Archivist Che Gossett Lectures on Black and Palestinian Solidarity
Zane Razzaq '15 Contributing Writer
Last week at Hampshire College, during a lecture titled “My Dungeon Shook,” archivist Che Gossett discussed the legacies of black queer solidarity with Palestinian struggles through carceral regimes and settler colonial continuity, incorporating visuals from the archives of figures like George Jackson, June Jordan and James Baldwin.
They focused on examining the publication of an anthology of Palestinian resistance poetry, “Enemy of the Sun: Poetry of Palestinian Resistance,” edited by Naseer Aruri and Edomn Gharaeb. “Enemy of the Sun” was published in 1970 in the United States by Drum & Spear publishers, a black-owned commercial book publishing firm formed by former members of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The book was the first issued in Drum & Spear’s series Poets of Liberation. The publication of “Enemy of the Sun” is notable because it was the first and only book Drum & Spear published that did not focus exclusively on the black experience. It was also likely the first time Palestinian poetry was made broadly available in the United States or in English. The poems, written by Palestinian poets living in Israel and in the diaspora, were mostly written during or after the 1967 Six-Day war.
In the introduction to the anthology, the editors place the militarized violence and dispossession happening in Palestine in a global context, drawing comparisons to police violence and anti-black racism African Americans living in the United States face. Gossett highlighted the importance of its publication in the United States as “a moment of black and Palestinian solidarity” and “a joint struggle against colonial regimes and prison regimes across settler states.” According to a prison report dated 1971, the anthology had been found in the Black Panther member George Jackson’s prison cell; Gossett drew attention to this, saying “it was intended that this anthology of Palestinian resistance poetry find its way through supposedly impenetrable walls and cages.”
The topic of black solidarity with Palestinian struggles is especially relevant today, particularly after this summer with the protests in Ferguson, MO and the military onslaught in the Gaza Strip. For example, according to The Huffington Post, protesters at Ferguson chanted “Gaza Strip” as they faced lines of police. In turn, Palestinians in Gaza expressed solidarity with the protesters by tweeting advice on how to cope with tear gas inhalation and other riot control methods. Alex Lubin, professor of American Studies at University of New Mexico, recently published “Geographies of Liberation,” a book on the connections between African American political thought and the people of the Middle East, and how these connections have contributed to the making of an Afro-Arab political imaginary; Lubin will be on campus on Dec. 1 to give a lecture on this topic.
Gossett closed their lecture by saying that prison walls “feel so insurmountable and indestructible that we forget that they are historically constructed, they can be torn down.” They turned to a quote from the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “It is possible for prison cells to disappear, for the cell to become a distant land without frontiers.”