Reflections on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions event at Brooklyn College
My name is Julieta Salgado and I am a Student for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College.
Arriving to this declaration has been challenging and in many ways remains open to flaws and precarity. Being welcomed into an organizing community previously unknown to me has enriched my scope of social justice and radical imagination beyond words. How exactly does an atheist queer Latina artist fit with a Muslim student group? From curious solidarity and working towards an informed allyship, Brooklyn College SJP is teaching me just how deeply bound our collective liberations really are.
On February 7th I had the distinct pleasure of volunteering as both organizer and photographer at a lecture on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement led by Palestinian intellectual Omar Barghouti and Jewish-American philosopher Judith Butler. I also got to share in the distinct horrors that await those who criticize the state of Israel in the borough of Brooklyn, New York.
From Zionist student government leaders condemning the co-sponsorship by our Political Science department of a (gasp!) political lecture, to New York City officials threatening to defund our school, the days leading up to the BDS event escalated into a violent media battle between powerful political bodies and active students seeking visibility and information. I had never encountered something this blatantly hateful and afraid of its own truth before. And I’m not even immediately affected by Israel-Palestine dynamics in my daily life, I’m just an ally… or that was what I thought until February 7th finally arrived.
If you want to find out all the terrible and juicy attention the BDS event at Brooklyn College created, you can Google it. What you won’t find so easily is a good word about it. So here I go: it was beautiful. Like all things meaningful and compassionate, it was a bumpy ride but when we finally arrived we knew, I knew we had made a profound impact in our academic community and beyond. I told some friends that listening to Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti speak felt like a delicious symphony for my intellect. After weeks of very public and passionate displays of power, fear, hatred and simultaneous martyrdom, listening to a scholarly perspective as to why supporting Palestine (and all communities under violent occupation) is a global issue that needs immediate and explicitly non-violent action was just uplifting.
It also informed me in ways that mere facts could not. For example seeing religious and secular Jews at this event standing in solidarity with Palestine was so humbling, it made me realize how ignorant I am, how ignorant my surrounding resources are. Whoever tried to convince me that being anti-capitalist is anti-American are probably the same people who want to say that being critical of Israeli apartheid is the same as being anti-Semitic. Turns out that both these stances elude the real issue: why are some lives more precious than others?
The event was a total success. We had a packed lecture room with a mix of CUNY students, teachers, as well as activists from various communities, even people who straight up just wanted to see Judith Butler because she’s awesome. Yes, there was enough security and plainclothes cops there to make me gag because irony. Yes, there were 4 students who were ejected from the event because they were irreverent and disruptive instead of waiting for the discussion portion of the event to speak. Ain’t nobody got time for that, bye. All of these troublesome details, you may generously find on various internet outlets. My parting thoughts are available only here: my academic and human freedom is bound with that of my Palestinian friends. From a broader perspective that seeks the root of common injustice around the world, I know this to be distantly factual. But on the ground and face to face, I see that if I am pushed aside by hateful forces then I want to be on the side of love and justice. Yes, I am just an ally but I am also an agent for change, a dedicated student who thirsts for knowledge and I am grateful we fought for another day of learning at Brooklyn College.
For more informartion about Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine please visit: www.brooklynsjp.com