SSJP and ISSA Host Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving Celebration
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 12:12
Smith Students for Justice in Palestine (SSJP) and Indigenous Smith Students and Allies (ISSA) celebrated Thanksgiving in a radical way last week. Featuring a dinner, lectures and a movie screening, the two groups hosted an “Anti-Colonial” Thanksgiving event.
The first of the two events featured a dinner catered by Amanouz and accompanied by a lecture by SSJP President Hunter King outlining the situation in Gaza and the current, deadly events which have taken place there.
King’s presentation featured analysis on what he argues are the constant injustices by the Israeli government to the Palestinians in Gaza ever since Gaza was put under siege after its residents elected Hamas, a political party that Israel considers to be a terrorist organization, in a free and fair election.
The second lecture was given by J. Kehaulani Kauanui, a professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University, an activist and an anarchist radio host. The talk was entitled “Right Here, Right Now; Solidarity Politics Challenging Settler Colonialism.”
Kauanui began her lecture talking about Stevie Wonder backing out of a benefit concert for FIDF (Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces) after activist pressure.
“Something is happening,” she said. “More people are speaking out. After Operation Cast Lead in 2009 in Gaza, people came out and now after Operation Pillar of Cloud more people are coming out for the cause.”
Kauanui then moved on to talk about three main subjects; occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism. She defined them as different tactics which are deployed as forms of ethnic cleansing. Kauanui was able to draw many parallels from history, focusing on Palestinians, Native Americans and Hawaiians.
The lecture also stressed caution when using these words.
“When drawing parallels, one should not only look at a checklist of an example in history,” said Kauanui. “Peoples should not claim words like ‘apartheid’, ‘holocaust’ or ‘occupation’ for their own, but we should notice the forms that these events take in different contexts.”
Kauanui described ethnic cleansing as not only the physical killing or moving of a population of peoples, but also the less commonly recognized methods on the part of occupiers.
“An example would be when the settlers start claiming an identity tied to the land after one or two generations,” said Kauanui. “When an American from English descent says, ‘I am a native New Yorker,’ then that makes space to erase the actual natives of New York.”
Kauanui ended her lecture by arguing that is on how important for those living on occupied land in the United States and Israel to be aware of the settler situation. She recognized that this involves a personal crises where one asks, “What does that make me?” and stressed the importance of dealing with that tension.
Thursday’s event aimed to begin this process of awareness. SSJP and ISSA hosted a movie screening in Weinstein Auditorium of the film We Shall Remain: After the Mayflower on Nov. 29, which exposed viewers to a detailed narrative of the first settlers in America in 1620 and the events that took place between them and the natives.
The story happened right here, in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, reaffirming Kauanui’s comment from the prior night that “here we are, in many ways, in the belly of the beast.”
The movie narrates the story of the first pilgrims and their friendship with the natives of the land, the Wampanoag. It discusses the first Thanksgiving that took place between the two groups and the time when living together peacefully seemed possible.
“The English started dressing more like Indians and using Indian words, and the Indians started dressing more like the English and using English words. We might think, “Oh, what great cultural growth!’ but actually, it makes everybody very nervous,” said Jill Lepore, a historian in the film.
The movie went on to show the tension that led up to the beginning of a war and the ethnic cleansing of the natives, touching on the struggles that the Wampanoag faced in their attempt to survive.
Following the event, SSJP and ISSA expressed their wish to make Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving an annual event on Smith campus to raise awareness of issues of colonialism and to draw parallels between different narratives to promote alliances and unified struggles.