May 31, 2024
Luca Mazzacane
(Pavia, Italy)
Chamar Latanja
USA

Who is the person behind The Collective Freedom Project?
 

My name is Chamar. Publicly, I'm known as Chamar LaTanja.
 

I am a human rights advocate. I'm also a faith-based life coach. And I am definitely a very proud mom of a 21-year-old.
 

I actually didn't start out as a human rights advocate, as my degrees are in human services and social work. I spent most of my years educating youth, coaching, and then women's empowerment coaching.
 

I fully believe that we can coach people all day, but we have to make sure we leave a world for them that offers them opportunities, justice and equity. If we leave a world behind where there is no free speech or people are afraid all the time, then what is the point of us coaching up these amazing bold humans? If we don't leave them a world to be bold in. For these reasons, I felt like it was more important for me to become active in human rights.
 

There are a million and one life coaches, and I don't take away from that at all. But as I started to really look around and research, I realized that there just weren't a lot of people that had my experience and knew what I knew.
 

And so that's how I got into it. Then one day I said “Okay, are you willing - knowing that I have a very religious background, friends and family who are very pro-Israel for biblical reasons, to possibly lose their support?    
 

We cannot just be faith-based. Martin Luther King Jr. said that only a dry-as-dust religion will ignore the human conditions that cause the suffering of a man. (I paraphrased that.)
 

So that's a little bit about me just being a mom and a warrior for people to live with as much freedom and peace as possible. 
 

 

This thirst for social justice and equity, has it laid the foundations for your project?
 

So, Freedom for the Collective, freedomforthecollective.com has also been registered as a nonprofit organization. You know, I was watching everything and I just turned on my camera one day on TikTok. When I started, I had about 12,000 followers.  I thought that if I lost those people by speaking out, so I would have lost them. But I felt that I could not move on, knowing what I know about the history of this world and our government, and let the propaganda take over.
 

So I turned on my camera and started talking about what was really happening. I told people that this has been going on in Palestine for 75 years. 
 

American citizens are deeply isolated from the rest of the world. And I mean, to say deeply is an understatement. We are deeply isolated from what's going on in the world. We are not taught what's going on.
 

So I felt like we need to continue making young people aware. How do we change the algorithm a little bit? You know, how do we go from “Get ready with me for the Met Gala Ball” format- and all these things that really don't matter in the long run - to “this is what’s happening in your world”. And the only way to do that is to flood these platforms, which is why I believe they will try to ban TikTok over here now.
 

You flood the systems with information and you can keep putting it out there. So I kept putting it out there and then I would hear these comments. People would say: what's the next step? Well, what do we do now? Now that we know our tax dollars are being used to fund genocides… 
 

Now that we know that over the course of my lifetime (I'm 42), America has sent well over 200 billion to Israel in aid. And yet Americans do not have free healthcare. We are steeped in student loan debt. We do not have guaranteed housing.
 

We're actually facing a housing crisis right now, some of our states still do not have clean water. Why are our taxes going to the military instead? What do we do now? What is the next step? Everyone's talking.
 

I kept asking myself what would the next step be? I'm a woman that believes in prayer. At one o'clock in the morning: “Freedom for the collective! The basis of freedom is education.”
 

And so it came to me to create this website, freedom for the collective. That would be the one-stop shop for people:
 

Such as “What are my rights as a protester?“
 

We can go to Freedom for the Collective and find out what’s going on in the Congo, for example. The Congo is also being destabilized by the American government, but also the UK and Israel as well for their resources.
 

What's going on in Sudan, which is also facing destabilization from Western nations, or in Palestine? 
 

The website has links that will teach you about the Congo, Sudan, Palestine, and even home-based projects and how they all connect. Freedom for the Collective also offers —I didn't coin this term — but it offers what I call revolutionary education.
 

It is basically the education that you would not learn in a school and is not what your government wants you to know. It’s the education of what’s really happening in this world. You may not like a lot of the things that you learn, but you need to know it.
 

Another large part of Freedom for the Collective is mutual aid. As the citizens of the world, especially Western citizens, begin to realize that our government has not used our funding for us, and that our government is more interested in other governments than ours, we are going to have to resist those systems, which is what you're seeing right now on campuses around the world. Or we are going to have to oppose them or create systems that work for us. Mutual aid creates a system that makes you independent of the government as much as possible.

 

For instance, to get aid in Connecticut you're signing up for food stamps. There's a little box that asks whether you support Israel. If you don’t, you’re told to send a letter to your congressperson. And so now everyone is fearing that by giving a negative response, they would not get the aid. If that happens, mutual aid programs in each community can be set up too. If a person doesn't get aid, there is a section here where you can go get food.
 

