by Patrick rocchio
On Thursday, January 22, teens from Bronx International High School took to the streets with artwork, video projections, and nonviolent actions to raise awareness about human rights violations in the Middle East.
The student-government-organized event, which had the blessing of the Amnesty International student group at the school, took place at 8 a.m. inside the school and again at 3:30 p.m. outside of the historic Morris High School campus at 1110 Boston Road.
Nine students from the school laid down in front of the school’s main entrance at dismissal, playing dead while their classmates stood behind them with a Palestinian flag, and placards reading “Genocide in Gaza: Made in the U.S.A.,” “Silence = Betrayal,” “U.S. out of the Middle East,” and “Who are the real terrorists?”
“Because of previous protests that we did in the past regarding Guantanamo Bay through Amnesty International, the kids became aware of Gaza after seeing images of the conflict on the news,” said teacher Christine Cellentano. “A student came up to me and said that we need to do something about what is going on.”
The event was dubbed a “Die-in”. There were video images of people who suffered from violence on the Gaza Strip broadcast on a TV that was on the sidewalk, as the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were broadcast from a public address system.
Passersby on the street or waiting at a nearby bus stop were shocked by the display, but it was indeed eye grabbing. Once they had their attention, the students asked those who walked by to sign a petition.
“I think that we need to help other people throughout the world resolve issues without violence,” said Rosamdel Beroada, a 10th grade student who is part of Bronx International High School United Student Council. “I think the “Die-in” is good because some people don’t know about what is going on in Gaza. So with this event, we can educate them about conditions in the country.”
Students aimed to collect 1,000 signatures for the petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama asking them to pressure both sides in the conflict to agree to an immediate ceasefire, for the United States to suspend the transfer of weapons to Israel, and for more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“People passing by are very curious because they want to know what we are doing – the students are lying on the ground and acting dead, while the people passing by don’t really know what is going on,” said ninth-grade student Kaziah Opoku-Fripang, speaking of the large response due to considerable traffic outside the building on Boston Road.