Left to right: Council Members Brad Lander and Jumaane D. Williams. Photo Credit: Ernest Skinner, NYC Council
Racism, privilege, and the idea of what it means to be an ally with people of color were some of the critical issues discussed when Council Members Jumaane D. Williams, Deputy Leader, and Brad Lander, Chair of the Committee on Rules, hosted the Racial Justice Town Hall at Congregation Beth Elohim, on Sept. 14.
The community event, which was hosted in Council Member Lander’s district, was created in partnership with Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC) and Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ).
“We are approaching a pivotal time in this country. As emotions run high and there’s increased attention on racial justice, it is important as leaders in the community we facilitate conversations around race, privilege and equality,” said Council Member Williams.
“It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge, but white privilege is the inseparable flip-side of systemic racism,” said Council Member Lander. “There is essential work to be done in all communities, and I’m thrilled we had so many members of our community turn out for a discussion about playing an active role in confronting racism and supporting organizations and coalitions fighting for racial justice here in Brooklyn. Thanks to Council Member Williams, SURJ, BMC, and everyone that came last night to participate in this emotional and powerful town hall conversation.”
The town hall opened up with introductory remarks by Williams, Lander, BMC Executive Director Mark Winston Griffith, and Rabbi Rachel Timoner.
“As a Black-led organization, BMC will always show up in proud solidarity with our neighbors who are bold enough to examine their privilege and committed enough to champion racial justice,” said Griffith.
The goal of the forum was to deepen community leaders’ understanding of systematic and interpersonal racism, and was inspired by the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and other Black men who were killed at the hands of police officers.
Williams and Lander wanted to create a supportive space where White New Yorkers could reflect on their privilege, while strategizing on concrete next steps for leaders to take in furthering community engagement in Black social issues affecting the City.
“This kind of dialogue — dialogue that encourages us to search honestly into the nature of white privilege and the roots of systemic racism in our own lives — is exactly what we need right now,” said Rabbi Timoner, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim. “Judaism calls upon us at this season to search our ways and turn to the best we can be. I hope that this community forum was just one of many such opportunities we’ll share to do this important work.”