Vigil For a Free Palestine (at Johns Hopkins University)

On Monday, October 23, about 160 students, faculty, staff, and community members showed up to a student-organized vigil and speak out for Palestine at Johns Hopkins University. It was an incredibly moving event. It started with a vigil, where speakers voiced their grief, sorrow, and outrage at the long history of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, and the horrific attacks of the past 17 days. People lit candles, and listened as Palestinians shared their histories and experiences.

There was also a speak-out portion of the event, where anyone could come up and share their words with the crowd. Nearly twenty speakers participated with speeches, poems, and songs.

Speeches included those from Speak Out Socialists and other organizations. A Kashmiri-American student shared how, through hearing the stories of his parents and those of Palestinians, he has formed a deeper understanding of the solidarity across people under occupation. Black American activists shared the history of Black-Palestinian solidarity and resistance.

Selected poetry, written by students, are shared anonymously below. Other poetry included “To Our Land” and “I Come From There” by Mahmoud Darwish. A singer said that in times like these, they turn to revolutionary songs for strength. They sung a beautiful Pakistani resistance song: “Hum Dekhenge” (We Will See/Witness) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

One faculty member, Yassine Daoud, grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp for 17 years of his life. Now at Hopkins for 13 years, he bravely dared any Zionist in the crowd to dox him, and spelled his full name out on stage. Many students and faculty across the country that have spoken out against Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza have had their identities posted online and have been targeted for harassment. An earlier vigil that students had planned was canceled due to fears of retaliation from the administration and other students. A handful of administrators and Zionist students watched silently from the back.

But despite the retaliation, threats, and initial fear that students experienced, students refused to be silenced. For everyone in attendance, it was important to see that there are people on this campus and in this country that refuse to accept the genocide being carried out in our names, with the complete support of the United States government, and approval of college campus administrations every where.

Students who have not been able to eat or sleep, let alone focus on their research and exams, came together. Everyone who has felt isolated in their grief and outrage, surrounded by a campus that goes on as if nothing is happening, saw that they are not alone. They are one of dozens of others who cannot ignore the atrocities being committed. The vigil is a beginning for what must be a long-term organizing effort. Today, we feel stronger and more capable of organizing, having seen we are not alone.

Selected poetry written by students and shared at the vigil:

The Red Sky

Do you ever sit and stare
at the sky?
I do.
I stare out my bedroom window
at that beautiful blue hue.

It reminds me
of a video I saw,
a woman on her balcony.

It was grey.
There was no sky.
She coughed.
She couldn’t see
two feet past her face.
Neither could the camera.

I wanted to wonder
the sky could
possibly look like that.
A volcanic eruption?

A second had not passed.
The camera shook,
a sound erupted,
bombarding the mic.

Orange and red light
then disappeared.
All that was left behind
was that grey sky,
rubble where homes
had been.

The woman screamed.

I stared at my screen.

The skies of Gaza
are grey.
We watch our orange and red
They watch the orange erupt from
The sit on the rubble;
there is enough red.
The red sky
would only mock them.

They say
it’s a religion war. But
there is a Christian,
gripping his cross necklace
as he watches the Baptist Hospital
crumble. His pregnant wife
was inside.

There is a Muslim with
his hands joined in prayer,
he sits beside the Christian.
He watches his home
crumble. His newborn
was inside.

There is a Jew,
beside them both,
his eyes wide as he watches
the bodies be pulled
from the wreckage.
Where is his eight year old

Religion war?
Religion war?
They pray side by side,
they are killed side by side,
they lived side by side.

The oppressors
screamed at the world:
Look! Look what they have done!
They have killed our children,
they have raped our women,
they have taken us captive!

And that same breath
hitches in the presence of God,
silent to the over 2,000 children
still buried under rubble.
Silent to the women
raped by their army.
Silent to the 4,499 imprisoned
in their very own city.

Look at us,
look at us,
Palestinians have repeatedly begged.
But only when the
oppressor asked
did the world turn.

Were you deaf?
Were you blind?
Is your heart only soft
when the dead
resemble your own?

Their stories die
with their lives.
No one looked.
No one looked.

They’ll show the world
in videos
of their deaths
that they were alive.

