This was yet another opportunity that MCCJ provided the local community to convene and have an honest discussion in order to identify perceived truths and take on stereotypes and misconceptions while finding common ground. "Those in attendance explored the nuances of context in communicating ideas and opinions without fear of being canceled or ridiculed," said Matthew Anderson, MCCJ's Executive Director. "We are in a really tough time in our history. Blacks and Jews are under attack as one and as a community," said Matthew Beatty, Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer at The Carrie Meek Foundation, who served as the moderator for the panel. "Tonight, we're going to hear things that may offend you, but we're here to listen. We don't need another gripe session in this town. We're focused on a solution and on building bridges and taking action," he added.
Serendipitously, GableStage had been showing the production of "We Will Not Be Silent by David Meyers". Based on true events and the role of ordinary people in countering Antisemitism and hate during Hitler's fascist regime. Participants of Can We Talk were given tickets to see the performance before the last curtain call on January 29th. The panel was comprised of Monique Hayes, Partner at DGIM Law, Dr. Guerda Nicolas, UM Professor at the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies and School of Education and Human Development, Mojdeh "Moj" Khagan Danial, Jewish Community Relations Council at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Brian Siegal Regional Director, American Jewish Committee Miami & Broward, and Chris Lomax, Founder, and Managing Attorney at Lomax Legal.
There was a time, according to Dr. Guerda Nicolas when blacks and Jews lived and worked together; they had each other's backs, and the suffering that both endured was understood and respected. Something shifted in time that now puts both on opposite ends. Trigger statements that are hurtful to one group could have contributed to the divide. The notion that Jews clawed their way up and blacks did not because they were lazy is a common trigger. "That's lack of information and exposure, which causes fear," said Chris Lomax. "As we continue to progress and get further into our silos and get further away from our initial struggles, sometimes we forget why we were united in the first place and why we shared and appreciated each other."
The trigger mentioned above was a point of discussion amongst the panelists and audience members. "That trigger comes from historical trauma and biases against the black community, explained Monique Hayes. The assertion that blacks are lazy comes from as far back as slavery when exhausted men and women worked grueling hours under horrible conditions. Meanwhile, Jews clawed their way out of their condition, because they put in the work. "It's a matter of fact and privilege bestowed by power, and it was not extended to the black community by that same power source," said Dr. Guerda. "But they did the work and they mastered it," she added.
As diverse as Miami is, we're also very siloed from each other and unless we make the effort, we don't really see each other. We don't have meaningful conversations and intentionality, expressed Brian Siegal. It's panel conversations such as this one that creates a crossline of difference in our community. It's okay to listen, and it's okay to ask questions. Courage is built by asking questions, explained Dr. Nicolas, and what we need to do to develop trust is show up for each other.
The next Can We Talk? will be announced via MCCJ's social media pages. The events are typically free, and it welcomes anyone who wishes to engage in a respectful albeit difficult conversation.
The following YouTube Video will take you to the entire conversation.
MCCJ, Inc. was originally founded in Miami in 1935 as the Miami Branch of the National Conference of Christians & Jews. Later, the group was renamed the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews. In 2011, in recognition of its embrace of people of ALL faiths and secular backgrounds, the organization formally changed its name to MCCJ, Inc. Today, it goes beyond its original intent by creating a haven for dialog, training inclusive leaders, and promoting understanding for all faiths, races, and cultures through education, advocacy, and conflict resolution. It hosts the oldest continuous interfaith clergy dialog in the United States and presents prejudice-reducing programs in local high schools, among other activities. For more information, please visit www.miamiccj.org or call 305-755-6096. Find them on Facebook and @MCCJ_Miami on Twitter.
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