The community comes together and we donate food and we have a pantry. This is where we can get food. 
 

“How do we grow our own food?” 
 

My very best friend is an organizer and she’s literally, we're in the city, growing vegetables in her backyard.
 

“How do we clothe each other? How do we feed each other?” 
 

That's all mutual aid and it's independent of the government. And so I really want to teach people how you take back control little by little through everyday actions that will eventually affect the big ones. Because protesting is needed. Speaking out against the government is needed. But what you also need to know is “how do I survive day by day if I'm going to do this”? And that's what mutual aid does in a lot of ways. And so that is also part of the website.
 

Overall, what it has also turned into is: “how do we teach the next generation?”

I was not prepared for that. I didn't have that in the books until the student protests happened. And then I called a girlfriend of mine.
 

I asked her if she would be willing to travel up and down the East Coast to meet with these students. Absolutely, she said. So when it happened at Columbia, we went down to Columbia. Same for Yale, Boston, Connecticut, and Georgia for the Emory students. We have done Zoom meetings with students in LA, at UCLA. So the past two weeks have been chaotic.
 

Freedom for the Collective has turned into this website, but has also turned into this hands-on project where we begin to meet with up-and-coming activists. 

These kids are being arrested left and right, they're taking these hits. We meet with them and we cover them.
 

We let them know that we are supporting them and we teach and guide them, especially because we have been in their shoes. And if millennials, people of my age, still find interest in education, we will educate them as well. But I think Gen Z is showing itself to be the one that paves the way.
 

But really, Freedom for the Collective is open to all, but understanding that the students that we're dealing with now are our future. And that's what Freedom for the Collective has turned into. A little landing page, a few emails, and it has since gone international.
 

We have signups from Amsterdam, Congo, Paris. We have signups from the West Bank. We do, here in America, have contacts in the West Bank.
 

I'm amazed by it. By the feeling that we're placed in these positions to change the world.

 

Sadly, I feel like millennials, my peers, are done with educating themselves. They reached a certain point where what matters is the salary, job position, cool TV and a good car. On the other side, with Gen Z I see a lot of commitment that sometimes can overflow into protagonism.
 

Do you feel there is some staging, let's say? And how would you recognize the two aspects in a way to educate those on the matter? 
 

It is a maddening experience being what some would call “woke” and “tapped in.” 

A lot of my peers agree with what I'm doing, but refuse to speak up. And the excuse is always not being educated enough on it. I am past that piece now.
 

You don't need a lot of education to know that what we're seeing is wrong. Even just to say: “Hey, this is wrong.”
 

A good friend of mine said to me that he was not aware of the student protests before I mentioned them to him.
 

How do you not know these things? But if I mentioned the latest rap battle or the latest car, he will  know. It is maddening.
 

It’s interesting that my friend and I began to notice that there were some creators who were treating this like salacious content. Reporting about genocide as if it is the latest BuzzFeed article or the latest gossip article. These are people's lives!
 

I pretty much know the core of it could have been to keep people engaged. But in all honesty, we have to begin to learn how to engage people in a sober-minded way and truly educate them so that we don't leave it as gossip. Because when you teach in that way and in that format, people don't stick around. 
 

So when I hear that, when I'm watching people report like that, it automatically seems disingenuous. And I know that you have not personally experienced the effects of this.


 

Any personal experience you would like to share?
 

A couple of weeks ago, when Iran gave their response to Israel’s bombing of an Iranian embassy and sent missiles over, Jordan was right in the middle of that. My girlfriend, who is Jordanian and has a ton of family over there, had her grandson there, visiting his father. And I will never forget this.
 

It was the hardest weekend of my life. We spent 24 hours not sleeping, crying our eyes out. Missiles that hadn't detonated were found in Amman, where her grandson was. And we spent 24 hours trying to get in touch with family, talking to the American embassy, because they halted all flights. 
 

“Is he going to be able to come home? He's an American citizen.”
 

After 24 hours of no sleep and crying, the American embassy said that when he is set to come home, they will make sure he gets home. He is back here now in Connecticut, but it was the most frightening thing ever. He's eight years old.
 

When you experience that, it is traumatizing. There's no way I could relate to this as if I want clout or if it's just gossip to me, because this is real life. Many people in Gaza will not see their children anymore.
 

And that fear of, we may never see this kid again, it was unspeakable. 
 

I look for people who are going to report this in a sober-minded way, with the seriousness that it deserves, with the respect that it deserves, and with the full education that it deserves. I do not do a video if I don't know what I'm talking about.
 

And if I have to learn about it, people will know that too. 


Learn more about The Collective Freedom Project:
https://www.collectivefreedomproject.org
 

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