Culture & Literature

The Antiracist Book Club, Notes from the 7/28 Town Hall

Aug 06, 2020

Blog

List the Author

Blog AuThors Avatar

Anna Ford

Blog AuThors Avatar

Anderson Smith

On Tuesday, July 28th, Bookclubz held its first-ever live event, a virtual town hall discussion for antiracist education book clubs with an esteemed writer on race and culture, Tre Johnson. Thank you to Tre for sharing his inspiration for the article and summarizing the reactions to it in such an eloquent and down to earth way. Thank you to all book club members that took part. Your honest, open, and illuminating questions led to a very engaging discussion. Key insights and takeaways are below. The dates for our ongoing meeting series are now set. Keep reading to learn more! 

 

A major topic of conversation was, how can we make a book club better? The phrase “Book clubs and….” emerged. Tre offered several ideas:

 

  • Joining an antiracist book club is similar to serving on a board; you have to give something and sacrifice a little. 
  • In the book club, do more than self reflect and discuss your thoughts on the book. Talk about how you will change your individual behaviors and take action at every meeting.
  • Advocate for change inside and outside of communal spaces like a book club. 
  • Don’t over-intellectualize the discussion. If things get too intellectualized, focus on emotional aspects of and lived experiences with racism. This can be done by pairing nonfiction choices with fiction; consider memoirs and books that include personal narratives in your reading choices. 
  • Examine the cultural competencies of your book club and identify gaps. Consider inviting an outside trained facilitator to your meetings or ask a club member with closer lived experiences to lead parts of the discussion.
  • If you’re leading a discussion, do your research. Consider the end goal of the book club discussion and work backward from there as you develop questions and bring in additional texts or materials. 
  • Practice empathy in how you share ideas and ask questions. Ask yourself, how will others receive my idea or question? 
  • Don’t get stuck on perfection. Perfection is not the goal; being uncomfortable is a core part of learning. 

 

We asked Tre, “what books have made an impact on your life?” He responded with his top three:

  • The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Native Son by Richard Wright 

 

To close out our notes from the inspiring town hall, here are reflections from our Chief Impact Officer, Anderson Smith: 

In the days leading up to our event, I read Tre’s article, “When Black People are in Pain, White People Just Join Book Clubs,” for what would be a fifth time.  I noticed words such as pain, confronting, Black, White, disproportionately killing us… etc. This made me think of just how layered words are and the varied history and meaning that it has for each person. As my eyes wandered around the screen, I settled on the 2,100 comments left on the original article. “It's a cultural observation, not a racial one”... “Un-clutch your pearls, plz”... and… “All lives don't matter until Black lives matter.” What better way to kick off a series of conversations around a topic as heavy as racism than by displaying what happens when people encode a reading with their understanding? This article, and our event, demonstrate the power of book clubs!

So, where do we go from here? Tre asked readers to “figure it out.” In the article, he gave clear guidance: Look around at the spaces where you have power and agency, and start by acting to dismantle racist structures and ideas there, and also, understand how your own voice and words can either add to or mitigate harm to Black folks.” As Tre said last Tuesday, “get out of your feelings, don’t be discouraged, be challenged at the idea of doing more than just having conversations.”

 

Announcing an ongoing series!

Starting in September, we will hold two events per month, one will be an open discussion for book clubs, and the other will be a panel discussion with expert speakers. See below for dates, descriptions, and how to register. 

 

The Antiracist Book Club

This monthly discussion series on the antiracist book club serves as an informal space where book clubs meet other book clubs, share ideas, learn, educate, activate, and dismantle systemic racism using books and community. The series will explore, in particular, what it means for people to practice antiracism beyond a book club experience. Join us for open discussion and Q&A with facilitators and book clubs from around the world, as we seek to harness the power of literature for a conscious and informed antiracist society.   

The Antiracist Book Club meets the second Tuesday of each month from 6 – 7 pm ET.

Upcoming meetings:

Tues., Sept. 8

Tues., Oct. 13

Tues., Nov 10

Tues., Dec. 8

 

Register Here! Registration is free. Registering for the series will allow you to attend any event. You can also register for individual events.

 

Advancing Antiracism Through Literature (Panel Discussion)

How can literature service antiracism? This monthly panel discussion/lecture series is an exploration of the use of literature to dismantle racist ideology and attempt to heal a troubled world. The series will explore, in particular, what it means for people to practice antiracism beyond a book club experience, to learn, educate, activate, and dismantle systemic racism. Join us for panel discussions and Q&A with authors, and literary experts from around the world, as we seek to harness the power of literature and book clubs for a conscious and informed antiracist society.   

Advancing Antiracism Through Literature series meets the fourth Tuesday of each month from 6 – 7 pm ET.

Upcoming meetings:

Tues., Sept. 22

Tues., Oct. 27

Tues., Nov 24

Tues., Dec. 22

 

Register Here! Registration is free. Registering for the series will allow you to attend any event. You can also register for individual events.

COMMENTS