Nylah Burton is a journalist living in Denver, Colorado who writes primarily about race, ethnicity, religion, and how those all intersect. I first discovered Nylah when I read her article titled, “A Vital, Vulnerable Conversation With the Leaders of the Women’s March”. I was conflicted about the controversy surrounding the Women’s March, but Nylah changed my perspective on the topic as well as Judaism in general, and the white lens through which American Jews typically view their religion. In a sense, Nylah and her writings became my inspiration for this project.
Nylah grew up in Washington D.C, but moved around a lot because her father was in the military. Her mother was Christian and used the religion as a “weapon of control.” Her father who is Caribbean, has a Jewish background and ancestry, which Nylah became more and more interested in.
“It was something I always connected with but didn’t feel like it was something that necessarily belonged to me,” Nylah said.
As soon as she attended Howard University, everything changed for her. She took a class with a Jewish professor that also taught her grandmother.
“She was the first person that told me that it was ok to be Jewish. And that was something that was really powerful to me,” Nylah said. “She would encourage me to do things that I didn’t know I was allowed to do because of my skin color. She also encouraged me to start writing about Jewish issues and taking these classes, and learning Hebrew.”
Her time with this professor allowed Nylah to find her true self.
“And I think that for me because I grew up not really allowed to make my own identity, the breath of fresh air that I got was just very…that was the liberating thing for me.”
When I asked Nylah, how she thinks the Jewish community could change, she told me it starts with dismantling white supremacy and racism.
“Inclusivity is not equity and so saying we accept Jews of color is not the same thing as actually making Jews of color have an equal voice.”