Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Act to Increase Diversity in Books

On my first Movement for Black Lives call (8/14 evening), I volunteered to organize an action of some sort in my local community on the one week anniversary of the protests by white supremacists in Charlottesville. The leaders reminded us that we need to focus a light on local symbols and institutions that support/celebrate white supremacy to show what side we are on…to show we support/need POC and other marginalized groups...to show white supremacy is not the world that we want.

I decided to focus on books. We need more diversity in books! Here are great resources that explain why, give us suggestions of what to do, how we can help, and reading suggestions:

3 Ways Readers Can Increase Diversity in Publishing

Diversity: What Can We Do About It? from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Children’s Book Council

We Need Diverse Books

Please comment below if you will do some action on your own on 8/19...and you can comment on what you will do/did. It can include contacting your town library's head librarian and asking her/him to buy more books by authors of color. It can include buying a book that centers on the experience of POC (People of Color). It can include reading a book to your child that centers on the experience of children of color. You get the idea. Do something new that you haven't tried yet. And then let us know about it. Okay?

I hope this helps us start/continue a trend that will continue every day we use and think about books.

Here is my list of favorite books for adult readers who want to learn more about racial justice:

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

• The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist

• The New Jim Crow (Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness) by Michelle Alexander

• The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

• The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

• Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

• Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Letter I Wrote to My Family Sharing My Thoughts about Saturday

Last weekend, I was out-of-town spending time with 13 family members...while some heavy stuff was happening in another state. We had the TV on, so we saw what was happening, but we went about our normal activities without much discussion of the scary events on the news, including a violent death of an innocent woman and injury of many more. Two days later, I wrote a letter to my family trying to explain my feelings. Maybe you had similar experiences/feelings...maybe my sharing will help you share with your family/friends. (I removed names for the privacy of my family members.)
Dear family,

While driving home yesterday, I started to process feelings I didn’t process on Saturday during the protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville. I want to share some thoughts with you.

As most of you know, I am an active anti-racist. I am daily talking with folks, thinking, planning, reading, listening, learning, and organizing meetings that happen at least once a week. You’d think I would know how to deal with the events on Saturday. But I didn’t. I shut down, compartmentalized, participated in silence, avoided…so now I feel regret and shame that I didn’t say more.

I didn’t even hear any talk on the news, or from you all, about the upcoming white supremacists coming to Boston on Saturday to protest there. I didn’t know this was happening until I heard from my co-facilitators on my way home. P___ told me then, that it was being talked about while we were together. How I didn’t hear that, I can’t explain. I just think I shut down.

I am trying to understand why I shut down.

One thing I can think of, is that I was trying to take a vacation away from the work I do (work also being done by many others, including M___ and N___). This is something white folks can do (take a vacation away). I feel ashamed that I could do that, and did that.

Another thing I can think of, is that I was compartmentalizing…as a family, we like to play games while together…I (and others of you apparently) didn’t want to lose out on that time…so we kept playing while all the events were going on (seen on the TV). I know I felt stress but couldn't process that, or say that even. I wish I could have been aware enough to say: “let’s stop and talk about this.”

Instead, I didn’t, and no else did either. Yes, I know we talked here and there, but not with a lot of depth. I think that is a part of white silence…not wanting to make things uncomfortable…and why should we ruin our vacation/fun time with something that doesn’t relate to us? But it does!

Another thing I can think of, was the elephant in the room: opposing-political-views-that-we-shouldn’t-talk-about-so-the-minority-in-our-family-who-voted-for-Trump-won’t-feel-attacked-or-ganged-up-on. We love all of our family members and don’t want anyone to feel attached or ganged-up on. So we were silent. But I can’t be silent now. Trump said terribly racist things while running for his presidency. Because he won anyway, these empower white supremacists to protest now. But I can’t believe that my family members who voted for Trump are white supremacists. So why couldn’t we talk together more freely? We avoidedat least I avoided.

Anyway, I am going to go as a counter-protester to the upcoming white-supremacist protest coming to Boston on Saturday. I am organizing/inviting others to join me. I am changing three upcoming meetings because of the Charlottesville protest. If my co-facilitator in Maynard agrees, we will discuss this speech so folks can get one perspective on why the Lee statue is an issue: Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments.

I got an email from Shaun King today. He led the Injustice Boycott that I was a part of this year. Below is some of what he said:

Like thousands of you, I was following Charlottesville very closely. In almost real-time I saw the white supremacist deliberately drive his car, using it as a brutal weapon, directly into a diverse crowd of men and women who were literally just crossing the street. Soon we learned that one amazing woman, Heather Heyer, was killed in this attack.

I learned that Heather was “one of us” far more than I ever understood. Heather Heyer was actually a part of the Injustice Boycott and participated in our direct actions against police brutality and mass incarceration here in New York. The world is already small, but the world of activists and people willing to use their time and privilege to fight back against oppression is even smaller. Learning that Heather was a part of our tribe, and fought against injustice alongside us, made her loss all the more real for me.

I see Heather as a martyr in this modern day movement against injustice and oppression. I’ve said it many times, but if you ever wondered what it would be like to be alive in the Civil Rights Movement, you are living in that time right now! And if you ever wondered who you would be or what you would do in those circumstances, the best indication is what you did this weekend. If you watched and said nothing, if you normally watch and say nothing, if you only share an occasional Facebook post here and there, and that is the extent of your activism, then that is an indicator of who you’d be if you were alive in the 1960s. Because we are LIVING IN THAT TIME right here, right now.

We cannot allow Heather’s death to be in vain. She was a brave, generous, courageous soul and we would do well to mimic her life. I am convinced that this nation is far more unstable and problematic than most of us are willing to admit, but it appears things may grow worse before they get better. But I want you to hear this from me – they will get better because we will fight for them to get better. And we will win. I believe that with all of my heart.

(FYI: Injustice Boycott members helped play an essential role in Raise The Age in New York….helped play an essential role in New York announcing it is going to shut down Rikers Island…played an important role in Seattle announcing it would divest from Wells Fargo…together, have raised millions of dollars for causes and families and victims to give them all the support they need.)

I am taking the time to share these thoughts with you, my family, because if I can’t be truthful with you, I am a hypocrite. I hope we can share our feelings openly with courage in the future, and put aside game playing.

Love and hugs.