Silverman Statement on Reports Councilmember Trayon White Supported Chicago Event Headlined by Louis Farrakhan

D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) released the following statement on media reports that money from Councilmember Trayon White’s (D-Ward 8) constituent services fund went to a Chicago event headlined by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan:

Anti-Semitism and hate speech have no place in our city, and District leaders should not support in any way those who have a history of bigotry and prejudice. The Washington Post’s report that Councilmember Trayon White may have used his constituent services fund to support Saviours’ Day, a yearly gathering in Chicago which Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has repeatedly used as a platform to spew anti-Semitism and espouse dangerous, extremist conspiracies, is upsetting and improper. My understanding is that the Office of Campaign Finance is investigating this contribution, and I ask for the findings to be released as quickly as possible so the Council can take proper action.

At a gathering of the Council and Jewish leaders held several weeks ago, I urged my colleagues on the D.C. Council to confront the issue of Minister Farrakhan’s influence in our city. Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism is well-documented, and he has been labeled an extremist and anti-Semite by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has also been invited to speak in our city on a number of occasions. As I mentioned, it is a challenging issue because the Nation of Islam does needed anti-violence and economic empowerment work in communities like Ward 8, but it is undergirded by Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic rhetoric which in no way can be tolerated or condoned.

I am in a unique position as a Jewish, at-large councilmember. I represent the entire city, including all Ward 8 residents and all Jewish residents. Over the last month, since Councilmember White’s remarks on the Rothschilds and weather manipulation were initially reported, I have come to several realizations. There is a lack of understanding about Judaism and the history of anti-Semitism not only in Ward 8 but throughout our city. As well, the Jewish community needs to be more a part of the civic discussion we are having about inequity in our city that particularly impacts Black residents and work collectively toward solutions.

As I have said before, the Black and Jewish communities have a history of overcoming oppression and working together to combat racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry. Councilmember White and I have had difficult conversations about race, religion, and hatred these past few weeks, and it is clear that we need to have many more. Ever since Councilmember White, Attorney General Karl Racine, and I went to Passover Seder together, I have been talking to Jewish leaders and others about having more regular get-togethers in which we break bread and truly build relationships to make our city stronger. I am working to make these happen soon.