Answering the Call to Boycott: Why FTP Pledges to Uphold the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

As a collective of radical Black and POC artists in Chicago, it is the duty of For The People Artists Collective to support the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural boycott of Israel. The call was issued by Palestinian Civil Society (the broadest coalition of Palestinian unions, networks, organizations, institutions, and civil society parties) in 2004. Since that time, hundreds of artists, academics, and cultural workers around the world have upheld the boycott by refusing to perform or display work in Israel, and by protesting and refusing to partner with Israeli institutions and artists that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Here are three reasons that FTP supports the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:

  • Palestinian artists face severe barriers to creating work
    FTP exists in part to challenge barriers frequently faced by Black artists and artists of color attempting to create, exhibit, or distribute work. We know that the barriers faced by Palestinian artists are severe. Every aspect of Palestinian life is impacted by Israel, as a settler-colonial project that is continually killing, expelling, and militarily occupying its indigenous Palestinian population. While Israeli artists travel freely around the world to exhibit their work, perform, or attend cultural events, Palestinian artists can hardly travel within their own borders, let alone abroad, due to strict travel restrictions and barriers to freedom of movement imposed by Israel. These restrictions make it extremely difficult for Palestinian artists to collaborate and interact not only with one another, but also with people around the world, hindering the development of Palestinian art, life, and culture. Palestinian artists also face severe censorship at the hands of Israel. Political artists in particular are often arrested without charge, held indefinitely, and tried in Israeli military courts with a 99% conviction rate. Palestinian arts and culture institutions in the West Bank, from theatres to print shops, have faced closures, raids, and other forms of violent repression. Meanwhile, Palestinian arts institutions in Israel have faced cuts to funding and attacks by the Israeli Ministry of Culture for creating political work.
  • We won’t participate in or be used to whitewash Israel’s crimes
    As a collective of artist-organizers, we know that art is always political. We are conscious of the political implications of everything we create. Projects that either directly or indirectly present Israel as an international hub for art and culture serve only to whitewash the reality that Israel is actively engaging in the destruction and repression of virtually every aspect of Palestinian life. The political implications of such initiatives are abundantly clear: They serve to present Israel as a “regular” country, normalizing the repressive and genocidal practices on which the state is built. Given the context in which Palestinians continue to live, struggle, and create art, it would be extremely problematic to participate in or support Israeli cultural projects that do not acknowledge and actively work against this reality.
  • Palestinians have called on all of us to engage in boycott
    FTP uplifts and supports the needs of those existing at the margins of the margins–people of color, Black queer and trans women, femmes, abundant bodies, indigenous, undocumented, disabled, poor, and disenfranchised peoples in our city and our world. The call to boycott Israel, which is based on the historic international calls to boycott apartheid South Africa, has been the number one ask by Palestinians to the international community for over ten years. As artists living and making work in the United States, it is not up to us to lead the struggle for Palestinian rights, presume what our solidarity must look like, or invent our own tactics without first consulting those most impacted. Our job as people acting in solidarity with Palestinians is to show up in the way that they ask of us. That is what we are doing by signing on to this call.

Today, FTP joins the call to boycott Israeli arts and cultural institutions complicit in the repression of the Palestinian people. In doing so, we are contributing to an international cacophony of voices coming together in coalition and co-resistance, across borders, ethnicities, and religions, to demand an end to Israel’s occupation, the dismantling of the wall, the implementation of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, and equal treatment for Palestinian citizens of Israel. We invite all artists and arts organizations working towards the pursuit of justice and human rights to do the same.

For more information on the cultural boycott of Israel, visit the BDS Movement website. You can also read the guidelines for the International Cultural Boycott of Israel as stipulated by the BDS National Committee here.

We dedicate this statement to the countless Palestinian artists throughout history who have been assassinated, arrested, and attacked by Zionist forces. Palestinians have long displayed deep ingenuity and boundless creativity when approaching art making under extremely difficult circumstances. Their steadfastness is an inspiration to artists, activists, and organizers fighting for justice around the world.

Meet Serena Hodges, our newest FTP Network artist!

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A few months ago, For the People Artists Collective welcomed Chicago-based videographer and activist Serena Hodges to our artists’ network! Learn a little bit about how Serena uses their camera as a tool for social change below in our first 1-on-1 interview with them!

