Art–whether it be dancing, painting, drawing, film–creates a space for self-examination, helping us to envision possible futures, and better versions of ourselves. And the Jewish month of Elul is traditionally an opportunity for introspection before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Recognizing the power of art to be transformative, Lilith is highlighting Black Jewish women artists in this time leading up to and through Elul. On Lilith’s platforms you’ll have a chance to experience, share, buy and celebrate their work.
You can also participate by letting us know (at info@Lilith.org) Black Jewish women creators we should include!
Rachel Harrison-Gordon is an MFA/MBA candidate at NYU Tisch/Stern and a Sundance 2020 Blackhouse Fellow. Rachel’s interest in storytelling evolved through pursuits of perspectives in journalism and in government. She has studied people through quantitative behavioral data and through their stories, and hopes to create films, commercials and music videos that highlight the different ways people come of age. Her work challenges expectations of race, family and addiction.
Prior to NYU, she served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow for the Obama Administration, learning about Veterans and their experience returning home. She worked as a data analyst within a consumer insights group at The New York Times. Rachel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering, where she studied Mechanical Engineering. Broken Bird is Rachel’s first film.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever given––or received?
Before I thought I could or would be a filmmaker, my partner and in-laws gifted me a beautiful photography camera. It changed the course of my life. When I would listen to music, I would always imagine the images that corresponded to those moments in my mind. Now I was able to create those images, and work the other way around. There’s something so empowering about learning something technical to create something new.
When was the last time you said no?
I was offered to produce a music video with a team who helped give me my start in filmmaking, and with an artist I love and would be eternally grateful to create with. Unfortunately due to COVID and some health circumstances, I had to turn down the opportunity. At least this time, I feel like I’m saying no because of something that matters, and not saying no because I don’t think I’m qualified, which is definitely something that has held me back.
What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year? What version of an answer are you living your way into?
I used to ask “why does no one hear me? Listen to me?” I’ve found a way to be seen and heard, and to not place so much emphasis on the people who choose not to. I am no longer expending energy on people who refuse to look inside themselves and admit the pain they cause with their limited view of the world.
What is something you need to say? To whom?
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. Believe in yourself, especially when you’re getting constant signals and discouragements not to.