Clark University’ Students for Justice In Palestine hosted a slam poetry night on Tuesday, December 3rd in Tilton Hall. The group’s intent was to raise consciousness and awareness of the long existing Israel-Palestine conflict.
As people made their way into Tilton Hall, some walked slowly to get a taste of Palestinian cuisine, composed of bits of falafel, hummus, pita bread, and domas placed in the back of the hall. The diverse audience was made up of various groups of Clark students as well as those outside of the Clark community. Many quietly interacted with each other while others danced to the bumping Palestinian beats in the background. The event began with Clark students and outside performers sharing their own poetry creations. After a Clark student’s performance, a local Muslim rap poet named Abu Nurah performed a piece titled “End the Occupation”; a piece that Nurah hopes sheds some light on the Israel-Palestine issue and calls for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine to “end the occupation.”
Remi Kanzani, standing at 5’10, with dark black hair and with a white t-shirt that bears a quote by Nelson Mandela: “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” He is a well-established slam poet who has traveled the world participating and teaching poetry from US to Gaza, especially with Palestinian groups and organizations. Immediately after he takes the stage, he captivated the audience. He started off by making fun of where he had gown up; a community he describes as not being diverse. His Palestinian family and a Cambodian family are the only families that represent the diversity of this particular town. His parents were Palestinian refugees from Mypha and Hypa during the 1948 Israel occupation. After a brief introduction about his background, he moves onto his poetic pieces.
He reads about 6 memorable poems, however I chose to focus on just three. The first piece, titled “Before the Machetes are Raised,” centered on building social consciousness of people, especially marginalized groups to overcome social change for freedom, justice, and equality. He asks the audience why idolizing soldier is socially accepted when it is a fact that soldiers hurts and kill families, youth, women children regardless of what country they represent or the uniforms that they wear. Are soldiers any better than terrorists when in fact both of them endanger, kill and oppress people although one is more socially acceptable than the other?
After a recital of a critical piece like this, he moved onto a poem titled “Normalize This,” an attempts to critically look at the existing system of oppression of Palestinians through various forms such as normalizing how he believes Palestinian are being treated as second class citizens while Israel receives aid in the form of weapons that are used to kill Palestinians. His words from this piece speak out for the need to stop normalizing the occupation and apartheid of Palestinians. Regardless of a person’s nationality, gender, religion and racial background, he says there is no need to defend a bad system of oppression and apartheid, it is better to speak out about the need to decide whether people are for or against apartheid. He concludes this piece by talking about the need for a cultural boycott. One of his last piece suggests that there is a need for many to have the will and power to refuse service into the military, regardless of any country one wishes to serve. In the piece titled “Refuse,” he sheds light on the idea that refusing service is not the easiest decision one makes. However at the end of the day, the ultimate victims are innocent people who do not ask to be bombed and those that remain nameless and faceless caught in the cross fires of conflict.
He concludes the event with reminding the audience that the event is not just about injustice against Palestinians, but about a system of oppression that needs the world attention. The Israel-Palestine conflict is only one of the many global examples of perpetuated injustice that needs to end now.
– Tarikwa M. Leveille