In the author’s note of your new memoir, “Drops Of This Story,” you write: “Still my parents’ daughter, child of God, Palestinian, descendant of Africans, woman.” Your second book and first poetry collection is entitled “Born Palestinian, Born Black.” Would you speak more about this relationship between being Arab and being Black?
I grew up in New York City, in Brooklyn, and I grew up around Puerto Rican people, Latino people, Black people, African-Americans. In the beginning to “Born Palestinian, Born Black,” there is a section where it discusses the different meanings of the word black in different cultures. Audre Lorde, who was a famous African-American poet, discussed black as being a political identity as well as a cultural identity. Within the Palestinian culture we have the concept of black being a negative force, and it is seen that way all over the world. What the book tries to do is take back the negative energy that is associated with black, reclaim it, and say that this is something that is about survival, something that is positive.
You write about Palestine “…Longing for a land I have yet to feel under my feet.” What does Palestine mean to you?
It is an association that I was born with. I don’t know what Palestine looks like, what Palestine tastes like, but it is something that is in your blood and we all carry ancestry around with us. As a child I was told that I was different from everyone else around me, I was Palestinian. I think that becoming a woman and understanding myself, being Palestinian becomes what I make it. I may not be like every other Palestinian and that is good. It is also something that I realize I have to claim for we are not living in a perfect society where we do not have to claim nationalities or religions.
You have spoken about growing up with music and getting “high off a beat” — Jazz, Arab music, Umm Kulthom, Abdel Halem Hafiz and so forth. Did you also grow up reading and listening to Arabic poetry. If so, who influenced you?
My parents would read the Koran to us which my mother described as the most perfect poetry in the world, and a lot of the nationalist songs that my father taught us as children were originally written as poems. He really influenced us in knowing that some of the greatest Palestinian freedom fighters were also poets. He would tell us war stories of PLO guerrilla fighters who would write between battles. But I certainly was not encouraged to write myself. I think it wasn’t until I got to college that I started reading Mahmoud Darwish on my own, Fadwa Touqan and other Palestinian writers, and that was only after I had heard about them from black writers, American writers who had read them and who had been influenced by them.
…I feel the invasion by the Israelis of Palestine and Lebanon and the treatment of the people is so incredibly horrifying–and made more so by the fact that we in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world’s third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. pay billions of dollars to keep this machine of destruction going, and people who speak out about that are called anti-Semitic.
Women of color in the United States daily survive racist and colonial violence through economic and social injustices like police brutality, poverty, attacks on immigrants, and reproductive control. Many of us also experience U.S. economic, political, and military invasions in the lands where we come from. We reject all efforts to colonize land, steal resources, and terrorize indigenous people. Furthermore, we question the legitimacy of nation-states that were founded through colonization efforts – such as Israel and the United States of America. Therefore, we put the words “Israel” and “U.S.” in quotes to question the legitimacy of these “states” and to call out that these “states” were created by colonizers who massacred indigenous people and stole their lands and resources.
INCITE! condemns “Israel’s” apartheid racist colonization of indigenous Palestinian land and people. INCITE! condemns the violence directed at Palestinian women and communities, including rape, torture, imprisonment, destruction of homes, and the intentional maiming and murder of children in cold blood. INCITE! condemns the “Israeli” military’s direct targeting of pregnant women at checkpoints. INCITE! condemns these practices because they are part of “Israel’s” larger project of ethnic cleansing the Palestinian people. INCITE! also condemns “Israel’s” colonial and racist violence because it gives rise to domestic violence and sexual assault within Palestinian communities. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian women’s resistance and we support their struggle for a self-determined liberation.
Apologies to All the People in Lebanon
Dedicated to the 60,000 Palestinian men, women and children who lived in Lebanon from 1948-1983
I didn’t know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?
They said you shot the London Ambassador
and when that wasn’t true
they said so
They said you shelled their northern villages
and when U.N. forces reported that was not ture
because your side of the cease-fire was holding
since more than a year before
they said so
They said they wanted simply to carve
a 25 mile buffer zone and then
they ravaged your
water supplies your electricity your
hospitals your schools your highways and byways all
the way north to Beirut because they said this
was their quest for peace
They blew up your homes and demolished the grocery
stores and blocked the Red Cross and took away doctors
to jail and they cluster-bombed girls and boys
swelled purple and black into twice the original size
and tore the buttocks from a four month old baby
they said this was brilliant
military accomplishment and this was done
they said in the name of self-defense they said
that is the noblest concept
of mankind isn’t that obvious?
They said something about never again and then
they made close to on million human beings homeless
in less than three weeks and they killed or maimed
40,000 of your men and your women and your children
But I didn’t know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?
They said they were victims. They said you were
They called your apartments and gardens guerilla
They called the screaming devastation
that they created the rubble.
Then they told you to leave, didn’t they?
Didn’t you read the leaflets that they dropped
from their hotshot fighter jets?
They told you to go.
One hundred and thirty-five thousand
Palestinians in Beirut and why
didn’t you take the hint?
There was Mediterranean: You
could walk into the water and stay
What was the problem?
I didn’t know and noboby told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?
Yes, I did know it was the money I earned as a poet that
for the bombs and the planes and the tanks
that they used to massacre your family
But I am not an evil person
The people of my country aren’t so bad
You can expect but so much
from those of us who have to pay taxes and watch
You see my point;
I really am sorry.