Home > Education > Black Students, Faculty, and Staff Show Solidarity with Pro-Palestinian Protesters on California Campuses

Black Students, Faculty, and Staff Show Solidarity with Pro-Palestinian Protesters on California Campuses

In late April and early May, scores of California college and university students and faculty engaged in protests in support of a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.


Since Oct. 7, Israel’s response to Hamas’s deadly attack, has resulted in over 34,600 casualties in Gaza, with a majority being women and children, according to data collected by the Associated Press.


University of California, Riverside (UCR) student Jessie Parks, a Bachelor of Art in Public Policy candidate, shared his perspective on the conflict and these protests with Inland Valley News (IVN).


He said that Israel’s relation to Palestine is an example of “settler colonialism.”


“As I began to learn about the Palestinian struggle and realized what was happening outside of the gaze of America, being proactive with discussions, attending protests and sharing social media mutual aid and images was and is mandatory,” he said. “The images coming out of countries in which genocide is happening, including Palestine from last year until today, are unacceptable and heart-wrenching. There is no description that I can formulate into words.”


The pro-Palestinian protests and encampments faced a heavy police response, leading to several arrests being made, including Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, a professor of African American Studies at the  University of California, Irvine (UCI).


Parks told IVN that his solidarity with the people of Palestine is partially inspired by his blackness.


“My blackness factors heavily into anything I do because I know the violent history black bodies have endured,” he said. “Although late to acknowledge Palestinians’ suffering, my blackness factors in the perspective of the attack on Gaza by simply holding empathy and calling for their liberation.”


According to a survey conducted by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in mid March, 68 percent of Black Americans wanted to see the United States push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.


In February, leaders in the influential African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the most influential Black religious institutions in the nation, urged America’s government to cease financial aid to Israel.


On May 3, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox announced that the university had reached an agreement with Students for Justice in Palestine that will require UCR to a fully disclose the list of companies in their investment portfolio, addressing the demands of student protesters to divest in “weapons manufactures and the Israeli genocidal machine.”


However, Parks does not feel that UCR response was adequate.


“From some faculty being outspoken and supportive of the student movement, especially those in the collective faculty for justice in Palestine, to staff off the institutions that receive millions of student dollars unable to denounce the actions of Israel, simply udder free Palestine, or laugh as students advocate for the lives of their friends, family, and humanity,” he said.


Parks mentioned that there has been a long history of student-led anti-war protests on college and university campuses.


“Student uprisings are prevalent in any social issue and have been a keynote for many to remember,” he said. “Although every campus in the current movements might have different language in their demands, the movement of boycott, divest, and sanction remain the same; likewise, I find solidarity within the movement as many of my struggles align with the causes they are fighting for today.”


There has also been a history of Black activist solidarity with Palestinians, including Malcolm X who in a speech in Cairo in 1964 said, “The problem that exists in Palestine is not a religious problem… It is a question of colonialism. It is a question of a people who are being deprived of their homeland.”


Many students have reported an uptick in antisemitism and Islamophobia on their campuses since Oct. 7.


Parks says that although he cannot speak for the Jewish and Muslim students on campus, he condemns all forms of hate toward these students.


“The stories that we not only hear about but witness live on social media with outside agitators at other encampments spewing Islamophobic and Antisemitic rhetoric are unacceptable and depict the living hate in the world we must overcome,” he said.


Adding to the turmoil, a strike by graduate student workers spread to six University of California campuses. The university turned to the courts to force the strikers, members of the United Auto Workers Local 4811, back to work.


The strike, the largest in the U.S. this year, was in response to the university’s crackdown on pro-Palestinian protests related to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.


The latest to join were UC Irvine students, following UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UCLA, and UC Santa Cruz.

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