Black Panthers and Diaspora Palestinians illuminate shared struggle on Nakba day

Martha Alhassen, journalist and PhD candidate at USC, and Greg Thomas, curator and Tufts University professor, embrace after the roundtable discussion in front of “Sun” artwork. – Photo: Omar Ali
Martha Alhassen, journalist and PhD candidate at USC, and Greg Thomas, curator and Tufts University professor, embrace after the roundtable discussion in front of “Sun” artwork. – Photo: Omar Ali
Silk Road Debke Troupe stand in front of the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural – Photo: Greg Thomas
Silk Road Debke Troupe stand in front of the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural – Photo: Greg Thomas

Oakland, Palestine News Network (PNN) – Arab Resources Organizing Coalition (AROC) and Art Forces on the 68th Nakba Day presented George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine, a multimedia cultural event that expresses the interconnections between current and historic struggles against colonization from Palestine to the streets of Oakland.

The event displayed posters that came from the original exhibition that was held in the Abu Jihad Museum for Prisoner Movement Affairs of the Al-Quds university in East Jerusalem from October 2015 to April 2016.

Young Gifted & Black perform and dazzle the audience under the guidance of Laroilyn Davis. – Photo: Greg Thomas
Young Gifted & Black perform and dazzle the audience under the guidance of Laroilyn Davis. – Photo: Greg Thomas
The flyer for the May 15 event, George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine: Colonialist Captivity and Revolutionary Struggle – Design: Sharif Zakout
The flyer for the May 15 event, George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine: Colonialist Captivity and Revolutionary Struggle – Design: Sharif Zakout

Beginning with the story of the uncanny link between Black Panther George Jackson and the Palestinian poem “Enemy of the Sun” by Samih al-Qasim, George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine unites local Oakland histories of the formation of the Black Panther Party and the resilience and resistance of Ohlone and other First Nations people to the resilience of the Palestinian people.

The event took place on May 15, 4-7 p.m., as part of the “Off the Wall” series from the Oakland Palestinian Mural Project.

Basima Sizemore takes a look at a wall of posters from the Abu Jihad Museum for Prisoner Movement Affairs in Abu Dis, Palestine – Photo: Greg Thomas
Basima Sizemore takes a look at a wall of posters from the Abu Jihad Museum for Prisoner Movement Affairs in Abu Dis, Palestine – Photo: Greg Thomas
The Silk Road Debke Troupe dance in front of the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural. – Photo: Greg Thomas
The Silk Road Debke Troupe dance in front of the Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural. – Photo: Greg Thomas

George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine uses visual art, symposium and performance to tell the story of Black Panther and writer George Jackson’s link to the Palestinian struggle through the inspiration he found in a classic Palestinian poem, “Enemy of the Sun.” After Jackson was assassinated in 1971, a handwritten copy of the poem was found in his prison cell. The Black Panther Party shared the classical Palestinian poem in the party’s newspaper, under the assumption it was written by Jackson himself.

Traditional Te’o Kalli Mejica dancers bless the mural. – Photo: Greg Thomas
Traditional Te’o Kalli Mejica dancers bless the mural. – Photo: Greg Thomas
Van Dell of Qilombo speaks at the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali
Van Dell of Qilombo speaks at the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali

Curator Greg Thomas, associate professor who teaches Black Studies and literature in English at Tufts University, states:

“That was a magical mistake that expressed the depth of solidarity and closeness, because the similarity in voice and situation is unimaginable. Palestinian resistance poetry occupied a large space in the lives of Black people across the ocean and it is all because of George Jackson, the eternal enemy of the sun’s enemy.

“In the same way that George Jackson was drawn to and educated about the Palestinian struggle through the universal language of art – in the form of poetry – this unique multidisciplinary event uses art to unite around the undying and vital themes of shared struggle and joint solidarity in order to create connections and continuity in revolutionary purpose.”

Rabab Abdelhadi of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies at SF State speaks at the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali
Rabab Abdelhadi of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies at SF State speaks at the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali
Kilaiki Baruti of George Jackson University speaks during the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali
Kilaiki Baruti of George Jackson University speaks during the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali

The event included several gifted performers, including Young, Gifted and Black, Traditional Te’o Kalli Mejica Dancers, Silk Road Debke bands, and panelists Maytha Alhassen, Rabab Abdelhadi-Amed, Van Dell, Greg Thomas and Tony Gonzales.

The exhibition also displayed work from international artists, including Pedro Alcantara-Herran (Colombia), Jonelle Davies (Miami, Florida), Emory Douglas (African-America and the Black Panthers), Antonio Frasconi (Uruguay), the Inkworks Cooperative (Berkeley, California), Ivan Lopez (San Francisco and Colombia), Malaquias Montoya (Mexico and Mexican-America), Rafael Morante (Cuba and OSPAAAL poster archive), RIGO 23, Priya Handa, Sharif Zarkout, Nidal El-Khairy and Hunger Strikers of the California Prison Movement.

Tony Gonzales of AIM-West speaks during the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali
Tony Gonzales of AIM-West speaks during the roundtable discussion. – Photo: Omar Ali
Al Juthoor Debke dancers close out the day’s program. – Photo: Greg Thomas
Al Juthoor Debke dancers close out the day’s program. – Photo: Greg Thomas

About the curators

Greg Thomas is the founding editor of e-journal Proud Flesh. He is the author of “The Sexual Demon of Colonial Power: Pan-African Embodiment and Erotic Schemes of Empire” (Indiana UP, 2007) as well as “Hip-Hop Revolution in the Flesh” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He is also the co-editor with L.H. Stallings of “Word Hustle: Critical Essays and Reflections on the Works of Donald Goines” (Black Classic Press, 2011). He has published essays in periodicals such as Présence Africaine, Human Architecture, Journal of West Indian Literature, Jenda Journal, CR: The New Centennial Review, The C.L.R. James Journal, Journal of Pan-African Studies, African Literature Today, Words.Beats.Life, Small Axe and Black Camera. He guest-edited a special issue of CR: The New Centennial Review entitled “Coloniality’s Persistence” in 2003 and a special issue of Black Camera: An International Film Journal on Haile Gerima in 2013. Currently, he is at work on a critical study of the revolutionary writings of George L. Jackson, “The Dragon.”

Susan Greene founded and directs Art Forces and is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and clinical psychologist. Art Forces creates community based murals and media that make visible the connections between local and global struggles for social justice. The project aims to engage the public on multiple levels to create potential spaces for critical thinking and action that advances progressive social change. Her practice focuses on borders, decolonization, resilience and memory. Greene is particularly interested in the ways in which site specific two-dimensional public art can be augmented with current technologies to facilitate and deepen audience engagement and participation.

This story first appeared on Palestine News Network.