Those walking down Middle Path this past week encountered a series of demonstrations, including images and facts about the border between the United States and Mexico, a model of the Israeli/Palestinian border wall with a sign reading “The borders crossed us! Latinxs against Israeli apartheid” and a gathering of 20 tents on Ransom Lawn for DivestKenyon’s overnight demonstration during the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Some displays were planned to complement one another, and others overlapped coincidentally. Adelante, Kenyon Students for Justice in Palestine (KSJP) and DivestKenyon — the groups behind the Israeli/Palestinian wall and encampment — collaborated with one another throughout the week in solidarity. The group behind the U.S./Mexico border displays, Associate Professor of Sociology Jennifer Johnson’s “Borders and Border Crossings” course, did not officially coordinate with the rest of the groups, but several class members voiced support for the ways in which the displays came together.
On April 17, the students in “Borders and Border Crossings” presented facts about the U.S./Mexican border and pictures of the border wall on trees lining Middle Path, and hung up an artistic representation of the U.S./Mexico border wall in the Borden Atrium of Peirce Dining Hall as part of a project required by the course. In the course, which involves visiting the U.S./Mexico border over spring break, students must communicate what they learned at the border to the campus.
“We got the idea to do the wall section of it because we found that, while we were at the border, the most powerful thing to many of us was the actual, physical fact that the wall is there,” Evie Kennedy ’17, a student in Borders and Border Crossings, said. “We wanted to give a sense of the physical presence of it and what it’s like to walk past it every day, like the kids we saw going to school.”
These displays went up during the same week that KSJP hosted its annual Israeli Apartheid Week, a week of events about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that features the “Israeli Apartheid Wall,” a model of the wall between Israel and Palestine. The “Borders and Border Crossings” class discussed directly partnering with KSJP but ultimately did not because members of the class differed on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
The two demonstrations occurred in tandem and informed one another but they were not affiliated, Kennedy said.
“They complement each other,” Adam Brown ’20, another member of the class, said. “There’s something really nice about how it’s hard to designate between the two.”
KSJP and Adelante’s collaboration during Israeli Apartheid Week was more direct. Adelante co-sponsored two of the week’s events: a talk by Ohio State University Professor of Law John Quigley entitled “Why Palestine Is A State” on April 20 and a discussion about the similarities between the situations in Mexico and Israel/Palestine on April 21.
“The main issue that we thought would connect us in this Israeli Apartheid Week was the militarization of borders,” Adelante Co-President Edgar Martin ’17 said. “Within the Israeli/Palestinian borders, there is a very heavy military presence, but we thought we could also use it as an opportunity to highlight the militarization of the U.S. border.”
Members of Adelante’s executive board helped make the “Latinxs against Israeli Apartheid” sign that hung on KSJP’s wall. Members of Adelante, KSJP and the Black Student Union (BSU) worked together to put up the wall on April 17. Israeli Apartheid week coincided with DivestKenyon’s “tent city,” the April 20 and 21 encampment organized by DivestKenyon to advocate divesting Kenyon’s endowment from fossil fuels. KSJP coordinated with DivestKenyon as they planned Israeli Apartheid Week, ensuring their events did not overlap.
“We wanted [the wall] to be there when the divestment thing happened so that the week reflects the work we do with other groups,” KSJP wrote in a statement for the the Collegian. “KSJP was part of the divestment protest and had a tent there as well.” During the encampment, Malik Ahmed Khan ’19 gave a speech as a representative of KSJP; he pledged KSJP’s solidarity with DivestKenyon and all social justice movements. DivestKenyon and KSJP did not co-sponsor any events, but they coordinated the times of their events to encourage members of both groups to attend each others’ events, King said.
“Solidarity can only ever really be espoused when all actors truly commit to the causes of others,” KSJP wrote. “As KSJP, we are committed to raising our voice for all oppressed and minority voices. And we have nothing but gratitude for our allies who chose to do the same for us.”
KSJP’s week of events also included a screening of “The Occupation of the American Mind,” a movie about the U.S. media’s relationship with Israel, on April 17 in Higley Auditorium and a presentation about boycotting Sabra Hummus and the Hewlett-Packard software company on April 19 in Peirce Lounge.