From mid-July to mid-August, members of the community came together via Zoom meetings to discuss the new book, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
This young adult remix of Dr. Kendi’s “Stamped From the Beginning” looks at the history of racism in the United States, from its earliest forms to the present day. From the publisher, “this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”
Over 40 people ordered the book from the Parents Diversity Council (PDC ) in early summer and showed interest in talking about the book. Click this link to read about the process in an earlier Bedford Citizen story.
Lilly Younger, a PDC board member, said that hosting the book club “would show community support [and] highlight how the community is coming together behind the scenes to address racial issues.”
The discussions were facilitated by the PDC over three meetings. Each session included conversations about a portion of the book, and questions and talking points were taken from the publisher’s Book Club Guide and Educator’s Guide. The PDC board members planned each session collaboratively and emailed participants key concepts for that session, including a list of guiding questions, “to allow everyone to reflect and form thoughtful responses,” before each meeting, said PDC board member Erin E. Dorr.
The goal of the book club was for participants to explore their own understanding and experiences around the history of race, racism, and antiracism. At the start of each session, facilitators covered ground rules with the entire group of about two dozen.
As the discussions could be difficult, participants were encouraged to sit with their discomfort and share their thoughts, even if they were worried about how their comments and questions could be received. Discussion norms like these are becoming more commonly used and are often referred to as establishing a “brave space.” A brave space acknowledges and respects that all participants arrive with their own history, biases, and knowledge, but all are striving to learn and grow.
One such participant, Rob Ackerman, is the principal of Lane Elementary School in Bedford, who welcomed the opportunity to participate in these discussions with the larger school community. When asked for his overall impression of the book, Ackerman responded, “The book is well done. It certainly makes you think about your own education and knowledge of our country’s history.”
Many other participants echoed similar sentiments about how much of this history was never taught to them when they were in K-12 school, and they appreciated learning more through reading the book.
“Most people are not comfortable talking about race. The book discussions have enabled the participants to engage in dialogue that otherwise wouldn’t happen. For me, it’s nice to learn from parents,” Ackerman said. Participants were also asked to think about how their racial consciousness is being challenged or changed as a result of reading and discussing “Stamped”. Ackerman added, “The whole notion of being an anti-racist is my take away. As a white male, I have lots to learn about racism and how I can be an active anti-racist. There is no finish line…there is always more work to do to better myself.”
In the final session, participants were asked to consider these questions, “After finishing “Stamped”, how do you feel about the history of racism? What are the implications for you and the kind of thinking you might undertake, discussions you might have, and actions you might take up as you finish this book?” When asked if he discussed the book with a friend, family member, or colleague, Ackerman responded, “It’s become quite the popular book and one I mention to educators when they are asking for suggestions to help them learn more about race and racism.” Participants also talked about what they can do to strive to be an antiracist in their own lives and workplaces.
The Parents Diversity Council continues to work towards their goals of helping Bedford’s school community in their work around diversity, equity, and racial justice through support, education, and activism.
The group’s mission states “As members, we all have a strong commitment to the values of equity and racial diversity and an interest in having our children and family build bridges with children and families of other racial backgrounds and neighborhoods.” Readers are invited to visit PDC’ website, https://pdc-bedford.org/.
“As members, we all have a strong commitment to the values of equity and racial diversity and an interest in having our children and family build bridges with children and families of other racial backgrounds and neighborhoods.”