Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner and the Racial Justice Subgroup of Get Organized Brooklyn have banded together on Wednesday to assist with their community in self organizing efforts to confront racism in Brooklyn in response to the white nationalist rally and attack in Charlotte, Virginia.
The Charlottesville incident last month concluded when several people were fatally injured after a man ran his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators at a white nationalist gathering.
In response, the Brooklyn organization decided that it was important for white and non-white members to reflect on root causes of white nationalism that affect their borough. Since last year the massive bi-monthly meetings brought together a “multi-racial, multi faith” group focused on breaking down systematic racism. About 300 people were in attendance in the large auditorium, quietly murmuring amongst themselves until the beginning of the meeting.
Councilman Lander, who was present and in full support of the group, and Rabbi Timoner gave brief introductions and updates on the agenda. Dara Silverman, director of Powerlabs, which is a network that backs other independently run organizations took the floor.
“Racism isn’t just what happens in the south, or in Charlottesville, or in other places, but it also happens here in Brooklyn,” said Silverman. She spoke briefly on different forms of oppression.
The other prominent speaker and group member, Eric Ward, advocated for positive and creative responses to bigotry or racism rather than violence, such as marching or artistic expressions.
“The best defense is unity,” said Ward, “unapologetic unity.”
A panel of community leaders spoke on diverse subjects such as the criminal justice system, segregated schools in New York city, passing meaningful legislation, and intergenerational incarceration.
As part of the non-hierarchal philosophy, the closing “break out groups,” small sections of attendees that are interested in specific panel discussions or activist subgroups, convened afterwards. They even took to separate floors or rooms in the building with self-appointed leaders to hyper focus on their interrelated agendas.
“We have these mass gatherings,” Timoner said, “to build democracy. I do think that’s the answer.” She said that they are committed to holding an open space for people to continue to organize themselves and make an impact.