had made it into the Gaza Strip from Israel the day before.
Over the weekend proceeding Martin Luther King Day, kids from Jamaica Plain, MA took to the sidewalks to raise funds for earthquake relief in Haiti. They set up tables in front of local shops, including JP Licks ice cream store and City Feed grocery. In less than two hours, area residents had donated $356 to help the Haiti reconstruction work of three Boston-based groups: Grassroots International, Oxfam America and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
Grassroots International is pleased to announce our support to Via Campesina-Brazil's Youth Collective. The Youth Collective is a broad coalition of rural and urban working class youth dedicated to support training and networking between young people organizing for social justice in Brazil. Via Campesina-Brazil, formed by seven peasant, indigenous, women and youth organizations, is leading several initiatives through the Youth Collective to educate young people about the impacts of neo-liberalism and globalization, empower new generations of organizers through learning exchange and establish new alliances with counterpart organizations in urban areas.
At quarter to four this morning the Hamash family building was bombed by the Israeli Army.
Many of us have read report backs and journals from friends, loved ones, acquaintances that travel or visit Palestine filled with first impressions, checkpoint stories and vivid descriptions of the brutality and impact of the Israeli Occupation on everyday life in Ramallah, Rafah, Jenin, Hebron etc...Never having been in Palestine myself, I have been craving for stories of hope, beauty and laughter intertwined with those of pain, resilience and despair. Suheir Hammad, who is one of my favorite poets and writers has been traveling in Palestine and the Middle East this summer and has been writing journal entries that to me, have satisfied those cravings in a very poetic way. (See two random excerpts below). Check out her Journal on Palestine on her website at http://www.suheirhammad.com/.
As I write this some dear friends of mine are traveling throughout Palestine and connecting with Palestinian youth, artists, families and organizers along the way. Check out their beautiful picture log most of which were taken by photographer Justin McIntosh at http://capedmaskedandarmed.com/justin/. One of my favorites is the one of Abu Dis Youth posing with the Puerto Rican flag. Enjoy!
"Wafa has picked up ca-ak and eggs. The bread is fragrant in the car. He's also picked a stem of jasmine and placed it in his car like a bouquet. The scents are of a peaceful morning. We drive into the mist that drapes the hills of this country. We drive by goats herders and sheperds drinking strong coffee under tents to prepare for the grueling physical work of tending. The sun is in the sky, a bright disk of white behind the mist. It looks like the moon."
"Palestinian girls, in every area I have visited are drawn to bright colors and patterns. In town, there is more black and white, hijab and long...but in the country and in the camps...the colors of poppies and limes, sky and mint.Thank you, Dead Prez. It is indeed bigger than Hip Hop. There are many secrets in this earth. Hushed Stories of touchings and rapes. The Occupation has denied breathing room for critical gender analysis, and safe space. And it is the girls who suffer."