Activist and journalist Kristien Bailey discusses a new letter signed by more than 1000 to support Palestinian liberation.


Story Transcript

JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome everyone back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. In a statement posted to BlackforPalestine.com, it appears as if every left of center black thinker in the world joined a renewed call for solidarity with Palestinians. Extending a long tradition of black radical support for the struggle of Palestinian liberation, one that has famously included, for example, Malcolm X, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther party, this statement co-authored by our next guest reads in part, we offer this statement first and foremost to Palestinians, whose suffering does not go unnoticed, and whose resistance and resilience under racism and colonialism inspires us. It is to Palestinians as well as to Israeli and U.S. governments that we declare our commitment to working through cultural, economic, and political means to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own. Joining us now is Kristian Bailey, a research assistant at the Martin Luther King Research Center and Education Institute at Stanford University. Thank you, Kristian, for joining us, and welcome to the Real News Network. KRISTIAN BAILEY, FREELANCE WRITER AND ORGANIZER: Thank you, Jared. And just quickly, I’m no longer a research assistant with the institute. I finished that about six months ago. BALL: Okay. Well, congratulations. We appreciate you moving on to these new endeavors. So tell us if you would, what led to this letter, and why now? BAILEY: Sure. This letter’s been about a year in the making. My co-organizer on the statement, Khury Petersen-Smith, and I had each drafted statements responding to the violence in Gaza last summer from a black perspective, but we found ourselves unable to publish the statements at the time. So we decided to rejoin efforts and present a new statement for the one-year anniversary of the massacre in Gaza last summer. BALL: And what are you hoping to accomplish? What do you see as a goal for this collective statement? BAILEY: I think one of the biggest goals is just to solidify a lot of the actions and conversations that we’ve seen over the past year in terms of black Palestinian solidarity, whether it’s from Ferguson, whether it’s from Dream Defenders, or just from our organizing and resistance groups generally. BALL: And I’m also wondering, is the collective of signatories being organized to do anything else? Are you all in any kind of contact with each other looking to strengthen the solidarity amongst yourselves, for some advanced or other sort of effort? BAILEY: Sure, yeah. I mean, it’s unprecedented to have this many black activists and scholars and thinkers in conversation with each other. Especially around the issue of Palestine. And given that we now have this 1,000 people in numbers, and sort of an international reach, I think there’s a lot that we can do moving forward. But that’s up to those of us who have signed this statement to figure out. BALL: There have been, as I mentioned in the introduction, there’s a long history of particularly black radicals in this country supporting the Palestinian liberation struggle and other struggles of oppressed people around the world. Why in particular the Palestinians at this point, as you see it? And then how is it, as you say in your statement, do you see this issue of colonialism, something that I admit is a particular interest to me, playing out both in Palestine and here in the United States, particularly as it relates to black people? BAILEY: Sure. The statement of course draws from the rich history of black radical support and solidarity with Palestine. You mentioned the Black Panther party, who trained with the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Algeria in the ’60s. And that was part of a wider sort of framework of black internationalism during the height of the anti-colonial movement of the ’60s and ’70s. And I think what we’ve seen since then is most of these anti-colonialist struggles have achieved independence on some level, and many others there’s still a lot of work to do. But Palestine remains one of the few ongoing active forms of colonialism that we’re witnessing. BALL: I’m also particularly interested in that there’s also a tradition of using the colonial analogy, or the internal colonialism theoretical approach to analyzing the conditions of black people here in the United States. Admittedly it’s not very popular, as more would prefer that black people be seen as part of a plurality in a democratic society. So I was very interested to see that term particularly used in this statement of solidarity between black and Palestinian struggles. So please, if you could elaborate on any of that. BAILEY: Sure. The first thing to say is that we here in the United States are similarly part of a colonial project that’s ongoing, and have our own roles to play in fighting colonialism here. And at the same time as that, you’re absolutely right, that some people do view black Americans as an internally colonized population. And so given that we as a people have never had the ability to exercise our own self-determination or full sovereignty in this land, that there’s another parallel that we can draw to the Palestinian struggle. BALL: You know, I know you also covered the more or less recent Dream Defenders trip to Palestine, and we know that there have been a number of delegations of black Americans over the years sent to show solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Is there anything in particular in your coverage of that, or any of those visits, that informs your work or that you feel is of particular interest or value in sharing with our audience now? BAILEY: Sure. I think the biggest thing is that the amount of, the importance of the Dream Defenders delegation in January was made possible by a lot of the developments between organizers and protesters in Ferguson, in St. Louis, and people in Palestine during the height of the Ferguson uprising last summer. I know that the trip was actually scheduled to happen earlier in the year, sometime around the summer. But because it was later the Dream Defenders were able to bring organizers from St. Louis, from Ferguson, to Palestine. And so it really crystallized a lot of conversations that we were seeing happen on social media in the months before, to have these activists and organizers meet together in person. And the other interesting development that I do want to call attention to is that the solidarity or the direction of the delegation has gone both ways. So two months before the Dream Defenders delegation to Palestine, a group of Palestinian students from Birzeit University in the West Bank came to the U.S. on a speaking tour. And their first stop was in St. Louis and Ferguson to get an orientation to the state of affairs of racism in the United States, and also for them to connect with organizers on the ground, which is a very powerful moment both for the Palestinians and for the local St. Louis activists and organizers. So these conversations are starting to happen a lot more within our own resistance and movement circles, and so that’s what I’m really excited to watch develop as the statement gets more attention. BALL: Kristian Bailey, thank you very much for putting this statement together, sharing it with us, and joining us here at the Real News. BAILEY: Thank you for having me, Jared. BALL: And thank you for joining us here at the Real News. For all involved, again, in Baltimore I’m Jared Ball. And as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.

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Jared Ball

Jared A. Ball is a father and husband. After that he is a multimedia host, producer, journalist and educator. Ball is also a founder of "mixtape radio" and "mixtape journalism" about which he wrote I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011) and is co-editor of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable's Malcolm X (Black Classic Press, 2012). Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and can be found online at IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.