From Yemen to Richmond: Why I’m Fighting for a #FreePalestine

6 min readMar 6, 2024

by Dina Masoud, APEN Richmond Youth Leader

At APEN, we have watched with grief and rage over the last five months as Israel has killed over 30,000 people in Gaza and the U.S. has dropped bombs from Yemen to Syria. For APEN members like Dina Masoud, a high schooler in Richmond whose family came to the U.S. as refugees from Yemen in 2017, this violence feels deeply personal. This is Dina’s story.

When I was younger, my friends were always shocked that I didn’t know any of the classic shows that they grew up with: Friends, Kim Possible, Sesame Street, or even SpongeBob.

Before my family came to the U.S. from Yemen, I never had the chance to watch TV shows full of animation, fantasy, romance, drama, or any dumb humor. My family only had one TV, which we all gathered around in the living room. We gathered in one room so that if we were bombed, we would be bombed together.

A man sits on a train car with four children, one of them in a stroller.
My first vacation with my family before the war.

It was in this living room — 18 feet wide by 20 feet long — where all of my 17 family members lived, slept, cried, and prayed, and where, in the middle of it all, my grandpa would watch politics on the TV. A TV screen with mindless politics, as younger me and my cousins would say. Whenever my cousins and I would complain to my mom, “Can we please watch something else?” my grandpa would just put the volume higher, drowning us out.

Eventually, we started to watch politics on the TV too. My cousins and I would always wonder why those old men on the TV hated us. What did we do to them, for them to just bomb us and not feel an ounce of remorse?


Flash forward to the summer of 2017: I remember waking up to my mom crying while packing up our apartment. We had only 18 hours to pack our lives away and leave before Executive Order 13780, Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban” went into effect. Only 18 hours to flee our only home.

We had to pack our lives away to live the American dream. The American dream we were promised. When leaving the war, we didn’t have the time to think about anything outside of surviving. Coming to America for the first time, we moved to Michigan — a predominantly white state. Everything was super rushed, and we didn’t have the time to even think about community when we first came to America.

It was hard adjusting to a new environment, where everything was so different from our home. I remember my first day of school, the kids wouldn’t let me play with them because I was “different” than them. The teachers didn’t even try to stop the children from harassing me because they couldn’t care less.


After a few months in Michigan, we moved to Richmond, California. In Richmond, we finally found a community where we felt welcomed and understood. Richmond is such a diverse city with many different people from different stories, countries, and ancestors. After Yemen, Richmond felt like a second home. Richmond felt like a community I could trust. Where I wasn’t worried people would treat me differently because of where I was from.

When the war in Yemen got bad in 2016, my mother and sister and I were stuck there. Even though the war was happening, in some ways I liked being in Yemen because I was with my family and in my community. When we fled the war, we went to a part of the U.S. with no community and nobody there who looked like us. We were safe, but it didn’t feel safe for us because of the racism there.

When we came to Richmond we met many other Yemeni, Muslim, Arab families and different communities who also faced discrimination and fled their home countries for the “American Dream.” I often hear people talk about Richmond as an unsafe place — but it has always felt safe to me.


Our community here in Richmond has watched in horror as Israel’s genocide in Gaza has unfolded over the last several months. In Richmond, so many of our ancestors fled imperialist wars, white supremacist violence and silent genocides. As I see bombs falling on Gaza, Yemen, and Syria, I think of our ancestors, and all that they went through.

People gather at a Richmond City Council meeting in October in support of a resolution in solidarity with Palestine.

Our ancestors have dealt with racial discrimination, wars and genocides. But they didn’t have the resources that we have today where we can easily search up what is happening in our world. Our ancestors didn’t have the means to speak up and document what is happening that we have now: TikTok, Instagram, Twitter. That is why it’s so important for us to use our voices to speak up.

I can’t believe that we are letting this happen in 2024. In my classes, we learned about the Holocaust, and genocides in Rwanda, Haiti, and Armenia that were hidden from us. Every time one of these things happens, we ask: why didn’t people speak up?

I know why: people don’t care because they think it won’t affect them. Because they think it’s too “complicated.” Because they simply don’t want to acknowledge what is happening, or want to think of it as someone else’s problem — a problem that only affects brown people, people like me and my family. For generations, powerful men have gotten away with inflicting so much suffering on our communities — the same old white men my grandfather always used to watch on the TV.

A group of young people stand solemnly holding candles
APEN youth members at a vigil for Palestine in Richmond. Photo by Denis Perez-Bravo.

Seeing all this, it’s hard to have hope that the West will pay for their crimes. But today, Richmond gives me hope. Together, we have marched, protested, and held vigils for Gaza and Yemen. Last year, APEN helped organize a vigil in solidarity with Gaza. Seeing how many people came out to the vigil helps me believe that no matter what happens, people will never forget what this country has done to my people.

Richmond was the first city in the country to pass a resolution in solidarity with Palestine. Across the world, millions of people are speaking up against the atrocities that the West has committed against our people for hundreds of years. We will never forget what is happening to us. We will keep fighting for people like my family — people who have always been suffering discrimination because of the color of their skin.

Today, I finally understand why my grandpa watches so much politics on the TV. We don’t have the privilege to look away as our people are killed. What is happening on the TV affects me, my family, and millions of people who look like us.

My grandpa holding my cousin.

Now that I’m older, I am lucky to live my childhood and have my grandpa who taught me how to be aware of corrupt politicians and their wrongdoings. My grandpa who always paid attention to the world around him. Sometimes our world feels like the dystopian stories my friends grew up reading: a Hunger Games world. A world where the privileged have the entitlement to ignore the rest of us, to turn off their phones and look the other way.

But Richmond has shown me that another world is possible. We just have to fight for it.

Take action now by signing our pledge to #BoycottChevron for profiting off of genocide in Gaza, or check out AROC’s calendar for a list of upcoming opportunities to stand in solidarity with Palestine in the Bay Area.




Asian Pacific Environmental Network is an environmental justice organization with deep roots in California’s Asian immigrant and refugee communities.