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Brenda Lawrence Strikes Out Against Hate with Spill the Honey

Former U.S. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence didn’t stop to rest on her laurels and bask in her accomplishments after leaving office to continue championing human rights causes. The only Black elected official representing Michigan in the U.S. Congress at the time spent more than three decades in public service and continues to serve Americans around the nation.

Since leaving public office Lawrence has partnered with the Spill the Honey organization, a national Black and Jewish Alliance dedicated to strengthening relationships through the arts and education to unite, rebuild and inspire empathy and action.

Recently Lawrence attended a special portrait induction ceremony at Morehouse College in which Dr. Clarence B. Jones former speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King was recognized for his work to bring awareness to the historic relationship between African American and Jewish communities and emphasize the importance of strengthening that connection in the continued fight for civil rights.

The occasion was especially significant in that Morehouse’s most revered graduate, Dr. Martin Luther King who worked closely with leaders of the Jewish faith to advance human rights causes and worked closely with Jewish community leaders who walked on the frontlines with the civil rights leader to protest the oppression and unfair treatment of citizens around the world.

On why she became involved with Spill the Honey …

When I was a little girl, it was during the Civil Rights Movement, my grandmother looked me in the eyes and she said, ‘Bren, you have spent the majority of your life forgiving people and educating people because [you know] prejudice and hate is a result of ignorance, At Spill the Honey we have launched an educational curriculum program because we know if we can get into the classrooms, onto these college campuses, where the message and the mission of hate is getting stronger every day, and we have to have something to counter with.

One of the things that we know is that during history Dr. King – and I don’t know if anyone can ever eradicate hate – but what he did was to confront it. So, good people have to say, ‘Wait a minute, what am I doing? You know, how am I hating a person for no reason other than what God created them to be?’

The challenge … is a real one, but [things] are not being taught. The Holocaust did happen, but there’s a narrative out there where they’re trying to not teach about it, to dismiss it and say it didn’t happen. So this generation growing up now is like ‘What are you talking about?’ Honestly, the way things are now, we have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited about it. I feel validated that we’re doing the right thing.

On the work of Spill the Honey … 

We literally were able to – at one of the most prestigious HBCUs in the country, Morehouse – acknowledge the Black- Jewish relationship, through the collaboration of the two working to address hatred in America, anti semitism and racism. At the same time we acknowledged Dr. Clarence B. Jones, who, was a confidant of Dr. King and his speechwriter. At 93 years old, he is still living in and doing everything he can to promote awareness of the responsibility that we have to have a deep he has made the cultural offensive against hate.

On the agenda …

[We’re] launching a pilot educational program in Palm Beach School District, which is one of the largest in the country. We’re going to start a website that you can go to and take a course, on the Black-Jewish relationship. And, in addition to that, we are convenors so we bring people together, in cities all over the country, L.A., Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, we’re all over the country just bringing people together. And I’m so impressed because there has not been a state that I’ve gone to where there wasn’t some small group of Blacks who are intentional about connecting and forming relationships and rekindling the historic relationship between Black people and Jewish people.

How to get engaged …

So one of the things that I strongly encourage people to do is this; in communities all over the country groups of 10 people or it could be 20 people can come together, sit down, break bread and talk and share with each other. Because, you know, it’s hard to hate someone that you know, right? Keying in on people in the Black church and the Jewish synagogue is a perfect starting point. We have many of both in Detroit, and on a [number of occasions] the Black church and the local synagogue actually hold worship services together and share meals at gatherings and barbecues. Those are small steps, but as you know, if everyone is taking the small steps that becomes a giant leap.

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