"Stayed on Freedom's Call" (free: https://archive.org/details/StayedOnF...) includes two 'imagination-rich' walking tours, with songs, of Washington, DC. New interviews and research are woven into stories of old struggles shared by both the Jewish and African-American communities in the capital city.
Shared histories are explored from a new perspective of cultural parallels and parallel institution-building which brought the two communities together culturally and historically.
Free copies are available at https://archive.org/details/StayedOnF....
Shira Destinie Jones is a published academic author, founder of Project Do Better , and an aspiring Historical Fantasy novelist. She has also been a community organizer, Voluntary Simplicity adherent, and educator. She is still working to build strong Public Domain social Infrastructure (#PublicDomainInfrastructure):
I much appreciated this subtle gem of a book written by Goodreads friend Shira Destinie Jones. It could appear to be Pollyannaish--and that possibility gave me some pause at first--but the book is merely focused on what is true, which is something to appreciate, especially these days. Shira has not forgotten what has intervened, but neither has she forgotten the prior alliance between African-Americans and Jews.
Her recounting of a Jewish congregation that elected to stay in DC instead of hightailing it to the suburbs back in the block-busted '60s was particularly gratifying in light of Robert Lupton (the author of Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help) having said that's something that really helps. In a book talk on his second book several years ago he said that, out of a similar conviction, he had moved his family into a black downtown neighborhood in Atlanta.
I don't have my notes available tonight and those are just two of the highlights of the book that I could be aware of and respond to, and I think there could be more there.
Thank you, too, Shira, for making this book available in an e-version right on its Goodreads page.
Hiding behind the deceptively academic title of, 'Stayed on Freedom's Call: Cooperation Between Jewish And African-American Communities In Washington, DC' , is a slim work that punches far above its weight, on so many levels, in so many areas.
Whilst I must admit the title did not initially suggest a work that I would normally have been drawn to, I must also admit that I am really gratified that my attention was drawn to it and though there were times I had to withdraw, to 'digest' the wealth of startling information, I could not leave it alone; ultimately 'consuming' it in 5 very large 'courses', with the result that by the time I'd finished, I felt as if all I'd ever been led to believe about ethnicity, culture, religion and integration had been put through a blender, and turned into a rich soup of endless possibilities.
Though very obviously written by an academic, with a deep knowledge of a much wider social and cultural history than the title suggests, this work somehow manages to escape both academic style and genre, and that may be because the author has somehow managed to construct the work with both a lack of superfluity and the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel.
If I had the power to make this work an essential reading requirement for all school children (prior to graduation), as well as for politicians, community leaders and religious leaders, of all cultures, ethnic origins and religions I would, because (and quite simply) it uses actual, though normally obscured historical fact, to both prove and demonstrate that no group or area of our world needs to be divided and set against each other, as we are in our conflict ridden societies and world, today.
An old and well-worn adage is that 'truth is stranger than fiction' and the truth in this work is much stranger than the fiction most of us have been led to believe is history. I hope and suspect there are many out there, in 'readerland', that will be as surprised and encouraged as I was, and will return to it many times, as I will.
In short, don't be fooled into believing you have to be an academic to find this work to be an interesting, informative and stimulating read.
In many regions of the United States, ethnic groups and their respective histories have become polarized. It is all too easy for each group to view each other as a competitor for resources, to insist on who may be more or less deserving of resources, and to quibble about who may be more or less oppressed. When people divide themselves in this way, it makes it much easier for those in power to weaken and conquer everyone.
In Stayed on Freedom's Call: Cooperation Between Jewish and African-American Communities in Washington, DC, Destinie Landrac narrates a very different history. In a concise text that weaves together personal interviews, primary sources, songs, and descriptions of significant DC landmarks, Jones depicts the African-American and Jewish communities in Washington D.C. as equals who helped each other from the late eighteenth century to the twenty-first century. The common quest for freedom and social justice paved the way for this cooperation.
Landrac had originally used the information she acquired from her research to develop a themed tour of the history of Jewish and African-American cooperation in DC. During this tour, she would teach participants the Hebrew and African-American songs of freedom. Readers of this book will appreciate Landrac's style of storytelling, and the feeling of movement from era to era, place to place. While some people may wish for more unpacking of information, Stayed on Freedom's Call serves as an introduction to this history--an encouragement for readers to search for the other resources she names in her extensive bibliography, or to take the tour for themselves. It also serves as inspiration for others to look within their own communities for examples of such cooperation, or to start fresh.
