'Black in Time' encourages a discourse on race

Miami Coalition Christians and Jews still seeks an inclusive community

Miami Times staff report | 5/22/2014, 9 a.m.

In 1935, the National Conference of Christians and Jews established a branch in Miami. NCCJ’s signature program became the Intergroup Youth Council, designed for students attending the racially segregated Booker T. Washington Junior-Senior and other Miami High schools. Under the laws of the time, people could get arrested for being in the same room as a person of another race.

Special arrangements were made for students to meet together during the school year for dinner followed by discussion. As they got to know each other, the students talked about what it would be like when they finished school and had to live together in a segregated Miami.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s one Thursday evening a month, the meetings were held at either the downtown YWCA or the University of Miami’s Kabuki Center.

Times have changed

Laws requiring the separation of Blacks and whites no longer exist. Although the local branch of the NCCJ is now known as the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews, its mission remains the same: to seek an inclusive community in which all people are treated with dignity and respect. The one monthly school program has grown to four: Student Voices, a leadership, prejudice-reduction and anti-bullying program; Diversity Action Team, a program that provides leadership tools for civic engagement; Metro Town, a six-day residential summer camp for high school students; and Metro Town Institute, four eight-hour programs during the school year developed to help summer-camp graduates better understand the experiences of different demographic groups in Miami by visiting their neighborhoods and learning from their leaders.

MCCJ sponsors events

In addition to school programs MCCJ sponsors community events. Currently, in partnership with the Frost Museum of Science, MCCJ is presenting the exhibit “RACE: Are We So Different?” This award-winning national touring exhibition was developed nearly a decade ago by the American Anthropological Association with funding from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The intent is to help people understand what race is, what it is not, and to challenge many misconceptions.

According to the exhibit’s brochure, titled “The Story of Race,” “science played a key role in the construction of race with scientists attempting to classify humans into a taxonomic system on the basis of presumed biological and other differences. Linking race to biology led to a “race science” that attempted to legitimize race as biological fact and account for differences in peoples’ capabilities and their supposed superiority or inferiority.” The text also states, “In a country founded on ideals of freedom and justice for all, notions of race served to nationalize slavery, justify the near-elimination of Native Americans and their culture, and privilege people viewed as white.”

The national tour for the exhibition began in 2007 at the Science Museum of Minnesota and has been shown in nearly 30 museums throughout the country, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It continues at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh; the North Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.; History Colorado in Denver; Illinois Historical Holocaust Museum in Skokie; and will end at the Muhammed Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2015.