Never Again

I – a Black Caribbean American Muslim woman from East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, attended public school where the vast majority of my teachers were Jewish, although most of my school’s student bodies was about 99.99% Black. In school, they taught us more about their suffering via the holocaust than our own Black American or African history. And it was from these Jewish teachers whose ancestors has survived a genocide, that I learned the phrase Never Again!!! Even as a child I understood this as Never Again for anybody

Nsenga Knight, 2018, Tawaf/ Sa’y: Mankind 22.5 x 22.5 inches, Oilstick, Olive Oil and Gesso on Vegetable Parchment Paper

I understood from a young age that the world stood by and watched as the humanity of a group of people was stripped away, and now we’re duty bound to never let it happen again. It shouldn’t matter who the aggressors or the victims are, what’s wrong is wrong. Regardless of what we call ourselves or how we identify, we can’t stand back and watch on as a group of people gets wiped off the face of the earth. We understand now from historical evidence that taking away people’s dignity and humanity by referring to them as animals, as non-innocent beings that aren’t worthy of consideration, is one way of declaring the intention to exterminate them. After all, pests get exterminated, not fellow humans. 

We’re fortunate enough that we have social media now which makes sharing information and first accounts from people in Palestine, and especially in Gaza, easier. We don’t have to solely rely on biased press for information on what’s happening overseas anymore. It’s easier for us to see what’s happening and that should be enough to make us feel, to call to our conscious. We have a duty as a global community to say Not Again. I’ve been sharing Jewish voices of consciousness who are against Zionism and the Israeli state on my socials. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a religious conflict or a war between two equal forces.

Nsenga Knight’s Instagram feed

I’ve been posting about Palestine on my social media and I’ve taken care to share Jewish voices standing up against the Israeli government using their pain and suffering to justify the horrors they’re committing in Gaza right now. I urge you to follow Jewish Voices For Peace and to uplift the voices standing for what’s right. You can find many resources online to aid in relief efforts, a few campaigns at the end of this post, and I’ll be sharing more in the future Insha’allah. We have Universal Human Rights because we have come to the agreement that everyone everywhere deserves human rights –rights that are being currently violated by the Israeli army through the shutting off of water, electricity, denying Palestinians of medical care, and the right to bury their dead, and forcing them to move away from their homes and land. Inflicting collective punishment isn’t going to heal anyone or change history. It’s simply heartless. We have to start with the false premise that one groups suffering gives them the right to inflict generational suffering on another group in order to “Never Again” experience it. Your own suffering should make you stand for peace. Your own suffering should give you a moral compass that says, “I would never be an oppressor!”. Allah gave us minds and hearts, and a consciousness for a reason. The Qur’an and the Sunna teach us to stand with what’s right. Politics is too narrow and superficial to be the only lens we use to view what’s happening in Palestine right now.

Nsenga Knight, Tawaf/ Sa’y: In Love With/ Struggle For, 22.5 x 22.5 in, Oilstick, Olive Oil and Gesso on Vegetable Parchment Paper

We’ve now arrived at a moment where reconciliation and reparations are part of the conversation in Black and African Diaspora, The United States, and the Caribbean in acknowledging the injustice and horrors inflicted upon them by the white colonizers. We’re looking back and seeing where our history was unjust and thinking how we can do better moving forward. It’s important to realize we’re taking steps towards self reflection and reassessment of values, and that we have the chance to contribute to that conversation and keep it moving forward. I recently went to see the Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969 exhibition at the CCS Bard with a few of my museum colleagues and it was such a thought provoking experience. It was a beautiful exhibition -closer to biennial actually. It was a massive statement that the Indigenous Peoples of America are still here, and that is something we should never take for granted or forget.

Installation at Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969 exhibition curated by Candice Hopkins

The curator, Candice Hopkins (Tlingit) who is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation and lives in Red Hook, created a space for Native Americans to have a voice. It was a lot to take in, I’m actually still processing it, but it’s a valuable opportunity to get to know other people and their values. Allah gave us voices and made us different so we could speak up and share who we are with the people around us.

What’s happening in Palestine right now is what happened long ago to the Native Americans who were massacred and displaced by European settlers. Completely taking over a land through the displacement of its Native people wasn’t even that common then; people would fight over land and resources but they made efforts to integrate and live together. Those same white European settlers then abducted and enslaved Africans to toil the land for them. It’s a step forward that cultural institutions such as Queens Museum make Land Acknowledgment statements, indicating that collectively, we recognize that the harm which had been done should never have happened, and we wouldn’t let it happen again. As citizens of The United States, where a portion of our tax money funds the Israeli army right now, we should be able to look back at that legacy, recognize that we have a chance to do something and announce that we will never allow genocide to happen again in front of our eyes while we do nothing. We should realize how influential our own voices are.

Installation at Indian Theater: Native Performance, Art, and Self-Determination since 1969 exhibition curated by Candice Hopkins

It’s clear as day that what is happening in Palestine is a crime against humanity! If the global community sits back and allows this genocide to happen, none of us are safe. The only people who would demand that Palestinians or anyone else on earth leave their homes so that they can move in are the same ones who forced America’s indigenous people/ native Americans out of theirs and colonized Black and brown people all over the world.

We need to put down our labels of nationality and labels of race, ethnicity and even religion if those are not identities that move us towards peace and justice and doing what is right. Last night Israel said all 1.1 million people in Northern Gaza need to evacuate within what is now less than 24hrs. They also blockaded the exits. Israel put the Palestinian people in the concentration camps they say their ancestors suffered so greatly in, without ever stopping to think about their actions. As a Muslim I’m taught to stand for what is right even if it’s against me. I believe in the Islamic law/ shariah in which Allah puts limits on how we fight and protects people’s humanity –no destruction of buildings, no civilian attacks, no destruction of nature… not even in war. So, I won’t justify anything that goes against that, not even for my brothers in the faith. 

Nsenga Knight performing Umrah in 2023

I know this may seem like a complicated topic that you can’t speak on, but you need to remember that as Muslims we get our courage from our faith and belief in Allah. We do the hard things together, united in our belief that what’s right is right. I urge you to share about what’s happening in Palestine and to keep the conversation going. There are many resources you can find online to donate money and I encourage you to donate if you’re able and to share with your circles. I also urge you to your voice and contact the elected officials telling them we do not want them to be carrying out genocide in our name or fund it with our tax money. You can also check the Ending US-Israel Police Partnerships, Reclaiming Safety campaign and No Tech For Apartheid campaign.