By Blair Downie
Sign up for the 2019 Summer Reading Series here!
There’s nothing quite like a middle school environment when PSSA testing has concluded and the weather is getting warmer. As the testing coordinator of my school, my brain is pretty much jello once we ship that final box back to the DRC. It was that jello brain that desperately needed a break as I was waiting for UPS, checking the PFT Facebook page, and I saw a post advertising WE’s Summer Book Clubs. The description of the Summer Book Clubs jumped out to me: “the Reading Series will be a place to deepen our relationships with each other; expand our political analysis, and inform our organizing and teaching in the upcoming year.” This sounded appealing, even to my post-PSSA jello brain. An opportunity to spend time over the summer talking about things that I cared deeply about with other people who cared deeply of those things - sign me up!
I signed up for the group that planned to discuss So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. I received an email shortly after letting me know how the book would be divided into three parts for three different meetings. I bought my copy and off I went to meet up with friends at the beach for a long weekend. While So You Want to Talk About Race may not be a traditional beach read, there I was dog-earring pages and scribbling notes in the sun. I was so excited to share my thoughts and notes at our first meeting.
As I drove down Lincoln Drive on the way to our first meeting at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, I had no idea what to expect. As somebody who struggles with being perpetually early to everything, I was, of course, one of the first people to arrive and had to walk around the building aimlessly, looking for a door. I was definitely nervous to be around a group of new people, but I’d soon learn that there was nothing to be nervous about. The first book club meeting far exceeded my expectations. Everybody was warm and welcoming and the facilitators framed the discussion with norms that made everybody a bit more comfortable. The discussions were rich, the snacks flowed freely, and two hours seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. I could never have fathomed at that moment that my first book club meeting would end up being a jumping-off point for me and so much of the work that would encompass the next year of my life. I felt like I had finally found a space that not only validated that caring about racial and social justice was vital to our role as educators but lifted up that passion in ways I could never have imagined.