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Earlham students connect with justice work on spring break

Earlham Alternative Spring Break March 2018
Earlham College students on an Alternative Spring Break with AFSC visit the Arab American Family Services Agency in Bridgeview, outside of Chicago. This agency services the large Palestinian-American community outside of Chicago, assisting with accessing resources, community education and immigration services. Photo: AFSC

AFSC Indiana hosted nine students from Earlham College for their Spring Break March 12-16, 2018. The focus of this alternative spring break was on AFSC’s U.S. campaigns on Palestine and Israel.

Along with AFSC staffers Erin Polley and Jennifer Bing, the group started the week in the Chicago office and ended it in the Indianapolis office. After getting a grounding in AFSC’s deep history of work in the region and a "Palestine 101" presentation led by Indiana interns Umaymah Mohammad and Ahmed Abbas, the students took a deeper dive into the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign to end the Israeli military detention of Palestinian children and the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The diverse group of mostly international students had a generally good working knowledge about Israel and Palestine, but did not have much experience with grassroots campaigns working towards justice for Palestinians. One student said that their biggest takeaway from the trip was learning how to present an issue everyone can connect to in a humanizing way. Another said they were inspired to learn that “there is a community working on making things better and there is strength in collaboration.”

A highlight of the trip was attending a rally at a sanctuary church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood organized by AFSC, Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine. The event featured remarks from Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th District) and representatives of the three organizations on the historic legislation currently in Congress calling for the end of military detention of Palestinian children. The students helped with aspects of running the event and were witness to the beautiful intersection of work from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian community on this campaign and the connections to child detention of youth of color in the United States.

Much of the week was spent learning about Gaza and preparing for the “Gaza Unlocked: Hearing in the Heartland” on April 21 in Indianapolis. Students developed social media promos for the hearing and committed to taking on volunteer roles at the event. Many of the students said they felt more informed and energized to take action on Palestine after this trip. They are excited to bring AFSC campaigns to their Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine chapter at Earlham College and to participate in the hearing.

For more information and to get involved, please contact Erin Polley.