By Anna Rubin
JCUA’s AVODAH Organizing Fellow
On January 27, JCUA traveled to Springfield with the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC) to protest the continuing budget impasse during Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address. The night before, my AVODAH bayit had a program called “Jews and the Civil Rights Movement.” We had the opportunity to speak with Marv Hoffman and Rosellen Brown, who moved to Mississippi near the end of Freedom Summer to teach at Tougaloo College, an Historically Black College founded in 1869. Their time there continues to inform their dedication to racial justice work today.
During the program, they posed a challenging question to us: Do you plan to be a revolutionary? Practically, becoming a revolutionary had not been part of my game plan (I’ve seen Les Mis too many times), but the budding idealist in me wanted to respond yes. After letting us sit with the question for a moment, Marv and Rosellen told us that despite working for years in Mississippi at the height of the civil rights movement, and despite participating in radical educational and literary circles up through today, they do not consider themselves revolutionaries, or even particularly radical. For them, being a revolutionary means blurring lines between your work life and your personal life, means putting your personal safety on the line consistently, means ignoring the potential harm to those around you for what you deem to be the common good. We shouldn’t all be revolutionaries, but we all have a role to play in the fight, and we must be thoughtful and intentional about what that role is. They encouraged us to critically consider how we are living out and acting on our values every day right now, and how we will choose to fight for justice, in our work this year and in our lives moving forward.
Their words bounced around in my head as we made the three and a half hour journey down to Springfield in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. This was my first trip to Springfield. I had spent the past two months recruiting and planning in preparation for this day, yet I really didn’t know what to expect. Would there be a lot of people? Would everything go as planned? Would it feel like “enough”? That last question had gained additional weight for me since the previous night’s program, especially considering that seven of my housemates decided to take a day off of work to join us on this journey. Would they feel as though their participation was valuable?