In the aftermath of Israel’s three weeks of attacks on the Gaza Strip earlier this year, a group of young students, activists, artists and professionals from Chicago formed the Gaza Aid Project (GAP) to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
On 12 April 2009 GAP brought together world-renowned hip-hop artists to Chicago’s Logan Square Auditorium to perform in solidarity with Gaza. The event — titled Roots of Resistance — aimed to raise funds and gather support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, brought out a diverse crowd of hundreds from around the city.
The night began with performances by local Chicago artists, before the Gaza Strip’s first rapper, Mohammed al-Farra took the stage. He rapped about the Gaza Strip and talked to the audience about the struggles that Palestinians in Gaza face on a daily basis under siege and occupation.
Tamer Nafar of DAM (the first Palestinian rap group, comprised of Palestinian citizens of Israel) then took the stage before he was joined by his band members Mahmood Jrere and Suhell Nafar. The group rapped about the situation in Palestine and performed their hit “Who is the terrorist.” The group spoke about the influence hip-hop that originated in the African-American community has had on them as Palestinians facing Israeli oppression.
DAM also joined UK-based Palestinian hip-hop artist Shadia Mansour as she performed her song “They all have tanks.” Wearing her trademark Palestinian traditional embroidered dress, she spoke to the crowd in both English and Arabic about Palestinian culture and the attacks on Gaza.
The hip-hop trio from Chicago, Rebel Diaz, now based in New York City, rapped about issues ranging from immigration and the prison system in the US to the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the occupation in Palestine.
The five-hour-long event concluded with the night’s headliner, M1 of Dead Prez. Wrapped in a scarf with the traditional Palestinian checkered design and images of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, M1 spoke out about the struggle that black people face in the US. He related it to that of Palestinians in Gaza, identifying imperialism as the common enemy. The evening concluded with M1 inviting all the evening’s performers on stage to take part in the song “Hip Hop,” which brought Dead Prez to fame.
All images by Matthew Cassel.