Celebrating Black, Jewish Solidarity on Juneteenth


By Barrett Holman Leak

Last Friday evening I sat at a shabbat table filled with prayers, laughter, matzah ball soup, hummus, grape leaves, delicious baked chicken, and all sharing great stories. Nothing unusual for us in the Jewish community. But imagine that half the people around the table are African American and/or Jewish. This is the reality that is manifesting now in San Diego.

My entire life has been and is directed by an esoteric symbol founded in San Diego’s Balboa Park in 1925. Then, a set of Sabian symbols were created and one of them, 4 Virgo, was the one ascribed to the day I was born – “Black and white children playing happily together”. It was radical in 1925 and is radical now. My entire life has been in service to God on a mission of being a bridgebuilder between people and across culture. It led me to conceive of a Jewish non-profit called Playing Together Project, which makes space for Black~Jewish shabbat dinners and dialogue and gathering together in remembrance and celebration of our shared legacies. We have a history of solidarity.

In January 2023 as I was preparing to exhibit at the Cooper Family Foundation’s annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival in Memorial Park, I thought, “San Diego’s Jewish community needs to be here.” I set about to manifest that dream and did. People in my temple caught fire, paying for the tent and arranging themselves on the staffing roster. A few months later, in June 2023, we had a marvelous tent at the festival, celebrating Juneteenth, displaying photos of Black Jews like Lenny Kravitz, Gina Belafonte, Rabbi Everett Gendler, Karen Lewis, Lacey Schwartz Delgado, Rabbi Sandra Lawson, singers DojaCat and Drake, Yavilah McCoy and others. People stopped by to check out our civil rights information boards which detailed the collaboration between Jews and Blacks in forming the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League.

ADL San Diego regional director Fabienne Perlov as well as other ADL staffers and board members helped to greet people and hand out materials as people asked about the ADL’s antisemitism and general anti-hate education and teachings.

There were 5,000 attendees at the 60-year-old festival and so many came by to welcome us and talk about our shared legacies, our common bonds, and to learn. Over and over in my head I could hear “We are stronger together.” As an African American Jewish woman from a diverse family y background and my feet in both communities, I could barely contain my joy.

And so it is with expanded excitement that I am looking forward to the 2024 Juneteenth Freedom Festival where we will once again raise the tent. This year JCC La Jolla is partnering and it is my hope that other Jewish organizations will do the same. If you want to volunteer to staff the tent on Saturday June 15 (yes, a Saturday but as Rabbi Heschel would say, your legs will be praying; it’s a mitzvah), please email me at bholmanleak@gmail.com or text 619-251-5103

Barrett Holman Leak is an author, educator and the creator of Playing Together Project, a Jewish non-profit whose mission is to unite Black and/or Jewish San Diegans over a common love of film, food, music and art. She is a former TV/radio news anchor and reporter as well as the former director of a non-profit organization in Denmark where she worked with diplomats from Columbia, Poland, Denmark, People’s Republic of China, Mexico and more to create large-scale cultural events. When she’s not working she mothers Shalom, Shiloh and Shlomo.



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