Story and Photos by Ashton Broden Data News Weekly Contributor
After an uptick in antisemitism towards the Jewish community, local organizations are working to improve Black and Jewish relations particularly in light of recent comments and actions from rapper and recording artist, Kanye “Ye” West. Xavier University of Louisiana, locally-based Jewish organizations, and other Historical Black Colleges and Universities said that the first step in bridging the gap between minority groups is to improve understanding and be open to the reality of other cultures. As part of those efforts, they are working together to provide tools and resources to educate young African Americans and other cultures on reversing these stigmas.
“History is not perfect, people are not perfect, it takes time for people to learn and grow. We are asking people to learn and grow,” said Lindsay Friedmann, the Anti-Defamation League South-Central Associate Regional Director, at the Unity Day event organized by the Anti-Defamation League, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and other local partners.
Loyola University-New Orleans’ College of Law hosted the 20th Annual “Unity Through Understanding Day” on Feb. 3, 2023. The event was an experience to open up a gateway to allow some 150 plus high school students from fifteen area schools, with an opportunity to engage in small group conversations with a diverse cross section of students through the community, tackling these controversies facing marginalized groups. The Anti-Defamation League’s mission is to combat all forms of hate wherever it lives whether it is online, the legal system, or through society’s standards, Friedmann explained. The students were split up into breakout rooms to foster in-depth conversations and to address forms of bias.
“We have a responsibility to open doors to conversations so that more people are aware of lived experiences and lived struggles,” Friedmann added in hopes for change in engagement within communities.
In these sessions she explained how students grasped an understanding of how and when bias is left unchecked, it turns into prejudice, causing prejudice to grow into discrimination or laws that are discriminatory. Local groups emphasized it was necessary to counter this through speaking out and by training law enforcement.
“To create a better, more unified world, it is important that we, as students and future leaders of our country, know our history, even the hidden, untold pieces,” said Aarinii Parms-Green, a Xavier University honors student, who spoke at the event and is part of a project collaborating with local Jewish organizations to bridge conversations between Black and Jewish young people.
The collaboration will see Xavier University’s honors students lead an awareness campaign in partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Tulane University, and Dillard University to help spread awareness and educate teens and young adults on how to prevent and confront different forms of hate. Parms-Green, who is a Baton Rouge native, and her team designed a trivia series that highlights shared histories and culture between Black and Jewish people to eradicate biases formed from misunderstandings.
Recently, Dillard University’s newly inaugurated 8th President, Dr. Rochelle L. Ford, announced on Jan. 17, 2023, that it will relaunch Dillard’s National Center for Black-Jewish Relations that ran from 1974 through 1997.
“Instead of letting differences separate our communities, Dillard wants to reestablish bonds through conversations, education and learning that result most importantly in courageous actions to improve our society,” Ford said in a statement announcing the center’s goals.
Dillard hosted a screening of the documentary “Shared Legacies: The African American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance” and held a discussion with Black and Jewish experts.
“When we build a more inclusive society for all people, we are building a better society for the future. We can’t stop hate against one group without proactively working to irradiate hate against all marginalized groups,” Friedmann said. “Our groups alone may not have the numbers but together we do. I think that’s really important,” she added.