© Christopher Hazou/IMEU
Delegates on the Dream Defenders delegation pose in front of Israel's West Bank wall, near Qalandia checkpoint.
After Black teen Trayvon Martin's 2012 death at the hands of George Zimmerman in Florida, a newly formed group called the Dream Defenders sprung into action. They marched for miles. They occupied the state capitol in Tallahassee. They pushed for legislative measures that would address racial inequality.
Today, the Dream Defenders remain focused on racism in America, and have helped lead the burgeoning #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations that have swept the nation after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed Black men killed by the police in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.
But the Dream Defenders have also broadened their focus in recent months by joining U.S. Palestinian rights groups in calling for an end to Israeli human rights abuses. On December 20th, they deepened their commitment to Palestinian rights by unanimously endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) call. The endorsement came during the Dream Defenders' conference in Florida.
And at the start of 2015, members of Dream Defenders, along with other groups focused on racial injustice like the Black Youth Project, went on a delegation to Palestine organized by the Institute for Middle East Understanding. The trip was meant to expose Black activists to the Israeli occupation. After returning, the participants have drawn parallels between the Black and Latino experience in the U.S. and the Palestinian experience.
The BDS endorsement by the Black and Brown-led Dream Defenders and the trip to Palestine is a sign of the growing ties between the racial justice movement and Palestinian rights activists. The groups are building on a rich history of collaboration between Black, Latino and Palestinian activists.
The growing ties between the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Palestine also comes at a time when pro-Israel groups, anxious about a changing America, are courting communities of color to bolster America's pro-Israel stance.
"It was really great to participate in a space where people immediately understood why Palestine is such an important issue and started making connections to their own histories of experiencing racism or colonialism in the Caribbean or Latin America or Africa," said Kristian Davis Bailey, who was part of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) contingent at the Dream Defenders conference.