Examining modern racial injustice through a window of tradition
I was recently pulled over for a minor moving violation and the police officer was polite, thorough and efficient. Throughout the entire incident and as I drove away, all I could think was “I am so lucky.”
I didn’t feel lucky for an opportunity to visit traffic court and to contribute dollars to city infrastructure. I felt lucky simply to be white. How terrified would I have been had I been African American, an immigrant fearing deportation, or wearing a headscarf symbolizing religious beliefs that were likely different than those of the white, male officer with whom I was interacting?
What could have happened if my boyfriend got pulled over instead of me? The interaction should be exactly the same; except that he’s black. It’s baffling, infuriating and terrifying to think that anyone, even a highly educated, successful community member is at risk of being treated unfairly, arrested, roughed up or even killed because of the color of his skin.
A study by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau was recently released and finds that in 99 percent of neighborhoods in the United States, black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds (Gathright, n.d.).
My goal is to advocate for and amplify change for our fellow citizens that are targeted and held back because of their race, religion, national origin and so many other factors that do not determine their value and contribution to society. I’m doing this by bringing people together to create ongoing dialog between individuals who may never have interacted. And I’m doing it over salon style dinners called Shalons - because good food and good wine create a great place for connection and growth.
The story of Passover is a narrative that depicts something bigger than one event in history; the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt is also the story of oppressed people fighting for their freedom, finding their way and building community for support in an unfamiliar place.
This year, Shalon partnered with Nourish, to host a Passover Seder for Racial Justice and invited people of all religions, races, sexual orientations and geographic backgrounds to join the conversation about the experiences that unite us as humans, despite our unique, divergent histories.
As we navigated our interpretation of the Passover Seder, storytellers from different backgrounds (including African Americans, Muslim Americans, immigrant, students, DACA advocates and many others) shared powerful, personal stories about repression, liberation, courage and faith.
Mohan Kanungo from Mission Asset Fund was one of the first storytellers to address our crowd of nearly 90 people. He spoke of how MAF provided over 7,500 grants to help DACA recipients renew and how the he, as part of the organization, address financial and social inclusion for veterans, immigrants, survivors of domestic violence and low-income families using a combination of traditional village lending circles and technology to empower those who are looking for more than a handout.
Echo Brown and Thomas Robert Simpson both told the stories of their backgrounds and how each had created unique performances in order to highlight the ongoing struggle of the African American community. Echo, the writer, performer and storyteller of the acclaimed one-woman show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters and Thomas, the founder of AfroSolo Theatre Company, highlighted the trauma, profiling, and missed opportunities that they, their families, friends and neighbors experience on a regular basis because of the color of their skin. They encouraged everyone at the Seder not only to appreciate the art of storytelling, but to get angry themselves, to stand up for what we believe in and to make a difference for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Nima Rahimi, the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commissioner pointed out similarities between the Passover story and the struggles that effect so many immigrants today. Guests were reminded that fleeing persecution is only the beginning for so many who must adjust to a new way of life and determine how to provide for themselves and their families. He encouraged attendees to participate in events and volunteer activities where people could provide support in everything from government hearings to helping families acclimate and find community.
Check out bios, recommendations and ways to get involved from all of our speakers below
It’s true that one Seder meal, out of the millions that took place, will not resolve the problems that our community faces. But with every story, conversation and new connection, there is a shift in perspective and society begins to evolve. Each time we come together to break bread, break barriers and break the silence, we fuel the fires of change. Shalon is committed to taking action to build the bonds that support justice and transformation in our world.
We are continuously exploring topics that impact our community and that empower each of us to expand our insight into personal and community progress. Join us on May 18th in San Francisco as we take our first look into Education in the US – the challenges students and teachers are facing and how to succeed with fewer resources.
Join the Shalon mailing list to get new blog posts and updates on upcoming events.
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Ossama is the outreach coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area office of CAIR, whose mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil liberties, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
- Volunteer your time with CAIR
- Book a workshop for your company or organization- topics range from Civil Rights 101 to Challenging Islamophobia
- Donate to CAIR to help enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue and protect civil liberties.
- More ways to take action.
The Wellness Initiative
Chandra is the wellness coordinator at Mission High School, as part of The San Francisco Wellness Initiative. Through mindfulness, mentoring and behavioral health counseling, Chandra helps teens gain the skills they need to cope with complex issues such as stress, trauma, suicide, bullying, depression, self-esteem, drug and alcohol use, sexual health and relationships.
