In collaboration with the Intercultural Center, over fifteen students and a handful of Skyline College professional staff and faculty attended the poetry and writing workshop, “Palestine On My Mind.” The event created space for students to learn more about Palestinian history through diverse voices and to discuss the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza. As of Tuesday, November 14th, over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. Two-thirds of those killed have been women and children. 4,609 children have been killed in the war.

Skyline College students reading and writing poems by Palestinian, Jewish, and Black poets

Before the event at the Intercultural Center, students were asking questions and seeking information from each other, hoping to better understand the impact of the events in Gaza on our community and globally. Some students shared that they attended the workshop to learn more about the history of Gaza since much disinformation had been circulating. Others had been closely following the most recent war against Gaza in response to the Hamas attacks on October 7th.

The workshop started with a check-in where everyone shared a word about how they were feeling. Students expressed many emotions — peaceful, tired, grateful, neutral, angry, solid, overwhelmed, emotional, and disappointed. Attendees then read June Jordan’s (1936-2002) “Calling All Silent Minorities” and Mahmoud Darwish’s (1941-2008) “I Belong There.” Queer, Black female poet June Jordan often wrote poetry calling for solidarity with the Palestinian people and Mahmoud Darwish has been described by poet Naomi Shihab Nye as the “essential breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging.”

One student, Anas Jebali, shared that Darwish was his favorite poet. He interpreted Darwish’s poem and read it aloud in the original Arabic. Anas also shared information about Darwish’s life, love, and longing for his country and homeland, Palestine. Darwish was arrested several times for reciting poetry and travelling in between villages in occupied Palestine without a permit and was eventually exiled.
Next, students free wrote to the question, “To what do you pledge allegiance?” after listening to a recording of Palestinian American poet Hala Alyan’s “When They Say Pledge Allegiance, I Say.” History Professor Katie Manbachi provided historical context for Alyan’s poem, explaining the 1948 Nakba (“Catastrophe”) that forcefully displaced 750,000 Palestinians and the 1967 Naksa (“Setback”) which resulted in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza and the expulsion of another 300,000 Palestinians from their homelands. Students and staff shared poems about committing to themselves, to their faith, and to each other.

To conclude, students shared the poems they wrote in an informal open mic setting. One student shared a poem in Tagalog. The “Palestine On My Mind” Poetry Reader and list of educational resources on Palestine and Israel created by the event organizers, English Professor Janice Sapigao and History Professor Katie Manbachi, is available to anyone on campus who wants to learn more.

Article by Staff
Photos by Rossmia Coo

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