Newswire : The interconnected struggles: Black American and Palestinian solidarity

Pro Palestinian demonstration last weekend in Washington, D. C.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Writer, speaker, and author Leron L. Barton recently encapsulated the essence of solidarity between Black Americans and Palestinians, comments that offer one potential reason America continues to see pro-Palestine demonstrations at the White House and in locations throughout the nation. Importantly, Barton’s op-ed in Newsweek is a reminder of why President Joe Biden will continue to struggle to obtain the type of support from the Black community that helped propel him into office in 2020.
“Black American and Palestinian solidarity is not only rooted in struggle but hope, fighting, resilience, laughter, endless battling, sadness, and doing it all over again the next day,” Barton observed. “This is what I see for my Palestinian brothers and sisters trying to hold on to a land that does everything it can to make them let go.”
Barton’s words resonate with many, capturing the indomitable spirit that defines both communities’ quests for justice and self-determination. His sentiment extends to his sorrow for the lives lost on all sides of the conflict. He stressed the importance of seeing the situation not just as “The Conflict,” but as “The Occupation,” recognizing the power dynamics involved.
The author underscored his belief that the struggles faced by Black Americans and Palestinians are intertwined. “This is why I cry for the deaths of Palestinian and Israeli people,” he declared. “This is why I do not refer to it as ‘The Conflict,’ but as ‘The Occupation.’ This why I have hope for and will continue to support Palestine as they fight to be recognized as people, human beings that deserve freedom and equal treatment as their Israeli neighbors, just as I, a Black man, will continue to fight for the freedom of my people in America. Our struggle is intertwined. When they win, we win.”
The 2018 book “Black Power and Palestine: Transnational Countries of Color” by Michael Fishbach echoes the sentiments put forth by Barton. Fishbach delves into how conflicts in the Middle East significantly influenced the American Civil Rights Movement. He asserts, “Much about how American peoples of color create political strategies, a sense of self, and a place within U.S. and global communities.”
According to Fishbach, the events of the 1960s and 1970s continue to have a profound, structural impact on the United States. This historical perspective underscores the enduring influence of these interconnected struggles.
Recent controversies have illuminated the complexities of solidarity movements. Black Lives Matter Chicago received criticism for posting a graphic that appeared to celebrate Hamas’ violent attack on civilians at a concert. The graphic has since been deleted. The image featured a paraglider with the Palestinian flag and the words “I stand with Palestine.” The incident prompted a nuanced conversation about the expression of support for a cause. The group later clarified, stating, “We stand with Palestine and the people who will do what they must to live free.”
Historians said the connection between the Black American and Palestinian struggles has been evident for many years. The proximity of protests over the Gaza war and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led to a cross-cultural exchange of advice on dealing with tear gas that included Bassem Masri, a prominent activist in Ferguson and a Palestinian American. In 2015, Black activists and Palestinian advocates displayed their support for each other by visiting occupied territories and making public statements of solidarity.
In 2020, George Floyd’s murder by the police led to protests across the U.S., with comparisons made to the situation faced by Palestinians. Sam Klug, an expert in African American History, highlighted the resonance of the phrase “I can’t breathe” in both contexts. “People were painting George Floyd murals in Palestine,” Klug explained. “Palestinians were being attacked by Israeli security services, and saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ Over time, African Americans have looked at Palestine, and Palestinians have also looked at what is going on in the United States.”
Against this backdrop, Democrats have grown increasingly attuned to the challenges facing Biden’s reelection campaign. Concerns, and even alarms, have sounded regarding Biden’s support among Black voters, a pivotal demographic in his 2020 victory. Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, said that supporting Biden for practical reasons might not mean being equally enthusiastic. Disillusionment over policies and stances, including Biden’s stance on Israel, may influence voter engagement in the upcoming 2024 election, Albright told the Washington Post
.“People fundamentally misunderstood what Black voters said in 2020,” Albright said. “The depth of support was never there. The enthusiasm was never there for Biden. We were very pragmatic. We knew he was the best chance to beat Trump.”


