Issue Two - Grassroots and Radical: An Interview with Samer Hato

Grassroots and Radical: An Interview with Samer Hato
Written and Illustrated By: Kyle Parker

Palestinian, queer, Leo, community organizer, teacher, student, leader - there are so many ways one could describe Samer Hato.
At just 21, Samer refuses to stay quiet when it comes to issues affecting marginalized communities. His passion for the activism he does is palpable and inspiring for all who witness his work. His humble approach is a prime example of how activism and community organizing should be.  
"Being an organizer requires extreme discipline and little to no individualism,” Samer says. "It’s 'we', not 'I'.”

[ k.p ] In a couple of sentences, how would you describe the kind of activism you do?

[ s.h ] My activism is grassroots and radical. I do a lot of work with grassroots organizations in the Chicago area, and I especially love supporting groups such as Anakbayan* and Black Lives Matter**.

[ k.p ] How has your own identity shaped the kind of causes you’re passionate about?

[ s.h ] The work that takes up a lot of my time is the work I do for my people through the Palestinian Liberation Movement. I’ve used social media for a few years to raise awareness, but as I become more politicized I transition away from “activism” and more towards community organizing.

[ k.p ] What are some of the areas of Chicago community organizing people should be focused on right now?

[ s.h ] Right now we’re struggling strongly against the city politicians. Rahm Emanuel, our mayor, continues to shut down public schools in black/brown neighborhoods. He claims we have no funds for them, yet he’s campaigned strongly for a 96-million dollar cop academy. Chicago has a long history of police brutality, but we also have a strong history of resistance. I think the #NoCopAcademy movement is one to keep your eyes on, and make sure you support the artists and organizers working hard on the ground to raise awareness!

[ k.p ] While much of your activism focuses on the Palestinian Liberation Movement,  I see you fighting for the rights of women, DACA recipients, Black Lives Matter, etc.  In your opinion, what is the best way for someone to get involved in activism without taking away the focus from these groups?  

[ s.h ] In Palestinian organizing, I think we’re taught from the get-go as people who experience occupation that the whole world is suffering at the hands of US-Israeli fascism. We’re exposed to that reality from a young age because of war, so naturally we become politicized at a much younger age than other people. The best way for someone to become involved in organizing and not leave out the struggles of others is to constantly show up to their liberation movements. Make yourself available, and put in the labor that’s asked of you. It’s not just about rhetoric, because it’s easy to post about this shit. What you need to do is show up, and be an accomplice.

[ k.p ] Maybe it’s my social media algorithm, but activism seems to be everywhere, from large marches to small acts of resistance.  Where do you see the future of activism going or is this a more complex issue at hand?

[ s.h ] I guess it is a more complex issue, but all I can say is that everyone kind of wants to be woke now. Everyone thinks they know what capitalism is, I see a lot of people with Black Lives Matter or Free Palestine in their bios or profiles. Social Justice is huge on social media. The only problem I see with this is how politically illiterate many people are when it comes to these issues. Actually, I think a lot of people on social media struggle to represent their opinions on Palestine or Black Liberation in public. Social media makes things easy and it waters down a lot of these ideas and it’s not working. It’s an important tool, but social media won’t liberate us. I think it’s only helped liberals express their individualism more. They don’t do it for the movement or collective, they do it for clout.

[ k.p ] I've seen a handful of times on your Instagram "Self-Care as Warfare".  I love the sentiment behind that phrase and the power it has.  What prompts this kind of declaration?  

[ s.h ] It’s all about being militant and communal for me. Self-care is very important for organizers. We need each other now more than ever. I believe a lot of self-care can be advertised and practiced in a western way, one that’s deeply rooted in individualism. Like, “buy this product and take care of your skin for a day” or when people just ghost on their community. To me, that’s not acceptable. We must constantly work internally within our community. Liberation is communal.

Follow Samer’s work:
Instagram/Twitter @waladshami

*Anakbayan is the national U.S. chapter of Filipino youth and students for national Democracy in the Philippines.  More information can be found at www.anakbayanusa.org

**Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism.  More information can be found at blacklivesmatter.com