Before You Watch Our Latest Thursday Night Writes Video,
We Ask That You Read This Open Letter To Our Community
Jacob Krueger Studio stands with the protesters and the demand for racial justice in our society. We are devastated and outraged at the countless tragic murders including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony Dade, and the needless loss of innocent life that has plagued the Black community for generations. And we join with you in raising our voices. This systemic cycle of racism, violence and suffering must stop.
Like many people who consider ourselves allies of this cause, this has been a time of tremendous soul searching for me. And a time of wrestling with the question, “have I done enough?”
And the answer, quite frankly, is no.
That’s something that’s hard for me to accept about myself. I have always been an activist: in my writing, in my personal mission, in the mission of my school. I have devoted my life to listening to and helping people share their authentic voices.
But I have also been far too complacent in the face of the continuing wrongs the Black community has suffered. I have felt outrage without taking action. In screenwriting terms, I have too often been a passive main character.
I was raised Jewish, and though my religious beliefs have changed, there’s a tradition in Judaism that I feel is particularly appropriate right now. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Jewish community comes together to publicly confess to the wrongs they have done before God.
This series of 44 confessions, called the Al Chet, is powerful because it’s not just an individual confession. It’s also a shared, group confession, “for the wrongs we have done before You…”
The Al Chet helps us remember that we are not just individually responsible for our failings, but also collectively responsible, as a community, for the wrongs that happen among us.
The Al Chet helps us to recognize what so many voices are begging us to reflect on right now: that as much as we all want to see ourselves as part of the solution rather than part of the problem, there are certain failings that we are all, consciously or unconsciously, prone to committing.
It reminds us that even those of us who constantly strive towards righteousness still have a responsibility to look inside and examine how we have fallen short. As long as there is suffering, we all have a responsibility to do better.
Racism is like a weed in our garden. As any gardener knows, you can’t just cut those weeds out and be done with them, you have to constantly, vigilantly, actively remove them. As long as the roots are there, the weed will have a tendency to grow back, even if you can’t see them on the surface.
The Al Chet asks us to do the same thing. To look for the roots under the surface of our collective garden. And while, as good gardeners, we may have the urge to tell ourselves “those are somebody else’s roots,” no matter how good our intentions, unless we take the responsibility for actively searching out those roots in ourselves and in our society, the weeds will eventually destroy our garden.
The Al Chet does not make false promises to forever end our failings. Rather, it recognizes that the roots of our failings are habitual and omnipresent, and that we have a responsibility to constantly turn our eyes inwards, examine our failings, and take action to uproot them.
As storytellers, we have great power to shine a light in this darkness. We are the creators of the myths that shape our society. But writing the stories that will create a better world requires listening to the unheard voices, searching for the untold stories, and looking inside, not only at what’s beautiful about us, but also at how we’ve personally failed.
For the wrongs we have done before you, through action and inaction.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by turning a blind eye.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by forgetting that your pain is our pain.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by believing that change was impossible.
For the wrongs we have done before you, consciously and unconsciously.
For the wrongs we have done before you, through lack of empathy.
For the wrongs we have done before you, through our judgments and preconceptions.
For the wrongs we have done before you, in our institutions.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by thinking we’ve done enough.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by not recognizing our privilege.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by failing to listen.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by choosing comfort over activism.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by benefiting from the sins of our ancestors.
For the wrongs we have done before you, by waiting until now.
For all these wrongs, and many more, let us strive to atone, not just through words, but through action.
You can find a beautiful analysis of the Al Chet here.
And you can join us in taking action in these powerful ways.
We believe the pursuit of sustainable, lasting change begins by listening not only to the loudest voices, but also to the unheard ones. There are stories of pain and hope being shared right now, and we are listening. Over the next several months, we will be bringing together our staff and faculty in a series of meetings, where all voices will be heard. The goal is not a quick fix or a nice sound bite, but rather to come together to determine a lasting plan to create, fund and support ongoing anti-racism initiatives that fit with the mission of our school and the ideals of our community.
As writers, we all benefit from listening to diverse voices. So as a first step, we will use the power of our social media to share and promote the work of Black filmmakers, screenwriters, novelists, memoirists, playwrights and poets whose work we feel our community should know. Got a suggestion? Email us at [email protected] and let us know.
Join us in making a donation to the NAACP or another organization you believe in. Wondering how to best direct your money? New York magazine has compiled a great list of Black Lives Matter charities. Short on funds? Donate your time, your resources, your expertise.
“Let’s stop thinking that our votes don’t matter and vote. Not just vote for the president but for the preliminaries, vote for everybody. Educate yourself. Don’t wait for somebody else to tell you who’s who. Educate yourself and know who you are voting for. And that’s how we’re going to hit them.” —Terrence Floyd, brother of George Floyd
Registering to vote or helping others to register only takes two minutes. You can do so right here.
We are not just storytellers, we are the shapers of our culture. But changing a culture begins by looking inside, and asking the hard questions, even when it hurts. In last night’s Quarantinis event we did so together as a community, with a powerful writing exercise through which we first looked honestly at our own failings, and then navigated toward a better future. If you missed it, you can watch it below.
With love and appreciation,