April 2, 2012
BAJI Book Club
Last Thursday the BAJI Book Club met for the second time at "The Fat Lady" in Jack London square. Over drinks, books and kindles we discussed Part Two of "The Warmth of Other Suns". Exodus. Topics of discussion included being a "Nerd of Color", "Mississippi Masala", What is means to be an ally, Travyon Martin, privilege and parallel struggles.
The beauty of the book, and its portrayal of African American migration, is its ability to draw upon shared experiences of people of color across the world. The Book Club, so far, has been a mixed bag, nationally, racially and ethnically speaking. But this novel has been able to touch everyone, personally.
Conversation started on Trayvon Martin, Florida and it's unqiuely harsh history/legacy of oppression of African Americans. "Lake County and the rest of Florida were far from the lights of Miami and the palm-tree version of paradise that tourists came for. This was the Florida that had eneterd the Union as a slave state, where a Florida slaveholder could report without apology, in 1839, that he worked his slaves "in a hurrying time till 11 or 12 o'clock at night, and have them up by four in the morning." Florida went farther that some other slave state in the creativety of its repression: Slaves could not gather together to pray. They couldn't leave their plantations, even for a walk, without permission from their owner. If they were accused of wrongdoing, "their hands were burned with a heated iron, their ears nailed to posts," or their backs stripped raw with seventy-five lashed from a buckshin whip"pg 58.
This story brought back to memory, Harry Moore, a Florida organizer murdered in Florida. To learn more listen to Sweet Honey and the Rock: The Ballad of Harry T Moore,
This book also made us question, what it means to be an "ally" and how to address "privilege". And films like Soul Man, White Man's Burden, Guess Who, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Mississippi Masala, as well as the book Black Like Me, popped into the discussion. Check these out!
What ultimately comes out of our book discussions and is BAJI's mission, is the shared struggle of African Americans and immigrants of color. This no more evident than when Isabel Wilkerson discusses the impact of African Americans leaving the South has on the plantation economy. "...planters awoke to empty fields". As one newspaper put it, "If you thought you might be lynched by mistake, would you remain in South Carolina?" This is no different than what is happening right now in the South! http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/10/alabama_lawmakers_getting_pres.html
The parallels are so easy to draw, once the information is shared!