Tag : Black

October 23, 2020 by

Meet the Black Jewish Artists in Lilith’s Digital Spotlight

This season of quarantine and anti-racist uprising, Lilith has been highlighting Black Jewish feminist artists— visual artists, dancers, musicians—in an exciting and original Instagram campaign. With theaters, concert halls, galleries and other performance spaces shuttered, connecting these talented artists with Lilith’s readers has been a bright spot in a bleak time. Follow Lilith’s Instagram and the Lilith blog for more treats like these!

Rachel Harrison-Gordon is an MFA/MBA candidate at NYU Tisch/Stern and a Sundance 2020 Blackhouse Fellow.

“To the Black girls everywhere, to the mixed girls, to the Black-Jewish girls—your life is special and valid. People will try to put you into a box so their world-view isn’t shook. Don’t let them do that, don’t let that effort subdue or censor who you are. We are all here and have something to offer.”

Ayeola Omolara Kaplan is a queer, Black, multimedia artist creat- ing artworks that empower and educate the Black diaspora and those interested in supporting its liberation… Her artwork consists of paintings, drawings, and films that aim to energize people as well as challenge their current and past perceptions of reality.

“The movement for justice needs to not only include but also amplify the voices of incarcerated people, especially Black incarcerated people. We can never be free while our family members are in cages. There is no healing behind bars.”

Nirit Takele is an Israeli artist who illustrates the daily life of the Beta-Israel community and contemporary Israeli reality, and finds inspiration in old Ethiopian sagas and folk tales remembered from her youth.

“I say this to myself and to anyone who wants to achieve something—always strive towards the goal and take the small steps that will bring you closer to it.”

Jordana Daumec was born in New York City. She trained at Studio Maestro in New York City and Canada’s National Ballet School. Jordana joined The National Ballet of Canada as an RBC Apprentice in 2003 and was promoted to First Soloist in 2015.

“I make my husband and me a loaf [of challah] every week. Such a great way to spend a day. I love the smell of the baking bread, you can see the love that you put into it and it comes out so delicious.”

Jessica Valoris is a multidisciplinary installation artist who weaves together sound, collage, painting, sculpture and facilitated ritual to build installations and experiences that have been described as sacred, intentional, and activated.

“There will always be something important that needs to be addressed, mediated, serviced, facilitated. There is always more work to be done. Saying no is a practice of pausing, recalibrating, and saying yes to myself.”

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October 23, 2020 by

Fiction: The Neowise Comet Listens In


I remember you from before. Weren’t you here the last time I came? It was before Gilgamesh, before Anansi, before Apollo. I saw you there. It was six thousand years ago, or seven.

Black Lives Matter, of course it’s true. But the fact that something is true is NEVER the reason for saying it. So why say it? If you’ve got to ask why, then you don’t get it, you don’t understand. I know you want time to understand the saying of it. Is it a group? Is it an idea? Why do we need to say it if we already know that it’s true?

I am a returning departing comet. The last time I was here Gilgamesh hadn’t been born yet, but you were here. You’re Black. You’re Jewish. I saw you in tents, in huts, in booths, under canopies – corridors, hallways, chambers. You crossed the sand and came to the salt water, you saw islands.

Black lives matter. Black lives started it. You all came from Africa. All of you. All of us. That’s what I overheard returning and departing. All lives are Black lives that matter. But sometimes you forget. Say it so you don’t forget. Black Lives Matter.

I overheard someone speaking, “I was not the one who did it.” They were words coming up from Sixteenth Street in front of the synagogue, her congregation, Tifereth Israel, every Friday.
They were standing along Sixteenth Street, in support of Black Lives. I heard someone explaining, “I did not arrange it for everyone to stand along Sixteenth Street, six feet apart, social distancing.” She was holding a sign. She said, “I do it because I want a change, I held a sign but so did the others. Did you see my sign? I got worried. What is my country doing? Why does my country hurt Black people so much? That’s why I was there.” That’s what she said, that’s what she does.

Do you want to know what I do? I make returns and curves and circles and ellipses around and around and around. I come back and back and back I was here six thousand years ago and when I came by this time I heard her say, “I want it to change.”

Most of the words that were spoken the last time I came are lost now, but not all of them.

I am black and beautiful,

As the tents of Kedar,

as the curtains of Solomon

Black. Beautiful. Then. Now.

