From 1933-1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hosted Fireside Chats, a series of radio addresses to the nation during such tumultuous times as the Great Depression and World War II. He said he liked to envision his audience as a few people gathered around his fireside, among whom he created connection, self-assurance, and hope.
The year is 2019. We have our own challenges - and opportunities. We must ensure that voices of leadership, strength, and positivity are heard. Join us at the Firehouse (FED House is a former firehouse converted to loft apartments) for Firehouse Chats, a new podcast series!
Firehouse Chat #1: Tu B'Shvat x MLK Day
We marked the special convergence this year of the holidays of Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, and MLK Day, where we celebrate the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Rather than treating this as a coincidence, we took the opportunity to gather communal leaders to explore issues of dual identities, pursuing racial and environmental justice, and other topics and passions relevant to our neighborhood of Harlem and the wider world.
A podcast moderated by Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein featuring April Baskin, Erica Frankel, Marques Hollie, Elad Nehorai, and Ruben Shimonov, hosted at FED as the inaugural Firehouse Chat.
Firehouse Chat #2: Shavuot x Pride
June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the traditional inciting incident of the Gay Rights Movement in the United States and later around the world. Since then, this event has been commemorated at the end of June, beginning with the Queer Liberation Marches and expanding into what is now a month-long festival in more than 200 cities worldwide. In New York, the already-legendary Pride festivities are on overdrive, showering the city in rainbows from the lights on the Empire State Building to business-window stickers and a month-long event calendar.
But we are also reminded as we celebrate this anniversary that the Queer Liberation Movement was born of a place of violence, of resistance. At the time, mere gender-bending was illegal, not to mention outright queerness. The riots were a population of systematically persecuted community making themselves visible, making themselves heard, and proclaiming that enough was enough. It was only through this violence that the control of the system could hope to be broken.
During this time, we also celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, wherein we read from the book of Ruth. Ruth says to Naomi "Whither you go, I will go...your people will be my people." To discuss the history of Pride through the years and how it has changed from a protestation of a group of "others" to a fully-visible and worldwide event, FED sat down with four queer folks who represent a range of perspectives and backgrounds: poet N. O. Moore, teacher Michael Schwarz, queer community leader Ruben Shimonov, and composer Kevin Joest. These talks are deeply personal, and delve into the identities and histories of each individual, what it means to be queer, Jewish, and/or both, and even the ever-changing identity of Pride itself. Through it all, though, as Ruth reminds us, we are all each other's people, and no matter how much we might differ, there is much more that binds us than divides us.