Educators and local leaders in the Tri-Town and beyond are hosting the first of several planned “Community Reads” focused on social justice. Everyone is invited to participate. Kick-off is August 1 via a Facebook group with discussion questions unveiled weekly, followed by a moderated Zoom meeting on August 27, and an in-person event in September.
The inaugural “Read” will feature simultaneously How to be an Anti-Racist (Ibram Kendi)—for adults, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (Kendi and Jason Reynolds)—for young adults, recommended age 12 and up. The goal of The Read is to collaboratively learn about the ways that racism plays out in society at large, as well as in the towns where we live. In addition, the hope is that through listening and learning from People of Color about lived experiences of racism, all of us will take steps to create a more equitable society—so that people of all races will be able to fulfill their potential—for the benefit of society as a whole.
Community Read co-sponsors are: Mattapoisett Museum, Mattapoisett Free Public Library, the Tri-Town Against Racism group, YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts, the Elizabeth Taber Library, and The Joseph H. Plumb Memorial Library in Rochester.
The idea for the Community Read was born out of a desire to continue the conversation begun at local protests over the past several months in response to the murder of George Floyd and other victims of racial injustice. More than 500 Tri-Town residents marched at the June 5 protest, sending a clear message that the community is galvanized for change. The conversation has continued publicly via a Facebook group, Tri-Town Against Racism, that is now nearly 1,000 members strong.
Mattapoisett Museum Board President and archivist at Harvard Kyle DeCicco-Carey recognized the historical significance of the June 5 protest. He had the foresight to ask for donations of protest signs and flags, and plans to archive these at the Museum for posterity. DeCiccio-Carey said, “When the March in Mattapoisett… was announced, I thought it was a great opportunity to not only show my support, but to capture the history that is taking place in the community.” He adds that he would like to further the conversation about racial injustice by planning a future exhibit that will specifically feature the contributions of Black people to the town. He admits that, “…the history of Mattapoisett and the surrounding communities, as fascinating as it is, hasn’t been fully told. I think people are recognizing that [racial discrimination] is all of our problem and it is not going to be solved unless we all get involved.”
Newly elected Mattapoisett representative of the ORRHS School Committee Frances Kearns agrees with DeCiccio-Carey and is excited about the shift in direction toward intentionally changing the historical narrative. She would like the Community Read to “…open up a dialogue regarding the experiences of People of Color and systemic racism in this country. I am hoping that with this newfound understanding, a review of the curriculum in our schools can begin to ensure that the contribution of People of Color is accurately represented.” She adds that she doesn’t think we can change the curriculum to reflect a more equitable and true history without first understanding why history has always favored the dominant culture of white people.
Virtual Platform and Planned in-person Events
Interested participants are asked to borrow or purchase a copy of the book(s) and to join the new Facebook Group “Tri-Town and Beyond Community Read” on or before August 1. Updates and Discussion Questions will be posted here. The idea is to promote a community-wide “book-club” atmosphere that is respectful and thought-provoking. To that end, children ages 12 and up (or younger, at parents’ discretion) are encouraged to participate with friends and family.
On August 27 – the “halfway point” – Committee Members will host Zoom conversations to share questions, thoughts, and ideas that arise in response to The Read. ORCTV will televise the conversations.
The Community Read will culminate with an in-person panel discussion in September, venue to be determined. All participants are welcome and social distancing will be observed. ORCTV will televise this as well.
About the books:
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi was published last year, under critical acclaim. The book has revolutionary goals. It “…promises to become an essential book for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step of contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society” (website). In the introduction, Kendi says that becoming antiracist was an arduous journey that dismantled and rearranged everything he had been taught about race. The author envisions an “anti-racist world in all its imperfect beauty” that can be achieved when “we focus on power instead of people… in changing policy instead of groups of people…”
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You is the current “remix” of an earlier book called Stamped from the Beginning. It is the young adult companion to the ideas put forth in Kendi’s book How to be an Antiracist. Though it’s geared for teens and young adults, it entices readers of all ages with the dynamic writing style of Jason Reynolds. Stamped is a #1 New York Times bestseller that, according to Nic Stone the author of Dear Martin, discusses “The R-word: Racism… Dr. Kendi breaks it down, and Jason Reynolds makes it easy to understand.”
In addition to Mr. DeCiccio-Carey, Community Read Committee Members include: Darcy Lee—Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Mattapoisett Museum, Elizabeth Sherry—Director of The Elizabeth Taber Library in Marion, Frances Kearns—ORRHS School Committee member and Corporate Quality Manager, Philips Healthcare, Gail Roberts—Director of the Joseph H. Plumb Library, Jordan Pouliot-Latham—Director of Advocacy and Resource Development at the YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts, Dr. Sarah Thomas—Associate Professor at Bridgewater State University, Stacie Hess—Instructor at Bristol Community College, and Susan Pizzolato—Library Director of the Mattapoisett Free Public Library.
Read the books or download the audio versions and please join the Community Read in the month of August. For your convenience, the Tri-Town libraries have ordered extra hard copies of the books, as well as making available e-books. If you need financial assistance and would like to own a copy, please call or text Stacie Hess at 508-524-5773. For questions, please contact Stacie.CharbonneauHess@bristolcc.edu.