“We must have two 50%+ Black districts in Alabama” – says Terri Sewell at forum on Voting Rights Act

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Speaking at a panel on the Voting Rights Act last week at historic 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama 7th District Congresswoman Terri Sewell said clearly, “We must come out of this fight and legal action in the Allen vs. Milligan case, with two majority Black Congressional districts, in Alabama, in terms of voting age population, for it to be fair and equitable. If the Alabama Legislature cannot come up with fair districts, we need to go back to the courts and get the judges to appoint an impartial master to draw the appropriate districts.”

Sewell organized the two panels on the tenth anniversary of the Shelby vs Holder Supreme Court decision, which invalidated and gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the original 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided for pre-clearance of voting changes in states and areas that previously experienced voter suppression and denial. The first panel analyzed the negative impacts of Shelby vs Holder on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities across America.

The second panel was on the impact and follow-through needed for the recent Supreme Court decision in Allen vs Milligan, which supported Section 2 of the VRA and found that the State of Alabama discriminated against the 27% statewide Black voters by only drawing one majority Black Congressional District, when two could be drawn and justified by the 2020 Census.

Evan Milligan, Executive Director of Alabama Forward, a Montgomery based coalition of Black and progressive activists, who is a named plaintiff in the Congressional redistricting case was on the panel, and reported that the
State Legislative committee met on June 27 and will meet again on July 13 to develop a recommended redistricting plan and map to a Special Session of the Legislature, convened by Governor Kay Ivey for July 17 to 21, 2023.

Milligan indicated, “We gave the legislative committee several suggested maps which will provide two majority minority voting districts and keep the western Black Belt counties intact in Congresswoman Sewell’s district, with Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. It will create a new district running from east to west across the state, including the eastern Black Belt counties, Montgomery, Lee (Auburn) and stretching to the Pritchard area of north Mobile County. A copy of that suggested map is included with this story.

Several of the panelists complimented Congresswoman Sewell on her willingness to “unpack” the lop-sided majority of Black voters in her current district and help to work to create two winnable districts for Black candidates. In response, Sewell said she supported any steps to make the redistricting maps more democratic but wanted to assure that there would be two 50%+ winnable districts at the end of the process.

Cliff Albright, Co-Director of Black Voters Matter, on the panel said,
“We are late in getting this change. The Supreme Court ruled last Spring that we would have to use the discriminatory map to vote in the 2022 Congressional elections. This resulted in a Congress controlled by Republicans. The courts and the Alabama Legislature must move swiftly to correct this injustice before the 2024 elections.”

Attorney Marcia Johnson of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, said, “We have cases in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and other states, that could be affected by the decision in the Allen vs Milligan case, which would give Black voters a chance to change the national composition of the Congress in 2024 and make it more progressive and fair for all people.”

In the discussion by the first panel on the impacts of Shelby vs Holder, Tom Seanz, president and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) said, “Had it not been for Shelby vs Holder, Texas would be an electoral ‘swing state’ by now. The state adopted so many voter suppression acts, especially at lower levels in counties that make it more difficult for Hispanic and younger voters to participate.

Jaqueline DeLeon, a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) said indigenous people on reservations have difficulty establishing residential addresses, which make it harder to register and also to vote by mail. She said, “Our problems are compounded by poverty and rural isolation which make voting that much harder for Indian people, who hold the balance of power in states like: Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Alaska.”

