Rasmea Odeh has made a positive impact on my life, as she’s done for others like me. Resilience is a word commonly associated with one of the strongest women I’ve come to know, and that is exactly what Rasmea has instilled in me.
You don’t have to search long or hard to find someone who holds Rasmea in high regard. According to The First Lady of Arabic Hip Hop, Shadia Mansour, “Rasmea has taught us all how to be human,” and I agree wholeheartedly.
This past weekend, at Rasmea’s farewell event in Chicago, over 1,000 supporters packed the International Union of Operating Engineers to celebrate their friend, colleague and hero. The event was filled with reminders of why she is loved by so many.
I first met Rasmea a few months after receiving my journalism degree and began freelancing at the Electronic Intifada in 2014. We spoke briefly at a lunch gathering following one of her hearings in Detroit. Even though the encounter was short, there was genuine interest from Rasmea. I witnessed her give many other young Palestinians the same courtesy over and over again these last three years.
When I first set out to be a journalist, I remember having fears and doubts about reporting on issues related to Palestine. I did not pursue Palestinian story telling because journalism students were discouraged from covering stories that they had an emotional connection to, for fear of being accused of bias. That theory made as much sense then as it does now—very little.
Unfortunately, it took censorship to propel me to seek out Palestinian stories and ultimately inspired me to create Palestine in America. But when you’re financing your own career and fighting to make it in a cut throat industry, sometimes giving up crosses your mind. But it’s Rasmea’s resilience that continues to motivate me. Far too often, Rasmea was attacked by right-wing journalists, government officials and zionist organizations, but she never allowed it to deter her work.
Yes, Rasmea will be leaving the U.S. soon, but she and her defense team were able to “put Israel on trial.”
So many people will miss Rasmea because she is selfless, sympathetic, supportive and loving. I am forever grateful for her presence in my life and her support of Palestine in America. I know I’m only one of thousands who wish her well and can’t wait to visit her in a free Palestine.
See you soon, Rasmea.