Hip Hop Is Bigger Than The Occupation: A Reflection

Last Sunday saw the first UK screening of the Hip Hop Is Bigger Than The Occupation documentary from the Existence is Resistance tour, covering a ten day journey of artists travelling through Palestine, teaching and performing non violent resistance through the arts featuring a weighty lists of performers and artists including M1 of Dead Prez, UK rapper Lowkey, Shadia Mansour, Mazzi of S.O.U.L. Purpose, DJ Vega Benetton, Jody McIntyre and more, as we joined them on their travels to Palestine teaching children under occupation in their country the tools and skills of non-violent resistance through expressive writing, break dance, theatre and performing.

We took the journey to the Yafa Cultural Centre in Nablus, where the group stayed in the heart of Balata Refugee Camp in the West bank and saw them share their skills of the arts teaching lyric writing and DJ workshops to children but also watched as they witnessed the emotional hardship Palestinians are facing, where in certain parts of the country there are roads for Arabs and roads for Jews. This documentary highlighted the fact that although apartheid being an illegal offense, is still very alive. In Bi’lin, the group joined the weekly demonstration (against the Apartheid wall that separates Palestinian land from land occupied by Jewish settlers.. in Palestine..) that has been a six year long occurrence and were shot at and tear gassed.

The real message that I couldn’t shake and still haven’t was the lack of basic human rights the Palestinians face in their own country where the streets are policed by IDF soldiers. An every day occurrence for them is going through checkpoints to travel through villages and despite this, they still manage to press on remaining seemingly humble.

In Hebron, in the southern West Bank the group met with Hahem Azzeh who showed the group the streets of Hebron and shared with an emotional story about the treatment his fathers dead body received from Israeli soldiers, asking only one question of, “Where is the humanity?” The group also confronted Australian native Daniel Luria in Jerusalem whose job it is to encourage Israeli Jews move to live in East Jerusalem, thus forcing the ingenious Palestinians out, which some could call a form of ethnic cleansing.

From walking the narrow streets, under mesh wiring to avoid stones and other objects injuring people thrown from overhead by Israeli settlers, witnessing green lasers targeting civilian homes and peaceful demonstrations ending in tear gas attacks from the Israeli army, the resonating emotion you’re left with is despite adversity the children remained happy and the residents of Palestine all shared one common basic entitlement to their freedom. Each workshop taught by the group, from breakdancing lessons to lyric writing and learning basic DJ skills, the children, being just that – children, were inspired to express themselves despite the circumstances they lived in.

If you, like me, had no real knowledge of the situation in Palestine and believe in affecting change in some way or another, I would urge you make an effort to support the Existence is Resistance tour in one way or another.

The next UK screening is in Manchester on July 5 at Manchester Metropolitan University; tickets available here.

On that note, I’ll leave you with M1 kicking a freestyle recorded whilst on the tour:

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