I remember the first day of my freshman year of college at DePaul University in Chicago. I walked into the Student Center and saw all kinds of flyers on the walls of our student center. Flyers calling for the boycott of Coca Cola because of its connection to violence in Colombia. A flyer promoting an event for Mexican immigrants’ rights. And of course, a flyer advertising the first meeting of the year for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  I will always remember the images of these flyers; they opened up a whole new world to me of student activism.

Ever since, I have been involved in SJP. SJP helped me get involved in a cause that I not only cared about, but a cause I was connected to as a Palestinian-American who came from a family of refugees. My SJP, like most student organizations, had its ups and downs. Those who disagreed with our views sometimes tore our flyers down and tried to intimidate us. Many times we would also be struggling financially, unable to put our creative ideas into action. But throughout my years of undergrad and grad school, the hard work we put into organizing countless rallies, sit-ins, die-ins, vigils, campaigns, lectures, panel discussions, exhibits, movie screenings and shows made a difference, whether big or small, in raising awareness of the Palestinian plight. The outcome was priceless: we touched the lives of thousands of people.

Youth and student organizing around the issue of justice and peace in Israel and Palestine has been growing at a staggering rate, especially in light of the 2008-2009 Israeli assault on Gaza and the 2010 Flotilla Massacre that gained wide media attention. Activism by student organizations have become an effective outlet for the outrage many feel who witness the ongoing human rights atrocities financed and supported by our government. Many students and youth across the nation are using effective, non-violent means to put pressure on the United States and Israel to change its policies of occupation and ethnic cleansing. And because we are making such an impact, those holding the chains of oppression have begun to tremble.

On March 5th, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is sponsoring “Educate. Motivate. Advocate for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine”, a campus organizing conference in our nation's capitol. This conference is aimed at young adults under 30 who are committed to working in their communities and who will help build the growing momentum for peace and justice. Speakers include Anna Baltzer, Noura Erekat, Max Blumenthal, Abdelnasser Rashid,  Andrew Kadi, Adam Horowitz from Mondoweiss and many more. With an amazing set of panels and interactive workshops, this conference will be a great opportunity to network with students and other organizers across the country.

With the right organizing skills, resources and networks, students and youth can continue to lead the movement for justice, human rights and peace in Palestine and Israel.  Will you join me in D.C.?