Just over three weeks ago, 136 of us gathered in Silverman Social Hall to begin a conversation about justice, and Charlotte, and our role in building a more just city. We promised to report back to you, and this email serves to do that.
But before we begin, we want to express a few notes of gratitude:
First, to all of you who came, willing to have hard conversations and think honestly about how this city might become more just and equitable.
And second, to our Tzedek Council, who quickly and unquestioningly jumped into “go mode” around this event. You showed up, you participated, you facilitated, and you brought friends. Thank you all for your unflagging commitment to making this world a better place.
On Justice Shabbat, we asked three questions – first, we wondered: what stories are you telling yourself and others about what happened in Charlotte in September 2016? Whose stories haven’t you heard? Then we asked: what did the events reveal and uncover about our community? And last, we asked you to share those things you think we as a Charlotte community need to overcome to make change and create equity in this city. We asked: what are we going to have to confront to create a more Just Charlotte?
We heard stories of the “other” and blaming victims. Charlotte was described as “a tale of two cities.” At each table, people spoke about the stories they were telling and the stories they hadn’t heard: we wondered: What is the “proper way” to protest? Why did the police make the choices they made? Often, these questions could not be answered by the people around the table, revealing another important takeaway – our Temple Beth El community alone does not have all the answers. In order to learn the stories of people’s lived experiences, we are going to have to step outside of Silverman Social Hall and meet with people who live in different parts of Charlotte, to share our stories and learn theirs.
From the notes that you all so diligently took at your tables, it is clear that we want to find commonalities, moments of “me too” that allow us to come together across lines of class, faith and difference. It is clear that many are seeking honest, open dialogue, relationships that are diverse. We are interested in policy change, and as someone wrote, “we have a lot of work to do.” There is much to learn about the “two cities” we live in (clearly depicted by the Opportunity Task Force maps). It will not always be fun or easy. At times, we might feel fully outside of our comfort zones. And, 90 people filled out commitment cards that night. And many have contacted us in the ensued weeks to join in on the efforts. Clearly, something is compelling our community to act.
1. If you filled out a commitment card saying you’d like to be kept informed or actually be involved in the steps we are taking moving forward, wonderful – we have you on our list.
2. If you were unable to make it but would like to sign up to be part of this effort, please email Rabbi Dusty Klass and let her know you’re in.
3. If you are involved with or know about organizations or other faith communities who are doing great work around racial justice in our city (already on our radar: Opportunity Task Force, Community Building Initiative, and Race Matters for Juvenile Justice), please email that information to Rabbi Klass as well.
This is not going to be a quick process. We want to take the time to really build a strong foundation for the work we are going to do, to create solid partnerships with organizations and other faith communities that will allow us to come together around issues of importance and call for systemic change in our city.
We will keep you all up to date as we continue to build that foundation.
Rabbi Dusty Klass
Rabbi Asher Knight