Hello, from the Book Club!
Welcome to the very first run of the UPlift Black Book Club! Every two months we will select a book of Black excellence to read as a community in an attempt to amplify and UPlift the Black Voice within Simcoe Muskoka. This month, we have chosen to read the Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. Each run, we will send out two ‘check-ins’ (this one you are reading is the first one ever!) and host one virtual group discussion near the end of the two month period. This is subject to change as we get into the groove and decide how best to meet the diverse, but likely specific, needs of our club.
Thank you so much for coming on this journey with us! We can’t wait to see where it takes us!
The winners of our membership contest, winning a free copy of the Black Kids, are:
Makena Beaver-Pitre and Christine Nugent!
Congratulations! We will reach out to you to get the books into your hands!
*If you are having difficulty participating because the cost of the book club is inaccessible and you are a BIPOC member of Simcoe Muskoka, or if you would like to sponsor a book for someone who would like to join but cost for whom is a barrier, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Reflections from an UPlift Black Member
Hey y’all! Welcome to the club! We are so glad you’re here, you look so pretty!!
Okay, so if you don’t know me, I am Chris. I am a white (like Irish and English and German and other stuff), Settler Canadian, non-binary person who goes by he and they pronouns, and I am the 2SLGBTQ+ Coordinator for UPlift Black. I am also helping to facilitate the book club. I have been asked to write a reflection on the Black Kids as I have read and experienced it so far. Here is my take: this book is excellence. It is introducing me to the Rodney King Riots in LA that happened the year after I was born in a way that relates it to our experience in 2020. Because the novel is written in the perspective of Ashley, we see the Rodney King Riots from a firsthand perspective.
One thing I would like to point out is that there are absolutely queer people who lived in LA in the 1990s. So why are we left out of this particular story? I know that it is not important to progress the story, but neither is Ashley’s relationship with her love interest. And perhaps Ashley would have been able to discover something about another identity if she were to have a friend who is part of the queer and trans community. Even if her sister were bisexual (although maybe she is, we shouldn’t discount her sexuality just because she is with a man right now).
Why We Chose This Book
It’s the reviews for us:
“Should be required reading in every classroom.” —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin
“A true love letter to Los Angeles.” —Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Little & Lion
“A brilliantly poetic take on one of the most defining moments in Black American history.” —Tiffany D. Jackson, author of Grown and Monday’s Not Coming
This is an important contemporary book to read. It’s also an important take on a significant event in Black American history. Obviously required reading. Also, we are reading this in solidarity with Black youth who see themselves reflected in this book. We are listening, and if you need to talk, please reach out. We are here for all the Black youth of Simcoe Muskoka.
1. How is Ashley’s life similar to your current situation? How is it different?
2. Do you identify with Ashley? How about any of her friends? Her sister?
3. How does Ashley’s perspective on the Rodney King riots change throughout the novel?
4. What makes Ashley’s perspective different from her sister’s?
5. In what ways does Ashley live a privileged life? In what ways does she notice that she does not have the same privileges as others in her friend group?
6. In what ways does Ashley notice her race in school?
7. In many ways this book is about maturing and growing. In what ways does Ashley change throughout the book?
8. Why does Ashley feel she has to work hard in school?
9. How do Ashley’s experiences as a Black womxn shape her experience throughout the book?
10. How does Ashley’s circle of friends influence her understanding of the world? How about her family?
Further Thoughts (14+)
Let’s learn a bit more about Rodney King, since the novel introduces you as Ashley finds out, and at the beginning of the book she is orbiting around the issue. The acquittal of the cops who beat King is not a central event to Ashley until the middle of the book, and by that time the acquittal has already happened. So what happened? Three years ago, NPR wrote an article for the 25th anniversary of the acquittal. Give it a read here to find out more about the case!
“Ain’t nothing changed but the year it is,”
– Joe Domanick
Did you know that from 2010-2017, gay men in Toronto’s gay village were going missing, most of them being immigrant men of colour. This was the deadliest serial killing in Toronto’s history. Throughout the decade, many queer and trans people in the gay village raised their voice and told the police that there was a problem. The problem was not being taken seriously, as queer and trans issues often arent when it comes to policing. This case hearkened back to times when the queer and trans community had to defend itself against violence and attack because the police wouldn’t. For more information, check out this article featured in the New Yorker here. As well, there is a podcast done by the CBC called Uncover that talks about this case in detail throughout season 3, listen here.
Heroes and Holidays (13+)
Do you know who Angela Davis is? Well, you should! Check out who she is and why you should care by watching this video!
Call to Action (13+)
Want to help further? Write an email or letter to your councillor, mayor, reeve, local representative, or any other government official you feel should hear your voice. Young voices are important to hear for governments, and often make a huge difference. Think you can’t make a difference? What about the work of Autumn Peltier, Mari Copeny, or Greta Thunberg? All young people making astounding contributions to social justice work.
You are not too young! Get out there! Use your voice!
PS: Another option – join UPlift Black as our Youth Coordinator!
If you are interested in learning more about police violence against Black and Indigenous People of Colour, check out the documentary 13th and docuseries/dramatization When They See Us. Another great title is They Hate U Give, as well as American Son. Finally, a podcast we suggest listening to was done by 99% Invisible about the connection between increased policing and police brutality and the invention and evolution of the car. Listen here.