Last weekend, I attended a conference in Washington D.C. that aimed to educate and end the Israeli occupation in Palestine. I was lucky enough to go with amazing, supportive people, and meet incredible activists, and spend 12 hours in a freezing van while listening to Palestinian hip hop. The conference began with a play called There Is a Field, by Jen Marlowe, and it was my favorite part of the conference.
Seeing this play was a heart-wrenching way to begin this weekend. It is almost impossible to comprehend the fact that thousands of families go through the same kind of grief and trauma, and receive no outside support. Just hearing the one story was overwhelming. The message was overall somewhat positive, but mostly just demonstrated how urgently we need to act to stop this apartheid that is undeniably occurring in occupied Palestine. I sincerely hope that these talented and courageous people are willing to bring a reading of their play to Manchester University at some point in the future.
What struck me the most about this presentation was the discussion afterwards. JeNae’ Taylor, from BYP 100 DC, Ash-Lee Henderson, from the Movement for Black Lives, and Sandra Tamari from the US Campaign all joined Jen Marlowe onstage to discuss the reading and what we can gather from it about other movements happening currently. There are incredibly apparent parallels between the police brutality black people are facing in the US today and the brutality that the Palestinian people face from the Israeli police. The play could be easily transcribed to the story of Mike Brown, or Tamir Rice, or Trayvon Martin.
This discussion helped me from leaving with a sense of hopelessness. These intelligent, incredible women are at the top of their field, making a huge impact on the world, and they have advice for how we can make a change. The right kind of solidarity, recognizing that we need one another, and being present and making connections all really can make a difference. These women are amazing speakers and activists.
There were many amazing speakers and panels, and various options of workshops available so I was able to tailor the conference to my interests and knowledge levels. We learned about boycott, divestment, and sanctions across movements, art in occupied Palestine, American media bias, writing resolutions, talking to your congressmen, and we got to see Palestinian musicians perform. It was incredible to see that there is so much beauty that these people have to offer us, and we are funding the silencing of their voices.
Going on a van trip to D.C. with people I had only known for a month and a half is something I never would’ve done six months ago. I would have laughed in your face at the thought of it. Or cried with panic. Probably both. But I am so glad that this is something I can do now, travel across the country with incredible people, who I know care about me. I know they care about me even if I haven’t met them, because that’s what happens at Manchester and it is amazing. Next weekend, we are going back to D.C. for the National Students for Justice in Palestine conference, because how could one conference a month be enough?
Check this link for an extended, in depth blog about what happened at each workshop, and some important links for getting informed!
Virginia Rendler ’20 is a Peace Studies major, and is hoping to double major in English, as well as double minor in Spanish and Visual Art. She loves animals and is a Leo.