Reverberations are still being felt after the owners of Feinstein’s/54 Below decided to cancel two September 11 Broadway Supports Black Lives Matter concerts after they had “become aware of a recent addition to the BLM platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions.”
Writer-performer Justin Sayre later invited participants from the concert to join him for his monthly Meeting* at Joe’s Pub September 18. The evening was dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, and all proceeds were donated to the cause.
The concert’s director, Tony Award-winning actress Tonya Pinkins, is among more than 50 theatre artists who signed a protest letter that was organized by the Artists and Cultural Workers Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, a non-profit which “opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression” and also seeks an “end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.”
“Opposition to Israeli government policies is not anti-semitism, and the conflation of those two things has terrible consequences,” Tony nominee Kathleen Chalfant said in a statement. “It impedes, perhaps fatally, the search for just and humane solutions in Israel/Palestine and is now interfering in the search for social justice here in America. We have a moral obligation to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian rights movement in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”
In addition to Chalfant and Pinkins, signees include Justin Vivian Bond, Wallace Shawn, Alice Walker, Naomi Wallace, Annie Baker and Sarah Ruhl.
The letter reads:
We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed and disappointed by Feinstein’s/54 Below’s decision to cancel a scheduled benefit concert for Black Lives Matter. This decision, ostensibly due to “a recent addition to the BLM platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions,” both undermines the visionary leadership of the Movement for Black Lives and contributes to the institutionalized silencing of advocates for Palestinian human rights.
The Movement for Black Lives policy platform–a collective effort of over 50 organizations which has since been endorsed by thousands of individuals—has been attacked as anti-Semitic. Along with a growing number of artists and activists, we categorically reject this inflammatory claim. We believe that solidarity with Palestinian struggles for human rights and criticism of Israeli state violence are in no way a defamation of Jewish people, but rather a vital expression of social justice values.
We reject attempts to discredit and divert resources from this historic movement under the false pretense of challenging anti-Semitism. We call on theater venues, artists, and supporters in New York City and beyond to proudly support the Movement for Black Lives and its inspiring solidarity with the Palestinian people.