The following speech was given by Avodah alumna Cydney Wallace (Chicago Justice Fellowship ’17-18), co-founder of Kol Or, Jewish Council on Urban Affair’s (JCUA) Jews of Color Caucus, at a Black Jews for Black Lives action last Friday, leading into a major Black Lives Matter march in Chicago. The action was organized by Kol Or.
“Good evening everyone,
My name is Cydney Wallace. I helped start Kol Or, the Jews of Color caucus; I am a JCUA board member, a volunteer on JCUA’s Police Accountability and Grassroots Alliance Police Accountability campaigns, a wife, mother of one beautiful daughter and three handsome boys, and a lifelong Chicagoan.
We’ve not seen collective momentum like this in about 50 years; and the time before that was about 50 years. For over one hundred years we’ve been fighting and clawing for the same thing; a recognition of our humanity.
As I look out over the crowd of faces representing every hue of the melanin rainbow, my breath catches in my throat, because it’s beautiful and painful all at once. To know that the same systems of white supremacy that we march against together today are the same systems that kept us from marching together yesterday.
This movement is about a battle between ideologies. There are many issues in the world that have gray areas, but this is not one of them. There can be no middle ground when it comes to the humanity and value of my children’s lives. So if there is any thought in the forefront or back of your mind that says Black Lives Matters “if” or “but”, then this is not the place for you. If you still struggling to decide if you think George or Breonna or Ahmaud or Philando or Freddie or Sandra or Keith or Trayvon or LaQuan or any of the countless others were justified, take yo butt home.
But to those of you who believe Black Lives truly Matter, that have seen the injustices with their own eyes, have witnessed or even experienced the brutality of the police at any time, but especially now, I know you’ll stay and march.
I am comforted to know that we have collectively, locally, nationally, and internationally, raised our voices and said no more! That we stand watch over one another, we defend one another, we record one another so that the word of the law that could shatter my life and that of my family will no longer be the system against MY people, but the system against THE people.
People we stand today on the empty pages of a history book. Each step we take together will inscribe in the pages righteousness, justice, peace, and humanity. It will no longer tell a story of every man for himself, but of community and respect.
In 1919, not having people power tripped us up. In 1968, not having social media for rapid-fire information and sharing of photos and videos anyone could take, held us back. But in 2020? Nothing will stop us.
You can probably hear my voice cracking or see my body trembling. I. Am. Terrified. This kind of rebellion against white supremacy has been ingrained into my subconscious since a child as something I should fear and never attempt. That to do so is to put my body and my life on the line. But this is not about fearlessness. This is about faithfulness.
So I thank you. I thank you for standing with me and marching to the shores with me as we wade into the water of systemic racism. So c’mon and let’s see if G-d won’t trouble those waters for us again. Before we go I’d like to say a prayer if I could, it’ll bring me some comfort and I hope for you as well.
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kiddishanu bomitzvo tav vitzivanu al sh’mirat ha nafesh al sh’mriat haguf.
Blessed art Thou oh Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by Thy commandments regarding protection of the soul and protection of the body.
*Photo courtesy of JCUA.