The EDCJCC Celebrates Black History Month

By Edlavitch DCJCC February 1, 2024

The Edlavitch DCJCC celebrates the deep, rich, and ever-expanding contributions of Black and African Americans to American life during Black History Month and every month.

We celebrate Jews of Color and their families.

Join us if you or members of your family identify as Jews of Color. Our Jews of Color Affinity Group meets every other month to share and celebrate Jewish traditions and culture.

We celebrate Black creators in the performing arts.

The EDCJCC’s Theater J Expanding the Canon initiative has commissioned seven racially and ethnically diverse Jewish writers to create new full-length plays that thematically and visually center diverse Jewish narratives in order to correct and broaden the historically limited portrayals of Jewishness on stages in the United States and around the world.

Carolivia Herron (she/her) is a Jewish African American novelist, librettist, and educator who teaches Classics in the English Department of Howard University. Her published and produced works include Thereafter Johnnie (novel); Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson (opera libretto, music composed by Bruce Adolphe); Nappy HairAlways An Olivia (children’s books); and The Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimké (scholarship). Nappy Hair was the focus of an international racial controversy in 1998 and still remains banned in New York City. She has also held professorial appointments at Harvard University, Mount Holyoke College, Chico State University, and the College of William and Mary. The final multimedia volume of her three volume novel, Asenath and Our Song of Songs, will be published in autumn 2022. Volume 1, Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair, and Volume 2, PeaceSong DC, were published in 2014 and 2016. Carolivia’s Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory focused on the epic literary genre in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. She hosts a weekly radio show, Epic City on WOWD-LP Takoma Park. Epic City highlights books. Carolivia is an active member of Tifereth Israel Congregation of Washington, DC, a judge for the Jewish Book Council, and a contributor to Lilith magazine. She is featured in several documentaries in progress, including The Devil’s Half Acre (book by Kristen Green) as a descendant of Mary Ann Lumpkin, the enslaved woman who liberated the most notorious slave jail of the south.

Thaddeus McCants (he/him) is a Brooklyn-based Writer, Director, and Performer originally from Madison, Wisconsin. As a playwright, he is a current NYTW 2050 Fellow, Theater Masters Visionary Playwright, KCACTF National Finalist, Goldberg New Play Prize Finalist, and has been a Semi-Finalist for both the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference & American Blues Theatre Blue Ink Award. As a Television writer, he is currently a writer on the second season of HBOMax’s “JULIA”, is developing his own series with BET+, and is co-writing Audible Originals with both VICE Media and Author James Patterson. Thaddeus proudly holds his MFA from NYU and BFA from Ithaca College and as always… ‘Word to Mom Dukes, to the fam I owe everything!’

Zachariah Ezer (he/him) is a playwright whose work animates theoretical quandaries through dramaturgical forms. His plays include The Freedom Industry (The Playwrights Center, New York Stage & Film), Address the Body! (The Echo Theater Company), and An Unclear World (Hi-ARTS), among others. Selected awards include The University of Texas’ James A. Michener Fellowship, The Playwrights Center’s Core Apprenticeship, Hi-ARTS’ Critical Breaks Residency, Echo Theater Company’s National Young Playwrights Residency, Town Stages’ Sokoloff Arts Creative Fellowship, Best Play at The Woodside Players of Queens Summer Play Festival, BUFU’s EYEDREAM Residency, and Wesleyan University’s Olin Fellowship. His plays have been published by Concord Theatricals/Samuel French, Smith & Kraus, American Blues Theater, New World Theatre, some scripts literary magazine, and Fleas on the Dog. Zachariah is also a dramaturg (who has worked with The National Black Theatre, The Workshop Theater, and FoolsFury, among others), an essayist (published by Gizmodo/io9, HuffPost, and The University of Texas’ E3W, among others), and a performer in alternative rock band Harper’s Landing. MFA: The University of Texas at Austin (Class of 2023). BA: Wesleyan University.

