Kulture by Claude J. Easy January 15, 2018
Vic Mensa has penned an essay for Time that parallels the Black American experience and the Palestinian experience.
Titled “What Palestine Taught Me About American Racism”, the essay describes Mensa’s trip he took with Dream Defenders, which is an organized group of African-American artists, scholars, and activists.
During his pilgrimage, Mensa had a firsthand look at the mistreatment of Palestinian civilians by the state of Israel and highlighted the victims of said mistreatment he met over there.
Last summer I traveled to Palestine with some a group of artists, activists, writers & dreamers. The scenes I saw there will forever be etched into my memory. The oppression of Palestinian people under Israeli occupation is startling, frightening and suffocating. A lot of people told me not to talk about what I saw there, but sitting in a shanty town outside of Jerusalem I made a promise to a old man with a face of leather to tell the world what I had seen. Whether for fear of retribution or long standing cultural divisions, many decline to speak their mind when it includes the word “Palestine.” Showing me the Libyan slave markets, my father said “Son, do you see what they are doing to our people?” But I believe one injustice does not justify another, and the vitriol and brutality exacted upon the Palestinians was too much for me to hold my tongue about, so I wrote this op-ed piece for @time about my observations. This piece is not to spread hate against any religion, or exonerate anyone else for their crimes. These are just my thoughts, informed by what I’ve seen with my own two eyes. The link is in my bio.
In no way, shape or form are his words “an attack on the people of Jewish faith,” said Mensa.
Mensa detailed several different accounts of inhumane treatment. One story that was extremely heart wrenching to read was that of a woman named Nora. In his powerful essay, Mensa described his encounter with her. He wrote,
“Her eyes looked like she’d been crying for 30 years. Hearing her impassioned pleas for freedom beneath the flaking walls of her home in the Old City of Jerusalem, I don’t doubt that she had. Nora has been embattled in a tortuous legal struggle for her family home since the 1980s. Oftentimes carrying children, in her arms and in the womb, she labors in and out of Israeli courtrooms. She was born in this house. Her children were born in this house. Now just holding on to it has been the fight of her life…”
As you read through the rest of the harrowing stories, which include Mensa witnessing a boy who was imprisoned for throwing rocks, it’s easy to see how comparable the Palestinians plight is to that of Black Americans.
There were certain moments that Mensa witnessed that reminded him of the scars Black people have endured while fighting white oppression in America.
Worm-infested water tanks in a refugee camp in Aida refreshed Mensa’s memory of the horrible water crisis in Flint Michigan.
The “separation wall” brought him right back to Southside Chicago as he compared the economic disparity to that of The Hunger Games. In his memorable essay, Mensa said,
“Staring into the worm-infested water tank on top of a dilapidated house in Aida refugee camp, I can’t help but think of Flint, Michigan, and the rust-colored lead-poisoned water that flows through their faucets. As I gaze over the 25-foot “separation wall,” the economic disparity is acutely transparent; the Israeli side of the wall looks like the Capitol in The Hunger Games, while the Palestinian side reads like a snapshot from a war photographer. It’s as if the South Side of Chicago’s most forgotten and disenfranchised neighborhoods were separated from the luxury of Downtown’s Gold Coast by a simple concrete wall.”
We suggest you give the complete dissertation a read through for yourself, here. There is definitely some powerful stuff in Mensa’s essay that promises to leave a mark.
Also, check out the Grammy nominee’s video for “We Could Be Free”, which includes moving footage from Palestine, below.