top of page

Juneteenth has historically been a day of jubilee for Black southerners. On June 19, 1865 enslaved people were notified of their freedom in Galveston, Texas two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. With great effort and activism from people like Opal Lee who led the way to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, we celebrate this day around the nation. Juneteenth is literally about collective liberation. Black folks in this country choose to celebrate not the day we were emancipated, but the day in which the very last of us knew we were free.

Unfortunately, Juneteenth has been subsumed by capitalist opportunism, corporate greed, and spiritual bypassing. In the legacy/white Jewish institutional community, Black Jews have been offered thoughts and prayers or asked to labor for white consciousness to be at ease that there was a “commemoration”.

We, the Black Jews who brought Juneteenth to the forefront within the Jewish community, expect more than emails sharing optional prayers, or invitations to events. We expect our Black voices and stories to be centered, our Black bodies to rest from the grind of racialized capitalism, and our Black lives to be valued. We expect white people across the United States to do their work to look critically at the role their communities played in the transatlantic slave trade, still play in the benefitting of racialized capitalism, and commit to a praxis of reparations.

We are struggling for justice and the end of the antiBlack racism that causes intergenerational trauma. We are fighting for the humanization of our Black existence and experiences, intentional dismantling of institutional structures that create barriers to access and opportunities. We are fighting for emancipation from systems that attempt to oppress us. From capitalism, to erasure of our history, to demonizing our consciousness, to devaluing our existence, we demand liberation from all forms of discrimination and hate.

We Black Jews will intentionally prioritize our self-care and joy. We Black Jews will unapologetically and authentically be WHO we are in every space and claim our freedom.

How can you join us in continuing to value collective liberation of Black bodies in this country? We call on our Jewish community to be woke (conscious) about the past and present harm caused and to engage in the process of teshuva. From public accountability, to taking actions to eradicate antiBlack racism, to reparations, we demand justice, belonging, equity, and liberation.

1. If you want to collaborate with Black led organizations, consider inviting us before or after the holiday. Don't ask us for our labor on the holiday. For Black folks, this can be an important day of rest. Rest is liberatory. Do the requests you make contribute to the collective liberation of Black jews? or are you requesting their labor for a visual rather than meaningful impact. Impact is always more important than visuals to us.

2. Always pay Black and Brown collaborators for their work, especially around liberation holidays like MLK, Juneteenth or Kwanzakkah. One of the ways you can acknowledge Black liberation is by contributing energy towards our continued success rather than asking for our energy without compensation. Asking for free labor from Black Jews on or around Juneteenth, even on the shabbats close to it, should be re-examined for the ways it devalues our labor and our bodies.

3. Consider making it a part of your ritual to donate to Black liberation organizations. Giving resources to Black Jewish led organizations who are doing work with Black Jews frees us up from other work prioritizing the liberation of Black Jews.

4. Consider not lumping Juneteenth and pride celebrations together. Pride is a whole month. Juneteenth is a specific day. If your organization wants to celebrate the liberation specifically of certain queer Black folks like a celebration of Marsha P. Johnson, that could be beautiful. Be sure to give space for pride to be pride and Juneteenth to be Juneteenth.

BJLC loves the interest and partnerships that Jewish organizations are extending to Black Jews around liberation. We ask for thoughtfulness in how you formulate your requests so that we feel you are approaching all Black Jews in a way that honors our dignity.

Listen to Autumn and Shoshana talk to Shimon Cohen about living and fighting at the intersection of antisemitism and anti-Black racism.

Doin the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change. A podcast hosted by Simon Cohen sponsored by the University of Houston.

From Shimon:

In this episode, I talk with Shoshana Brown and Autumn Leonard of the Black Jewish Liberation Collective and Jews for Economic & Racial Justice, based in New York City. We discuss what antisemitism is, ways it functions, and how antisemitism and racism are features of white supremacy. Shoshana and Autumn talk about their work to provide a communal space for Black Jews and how they organize to disrupt antisemitism and racism. We get into a lot in this interview but there is so much more on this topic that needs to be talked about. I know that even though I’m Jewish, I could do a better job talking and teaching about antisemitism, and how it works to divide us. It can be frustrating to bring it up when so many people are not taught the origins of antisemitism and how it operates. At the same time, those of you who follow the podcast know that we can’t avoid these hard topics, and like Shoshana, Autumn, and I talk about, change only comes when we address antisemitism and racism and work to build community. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.

Take a listen to the podcast "On The Nose" by Jewish Currents moderated & hosted by four BJLC folks (Rebecca Pierce, Shoshana Brown, Reuben Telushkin and Anthony Russell).

"A number of recent incidents—from a fracas over Whoopi Goldberg’s comments about the role of race in the Holocaust to a smear campaign launched against Tema Smith, the Anti-Defamation League’s new Director of Jewish Outreach—have highlighted the continued prevalence of anti-Black racism in the American Jewish community and its ongoing exclusion of Black Jews. In this episode, Contributing Writer Rebecca Pierce brought together Black Jewish artists and activists—Yiddish-language performer Anthony Russell, visual artist and organizer Reuben Telushkin, and kohenet and social worker Shoshana Brown—to discuss the policing of Jewish communal space, racism and labor in Jewish organizations, and alternative visions for Black Jewish politics and worlds."

  • Facebook
bottom of page