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Anti-Racism group bringing back a Community-wide book read in October

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Caste

The Cedar Valley Anti-Racism Coalition is back this year with another 'Cedar Valley Community-Wide Book Read,' which will begin in October.

Residents, businesses and organizations are encouraged to take part in this anti-racism initiative by reading a the book, Caste, by author, Isabel Wilkerson.

Two Coalition members, Dee Vandeventer and Gwenne Berry, talk about the effort on this week;s edition of The Steele Report. 

The Cedar Valley Anti-Racism Coalition will have its website up in just a few days, so check this link daily to see if it is in service: uni.edu/resources/common-read

For a second year, the entire Cedar Valley is invited to read the selected book, and then participate in several discussions of the book.

Last year, residents read the book, How to be an Anti-Racist, by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Currently the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston College, Kendi uses personal memoir and research to help white, black, indigenous and people of color navigate our American reality as we seek to become a more mutually understanding and just society.      

The community-wide effort will take place throughout the month of October.

Citizens throughout the Cedar Valley are encouraged to organize a group or multiple groups through their place of work, place of worship, school, neighborhood, civic involvement, book club, individually or with family members. Each group will appoint a facilitator who will receive online training and a host of resource material.

This effort provides our community, named just a year or two ago as the worst place for Black Americans to live, an active way to address with honesty and hopefulness the reality of racism. We will listen and learn from one another,” shared Rev. David Kivett, speaking on behalf of the committee organizing the event.

The community effort piggy-backs on the University of Northern Iowa (UNI)’s third annual Diversity Book Read. 

Books chosen over the last two years have reflected a specific form of diversity.

The UNI book read has ended with a campus visit by the book’s author who also delivers a public lecture. The committee hopes to bring Kendi virtually following the end of this year’s read. “I was able to participate in the first read back in 2017-18, and it was really something to celebrate based on the book and the message that the author brought to us,” says Funchess.

Last year’s Diversity Book Read came after an extremely difficult summer. “I remember watching television after the George Floyd murder in May, watching all the frustration and anger and fear in the streets, and saying to myself that had this man not been Black he would not have died that day,” says Gwenne Berry, UNI’s Chief Diversity Officer.  “People of all races contacted me, wanting to do something to foster greater peace and understanding in the Cedar Valley. We hope that the community joins together—whites and blacks, natives and immigrants, Christians, Muslims, Jews agnostics and atheists—on this journey to be an antiracist.”

Many groups participated last year, including area colleges and universities, the Cedar Valley Interfaith Council, Grow Cedar Valley, elected officials, and public schools. Members of the Cedar Valley Book Read Planning Team include: Gwenne Berry, Joy Briscoe, Rev. Thomas Flint, Rev. Abraham Funchess, Laura Hoy, Sharon Juon, Rev. Dave Kivett, Rev. Scott Kober, Dr. Gulsum Kucuksari, Rev. Mary Robinson, Rev. Carol Teare, Dee Vandeventer and Rev. Cathy Young.