I love love love Black History Month. I love being intentional about pausing and reflecting on Black beauty, Black joy, and Black resilience, all of which is synonymous with Black history. I love being reminded of the Black food, Black music, and Black wisdom that has sustained us through the generations.
And as Jews prepare for Black History Month observations and celebrations this year I want to invite non-Black Jews to remember some things:
- Our history did not begin with slavery.
- Our history is more beautiful, complex, tragic, and miraculous than can be covered in a lesson, a bulletin board, or in a month.
- Blackface is never acceptable. If your hair can’t do it naturally, you shouldn’t do it at all.
- We can tell our own stories, but there is not one of us that can speak for all of us.
- We were not saved by white people. Honor our contribution to our own liberation more than you honor the support we got from allies.
- We are not yet liberated.
- We are more than Martin Luther King Jr. Honor the ancestors who put the movement on their backs but did not make the history books.
- We have the most beautiful elders in our community. Especially in light of the disparate impacts of COVID-19, it may soon be too late to hear their stories. Listen to them now.
- Black folks and Black culture are not monolithic.
- The language should be “people who were enslaved” not “slaves.” Our oppression does not define our humanity.
- Black people have been strong, resilient, and unbreakable. This is not always noble. Sometimes it is simply survival.
- The events of our history may be behind us, but the impact still lives in our DNA, in our dreams, in our hopes, and in our futures.
Wishing everyone a meaningful, celebratory, and reflection-full Black History Month!
Rachel Faulkner is a community organizer, coach, social justice advocate, and anti-racist educator. She has done this work through roles at City Year, Match Education, the Community Builders, and Citizens of The World Elementary School, and currently serves as the Director of Community Investments at the Safety Respect Equity Network. Additionally, Rachel served as the National Organizer for #JWOCMarching, is an alum of Bend the Arc’s Selah program, the Schusterman Foundation’s REALITY trip, and is an organizer with Black Lives Matter DC’s Cop Watch. Ultimately, Rachel is passionate about ensuring that the voices of Jewish Women of Color are centered in Judaism and in the greater world. But when she’s not busy doing that, she spends time with her daughter Ori Justice taking long walks around the nation’s capital.