As I write today’s first blog post since July 2019, I feel very heavy. It’s now three months in the COVID-19 pandemic and now the murder of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of white police officer Derek Chauvin. There are a lot of feelings I’ve had over this past week once I heard the news: rage, disappointment, fear, sadness.
My primary feeling right now is determination, a certain focus and end goal to educate myself, organize my community, and educate myself plus others. I’ve always been the person to want to do something. From when I was a little black girl in the classroom, my teachers would be shocked at how much I wanted to not only learn, but educate others in the meantime.
When I was a little black girl, I didn’t fully understand race especially my own. I didn’t understand why I consistently got on the nerves of my white male teachers. I was always outspoken and considered “unruly” because I asked questions, demanded answers, and challenged others.
I remember consistently wanting to tell my classmates the right answer, showing them the right way, and being the girl who never shut the hell up (lol how much has changed?). But I never realized that my high intelligence was considered a threat until I was in high school.
High school was the first time I fully recognized my race and the added element of being a self-identifying woman. A black woman. I read the book Lies My Teacher Told Me and opened my eyes to what I didn’t learn about history, from the real story of Christopher Columbus and the uprise of the Ku Klux Klan. It was the first reading material for a class that showed me the reality: my race was considered a threat.
In my high school history class taught by my favorite teacher Mr. Brian Bouton, I learned how to argue in words and in person. He created “round table” discussions and online forums that challenged us to talk about topics, present our views, and argue intellectually with what was wrong. There, I felt more confident in my voice. I challenged my classmates, educated my peers, and argued my viewpoints, especially on race.
I was gifted the book Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou and my history teacher wrote a note inside it that always touches my heart. It reads, “A work by Maya Angelou seemed like an obvious choice since you remind me of a younger version of this incredible woman. She never let us forget that Malcom and Martin were also human, and you bring the same perspective to your history studies.”
I won’t finish the rest because it’s too dear to my heart. But I realize today that I’m still that same person. I bring a perspective of humanity to all that I do and want to continually educate, inspire, organize and drive others to action. Just like Maya Angelou did in her lifetime.
Now that we are done with my own really real story on race, which doesn’t really even scratch the surface of my experience, I would like to share resources. This 28 Really Real Resources on Race book list in Amazon includes books on racial injustice, race, inclusivity, organizing, and more.
I’ve personally read and enjoyed No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the Guilded Age and though I haven’t added it to the list, I’ve been informed on how to gather people to have intellectual, controversial conversations by the The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. If you gather people together and want to start having conversations on race, this book and So You Want to Talk About Race will be helpful.
I leave you with this: more needs to be done and it starts with you. If you have a voice, it matters and contributes. If you’re white and looking to become an ally, I invite you to start with White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism or White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White. While it isn’t my responsibility to teach or educate you, I want to give you this starting point because your reading of this is proof enough that you’re invested in being an ally and these books can share how you can do so.
If you’re my brother or sister and feeling heavy, know that I hear you and I’m with you. I’ve been emotional these past few weeks and now I’m in the mode of donating and reading even more. I’m currently adding The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History to my reading list. Join me if you’d like, or if you’ve read both, visit my Amazon book list for more.