Congresswoman Sewell concluded the panels by saying we still need to pass the John R. Lewis Voter Advancement Act, which would strengthen the Voting Rights Act by restoring preclearance provisions; and The Freedom to Vote Act, which would create national standards for voting, including mail-in voting across the nation and due away with voter suppression acts passed in the past decades by state legislatures

President Biden renews commitment to passage of John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act at Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee

L To R: President Joe Biden, Cong. Terri Sewell, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson in wheelchair, rolled by son Cong. Jonathan Jackson, Krysten Clarke and Spiver W. Gordon
Attorney Faya Rose Toure addresses gathering at Commemoration March.
Rev. Jesse Jackson receives special tribute at Unity Breakfast.
Senator Hank Sanders at Martin and Coretta Unity Breakfast Rev. Martin Luther King III sitting at right
Freedom Singers bring inspiration throughout Jubilee.

At Sunday’s rally at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, President Biden renewed his commitment to passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, even if it requires waiving the U. S. Senate’s filibuster rules.

Biden accompanied by foot soldiers, current civil rights leaders and thousands of marchers crossed the bridge in the annual reenactment of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ march – March 7, 1965, when 600 marchers were met and beaten by hundreds of Alabama State Troopers and Sheriffs deputies. Later that month, Dr. Martin Luther King led marchers from Selma to Montgomery, completing the march and paving the way for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In his statement, President Biden said: “The right to vote, to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty,” 
 “This fundamental right remains under assault. Conservative Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act over the years. Since the 2020 election, a wave of states has passed dozens, dozens of anti-voting laws fueled by the big lie,” he insisted.
 The President continued. “We must redouble our efforts and renew our commitment to protecting the freedom to vote. “We know that we must get the votes in Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act. I’ve made it clear: I will not let a filibuster obstruct the sacred right to vote.”
In his comments President Biden urged passage of the George Floyd Police Reform Act to implement changes in the criminal justice system across the nation. He also urged passage of a ban on assault weapons, like the AR-15, which have hurt people in recent multiple shootings at schools, theaters, and shopping centers.
The President called for building the economy from “the bottom up and the middle out; and for the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.” He said that he was ready to stand by Selma and other places in the state ravaged by recent storms to rebuild better than in the past. He said over $8 million had already been distributed under the FEMA disaster declaration for the January 12th tornados.
Biden was introduced by Charles Mauldin, a foot soldier, who was in the third row of marchers on Bloody Sunday. Mauldin explained that all Black public officials and others registered and voting under the 1965 Voting Rights Act owed a debt to the 600 ordinary people from Selma and surrounding areas who decided that they would take action to make a change.
Mauldin initiated a “Foot Soldiers Breakfast” on Saturday morning of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, ten years ago, to honor those who participated in Bloody Sunday and the Voting Rights Movement in Selma. At this year’s breakfast, the foot soldiers organization announced they had secured a property near the Carver Housing Project for a “Foot Soldiers Memorial Park” to recognize the contributions of the foot soldiers and to inspire the next generations to become active in positive social change for the Selma community.
Faya Rose Toure, Selma attorney, civil rights activist, and co-founder, with her husband, Hank Sanders, of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which was celebrating its 30th anniversary, also spoke on the program at the foot of the bridge with President Biden.
Toure said racism is still active and blatant in the Alabama Black Belt along with immense poverty and an abusive criminal justice system. She pointed out to the President, “Not a single white elected official is present on the stage or in the VIP seating for the event. Also, there are less that ten local white citizens involved in the Bridge Crossing Jubilee program. There is no school in the Alabama Black Belt, an area of majority Black population that teaches Black History!”
Commenting on the recent tornados, Toure said, “Mr. President. Not only must we build back Selma better, but we must also build back Selma fairer, if we are interested in justice and progress for the people of Selma and surrounding communities.
Toure also told the President, “I do not think you are too old to run again. My mother said the Blacker the berry; the older the berry, the sweeter the juice … “
A number of the people on the stage and in the VIP seating for the President’s address, had participated earlier in the annual Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. Among them, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was in a wheelchair, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and other members of the Black Congressional Caucus, Rev. William Barber of the Poor Peoples Campaign, Dr. Joseph Mitchell, President of Wallace Community College, Barbara Arnwine of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Maya Wiley, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Cliff Albright, Black Voters Matter, and many others.