Video: Palestinian Teen Rapper Trio Comes to NYC

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Credit: Hajer Naili

Shoruq being coached by Aja Monet.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)– Their favorite rappers are Tupac Shakur and Eminem. They dream of a "free Palestine." And 10 years from now on, they say they will be famous.

Palestinian rappers Sophia Alissa, Dalia Ramadan and Nadeen Odeh performed at the Capitale, an event location in downtown Manhattan, in early May. It was their first time traveling outside the Palestinian refugee camp of Dheisheh in Bethlehem.

The three teens, between 13 and 14 years old, rap about their dreams and denounce the Israeli occupation. Their dream is "to live free, like normal people," Alissa told Women’s eNews during one of their rehearsals. The group is named Shoruq, which means "sunrise" in Arabic.

The teens were able to travel and perform here thanks to the Brooklyn-based artist and educator Aja Monet, who met them in a recent trip to their camp.

Monet traveled to the West Bank as part of a delegation of the Dream Defenders, a group that on its Facebook page describes itself as developing "the next generation of radical leaders to realize and exercise our independent collective power; building alternative systems and organizing to disrupt the structures that oppress our communities."

"The whole purpose of the trip was for cultural exchange and establishing connections in our struggles," said Monet, an American of Cuban-Jamaican descent. "So we can start to really re-examine the ways in which we think about liberation and how we get freedom."

Monet sees many bonds among Palestinians and African Americans and other minorities such as Native Americans. "There is a struggle for folks who are of color here," she said.

In January, the online publication Mondoweiss wrote about how the Dream Defenders are establishing parallels between #Blacklivesmatter and Palestine.

When asked if they knew about the recent protests over the killings of African Americans by the police, the teenagers immediately referred to the recent Baltimore riots. "People are judged by their skin color and it is not fair at all," said Alissa. She also denounced the weak punishment of police officers involved in the killings.

The girls consider hip hop a way to bring awareness to the conditions of Palestinians and see rap music as tool of liberation.

Questioned about their impressions of New York City, the teens said they love everything here. Yet they were shocked at one thing: the number of homeless people. "There are more homeless here than in Palestine," said Alissa. "I didn’t expect it to be like this in America because they [the United States] have a lot of money and they give us a lot of money; but they don’t give their own people. It does not make sense at all."

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