Recently, I watched the survivors of the Holocaust as they commemorated the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, where more than one million Jews were sent to their deaths in gas chambers.
My heart ached as I looked at the aged faces of the survivors, many in their 90s, who returned to Auschwitz to honor those who didn’t make it out. Sometimes, I had to look away. Seeing their pain seven decades after surviving Auschwitz was too much for me to watch.
Years ago, when Alex Haley’s Roots was on television, I made my sons sit next to me on the living room couch and watch the horrific story of the plight of our people during slavery. And, just like I did the other night, I had to look away many times from watching the brutality inflicted on human beings by other human beings. Sometimes I even had to walk out of the room.
Although I am four generations removed from slavery, reliving those stories — the hard task masters, the beatings, the murders, the rapes, and other less-than-human treatment — still pains me when I think about those days.
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I am thankful that I have lived long enough to see so many changes for the better for blacks. Still, I am one who believes that we must never forget how we came to these shores and what we did to make life better for us and for all Americans.
That’s why I am so pleased with the 2015 National Black History Month theme, “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.” To me, the theme says to all African Americans: “Be proud of your heritage, your contributions and your culture.”
It pleases me, too, that Holocaust Education Week will be Feb. 23-27. It is no accident that this anniversary of pain is celebrated during the time that African Americans celebrate Black History Month.
The memory of the pain of the Holocaust and the pain of slavery, and the years of suffering following the liberation of both the Jews from the Holocaust and blacks from slavery, should always work to bind us closer together.
Yet, daily I hear of acts of antisemitism and racism. Sometimes these vicious acts are committed by blacks against Jews and Jews against blacks. This ought not to be so. Instead, blacks and Jews should be linked tightly together in this war against intolerance and ignorance — the ignorance that somehow our religion and/or race makes us so different from each other.
It is almost unbelievable that some people say the Holocaust never happened. Some people even believe that slavery never happened. I hope those who help spread such lies, were watching the other night as the Holocaust survivors shared their painful stories with the world.
And I hope that as we celebrate Black History Month, we will sing loud and strong those old Negro spirituals that helped to tell our story.
Holocaust Week is a community-wide program presented by the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. It will be celebrated with a series of lectures and other thought-provoking presentations and films at various locations throughout Miami Dade County.
The opening night program will feature Dr. Robert Jan Van Pelt, who will explore the connection between fading historical memory of the Holocaust and the recent rise of antisemitism.
A renowned Holocaust scholar and professor at the University of Waterloo, Canada, Pelt will speak 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, 20400 NE 30th Ave.
For more information on Holocaust Education Week, visit: holocaustmemorialmiamibeach.org, or call 305-538-1663.
‘Black Love Expressions’
The South Florida community is invited to a presentation by the Bowles-Strachan House entitled “Black Love Expressions,” an evening of song, dance, music, poetry and art from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 7 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2560 Sistrunk St. in Fort Lauderdale.
The program will feature renowned poet Rebecca Butterfly; Jus’ Cynthia, Ploomie, Benisa Forte’, Cynthia Holloway and Noah Jones.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Call 305-343-9403 for tickets and more information.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.