Artist Name
Serena Hodges

Astro Sign(s)
Leo, but my moon is in Cancer

Who do you organize with?
I’m part of Desi Youth Rising, and I organize with friends!

Who do you make art for? Who’s your intended audience?
Anyone who’s struggling with their racial or gender identity. I think at the end of the day for everyone really, but first and foremost, putting the people who I share space with and who I have deep relationships with are first. I create with them in mind.

What inspired you to start creating movement art?
I don’t know if there was an exact moment, or if it’s always been this way. I’ve always used film as a way to explore issues that are important to me. Finding a way to creatively show how I’m feeling was a really important catalyst moment. Being able to see a product that I created made me continue to want to create. The importance of visual documentation, as movement builders, is to be telling the story ourselves.

Why did you join FTP?
It’s a really cool crew! I can already tell that everyone is super supportive and I can see myself learing a lot about what it means to be an artist. It’s still a question I’m trying to answer. I also just want to build with more folks of color and gender non-conforming people outside of my own community.

What projects are you currently working on?
Im working on a documentary series where I’m following some activists and artists. It’s focused on their coming of age, but not in the conventional way, because that film theme is very white-washed. I think there are a lot of movies out there with certain themes such as the transition to adulthood that are intended to be really relatable, but the people that don’t look like me, or sound like me, so i want to attempt to make those “relatable” themes actually relatable.

How do you see art & activism as integral to each other?
I think something that I’m actively trying to do this year is respect the process. Art and activism are this constant process that goes like this *waves hands*. I think in some ways that art is organizing, art is also a way to process organizing. In some ways, it complements.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Shoutout to my mom!

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View Serena’s work at Vimeo. Request videography work from them here.

Preparing to Protect & Defend

Dear Community,

As For the People Artists Collective (FTP) wraps up our work from our first year as an artists collective, we have decided that we are currently at capacity and will unfortunately not be taking on any more art requests or campaign collaborations for the remainder of this year and until further notice.

Since our launch in early January of this year, our artists have commissioned over 33 projects for activists, organizers, teachers, grassroots organizations, and nonprofits in the city of Chicago. Our artists also participated in intensive, local efforts and campaigns, including #ByeAnita, #FundSchoolsNotJails, #RememberRekia, #DontPayDante, #SaveCSU, #BlackOutDepaul, and #StopITOA, some even putting their bodies on the line, risking and taking arrests to disrupt business as usual while our communities are struggling to survive. We’ve collectively created over 19 banners, 18 illustrations, 10 graphic design projects, 8 workshops, zines, and countless more that is not seen on our facebook feeds or at our actions.

In short, our artists know that we need a moment to take one, big, collective breath.

Simultaneously, we recognize that we are in a moment of urgency. Post-election, our communities (Black, Brown, Latinx, Muslim, queer, trans, gender non-conforming, etc.) are processing the blow, and trying to figure out how best to move forward. FTP recognizes that moments of urgency do not always translate into spontaneous action, but rather as a moment to re-group, re-strategize, and prepare as hard as we can to better protect and defend our communities. We know that some of our people are hurt, shocked, and still greatly shaken by the election. We also know that some of our people were not surprised at all, believing that they are continuing to live in a perpetual state of crisis. We also know that some of our people are afraid that Black people & Black struggle will now be forgotten about, hurt by the mass mobilizations just now happening, when Black people, especially queer and trans Black women, have been in a state of emergency.

We hold it all, we see it all, and we are doing what we need to do to love and protect each other.

We thank you and appreciate you for understanding, and we hope to celebrate struggle & resistance with you at Art For the People: FTP’s December Showcase on Saturday, December 10th, 2016 from 5pm to 9pm at the Experimental Station.

We also recommend reaching out to our friends at the Chicago ACT Collective, another rad, diverse collective of artists creating work to support movements, struggles, and communities in Chicago! “The Chicago ACT collective is working to build a collective of socially & politically-engaged artists, to create forms of resistance that promotes collaboration and dialogue across multiple communities, and that reflects on and responds to current and local needs identified by those most directly impacted.”

You can contact the Chicago ACT collective at thechicagoactcollective@gmail.com.  

In love, rage, and solidarity,
For the People Artists Collective (FTP)

Forthepeoplecollective.org
forthepeopleartists@gmail.com
@forthepeoplechi