“Crossed destinies. Solidarity between Jews and Blacks in the United States”, on All of history: anti-racism, hand in hand

Left to right Bishop James Shannon, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, USA, February 6, 1968 .


Spring 1961, Alabama, USA. “The Ku Klux Klan shot the tires to stop the bus, smashed the windows to throw Molotov cocktails and blocked the doors from the outside so that everyone perished in the flames”, recalls historian Bob Zellner. On the bus are the Freedom Riders, black and white college students campaigning for civil rights. Leaving from Washington, they plan to arrive in New Orleans and cross the entire segregationist South, which continues to apply Jim Crow laws, despite a Supreme Court ruling that made segregation in public transport illegal. . Bob Zellner lost partial use of one of his eyes in the battle.

This dense and fascinating documentary recounts the journey of black and Jewish figures who have united to fight together against racism and anti-Semitism, “two sides of the same coin”said W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), sociologist and first African-American to obtain a doctorate at Harvard.

“Pick up your ears”

“Massacres and lynchings targeting black people were unbearable for Jewish people, who came from places where they had already experienced oppression and discrimination”says Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum. “When you hear bad things about Jews, prick up your ears, people are talking about you”said Frantz Fanon, author of Black skin, white masks, in 1952 (Threshold, 2015).

The story we are told begins with the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 and ends with the gaining of civil rights and the assassination of Martin Luther King, in 1968. At the origin of the film, David Rybojad was interested in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, brother of struggle of the black Baptist pastor. “We have come out of statistics, of great dynamics to tell about interpersonal relationshipsexplains the director. We talk too little about friendship, when it is a real driving force. »

So Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, who founded a network of schools for black children in the south of the country. From the Jewish father of American anthropology Franz Boas and his black student and filmmaker Zora Neale Hurston, who deconstructed racial theories. Or even of Strange Fruit, poem by Abel Meeropol sung by Billie Holiday at the legendary Café Society jazz club – one of the few places in New York that defied segregation.

Without idealizing the sometimes fratricidal relations between the two communities in the United States, the directors weave a story as much as a map of emancipation. “Making this film is also about us, French people, and what we could do together”wants to believe the director Rokhaya Diallo, whose feminist and anti-racist commitments are no longer to be presented.

Crossed destinies. Solidarity between Jews and Blacks in the United Statesby Rokhaya Diallo and David Rybojad (Fr. 2022, 52 min).

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