“In 1995, Palestine really came into my life: I was five and made my first trip back home.”
My name is Lubna Morar, I am a Palestinian born and raised in Oakland, CA. Both my parents are Palestinian. For more than 30 years, they have been running a clothing store in East Palo Alto (www.lafamiliadiscount.com).
We hold US passports and travel home on a regular basis. Tonight, my father returns from visiting our family in Beit Duqu (near Jerusalem).
As a child, nothing embodied Palestine more than the stories of my grandmother. She was born in Palestine, spent 40 years in Venezuela and now lives with our family in Oakland. Her stories made me feel that my homeland was a very special place.
In 1995, Palestine really came into my life. I was five and made my first trip back home. As you can imagine, it was quite a confrontation: I met my family, discovered a new country and faced soldiers and occupation. Looking back at it, that first visit to Palestine changed my life: imagine a five year old girl from Oakland throwing rocks at an army jeep and crossing the security tunnel to Gaza. On top of that, my mother cut my hair because I got lice (smiles).
My darkest memory dates from my trip during the Gaza War in 2014. I cannot imagine that I would feel so superior and have so much power over others.
“Now you are an adult and an active member of the Palestinian Youth Movement at San Francisco State University. A lot has happened since that first trip. How was it to grow up in the Palestinian community of Oakland?”
You must realise that both Oakland and East Palo Alto are a melting pot of different cultures with strong Black, Chicano and Samoan influences. This is important because it shaped my identity as a Palestinian activist. At the moment, I study Sociology and Race & Resistance at San Francisco State University. I also perform as a spoken word artist in the wider Bay area. All of that is connected somehow.
First of all, there is no Palestinian neighbourhood in Oakland, nor anywhere else in the Bay Area. To understand how we are organised, you have to take into account what the Oslo Agreements did to people in the Diaspora. Pre-Oslo, there was a well organised community in the San Francisco area that was guided by the PLO…
I grew up in a cultural hub of different minorities. At San Francisco State University I joined the Palestinian Youth Movement. We are a grass roots student union and fight both for the liberation of Palestine as for the rights of other minorities. Our futures are connected. It took a long time before I realised that.
“After the Oslo agreements, most people in the Diaspora felt abandoned and the organisational structure had to be rebuilt.”
“What is the role of your art in this activism?”
It is totally connected. As I study sociology, my teachers require a more analytical approach. My poetry is the outlet for how I feel about things.
As committed as I am, at the same time I am very much aware that we are far from liberation. My art is how our future plays out in my imagination. It is to inspire both myself as others. I want to leave something behind. Do I write for myself, do I write for others? I am not sure. I write because I care.
“Given the fact that you are one of the few Palestinians in the Diaspora who can travel to Palestine, didn’t you consider studying there?”
I think about that every day. As I can travel home on a regular basis, I have built up many memories. At a given moment, I realised that these are more than memories: they define who I am.