They will fight back
and the world will scream,
spit in their face,
and stomp them into the ground.
But they will fight back
and their videos
will write history books
and their stories
will be told.

Their stories
will be told.
Whether they must stand
in the midst of their
own bodies,
Whether the world

or not.
They are leaving their
final words
on social media,
children are writing their names
on their hands,
simply hoping that their hand will
survive the bomb
and the world will know their name.

And yet,
Religion war.
Religion war or is that
your agnostic
excuse to look away?

You call it a religion war
so when the genocide is done,
you can say
they killed each other.
You call it a religion war,
so you can close your eyes
and pretend
that you have a heart
beating in that empty chest.

And you-
Those who still say
“Stand by Israel”,
name for me
how many families,
from Israel
have been wiped off the map
in the past 75 years.

Not a single one.

45 Palestinian lineages
are DEAD.
There are no mothers,
no fathers,
no grandparents,
no aunts,
no uncles,
no cousins,
no ONE

The children stare into that sky,
looking for bombs
not wishing stars.
They still make wishes,
to God,
to die on impact
so they don’t feel the pain
of the rocks crushing them
or survive,
just to find out
how many of their family
has died.

These are not the stories
from history books.
But they will be.

Israel is Not a Middle Eastern Motherland

Israel is not a Middle Eastern motherland.
And I know this because

Middle Eastern mothers fear FOR a baby
Not OF one so of course I cannot call YOU a lady
They know the difference between a stone and a drone
And what is their own versus someone else’s home
Middle Eastern mothers would never approve of an extended sleepover
And reap all the seeds that they never sewed and
Middle Eastern mothers would never take another’s recipe
unless it was their ancestors’ cause that’s bestowed blessedly
Our mothers aren’t armed, they lead with empathy
Not extending the powers of imperial entities
See, Middle Eastern mothers dust their rugs by hitting them on balcony fences
Not “mowing the lawn” by carpet bombing the defenseless
They prefer to draw with henna
on their children’ little frames
Not with permanent markers so we can remember their names

Now how can we rise to power
against a
fake maternal, a settler external
that drills the need for common ground while occupying all of it
How can we rise?

Well I learned that cut down olive trees can still sprout
from their roots even under rubble and broken grout
the same genes as their ancestor tree
Breaking through concrete
So I believe
These roots attest
The people of Falastin even while deceased,
Will never rest

The Call Coming From Inside The House

When I speak I speak for me and not for everyone else

My mumma raised me to never belong to anyone else

No God, no state, no nation

Nomad moving station to station

But when I love I know I love like I was made for it

Sometimes my love’s so big and bad that I’m afraid of it

I built a home I found a family to worship

The ones who make the worst times feel worth it

It’s so good and it’s so easy loving in a bubble

So far away from all the ashes and the rubble

I dream of ice cream, curve my life to the mean, keep my headphones on noise cancelling the screams

But now the call is coming from inside the house

Can’t beat-the-heat when you got so many fires to douse

And next thing I know

The death’s at the door

And I can’t keep letting it go anymore

See how far I’ve come

See how far I’ve run

Left the devil I know for a new one with a gun

Boom! immigrants we get the job done

While our people back home burn alone like a dying sun

Media’s lying

While my best friends crying

Cause her people are dying

There’s no use denying it!

please don’t act surprised America

Built on blood sweat tears and lies america

Making clouds of ash in the skies America

No you don’t care who lives or dies america

Built an ivory tower with a 5G connection

Wiped your memory got no recollection

You tweet and Instagram HOW DID WE COME TO THIS

When history calls: uh new number who dis?

Don’t quote history to me

When you forgot the tea in the sea at the BTP

Oh please

Don’t act like you care america

Watch your ass cause I moved your chair america

Liked to call yourself so fair america

Hate the game quarterback player america

But baby I’ve played this game before

And history will keep keeping score.

And you can smile at us, you can forgive our debt

But the world will not forget.

Oh I’ve seen blood on your hands america

I’ve been reading all those books that you’ve banned america

And I know you like stealing land america

But its time we take a stand america

New borders old scars

We’ll be watching from the stars

We’re not too far

From where the militants are.

I belong to no one and I’m scared for all of us

I pray to no one but I’m praying for all of us

They lost their homes they lost their lives they lost their narrative

When we lose our humanity, there’s nothing left to give