Movement for Black Lives
1st Anniversary of the #Ferguson Uprising
Maurice Moe Mitchell August 5, 2015,
- UnitedWeFight: 1st Anniversary of the #Ferguson Uprising - National Conference Call. Thurs. 8PM EST / 7PM CST Register at http://bit.ly/uwfcall — with Justin Hansford, Scott A. Roberts, Mary Hooks, Kayla M. Reed, Diamond Latchison, Kareem Jackson, Bukky Gbadegesin, Katrina Gamble, Tanya Lucia Bernard, Tory Russell, Cedric Lawson, Alicia Garza, Leslie Mac, Charlene Carruthers, Patrisse Cullors, Cherrell Brown, Dante Barry, Waltrina N. Middleton, Damon Turner, Marbre Stahly-Butts, Ash-Lee Henderson, Damon Davis, Thenjiwe Tameika McHarris, Mari Morales-Williams, Mervyn Marcano, Nicole Lee, Elandria Williams, Opal Ayo, Jonathan Pulphus, Dara Cooper, Michael McBride, Umi Selah, Osagyefo Sekou, Tara Tee, Rose Berry, Sistufara W. Muhammad, Purvi Shah, Cid Nichols, Ingrid Benedict, Jade Ogunnaike, James Hayes, Anita Nichole, Joe Worthy and The Movement for Black Lives.
Amid the nearly 40,000 words that make up the recent manifesto issued by a large coalition affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, two have raised an outcry among mainstream Jewish organizations and leaders.
Those two words, in a brief section about Israel, are “apartheid” and “genocide.”
The August 1 2016 manifesto, penned by a coalition of some 60 grassroots organizations known as the Movement for Black Lives, is largely focused on the group’s ideas for achieving racial justice for African Americans in the United States, not on Israel.
There are sections calling for, among other things, free college educations and economic reparations for black people, and a long section, too, decrying U.S. policies toward a lengthy list of countries and peoples, from Libya, to Somalia, to Haiti and the Garifuna people of Central America, among others.
But in the Jewish world, responses to descriptions of Israel in the foreign policy section held sway. And reaction was intense, following a period in which several mainstream organizations have supported the movement to varying degrees and many young activists have rallied to Black Lives Matter protests sparked by shocking videos of black men shot or abused by police.
The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and the Anti-Defamation League were among the groups that criticized the reference to Israel as “an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.” Even more vehemently, these Jewish groups condemned the coalition’s charge of U.S. complicity, via America’s large sums of aid to Israel, “in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”
Some smaller Jewish groups on the left end of the political spectrum accepted or defended this language.
But few knew that it was a woman with a Jewish background who co-wrote the very section that provoked them.
Rachel Gilmer, a 28-year-old African American who was raised Jewish, has long been involved in black-Palestinian solidarity work. Gilmer is associated with the activist group Dream Defenders, which has been on the forefront of recent black-Palestinian solidarity efforts, such as bringing high-profile delegations of African-American activists to Israel and the West Bank.
Born to an African-American father and a white Jewish mother, Gilmer was raised as a Jew and participated as a teen in Young Judaea, the Zionist youth group. There, she rose to become a leading member of her local group. But Gilmer later distanced herself from organized religion.
Gilmer, was one author of the lengthy platform issued by the Movement for Black Lives.
In May, Gilmer traveled to Israel and the West Bank and was moved by what she saw. “While our struggles are not identical, it became so clear that we are up against the same system of state violence and repression,” she said. “We must call for the divestment of the military industrial complex, just like we are calling for a divestment from the policing of our neighborhoods.”
Gilmer is far from the only person responsible for the Movement for Black Lives platform. The manifesto was the result of a year of meetings, debates and conference calls among black-led organizations. Hundreds of individuals were involved. And she shared writing duties on the Israel section with another activist, Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye, from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
She stressed the platform was written “for and by black people … to build connections between the Movement for Black Lives in the U.S. to movements for liberation around the world.”