" When I was a boy my Uncle Miles would take me to the Maxwell Street flea market with him every Sunday. Where he would sell his refurbished two-wheeled carts. Blues legend Jimmie Lee Robinson says that Maxwell street was respectively known as Jew Town." Chapter 8 "Being and Homelessness" by John Sibley
A fascinating read from a author who is both Black and Jewish. A author who feels the 'otherness' as she straddles both worlds. I found the way she explained her biracial cultural estrangement intriguing. I can only give an overview of the book because of my total lack of historical knowledge of Washington, DC culture. A classic example of that lack of understanding is when she mentions how Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy presented an award to Marvin Cahn on behalf of neighbors, Inc, for keeping Shephard Park an integrated neighborhood. Edgar Cahn was a Jewish speech writer for Attorney general Kennedy------again information like that is something you can only glean from having an indigenous insight in DC's cultural and political history. I liked Dr. Edgar Cahn's the concept of "timebanking". Especially as a means of organizing people around a purpose or political agenda for all communities especially the marginalized. I did not know "The Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) like the "Alliance of Black Jews" existed before reading her book. I never heard of one existing in Chicago where most of the Jewish population live in Skokie, Evanston, Arlington Heights, and Buffalo Grove.
The author mentions the post 1960s tensions between Jewish and Black communities seemed to escalate. I was deeply involved in the Black consciousness movement in Chicago along with Fred Hampton and Rep. Bobby Rush, Baraka and Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael. Even today I wonder what happened to the Black-Jewish Alliance? I remember a picture of Bishop Shannon, Rabbi Abraham Herschel, Dr. King and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier--that showed that unity. There was a shift in the mid-'60s, with the rise of black nationalism (and what some describe as black anti-Semitism) Black and Jewish Americans should never forget how James Chaney, Andrew Godman and Michael Schwerner were murdered while organizing to register black voters in Mississippi. I was fascinated how the author converting to Judaism and the impact it had on shaping and molding her worldview. I wonder how the author feels today how Israel's Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering all options to remove 30,000 African migrants under a five-year plan where 16,250 migrants would be resettled in Western nations like Germany, Italy and Canada. I wonder does the author feel like some critics and Holocaust survivors that the plan is unethical and a stain on Israel's international image. When I think of Jewish culture in Chicago I think of the famous "Maxwell Street Polish sausage" and how the smell causes a Pavlovian reaction as you drive pass . The polish sausage sandwich is a classic in Chicago with a grape pop. The sandwich has thick jalapenos, onions dripping like leeches on top and a dash of hot mustard . Amazingly, to this day the Maxwell Street polish sausage in an era of civil unrest and political change serves as a multicultural phenomenon. There is no black, brown, white or yellow --the only color is green to buy the polish sausage sandwich. I will close with a quote from chapter 8 from my book. "The original Maxwell Street Market was an impromptu ghetto market established in the late 19th century by newly arrived Jewish residents from Eastern Europe. In 1912 the City Council of Chicago certified "Jew Town aka "Maxwell Street" as an official open-air market. Thousands each Sunday, including my Uncle Miles and me, would come down in droves to the birthplace of Chicago Blues, like compass needles pointing toward a lodestone---a place where anything you could buy was for sale. Uncle Miles viewed Maxwell street as a modern Blues Capital of the world". Overall "Stayed on Freedom Call" is a very detailed informative book about Washington DC's Black-Jewish culture. A book I highly suggest for both academic and non-academics readers.
Highly recommend. This is a densely-packed introduction to some of the connections and overlap between the Jewish and Black communities. I appreciated that the book combines 1) big-picture descriptions of historical events and community interactions and 2) anecdotes about specific individuals.
I am a Jewish person who has big gaps in my understanding of Jewish history, and there have been a small handful of books, moments, and people who have made me feel more understanding of and/or connected to the Jewish community and this is one of them.
I also have recently sought to better understand the history and current experiences of different groups' struggles and triumphs, so depictions of historical activism and collective actions are very helpful to my understanding, including to gain context to understand how to participate in activism moving forward.
I've read this book twice already and probably will read it one or two more times, because there's so much in it to take in. Luckily, the book is concise, so it can be read relatively quickly. In my first two readings, I found myself reading/listening to some parts multiple times because there is so much detail to take in and think about.
Disclosure: I learned about the book because the author is a friend of mine. She's just as full of knowledge and enthusiasm in 1-on-1 conversations as she is in this book.
This book offers fascinating insights into how relationships developed through the years between Jewish and African-American communities in Washington DC. I found it particularly interesting that "By 1950 Black and Jewish protesters in and around Washington, DC were jointly picketing on the premise that 'anti-semitism is kin to Jim-Crowism'." With all the division and strife in the world, coming together is as important now as it's ever been, and this book is certainly a step in the right direction.