By Erin Kane, Rachael Devlin and Micki Luckey
A few years ago, SURJ BA posted a list of Racial Justice Books for White People. Two lists, really — one fiction, one non-fiction. The books on these lists were chosen through a vote by the chapter membership.
Recently, a few of us were trading comments on books we have loved. Out of these conversations grew a desire to shine a light on more Black voices in honor of Black History Month.
SURJ Bay Area’s Policy Committee supports incredible partner organizations – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None, Essie Justice Group, Initiate Justice, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer’s Network, and the Drop LWOP Coalition – in their legislative advocacy campaigns, aimed at ending the prison industrial complex and building a world free of cages and with equitable working and living conditions for all.
Part 2 of 2: It’s time to speak out against Moms For Liberty
by Regie Stites
In August and September 2023, the Yolo County Library and schools in Davis, California received a half-dozen emailed bomb threats containing homophobic hate speech. These threats were inspired by a campaign by the local Moms For Liberty chapter aimed at banning books that center on LGBTQ+ characters and issues.
A crowd of people hold signs saying “Stop Banning Books,” “Our Students Deserve Better,” and “Teach the Truth” at a protest against book banning in Atlanta, GA, 12 February 2022. Photo by John Ramspott. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Book_Banning_Protest,_Atlanta,_GA_2-12-2022_P2120167_(51878411104).jpg
Part 1 of 2: It’s time to stand up against White Rage
by Regie Stites
On August 29, 2023, a public elementary school in my neighborhood in Oakland, California was closed for the day because of an emailed bomb threat. Incredibly, the threat of violence came about as a reaction to a weekend playdate at the school for children of color and their families, an effort by the school community to create a safe and welcoming space for all children.
SURJ Bay Area’s Policy Committee supports incredible partner organizations – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) / All of Us or None(AOUON), Essie Justice Group, Initiate Justice, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employer’s Network, and the DropLWOP Coalition – in their legislative advocacy campaigns, all aimed at ending the prison industrial complex and building a world free of cages and with equitable working and living conditions for all. As we enter the 2023 California legislative cycle, we’d like to share the bills (and visions!) our partners are focused on.
Please join us in taking action to support these incredible bills by joining our Legislative Action List here and/or joining our weekly Action Hours here!
As SURJ members who organize around racial justice, we knew there was a lot at stake in the 2022 midterm elections. We witnessed the gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts especially targeting Black, Indigenous, and Brown voters. We knew that reproductive justice, civil and human rights, and democracy itself were under attack. And we knew we had to act. That’s why dozens of SURJ Bay Area members got involved in initiatives in Georgia and Arizona. Even with the limitations that non-profit organizations have with respect to elections, we could still work to Get Out the Vote and protect election integrity. And even with some of us having misgivings about electoral politics in general, we knew we needed to engage in this critical moment.
by Micki Luckey
Showing Up for Racial Justice partners with organizations led by people of color, supporting their efforts and following their lead. What do our partners do and how do we show up for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color? How does accountability manifest in these relationships? This article is part of a series exploring these questions in depth for the fifteen community partners of Bay Area SURJ.
By Eve Higby
Many of us are looking at our stations in life — where we have privilege and where we lack it. Our society has various power structures that define those privileges: patriarchy, racism, capitalism, cisheteronormativity. As a white woman, I have some power in a group of mixed races due to the forces of white supremacy, but less power in a group of white men and women due to the forces of patriarchy. Within a group of white women, my class standing will play a role in how much power I have. The way that each of our identities is positioned within those structures and within certain social contexts form the basis of a critical self-analysis. This type of analysis helps us to think about our privileges and where they come from, considering race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, age, immigration status, and socioeconomic status.
What is critical family history?
A critical self-analysis is useful for understanding how we navigate society and experience certain privileges and are denied others. But our circumstances and even our identities are also a product of our ancestors and the circumstances that they went through. By completing a critical family history, you can start to understand your family history in the context of larger social relationships of power, such as racism, colonization, patriarchy, and social class. You may even discover how your own family members participated in, helped to construct, resisted, or simply experienced these forces.
Among the many great books that document the history of slavery in the United States, none made me see its present impact as did How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith. Subtitled A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, the book takes us to places in this country where we encounter present-day reminders of slavery, “places whose histories are inextricably tied to the story of human bondage.” Reading about what Smith saw and who he met brought up many feelings — distress, sadness and rage, along with an appreciation for all I was learning.
Smith presents new, often surprising information at every site he documents. To explore different aspects of the history of slavery in this country, Smith takes us to a cemetery, a monument, a prison and more. He talked with residents, guides, and scholars, who shared their personal experiences and remembrances. While the book title comes from the Getting the Word oral history project of the 1930s, it is through the voices in this book that the word continues to be passed.
Smith ends How the Word is Passed by sharing bits of his family story as well: “My grandfather’s grandfather was enslaved. … My grandparent’s voices are a museum I am still learning how to visit.” Smith has created his own kind of museum by sharing the stories in this book. Below I share some highlights, but I recommend you open this book and enter the museum yourself for the fascinating details you will find there.
As a W. Kamau Bell fangirl, I couldn’t wait to pre-order my copy of the new workbook he’s written with Kate Schatz, Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book. A few days later, I heard Heather McGhee interviewed about her new podcast, The Sum of Us. I found both to be useful, as well as inspiring, enlightening, and entertaining, for anyone interested in anti-racist work and wanted to share them with you.
Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book
It’s hard, doing the work.
And the new book, Do the Work!, by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz is full of hard stuff. It’s aimed at white people who want to be anti-racist.
But it’s also fun! It’s actually a workbook, so grab a pencil!
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