RFC News

On Monday, June 28th, 2021 at 7:30 PM EDT RFC Founder Robert Meeropol will deliver an online talk "Strange Fruit, the Inside Story," hosted by the World Fellowship Center. As the son of Abel Meeropol (wrote the music and lyrics to "Strange Fruit"), Robert will speak to the songs’ origin, history and current impact of the anti-lynching anthem. This event is free, online, and open to the public. Register on Eventbrite to receive login info.

 On the 68th anniversary of her grandparents’ execution, RFC Executive Director Jenn Meeropol shares her thoughts on another recent anniversary: April 5th marked exactly 70 years since Judge Kaufman imposed the death sentence. This recent milestone has her thinking about the more intangible consequences of the loss of her grandparents and so many others who resisted repression and are still resisting today. Read Jenn's thoughts here.

On June 29 at 7 PM Eastern, Odyssey Bookshop (South Hadley, MA) will host a live, online conversation and book-read event with Anne Sebba, author of a moving, new biography, Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy. Joining the conversation will be RFC Founder Robert Meeropol. New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba's new biography focuses on the life of Ethel Rosenberg, the wife and mother whose execution for espionage-related crimes defined the Cold War and horrified the world.

This online event is free and open to the public via Crowdcast. To register, please click here. More details about the online event, book, and author are available here at Odysseybks.com. Questions about joining an online event? Email events@odysseybks.com.

This Sunday, June 6 at 11AM Eastern, RFC Executive Director Jenn Meeropol will give a virtual, live talk, "Exonerating Ethel," hosted by the Community Church of Boston. She'll discuss the successes and lessons learned from the 2016 campaign to exonerate her grandmother, Ethel Rosenberg.

In 1951, at the height of the McCarthy era, Ethel was convicted of “conspiracy to commit espionage” alongside her husband Julius in a trial that would come to symbolize “Red Scare” hysteria and the U.S.’s willingness to commit injustices in the name of national security. As we mark the 70th anniversary of their conviction, Jenn will share what comes next for the exonerate campaign, including the exciting possibility of a relaunch effort in the months to come, and why it still matters today. This presentation is free and open to the public. 

Join us for "Exonerating Ethel" live at 11AM Eastern this Sunday, June 6 by clicking this Zoom link here or by clicking the Youtube Live Stream link here. No need to register in advance.

It’s springtime, and that means the RFC has concluded another successful granting period to benefit the children of targeted activists. While we're so glad to see vaccines becoming increasingly available and a slow return to pre-COVID norms across communities, many of our beneficiary families continue to deal with the impact from the crisis. With this in mind, the RFC Board has approved over $205,000 in grant funds this spring (among the largest amounts awarded in a cycle in our 31-year history). Our new Granting Coordinator, Tori Montemurro, wrote a guest blog with more highlights from the RFC’s 2021 spring granting period, including updates on new families, renewal families, activism, and some of our favorite grant activities for kids approved this cycle. You can find Tori’s blog here; we encourage you to give it a read.

As someone for whom fundraising is an important part of her job, one of the best and most mysterious occurrences RFC Executive Director Jenn Meeropol encounters is the seemingly out-of-the-blue donation. She always wishes she could ask the donor what motivated them to contribute at this particular time or amount; especially when there is no obvious trigger. The RFC received one of these donations recently from a new donor, Jonathan, and Jennifer had no way of knowing what inspired his gift. She emailed him a thank you and figured that would be the end of the story. Instead, she received a lovely reply from him describing his relationship to “Strange Fruit,” Abel Meeropol and his decision to donate to organizations supporting children impacted by racism and political oppression. Read all about it in a new blog.

On April 24th, RFC Founder Robert Meeropol & Advisory Board member Michael Meeropol were interviewed  on CBS's "This Morning: Saturday"  for a segment on #strangefruit which will include info about their father (& songwriter), Abel Meeropol. The segment is available to watch online here.

The next day, the New York Times ran an excellent piece about the history of the iconic song, available here. From the article: "in the 21st century, 'Strange Fruit' has lived on, sampled in the 2000 song 'What’s Really Going On,' in which the singer Dwayne Wiggins recounts an episode of racial profiling at the hands of the police in Oakland, Calif....And in 2021, as the nation continues to reckon with a series of killings of unarmed Black people by the police — often captured in gruesome footage of Black men being shot or, in the case of George Floyd, knelt on by white officers — 'Strange Fruit' has maintained its place in the national conversation about racism.'

RFC Founder Robert Meeropol's new op-ed for TIME draws critical parallels between the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol and lynch mobs in the American South: "The Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6th have been called seditious rioters, insurrectionists and domestic terrorists. I think of them as a lynch mob. Perhaps that’s because Abel Meeropol, who wrote the anti-lynching anthem “Strange Fruit,” was my father." Read the essay here

Six years ago RFC Founder Robert Meeropol's blog  “Strange Convergence” compared details of the life of his mother, Ethel Rosenberg, to that of Billie Holiday, the singer who made Abel Meeropol’s song, “Strange Fruit,” famous. Ethel and Billie appeared to be an unlikely couple. However, they were both born in poverty in 1915, had excellent singing voices, although Billie’s surpassed Ethel’s, and were precocious.  Ethel graduated high school at 15 and helped lead a victorious strike at 19, while Billie sang in Harlem clubs at 17, and was a successful recording artist by 20. And they both got in trouble with the law, which led to their untimely deaths. Finally, there’s the Abel Meeropol connection; Abel adopted Ethel’s children and wrote Billie’s most famous song. And now, a new convergence has emerged. Read all about it in Robert Meeropol's new blog