Hebrew words spoken all the way back. I was already there. Why are you saying it now? One said, “Y’all hear that, Chile? She went down to the Capitol Building, yes she did, She went all the way down to the Capitol Building to see the casket of John Lewis. That’s what she did. She kept saying, Black Lives Matter. She went before to see the casket of Rosa Parks. She went this time to see the casket of John Lewis. The moments were different.”

Rosa was in the sunlight. John was by night,

And there were floodlights on the Capitol Building.

When I was still approaching, back in 1987, I overheard when one said, “Black Power.” She was there with Stokely Carmichael in the basement of Douglass Hall at Howard University. One said, “We’ve got to call ourselves something. We have lots of words to choose from. Let’s call it something. Let’s call it Black Power. We didn’t know it would end up being a thing. We didn’t know where it was going.”

Black Power. It didn’t say, nobody else has power. It didn’t say anything about anybody else’s anything. It just said, Black Power. And if you don’t know that it’s replacing black non-power. That means you’re clueless. You don’t know what’s going on. And if you think Black Lives Matter is trying to say Black Lives Matter instead of White Lives, instead of other kinds of lives, then you don’t know what we’ve been going through.

But one said, “What about the word forbearance. One day I hope somebody’s going to have forbearance for some stupid thing I’m probably doing right now, and I don’t even realize what it is. Forbearance. Give somebody a chance to learn something.”

I overheard. One told a story. “The first day I showed up at Howard University, first year student, first day of college, I started in the summer time. I arrived, and there were policemen there holding us all back as we were about to make the turn into the campus. One, two, three, four, fifteen, twenty buses came driving out onto Georgia Avenue and turn south, going to sit in somewhere. They were going to risk their lives somewhere. And I was a little first year student, scared to death. I said, ‘I’m glad they’re going because I ain’t going nowhere. I’m glad someone’s willing to go there for me’.”

When those buses were gone, another one came up to that one and asked, “What are you going to do? Your country is a mess.” And that one answered, “I don’t believe my country would ever do anything to hurt me.” Yes, that one said, “I don’t believe my country would ever do anything to hurt me.” That one is a descendant of Jews who were kicked out of Spain in the Inquisition, in 1492. That one is a descendant of slaves in America. That one is a descendant of slaveowning rapists and murderers. One of that one’s ancestors signed a parchment with the words, “All men are created equal.” That one said, “I don’t believe my country would do anything to hurt me.”

But there was forbearance. That one had time to learn something and figure things out. That one believes in teaching and forbearance. Someone taught her and had forbearance for her.

That one thinks about her friends. “One of the hardest things for me,” she says about Black Lives Matter, “is not affirming that Black Lives Matter, but that all of my white friends are all feeling bad and searching their lives and hearts and dealing with all their pain about racism as if their lives are not connected to mine. Who am I supposed to have a cup of coffee with and a good laugh while they are out there in the midnight of their souls digging out their racism? Who am I supposed to have a giggle with while they’re off attending anti-racism seminars? And we’re so close that it hurts my heart too. It’s not like it’s only hurting on one side of the friendship, and the others are home free.

“So, I keep thinking, maybe I’m the wrong person to listen to… Black Lives Matter… but too late now, I’m here, and I’m already talking, so you can’t uninvite me.

“I feel so weird sometimes when I see the lack of forbearance. It’s a new word that has never been heard before. Hold back a little bit, give somebody a chance to learn something, to teach something, to understand something.”

This is what I overheard six thousand years on my way back, or maybe seven. Mostly I just lie down and wait for time to pass, lying down in space. And I remember you, all of you, from
before. You were here the last time I came. Before Gilgamesh. Before Anansi. Before Apollo.

But there you were, Black, and Hebrew, and Jewish.

Black and beautiful

as the tents of Kedar

as the curtains of Solomon

One said, “There were more barriers when I went to see John Lewis. I don’t remember barriers for Rosa. John’s dark was so beautiful, he changed the night. Rosa was joy, John was solemn. 

One said, “You want to tell it as if I did it all myself. I looked at it, I because I am a part of it, standing along Sixteenth Street holding a sign. Is that just performance? Is that nothing.”

Another one spoke to that one. “What do you think holding a sign on Sixteenth Street is going to do to help Black Lives?” White people were up there yelling at other white people, “All ya’ll are doing is performance. You’re doing nothing, nothing. All you’re doing is standing there holding a sign. That’s just performance.”

