Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor and secretary of Homeland Security and now president of the University of California system, has had a controversial tenure. To kick off her first semester in 2013, students across the state handed her votes of no confidence. The following spring, hundreds massed at Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza during her “listening and learning” tour, chanting “No to Napolitano!” and ultimately occupying a building named after one of her top advocates. Why all the shade? To start, there was her lack of higher-ed experience and the undemocratic way in which she was appointed. Then there was her record at Homeland Security, where she militarized local and campus police forces, oversaw millions of deportations, and propped up Mexico’s violent war on drugs, the same one that later led to the “disappearances” of 43 students.
For many, Napolitano is the spitting image of the global, corporate, privatized university, where your connections to the defense industry give you more points than your commitments to campus culture, teaching, or anything having to do with students (see also David Petraeus at CUNY). At the same time, she’s the perfect foil. By aligning so many forces against her, from Oakland to Oaxaca, she’s planted new possibilities for organizing. If the system can redraw its borders, so can the movement.
Global solidarity was the call of Third World internationalists in the uprisings of the ’68 generation. In the post-9/11 world, the legacy of internationalism lives on, reframing the issues at the center of student and youth struggle. As one sign read at a protest at Berkeley in 2014, “from ferguson to gaza… you can’t pay tuition if you’re dead.”
In this post, members of four groups discuss joint efforts to think globally while building power locally. This post is the latest edition of The Nation’s student- and youth-organizing feature, edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky). For more, check out June 20 and July 18.
Fighting for Black Lives—and for Palestine
By Rachel Gilmer
There’s a long legacy of international solidarity within the black radical tradition. In this spirit, the Dream Defenders have sent delegations to Mexico, Brazil, and Palestine to give organizers in the United States the opportunity to build connections and transform our understanding of ourselves, our oppression, and our resistance.
Traveling in Palestine last May, I became increasingly aware of how the movement for black lives is a global movement for human rights. Walking down apartheid roads, we saw signs saying, “This is a gift to the Palestinian people from the US,” reminding us that our tax dollars drive the violence experienced by communities across the world.