The Fargesn Media Project seeks to preserve stories from Ferguson protests through legacy of Judaism
The Fargesn Media Project is a collaboration between Jewish and black activists who are looking to catalog the voices of those who participated in protests in Ferguson and throughout the St. Louis region, starting in August 2014. It was inspired by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum's Rosh Hashanah sermon, Ferguson/Fargesn. Fargesn is a Yiddish word meaning “forgotten” or “forgetting.”
“It is obviously a really eerie homonym to Ferguson and prophecy not to forget or that we could forget,” founder Sarah Barasch-Hagans said on “St. Louis on the Air.”
Combining an audio and video collection from participants in the Ferguson protests with in-person events to raise awareness, the group describes itself as “groundbreaking narrative innovation, seeking truth and honesty after events of civil unrest. We are telling these stories. We are challenging assumptions. We are documenting world-changing work.”
One of the in-person opportunities to view the films/audio work is Thursday night.
“We can’t forget Ferguson and we can’t forget the details of what happens,” Barasch-Hagans said. “It is really in the details and the stories of how everyday people react to justice and injustice that we learn about how to have a better present and future.”
KB Frazier, a participant and interviewee in the project, said that often, “people out there doing the work don’t have time to capture the work they are doing.” That’s where the help of filmmakers and allies come in.
“It’s helped me by giving a space, courageous spaces, so that we can dialogue about really tough, hard things,” Frazier said. “Racism is a hard thing to talk about but when we create a space that starts with a video or audio presentation of somebody who experienced something transformational, it humanizes the situation and allows people to dialogue.”
For Frazier, the experience has been linked to his Judaism. One of the films in the collection features his rewriting of the Haggadah, the retelling of Passover, as “Lo Dayenu,” which means “this is not enough.”
“All the things that have happened have not been enough to rectify systemic racism that has happened in our country,” Frazier said.
Barasch-Hagans said that Frazier’s Haggadah was one of the most intensely moving experiences of the project for her — she’s currently in rabbinical school studying to be a rabbi herself. It also emphasizes that the project applies to all kinds of “media” — writing, art, sound, film, and the like.
“It is an incredible display of riches,” said Barasch-Hagans. “That’s what compels me to keep going. I have people in my life who are creating new theology. The reviews on that Haggadah from mainstream Jewish sources, I would describe it as unsettled but very reverent. People were saying ‘this is disturbing but I need it.’”
"As a Jew, I think of Jacob wrestling with the angel," said Frazier. "That's where we are right now. We're wrestling with racism here. I hope this time we wrestle enough until we get the blessing and the blessing will be that it ends."
Not all film and audio recordings are entirely religious in nature, though. Each selection is 8-9 minutes. You can find it all on the Fargesn Media Project’s website.
Both Barasch-Hagans and Frazier said they’ve run into people feeling “Ferguson fatigue” — tiring of talk about the events. Barasch-Hagans said she found that troubling because she feels like the real story hasn’t been processed by most people.
“That’s the motivation for doing this differently,” she said. “They’re people who I don’t think would go to certain other events or would never go to a protest who have seen our films. …
“It’s a big reason why we have to figure out how to tell this story in a way that reaches people. I’m unwilling to say those people won’t be a part of the solution. If Ferguson is difficult for them to talk about, it’s probably because it’s not in a way that’s building on people’s strengths or empowering them to be a part of the future, if they’re just feeling really stuck in a difficult past. We have to continue to process that past in a way that builds to the future.”
Barasch-Hagans and Frazier hope that Judaism’s legacy of narrative storytelling will help people process into the future.
"It is one of the things we say as Jews when we think about the Holocaust, is'never forget.' We can't forget Ferguson."
“I realize that a lot of people want this to be over with,” said Frazier. “Institutional racism did not start with Ferguson. It just opened up the wound fresh. The point of this project and the point of all of my participation is to never forget. It is one of the things we say as Jews when we think about the Holocaust, is ‘never forget.’ We can’t forget Ferguson. We can’t forget what happened here. We can’t forget the spark of this new civil rights movement. We can’t forget this.”
What: Fargesn Media Project Film Screening and Panel
When: Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: John Burroughs School, 755 S Price Rd, St. Louis 63124
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