i spent the weekend with most of the students in my indigenous american class from ibdaa cultural center in deheishe refugee camp, which i have been teaching here to give the youth more of a background on american colonialism and occupation of native land before a group of american indians come on a solidarity visit to palestine next month. there was a camp last weekend in the village of taibe to gather the kids from other refugee camps and another group that will participate in this solidarity visit.
we stayed at a christian (taibe is the only christian-only village in palestine and it is famous for its palestinian beer, although when i went to a shop one morning and found an “i love taibe beer” sticker on the door i was dumbfounded to find only zionist terrorist colonists’ beer to be the only one for sale there!) retirement home–sort of an odd concept in palesitne where most people actually take care of their elderly loved ones in ways that americans do not. most of the campers slept in tents outside, though the girls had rooms in the guest house where the adults also stayed. for some reason the ibdaa shabab stayed inside too, though in a different building.
the camp was amazing. it reminded me of why i love ibdaa cultural center and the kids in deheishe so much. why they give me the inspiration, strength, energy to fight for the right of return. when i see the faces of these kids i just feel so overwhelmed with love for them that i would do anything to see their rights finally enacted. all the other centers at the camp had been given materials about indigenous americans previously, but only the ibdaa/deheishe kids had read them and have had classes on the subject. in fact, one kid arrived and said the first night that he thought that this project was a normalization project (normalization = normalizing the abnormal, i.e., pushing colonized palestinians to have “normal” relations with their zionist usurping colonizers). this led to a discussion of the word normalization and its meanings, which he did not understand. but part of the problem was that the other kids had not even received the books so they had not read them. so a lot of the burden was put on the kids from deheishe to educate their peers on what they learned. and they did a kick ass job if i do say so myself. they were so amazing and led really important discussions of the vocabulary words–like the differences between occupation, colonialism, and imperialism–that i think all the youth benefited from.
on one of the days we took a bus trip to birzeit to go swimming where one of the kids from deheishe gave me a new gray hair because of the complicated flips he kept doing off the side of the pool. i was sure he was going to crack his head open, and he thought it was hilarious that i was so worried. we also had an amazing cultural night where there was a dabke performance by a local dabke group. they were wonderful, although the kids in the camp got so into it that they began to join the performance. i took some photos of their feet when they were dancing because i love watching the feet of dabke dancers (see below). one of the kids from balata refugee camp in nablus was the most interesting dabke dancer to watch. there was something about the way he moved that made us all sure he also was a break dancer. we asked him afterwards and we were right. so we asked him to dance for us. he was amazing. and he gave a lesson or two to a group of kids who wanted to learn.
there was also a group of fabulous rappers from deheishe who sang a song, a play, and an oud performance. but the best part of the camp was spending more time with the kids from deheishe, talking, learning, and bonding.
below the photos is information about the solidarity visit next month with information about how you can donate to this visit.
The Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine, the first-ever delegation of its kind, is scheduled for August 2009. Youth leaders from grassroots indigenous groups in the US, namely Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG) Magazine, Huaxtec, and Native students at Haskell University, will travel to Palestine at the invitation of five Palestinian youth centers. After more than two years of communicating through the internet, these young people will have the opportunity to learn firsthand from each other by sharing tools of empowerment and education.
The trip to Palestine is part of an ongoing process to connect the shared experiences of Indigenous peoples across the world, to build solidarity, justice and peace. The group will create print media, blogs, a Native/Palestinian music CD, video, photo essays, poetry and other forms of media to share their stories and involve their communities in building a national and international movement for indigenous rights.
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The US young people, all of who are from low-income, urban, Native American communities have already done a remarkable thing: They have raised all the money for their plane fares.
MECA has given the Palestinian organizations in YSN $18,000 for the youth training they are doing, and to prepare for the delegation.
Now, just one month from the start of the delegation, YSN still needs to raise $12,000 more for food, transportation and accommodations in Palestine.
Be sure to put YSN in the “on behalf of” field in the form.
US organizations participating in the delegation:
SNAG Magazine, San Francisco Bay Area
Huaxtec, San Francisco Bay Area
Seventh Generation Indigenous Visionaries, Haskell Indian Nations University, Kansas
Middle East Children’s Alliance (support role)
Palestine Education Project (support role)
Happy Childhood Club, Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus
Ibdaa Cultural Center, Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem
Palestinian Child Center, Shufat Refugee Camp, Jerusalem
Women for Life/Flowers Against the Occupation, Biddia, Salfit
Yafa Cultural Center, Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus