Somewhat in line with Black History Month, for me February has been pregnant with anti- discrimination discourse, and more specifically, combating anti-semitism. As I reread Elie Wiesel’s “Night” with my Grade 11s and the holocaust survivor, Robbie Weisman, came to speak at my school, learning lessons from the past reignited in me. The picture on the right is of Leon Bass, a 19-year-old African American soldier who helped in the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1945.
I began to dig into my own WWII history. I told my class the story of my great uncle, Fritz Slomp, who worked as a minister before and during WWII and preached against the Nazi regime throughout the war. Great Uncle Fritz “De Zwerver” (“The Wanderer”) was forced to go into hiding because of his outspoken views but all the while he was underground he continued his preaching but was also active in facilitating housing for Jews who were duly in hiding. Suffice it to say, I’m proud to share his last name, even if my student’s botch it daily by calling me Ms. Schlomp.
In line with all of this, I was invited to accompany my friend to this year’s Chutzpah! dance/theatre/music festival showcasing Jewish performing arts. I attended the Wednesday, February 15th Noord Nederlandse Dans performance which included modern dancers from Holland’s top dance company. My favourite segment of this evening was a collaborative performance with poetry read by Derrick Brown accompanied by interpretive dance of Brown’s spoken word stylistics. I think I connected with this piece because, as a literary analyst by nature, I tend to read into dance performances and look for a story line or theme even when there is little there in the way of narrative. Brown’s poem depicted the poet’s life from bloody birth beginning projected to the theoretical event of his future death, all satirically and self-depricatingly well-done.
As February comes to a close and I have done little to focus specifically on Black History, I have reflected on the dangers of mob mentality and the importance of reiterating the atrocities of the past in order to ensure they don’t reoccur. With that said, I am eagerly anticipating the upcoming Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit “Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture“. <- Reflection to come next week.
” We had to relearn how to be human, how to have normal emotions. We were written off. The experts believed that we saw too much and we would never rehabilitate. The experts had it wrong. The human spirit is so amazing that you can overcome great obstacles.” ~Robbie Weisman, Holocaust Surviver