When the world once again erupted in response to the death of George Floyde this past spring, books related to antiracism topped the charts for book sales. Feeling like I had to do something and connect with others, I reached out to my principal about forming a summer book club. She was supportive, so we recruited a few leaders and put an invitation out into the world.
We invited our staff to read This Book is Antiracist by Tiffany Jewell. We selected meeting dates, planning dates, and created slides to guide our virtual meetings. As I logged into our very first meeting, back in July, I was anxious to see if anyone else would join. If people came, how would the conversation go?
We had 14 people attend our first meeting and I don’t think I stopped smiling for the entire forty five minutes we met. I felt so proud of our community for showing up, for what I knew would be uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations. That night, we all shared why we had come to the meeting, most people agreeing that they wanted to be part of making a change.
As our summer book club meets went on throughout the summer, our group got smaller, but the conversations remained meaningful.
During our final meeting last week, four of us met to discuss the section of the book called Choosing My Path: Taking Action and Responding to Racism. In this section, Tiffany Jewell, shares an analogy relating to the work of justice. “Imagine we’re all traveling along on the same lake. We start at the same place and the end goal (of justice and liberation) is the same, but we have different means and paces to get to where we need to be.” She goes on to name that some people are speeding along on a speedboat, “making waves.” Others, are on a canoe, “paddling along at a steady pace.” Some people are swimming, “greatly affected by everything and everyone around them.”
We invited the book club to reflect on where they were in the lake.
As we contemplated this, my friend Jess read this section from the text:
“This is not your work alone. It can’t be. Working in solidarity with others is an incredible way to take action and build collective power for change.”
I reflected, that in our first meeting, most people shared that they had come to the meeting, because they wanted to be part of making change- although, most admitted that they often worried about saying the “wrong things” when it came to conversations related to race. This is still a worry I have, but I now know that my silence is part of the problem. I’m feeling braver being uncomfortable, knowing I’m not alone in the lake.
Our summer book club has sparked a feeling of hope. I know that there is work to be done and most days, I’m not quite sure where to start. But I look at the world calling for change and knowing that there are people in my community also in the lake, fills me with a hope that together, we will continue to grow and begin to make change…together.