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Black-Jew Dialogue encourages acceptance

By Danielle Gamble/ Boyce Swift
On March 15, 2012

Editors Note: Story includes vulgarity.

Students were told to turn off their preconceived notions, hatred and bigotry and turn on the love for Blacks, Jews and humanity Monday night.

Ron Jones and Larry Jay Tish took the stage in Doermann Theater and performed “The Black-Jew Dialogues” to show UT students that even different cultures are alike in some ways.

To an audience of about 20 students and community members, Jones and Tish used a combination of video clips, puppets, reenactments, edge and comedy to educate about the similarities and differences in African-American and Jewish cultures.

One skit featured Jones impersonating a rapper to address Caucasian families who are uncomfortable with the popularity of rap music.

During the skit his character said, “If you don’t like who I am to your children, then f-ck you. Welcome to the new exploitation.”

Jones said this skit is meant to highlight a shift in the status quo in America because the majority of successful rappers are supported by a mostly white audience.

“It seems ironic to me that the very thing your parents ran from in the ‘50s and ‘60s, that you ran from, now your kids are embracing in the ‘90s and ‘00s,” Jones said. “That to me is the new exploitation, the new hypocrisy, and the only reason it happened was because of this generic, unspoken belief that black people live in the corners of American society.”

Jones and Tish explained to the audience that they used “racially insensitive” language and controversial ideas in the show to break down barriers.

“Do I honestly believe Mexicans are trying to take over the country by overpopulating? No,” Jones said. “It’s not that we believe everything we say up there but we believe it needs to be aired out so that we can get past it.”

The show included a serious video clip depicting atrocities that minorities have faced around the world and skits highlighting the topics at hand.

“The Black-Jew Dialogues” provided the audience with facts regarding civil rights, slave trade and current social topics, but the show was not meant to be education-centered.

“This show was not a social justice comedy; we wrote a comedy,” Tish said.

Jones added, “And what came out of that was people really liking the idea that we were talking about these attitudes, behaviors and the fact that people treat each other crappy, and it’s all based on fear.”

Maxwell Gold, a senior majoring in philosophy, said he and others worked hard to bring the Black-Jew Dialogues to UT. This event was emceed by Gold, of Jewish descent and Kenneth Harbin, of African-American descent.

“[The show] highlights not just what Black and Jewish people have in common, but people of all ethnicities. The university has diversity, we have many people from different backgrounds and different cultures, but we should be working on bringing them together,” Gold said.

After the main performance, both actors spoke briefly and then opened the floor to the audience where attendees, including an interracial couple and a student of mixed heritage, spoke of their experiences with deep-seated racism.

Jones said the discussion at UT was unique in the amount of pain revealed, especially when a mixed student recalled how his extended family referred to him as both a “useless [N-word]” and a “sp-c.”

Jones said he could tell that the more the audience member talked, the more the pain was coming back from member’s experience.

“Everybody’s got hurt, a significant and profound hurt that if you knew about it, you would look at them very differently and treat them differently,” Jones said. “But we get so caught up in our ‘moving through the world problems that we start viewing people as obstacles rather than opportunities.”

“The Black-Jew Dialogues, which debuted in Boston in 2006 and premiered worldwide in Scotland, is now performed at colleges, high schools, religious centers and theatrical venues across the U.S. and Canada.

The pair said over time they have changed the show to reference the sufferings of other minority groups, including women and gays, along with allowing the show to evolve in order to keep it more relevant to their young audience.

Jones and Tish said they both work hard and travel a lot, but the work is well worth their effort.

“It’s a great privilege to have something in your life that you’re able to work tirelessly for –— that is a special thing, and if you can find it, that’s where the joy and the stuff of life lives,” Tish said.12

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