The Revolution Will Be Open Questions and Listening…Live

by Rebecca S’manga Frank, 2021 LABA Fellow

Thank you Gil Scott Heron (not me) for the reminder that whatever the revolution is, it does not happen in a virtual world from home. That means that revolutionary change would appear to be hamstrung by the Covid-19 pandemic, but not necessarily so. There are at least two things we can do from home that are “Live,” that is: ask questions we don’t know the answers to, and listen. 

So, what are “open” questions? Was that one? Am I doing it right now? If the answer is “yes” or “no” the question doesn’t seem very open…

I’ve been learning about asking questions, (which has always been a part of my Jewish identity growing up, expressed in hebrew school, home, and in the “4 questions” at Passover). 

I’ve been in training with a group that teaches people how to better deal with conflict. I expected we’d be rehearsing how to de-escalate heated situations with the police (the group promotes public safety within communities without calling the cops). I was surprised to find we practiced asking questions for 2 hours, questions which did not anticipate or demand an answer. Questions which were not leading to reveal something about ME the asker, but rather invited a response for the recipient of the question. The practice was listening to wherever the person wanted or needed to go. 

This brings me to Jan 6th. I saw a white woman escorted down the capitol steps by a police officer during the insurrection and alI could think about was my Black fam. My Black, male fam. What I did in response was ask some of the Black men in my life three questions and listen to whatever came back. 

I wanted to make simple art of life today (also capture a tiny slice of history). I found the whole thing hinged on me not making it about what I was feeling or experiencing. 

This became “3 Questions,”  which for me is about Black people not being a monolith, masculinity, exodus, America, fatherhood, also the insurrection. But it’s an invitation to listen unselfishly, and away from the oppressiveness of expectation from a white gaze or any other gaze.

A fourth question I have for this time, (and I believe it is an open one): 

What is Purim? 

Like, really, what is it? It seems a bit all over the place. Admittedly it’s a Jewish holiday I know very little about. I am learning about the destruction, the hypocrisy, the misogyny, and the “evil” (depending on who has the power).  

I’m interested in how some of the themes of Purim overlap with the events on Jan 6th and what my Black Fam would think about it. We’re screening “3 Questions” and having a short discussion with some people from the film, join us Live for the listening. 

Register HERE

image: “Witching Hour” by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye