At the start of the Exodus story, we read:
A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.
And he said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us.
Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.”
— Exodus 1:8-10, 1985 JPS translation (via Sefaria.org)
This is where the trouble starts, leading very quickly to an attempt to exterminate the People. (Joseph’s story, the longest in Genesis, begins in chapter 37.)
Rabbi David Silber writes
Pharaoh’s “not knowing” carries with it a sense of ingratitude, as Joseph was the savior of his nation; it also suggests callousness and a lack f sensitivity, and the Torah implies that it is not just an intellectual lapse but a moral deficiency.
— Go Forth and Learn: Passover Haggadah, p.56
Similarly, failures on the part of our wider society and nation to “know Joseph” in terms of Black history and culture leads to devaluing of Black life, with lethal consequences.
The related 2-page text from Rereading Exodus
David Silber. “Rereading the Plagues,” in Go Forth and Learn: A Passover Haggadah. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2011.
“Chocolate City” by George Clinton — video below; lyrics here.
Don’t Mute DC
Days after being named the Official Music of Washington, D.C., COVID forced the Go- Go industry, and the Black mom-and-pop businesses that support it, to essentially collapse. On March 19th, new “social distancing” rules led law enforcement to break up a “virtual” Go-Go concert by UCB because more than 10 band members performed before a livestreamed audience. Don’t Mute DC is organizing a day of art and advocacy on Friday, April 10th--the One Year Anniversary of the return of go-go music to the corner of 7th and Florida Avenue in Shaw. A series of virtual activities on their @MakeGoGoForever social media handles launch the phase of the movement, and support campaigns to make sure Washingtonians East of the River are counted in the U.S. Census in partnership with the United Planning Organization and the Anacostia Coordinating Council. 2 p.m. Fri., April 10th. ZOOM press conference/media briefing to discuss and answer questions about -- at this link www.facebook.com/MakeGoGoForeverDC 1) Findings of their new report “How to Make Go-Go ‘Official’ Post-COVID- 19” 2) Welcoming new coalition partners Crank the Vote and the 70K Strong campaign for the District’s returned citizens. Among the press conference participants: Go-Go Report editors Charles C. Stephenson Jr. and Dr. Suzanne Goodney Lea; activist Tony Lewis Jr., go-go artist and Make Go-Go Forever Task Force Co-Chair Michelle Blackwell, and Joe “JoJo” Houston Jr. of 70,000 Strong.
In addition to press conference, Friday’s day of advocacy includes Facebook Live and Instagram Live performances in the evening. For more, visit: DontMuteDC website
Joseph was a Returning Citizen
The biblical Joseph spent 13 years in prison based on fabricated charges. So, while on the topic of “Pharaoh Did Not Know Joseph,” let’s also consider the need to support incarcerated people and returning citizens.
In particular, DC needs a new, safe and compassionate re-entry facility. See 70K Strong Petition
During this desperate crisis for incarcerated people who cannot practice social distancing or even good hygiene, compassionate and urgent help is needed. Interfaith Action for Human Rights has long been working with and for prisoners, against isolation and other forms of torture. IAHR is active and current on these issues and has a number of useful resources. Learn more.
Since the 2010 US Census, the District has gained nearly 100,000 new residents, many of whom “don’t know Joseph.” That is, many don’t know or connect to DC’s history in general and, more specifically, to “Chocolate City.”
In what ways does this “not knowing” contribute to conflict? How does “not knowing” contribute to the devaluing of Black culture, Black history, and Black people?