As part of the Montreal Israeli Apartheid Week event series, activists Kezia Curtis, a member of Black Lives Matter Detroit, and Brittany King, a member of the Dream Defenders, a social justice group, spoke at a panel discussion called “Black Perspectives on the Question of Palestine” held on March 17.
The panel was organized by the Black Students’ Network (BSN) and McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), and explored “transnational solidarity between the movements for justice for Black people in North America and movements for justice for Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.”
“If [activists] are going to be successful in doing the work that we aim to do, then it is so important for us to engage in solidarity with other oppressed and marginalized groups.”
Curtis and King highlighted their experiences as activists working within the Black and Palestinian struggles, and emphasized the need to decolonize the mind in order for solidarity networks to thrive.
Ryan, one of the organizers of the event, told The Daily that he believes that “if [activists] are going to be successful in doing the work that we aim to do, then it is so important for us to engage in solidarity with other oppressed and marginalized groups.”
The panelists noted the historical parallels between the Palestinian and Black social justice movements, with both populations still facing state-sanctioned racism and violence.
Curtis spoke about her experiences as a Black woman travelling within Palestine. It was like “looking at Detroit in a different part of the world,” Curtis said with regards to her trip to Palestine. Curtis also spoke about how violence was experienced on a very real, day-to-day basis, particularly at the university she visited.
Curtis and King also spoke about other related issues faced by both Black people in the U.S. and Palestinians, such as gentrification, limited access to land and farming, and militarization of settler-colonial states.
Curtis further noted a crucial difference between the U.S. and Palestine which she witnessed on her trip – the outright and explicit violence, guns, weaponry, and tear gas constantly being used against Palestinians in Hebron, in contrast to the significantly less militarized nature of the violence in the U.S..
Anti-Black racism in solidarity movements
The panel also highlighted the importance of challenging anti-Black racism within solidarity movements.
“Part of […] solidarity includes critical self-reflection in order to avoid being complicit in the oppression of other groups, especially in the case of anti-Blackness.”
Ryan pointed out that “part of […] solidarity includes critical self-reflection in order to avoid being complicit in the oppression of other groups, especially in the case of anti-Blackness.”
King also stressed the need for self-reflection and critical thinking to challenge instances of global anti-Blackness. King argued that social media and mainstream media act as ways that uphold anti-Blackness. For example, King explained, the stigma that Black Muslims face in Muslim communities – a phenomenon perpetuated through social media – is evidence to this.
As a Black woman, she added, it is important for her to stand in solidarity with other oppressed people. “Anti-Blackness won’t stop unless we challenge ourselves,” King explained.
“Anti-Blackness won’t stop unless we challenge ourselves.”
In an interview with The Daily, a student who attended the panel noted, “I thought it was encouraging that [the panelists] were working on the ground in their own communities to educate people on anti-Blackness and how to decolonize a mindset that’s been so largely ingrained in society.”
King added that a critical understanding of how colonization affects all people should unite seemingly disparate justice movements. “For me, it’s just all about education,” she said. “If you see that my struggle and your struggle are the same […] that will make that solidarity more attainable.”
“If you see that my struggle and your struggle are the same […] that will make that solidarity more attainable.”
Michelle Blassou, a member of the BSN, told The Daily that the talk raised important parallels, and that “uniting around the idea that the colonial state will always be against both of us leaves a lot of work to do.”
A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Aja Monet also attended the panel. The Daily regrets the error.