Why this Black, Queer, Trans Jew is Reimagning
On the first night of Passover, Jews around the world gather with family and friends to partake in a Seder, or ritual feast, and retell the story of the Exodus, remembering how God led their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt.
K.B. Frazier, who identifies as a “freedom-fighting black, trans, queer Jew” from St. Louis, Missouri, believes there’s a close connection between the story of Passover and the movement for black lives.
“It is essentially the same story, of people who were enslaved and came to be released from slavery,” Frazier told The Huffington Post. “The story today is that we have noticed again that we are in bondage. We may not have physical chains on us, but systemic racism, poverty, inequality, all of these things are keeping us enslaved.”
Drawing on his own experiences protesting on the street for the Black Lives Matter movement, Frazier has reinterpreted a 1,000-year-old Passover song to challenge Jews to “never forget” the importance of fighting for racial equality.
The song comes from the Haggadah, a book that contains the liturgy, or script, for the first night of Passover. On that night, Jews around the world gather with family and friends to partake in a Seder, or ritual feast, and retell the story of the Exodus, remembering how God led their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. There are many different versions of the Haggadah, each taking its own spin on this age-old tale about the Jewish people’s search for freedom.
When Frazier was approached last year by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), a faith-based social justice organization, to help create a Black Lives Matter Haggadah supplement, his experiences on the street made him think of the Haggadah’s dayenu prayer.
In Hebrew, the word dayenu means “it would have been enough” or “it would have sufficed.” With each line, the song demonstrates astonishment at the many mercies of God:
If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna, Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat, Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
In his interpretation of the ancient prayer, Frazier calls for more action on social justice by repeating the phrase, lo dayenu, meaning, it would not have been enough.
“Even the fact that Mike Brown started a movement and that young people picked up the banner and said, ‘No, no more, we can’t take it anymore,” even though the protests have started an international human rights revolution, it’s not enough,” Frazier said. “Because people are still dying at the hands of the state, and because of hunger and poverty.”
The Fargesn Media Project, an organization that seeks to preserve the stories of the protestors at Ferguson, made a recording of Frazier performing his version of the dayenu prayer and describing his participation in Black Lives Matter protests.
This year, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice is publishing a complete racial justice Haggadah that gives Jewish families a blueprint for having a Passover Seder that addresses the longing for liberation that many still seek.
Leo Ferguson, the JFREJ’s community and communications organizer, hopes that the Haggadah will remind Jews of an “obligation” to support the battle against racism and police violence.
“We wanted Jews to see this as necessary both because Jewish People of Color are directly targeted by racism and police violence, which makes this a ‘Jewish issue,’ and because the safety, freedom and liberation of Jews is directly tied to the safety, freedom and liberation of all people that we share community with,” Ferguson told The Huffington Post.
For his part, Frazier hopes his poem will encourage people to never forget the loss of Michael Brown’s life, and the fact that there is so much more work left to do.
“We’ve lost our ability to see the humanity in other people,” Frazier said. “I firmly believe that when we get to that again, dayenu.”