NAU is home to over 375 clubs and organizations, each with their own unique qualities and objectives. Clubs give people a chance to socialize, discuss and share a common interest. Students can have many different reasons for starting a club at NAU, but for one freshman, it was based on bringing advocacy for Palestine and educating others on what was happening on a global scale.
Freshman Paris Moore is the founder and president of NAU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Her passion was ignited as a 16-year-old in a high school ceramics class when she was casually listening to a radio station called Democracy Now. According to Democracy Now, the station provides daily, global and international news on pressing issues the world faces. Moore said the radio station focused on international issues at the time like the Great March of Return.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Great March of Return happened March 30, 2018 when Palestinian demonstrators attempted to lift the Blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel. The protest started peacefully until it turned violent. Israeli military troops began opening fire and dropping drones on Palestinian demonstrators and civilians, killing 214 Palestinians, including children, and leaving over 36,000 people injured.
“[The radio program] went into detail on Israel’s government and military forces and how they were targeting paramedics,” Moore said. “That’s how I got Palestine on my radar.”
After that day, Moore said she was inspired to join the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance (APSA), which is a group that endorses liberation and movement that opposes the military partnership between the United States and Israel. According to the APSA official website, the organization is advocating for anti-militarization of Israel for Palestinians to regain their fundamental human rights and land.
Moore said as she graduated from high school she wanted to keep advocating for Palestine and what she was passionate about, so she looked for a similar club at NAU. However, to her surprise, there was not a justice for Palestine club, so she created her own.
“When I applied to NAU I was looking for an SJP or anti-imperialist club, but couldn’t find it,” Moore said. “I figured I would just start it myself.”
Moore created and founded the NAU SJP club early October 2020, but it was not easy.
Moore said she found herself struggling to gain members to meet NAU’s club policy. It is required that each club has a minimum of five enrolled student members, according to NAU’s Dean of Students, for it to be an official club. She said another obstacle she faced was getting an adviser for her club, until she met Diana Coleman.
Coleman is a lecturer for NAU’s Department of Comparative Cultural Studies. She began advising for NAU SJP mid-October 2020.
Coleman’s responsibilities as an adviser consist mainly of being an official point of contact for the club and supporting student-led discussions. She said she helped in promoting and shaping the direction of the club, while working with members to create new goals for it. She also assists members with any conflicts that may arise.
She said the NAU SJP meetings involved the organization focusing on various topics that included raising awareness for Indigenous Peoples Day and conversing about Palestine’s involvement with other regions such as Kashmir, Artsakh and Puerto Rico.
When discussing these topics, Moore said they are usually introduced by a documentary film about the issue, then followed by a discussion between members.
Coleman said the reason why she loves being the club’s adviser is because students exert passion and concern for social justice issues and seek to educate themselves on such topics and raise advocacy.
“As someone who has long worked on issues of social justice, I appreciate their approach which recognizes the ways in which injustices are connected across time and geographies,” Coleman said. “Even while particular circumstances and sufferings are uniquely situated.”
NAU SJP held its first meeting of the 2021 spring semester through Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. Moore has met with club members virtually to provide a safer environment for them to discuss their upcoming agenda and ideas moving forward.
While it’s a relatively new club, members are always welcoming and inviting people that are interested in joining the organization.
“As you can see, we are quite small,” Moore said. “However, I started this club three months ago, and it is nice to see the steady growth of our followers on our social platform.”
Moore said new members are always accepted and she wants them to know they are not required to be well-versed in issues that are happening in Palestine, but they are invited to join the meetings to get informed.
Since its first meeting of the semester, the club has already started on a good note by gaining a brand-new member.
Freshman Alaina Wrigley joined SJP this year. She said she decided to join because she had a personal connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, therefore she felt compelled to join a club reflecting that.
“I have known various individuals who were physically injured or killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Wrigley said. “This is part of the reason why I think there needs to be a more supportive environment within academic institutions for students who are critical of Israel.”
She said she wants to be part of an inclusive organization that fights for what they believe in and challenges their oppressors.
Moore said the mission statement for SJP is to bring awareness and for students at NAU to have the opportunity to learn more about struggles against imperialism and struggles for sovereignty.
She realizes the big risk of having a SJP club because of the repercussions they face, but she said there are students around the globe that face punishment or risk of arrest because they make the choice to demonstrate for their cause. However, Moore said she realizes the risk but continues to fight passionately for issues Palestine faces.
“[NAU SJP] can be a little pebble in the history of NAU hopefully, I’m not sure,” Moore said. “I would like it to turn into something big, but I know the demographics of this campus, which is predominantly white, but I am hopeful.”
NAU SJP is looking to gain more Palestinian students and allies for the club to gain momentum and to advocate for Palestine.
Even if SJP is starting out small, the club is fighting for something huge. If any individuals are interested in joining the club to bring advocacy for their cause or just get informed on issues involving Palestine, they can reach out through True Blue Connects or NAU SJP’s Instagram account.