AWB 2017 An Exploration of the Plantation past and Perspective filled future

By Sharon Schoenfeld
Raviv Interacts with Paul at Mcleod Plantation

This is my first experience in the South, a completely different atmosphere and historically filled past than my native Seattle, Washington. So going to a plantation brought my dreams from US history class, of visiting American historical landmarks, to fruition. We walked through the McLeod plantation led by our knowledgeable tour guide, Paul. We learned about the slaves who worked the cotton, corn, hay, and other crops on the 37 acres of property. I found inspiration from each word that Paul said. He took us from place to place sharing about how bricks were made, lives were impacted, and dreams were crushed. Furthermore, he took my experience further when he took one of my madrichim (counselors) and me to the recently planted cotton field and talked to us about what the plantation teaches us. He spoke on the unbroken line he found from slavery to now of institutional incarceration and voter suppression. This drew a line for me between the present and the past, Paul gave me the needed call to action and recognition that the past is repeating itself, that we need to work harder to create a broken link.

This is the purpose of Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break; it gives us opportunity to find injustice and gives us the tools to approach it.

The tools that we are given to explore injustice are created in Peulot (Activities), and this particular peulah came from an outside organization. The Transformative Teaching Collective is a group of individuals that give education social justice talks to groups. In our session, we discussed social identity and its effect on how we perceive the world. In the other part of the programming, we experienced a social barometer, a method often used in Young Judaea, where we were given statements and stood in a corner of the room that described how much we agreed or disagreed with the statement. I pulled inspiration from the perspectives that we discussed with the barometer, seeing how different members of our movement and other outside community members experience race. Each time I heard a new person talk I had an opinion on what they said and found myself finding their justifications relevant and valid. The moment that stood out to me was when we discussed the statement on: People of color self-segregate and therefore don’t allow diversification and continues the racism in the country. I heard different people give their perspectives on how their reality is shaped by race. I responded with an idea about how I don’t fully agree with the statement because America is focused on assimilation and how that isn’t always the answer. I learned the value of perspective and the activity gave me the tools to take back to my community.

~ Raviv Cohen; 12th grade, Sammamish, Washington

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