Video Poem “Forgiveness” Confronts Pandemic Of Racism

Reboot will premiere filmmaker, poet and Blavity Inc. co-founder Aaron Samuels’ Forgiveness, a visual poem
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Photo: Reboot

For the Jewish New Year, Reboot will premiere filmmaker, poet and Blavity Inc. co-founder Aaron Samuels’ (above left) Forgiveness, a visual poem exploring the transitional spiritual space that Jews enter on Yom Kippur, during which they reckon with shortcomings and enter a period of repair and reconciliation.

The release on August 31 at 5 p.m. ET, will include a Reboot Ideas conversation with Samuels and Mahogany L. Browne, executive director of Just Media and Poet-in-Residence at Lincoln Center. They discuss how Forgiveness challenges all communities to do the work needed to confront the pandemic of racism, and how poetry can help to unite these communities towards justice. The materials are tied to the Jewish high holidays that begin on Sept. 6 with Rosh Hashanah and close Sept. 16 with Yom Kippur.

Forgiveness interrogates the Jewish community’s collective atonement journey, grappling with the pandemic of COVID-19 and the pandemic of racism, which were intertwined and hyper-present in the years 2020 and 2021. Samuels’ Forgiveness explores the transitional spiritual space that the Jewish people enter on Kol Nidre, during which they reckon with shortcomings and enter a period of repair and reconciliation.

“In the aftermath of the onset of COVID, I watched multiple viral videos of the murders of Black people. I watched people search for their own way to process the enormity of the collective indictment that we could no longer look away from – that the very structures that hold our society together are built upon a foundation of racism. Many of us asked, what can we do to repair the harmful systems that we have benefited from,” said Samuels, who has grappled with his Black and Jewish identity. “Forgiveness challenges the listener to confront the reality that we have more work to do to address the pandemic of racism within our world, and invites the listener to consider the possibility that the Jewish community and perhaps all communities have an active responsibility in that work.”

The film and conversation will be available online at Rebooting.com on Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. ET and will include a conversation and educational kit.

Reboot is an arts and culture non-profit that reimagines and reinforces Jewish thought and traditions. As a premier R&D platform for the Jewish world, we catalyze our Reboot Network of preeminent creators, artists, entrepreneurs and activists to produce experiences and products that evolve the Jewish conversation and transform society. These projects have engaged more than 4 million participants in the past five years and continue to inspire Jewish connections and meaning by encouraging participants to become creators in their Jewish experience.

Aaron Samuels is the author of Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps, released by Write Bloody Publishing. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Asylum Arts, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Samuels is a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective and ranked 3rd place at the Individual World Poetry Slam. He currently lives in Los Angeles where he serves as Co-Founder of Blavity Inc. Aaron Samuels is Black and Jewish.

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