And yet I overheard young men, Black men speaking one to the other, “I’ve never seen this before. Usually when the trouble comes, white people disappear. Every other time they disappeared. This time they didn’t run away.” Performance. A way to get started.

Surely you were here the last time I came ellipsing around your sun, hearing your earth.

One remembers a song she sang as a child.

We’re marching to Zion,

Beautiful, beautiful Zion

We’re marching onward to Zion

the beautiful city of God.

But another one said to that one, “Zion isn’t yours.” But that one thought… Yet the other said, “If you’re a Zionist then something is wrong with you. If you want to be a Zionist you better be it secretly in your heart. You’d better not tell anybody. Send secret money to Israel while marching on the Plaza with Black Lives Matter downtown.”

“Do you think the land was given to Jews only forever for all time?” “Not exactly that, but I figure if G_d gave us that land, then let G_d set it up,” that one said. “As for me, my joy is to have peace with the people around me. If G_d wants to make a change, then G_d you come in here and do it. I want peace. I want the people in Israel to know they don’t have to worry about food. They don’t have to worry about having a place to live and stay. My hope is that given the freedom of enough food and enough support, there will be time to know how can we live in Israel in peace.”

I overheard as I ellipse around her sun. I remember that one. I saw her before, when I came by before, this is what I saw,

I saw Moses standing before Pharaoh. There was a little Egyptian girl behind a curtain listening. Hail was about to fall. Moses said to Pharaoh, “so tell your people to say inside and get the cows in, or the hail will fall on them and they’ll die.”

And the little Egyptian girl behind the curtain said, “That’s the first time any G_d has ever cared about what happens to the enemy, and tells the enemy to protect themselves. I’ve heard of many a god, but I’ve never heard of a G_d who cares about the enemy. So I’m going to follow this Moses. And I’m going to be there.” And the little Egyptian girl left Egypt just behind the children of Israel, and spent 40 years catching up with them, crossing the desert, and came to the land. To Israel. Black Lives Matter. We’re Marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion.

I remember you from before

You are Black and beautiful

As the tents of Kedar

As the curtains of Solomon.

Carolivia Herron, Ph.D., teaches Classics at Howard University. Her books include Peacesong DC: A Jewish Africana Academia Epic Tale of Washington City; Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History; and Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair: Being a Collection of Tales Gathered and Extracted from the Epic Stanzas of Asenath and Our Song of Songs.

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July 27, 2020 by

We are Dying Because of the Fears of White People

Why are white people so afraid of my Black skin? When will living in this Black body feel liberating and freeing, instead of terrifying? When will this country acknowledge this pain? When will we have to stop running on the wheel of white supremacy? When will we be able to breathe?

I am exhausted, too. All the Black people in me are tired. […] We can’t get into an accident and knock on someone’s door for help. We can’t be too loud in our joy. We can’t be too Black. We can’t go birdwatching. We can’t say “I can’t breathe” and expect to live. We can’t be. We are murdered and blamed for our own deaths. We are tired of running. Tired of being told that we are not enough. Tired of constricting ourselves into tiny boxes. Tired of screaming “Black Lives Matter” at the top of our lungs. Tired of mourning and grieving those we’ve lost—those lost to gun violence, those who’ve slipped through the cracks in our society, those we’ve lost to Covid-19. We are tired.

My liberation is tied to your liberation. I want collective liberation. I need collective liberation. I need to feel free in this Black body. Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) need the time and space to dream, heal, and rest.

This is not a fight of our own creation. We are living and dying because of the fears and imaginations of white people. It is long overdue for white folx to join us in this fight. This feels especially relevant when the mainstream Jewish community continues debating whether Jews of Color exist, and cannot even have conversations about how Ashkenormativity in the Jewish community hurts Jews of Color.

It is no longer the time to stand on the sidelines and cheer us on (and it never was). If you love me, show me. Show me what the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam look like. Will you shield me with your body to protect me from the vicious blows that come from living in a white supremacist society? Will you move through the pain that comes with wading through 400 years of racist and white supremacist history to get to the other side with me?

Black people are magic. We make the impossible possible. We always were and always will be. It amazes me that despite the injustices, the maimings, the killings, and the collective trauma, we haven’t yet burned the world down. I suppose that given all our ancestors went through, we will not go down without a fight. Or, maybe we are just otherworldly and we’re here to inform you of new ways of being.

DENA ROBINSON, The Lilith Blog

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