Listen/ Read / Organizations
- Snap Judgement podcast: Senior Year Mixtape featuring Chandra
- Whistling Vivaldi
- Race Matters
- Mindful Schools
- Niroga Institute
- Donate to SFUSD's Wellness Initiative to support student success.
Thomas Robert Simpson
AfroSolo Theater Company
Thomas is the founder and artistic director of AfroSolo and his goal is to save lives. He gets angry, experiences trauma and wonders if the killings of a young person via the gun of police officers will ever end. For the past four years he has been on a journey to create a frame work to prevent such killings. His newest initiative, DON'T PANIC: Guidelines for Surviving a Police Stop, is a manual detailing best practices towards surviving a police stop.
JIMENA and JDC Entwine
Nooshin was born in Iran, and moved to the US as a teenager. She studied and worked in the fields of philosophy and law and is on the board of young adults committee of JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to Middle East and North Africa) and is a volunteer community representative for JDC (a Jewish humanitarian organization.) She is passionate about standing up for those who do not have a voice and bringing people together.
- Obtain a copy of the JIMENA Advocacy Kit to share information with others to increase understanding and community.
- Explore JDC Entwine Global Service Trips
Echo is the writer, performer and storyteller of the acclaimed one-woman show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters. Through solo performance, she explores the intersections between race, class, and gender, as well as trauma, spirituality, and love. Echo splits her time between Paris and Oakland, and is currently writing a book to be published through Macmillian in 2020.
Read / Listen / Watch
- The Fire Next Time
- A Fierce Heart
- Podcasts: Echo is on the Lucky Podcast in the Focus episode.
- Echo's TEDX talk at the Moma
- Sign up for her newsletter to find out about her exciting new projects
- Upcoming online courses: Creative Writing, Writing Trauma and Stage Warrior.
- Echo can speak at your company.
SF Immigrant Rights Commission
Nima is the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commissioner. He is a community organizer and advocate who volunteers his time on the boards of non-profit organizations including the Iranian American Bar Association and Pars Equality Center's Generation Plus.
- The 13th, Netflix documentary that explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States
- Sign up for the mailing list SFImmigrants.org (formerly DACASF.com) to find out about events and volunteer opportunities.
- Consider attending the next Immigrant Rights Commission special hearing at the Muslim community center on April 9th. Kristin will be there and would love to sit with you!
- Spread the word about their free citizenship & fee waiver assistance workshop on April 21st.
Mission Asset Fund
Mohan is the Director of Engagement at MAF, a non-profit whose award-winning social loan models are building pathways out of the financial shadows for low-income individuals across the U.S. He uses his background in labor, legal services, nonprofit management and entrepreneurship to address financial and social inclusion for veterans, immigrants, survivors of domestic violence and low-income families.
Read / Look & Listen
- Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap NYT article by Paul Kiel (December 31, 2015)
- America’s Top Banks Gave Oakland’s Black Borrowers just four home loans in 2013. Four. (Fusion, February 25, 2016)
- Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir (Published in 2014 by Times Books)
- CFPB's websites in English and Spanish
- Planet Money - Episode 451: Why some people love tax day? (Regarding Earned Income Tax Credit)
- Daily Worth - Financial and Career Advice for Women
- The Stark Economic Reality of Transgender Women
- This podcast regarding financial preparedness for immigrant families
- This video telling the story of how we provided over 7,500 grants to help DACA recipients renew.
- Check out Mission Asset Fund's 2017 annual report, our blog announcing our immigration loan programs
- Visit missionassetfund.org to learn about donating.
Kristin Eriko Posner
Kristin is a Japanese-American and Jewish home cook, interior designer and storyteller and the founder of Nourish Co. She became an activist when she promised her family that she would never forget or let what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II happen to any people, ever again.
- Just Mercy
- Podcast Code Switch
- Attend the Manzanar Pilgrimage on the last weekend of April. Kristin will be there and would love to see you.
- Consider becoming a patron of Tessaku, a project that records the stories of the dwindling population of Japanese-Americans incarcerated during WWII
- Visit the Equal Justice Initiative's Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, in Montgomery, Alabama
- Visit San Francisco's Japantown, the oldest Japantown and one of only three remaining in the US. Kristin is currently recording an audio tour of Japantown- stay tuned!