By Danette Clark
“Slingshot Hip-Hop: Culture and Resistance from Brooklyn to Palestine” is a semester long course created by the Palestine Education Project for Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn, NY.
Bushwick Community High is a transfer school for students 17 and older who have not yet earned a high school diploma.
According to the Palestine Education Project (PEP), the course is “a collaboration between students, teachers, artists, and community organizers… designed to examine both global and local systems of oppression; to identify the common struggles people of color share against racism, militarism, and displacement; to empower students to discover their own voices of resistance; and to break down the walls that separate us”.
In 2010, PEP made the video below featuring Bushwick students and ‘facilitators’. The intent of the video is to connect the struggles of Palestinians at the hands of Jewish oppressors to the struggles of Brooklyn minorities “under the foot” (as the video states) of America’s “racist, oppressive, disgusting, vile system”.
The girl shown at the top proudly displaying her “F*** tha Police” t-shirt is seen just seconds into the video. At the 7 minute, 44 second mark, a Bushwick student (or facilitator) explains that the same people in control of the criminal justice system in America are the same people who enslaved his people for 400 plus years and the same people who wiped out the indigenous.
The PEP curriculum includes a “participatory activity” wherein students are asked to stand on a large map of Palestine outlined with tape on the floor. As the teacher shows a slideshow of images and maps, the students “move through the history of colonization and displacement in Palestine” by moving into smaller and smaller areas on the map. PEP says this exercise is intended to help students understand how the Palestinians must feel as their land is being taken from them and they are pushed into refugee camps or separated from their families.
Of course, there is no mention of the Arab rejection of the 1948 UN Partition Plan that would have secured land for the Palestinians; nor is there mention of the numerous times Israel gave land to Palestine in exchange for peace.
The PEP course and video also largely focus on what is referred to as America’s “prison industrial complex”. For example, at 8 minutes and 34 seconds into the video, we’re told that prisons are created for profit, are an extension of slavery, and that “the architects are very intentional about seeing to it that 18 to 35 year old men, the strongest… who could actually lead a revolt and change the world, are either working for them or in cages”.
Bushwick Community High is one of 46 partner schools of College Summit, a non-profit that claims to be “dedicated to transforming the lives of low-income youth by connecting them to college and career”.
In 2010, President Obama donated a portion of his Nobel Peace Prize money to College Summit, whose other partner schools include ACORN Community High, a school started and run by the radical Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
In 2012, Bushwick was labeled a consistently underperforming school and slated for closure, but has since been given a reprieve for showing some improvement.