Kendell Pinkney (he/him) is a Brooklyn based theatre-artist, producer, and rabbi. He works and creates art at the intersections of race, ethnicity, collective memory, religious identity, and sacred text. His collaborative theatre works have been presented or developed at venues such as 54 Below, Joe’s Pub, LABA @ the 14th St. Y, and Two River Theatre, to name a few. Most recently, he was featured in the acclaimed docuseries The New Jew with actor-comedian Guri Alfi and on Crooked Media’s Unholier than Thou podcast. Kendell is the founding Artistic Director of The Workshop ( / theworkshopartist), a New York based arts and culture fellowship for professional JOCISM (Jews of Color, Jewish-Indigenous, Sephardi, and Mizrahi) artists. / @kendellrpinkney

We celebrate our colleagues at the EDCJCC

What Ms. Lee does at the JCC: She is an art teacher and a learner. She creates inspiration for the students and they inspire her in return.

What Black History Month means to Lee: The meaning of Black History Month has evolved for Lee over the years as it has become more & more significant to her. As a child growing up in the south, the idea of Black History Month seemed small & somewhat limited to figures like MLK. Today, she sees Black History Month as an integral piece of her ancestry that grounds her & allows her to connect with others beyond the surface.

Impact on EDCJCC: Lee has impacted the JCC by way of her work with the Preschool. She introduced and successfully implemented a project based learning method that has since improved the performance of the student body. Because of her continuous hard work, others also have implemented this method of learning, which has led everyone to collaborate together.

Quote: “Knowing who you are takes time and accepting that you are human can make life a little bit easier.”

What Denitria does at the JCC: After School Care, Summer Camp Counselor, Swim Instructor, Fitness Center Front Desk Associate

What Black History Month means to Denitria: Black History Month is a reminder of the massive impact Black Americans have had on the infrastructure of this country. When she looks around and sees the buildings crafted by the hands of her ancestors, she’s filled with a sense of pride. Black History Month inspires her to do things she once thought were beyond her reach such as 3D art. Black History Month serves as her reminder that her capabilities are limitless. There is nothing she can’t do.

Impact on EDCJCC: Denitria has impacted both students and staff at the EDCJCC. Her contagious smile & warm spirit have encouraged many. She’s often greeted with letters and notes telling her that she’s been such a big help inside and outside of the pool. The life lessons she has taught the EDCJCC community resonates with them, and so does her art! She recently wrapped up an art exhibition in West Virginia and is currently showcasing some of her work here in the first floor lobby of the EDCJCC. You can check out and support her work here:

Quote: “Utilize your past for your present.”

What Ralph did at the JCC: Ralph was responsible for maintaining the EDCJCC building which included: fixing, painting, plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, drywall work, setting up for events, and much more.

What Black History Month means to Ralph: Black History Month has an endless amount of meaning for Ralph.  A lot of change that came about while he’s been alive and today is a result of those changes. It allows him to reflect our nation, particularly here in DC, where Black Americans were once enslaved and sold on the mall, to the Million Man March, which was held in that very same space. He remembers a time before there was a Black History Month and being a part of the movement that took Black History Month from an idea to a reality by way of marches, protests, and speeches.

Impact on EDCJCC: Ralph’s work has been impacted every person that has come through the EDCJCC doors during his time here. He kept the building running: maintained it, cleaned it, and cherished for over 30 years. He set up and broke down thousands of events over with no complaints. He spent countless hours making sure that needs of building were met, no matter how early or how late.  Ralph proved himself to be one of the most reliable sources of support the EDCJCC has ever had, and for that, we are forever grateful. 

Quote: “The more you know about yourself and your history, the freer you are”

We celebrate together.

Join us on Sunday, February 25, at 2:15 PM for a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We will focus our visit on the visual arts gallery, starting with a special talk to contextualize the contributions of Black and African American artists to American visual arts.