“How to Be an Anti-Racist” Book Club at Da Vinci

Kailyn Alsobrook

In an effort to create a safe space for staff to discuss difficult topics and experience, Da Vinci Communications has opened its book club to all schools to discuss the book, How to Be an Anti Racist.

An email was sent out during the summer in order to invite Da Vinci staff to participate in the reading of Ibram X. Kendis’s “How to Be an Antiracist.” The book was suggested by Allegra Johnson, Director of Special Education. Reading a book over summer is a yearly practice that the teachers participate in, but this is the first time they are reading a book regarding race issues. It’s also the first year it is open to all Da Vinci staff, not just Communications. 

In the midst of police brutality protests and virtual learning Da Vinci is making an effort to connect with teachers and maintain a safe place for staff to learn about and discuss these important issues. 

These meetings will be taking place throughout the school year. The first meeting took place on September 23 and the last meeting is scheduled for June 10th or 11th, but these are subject to change. The club isn’t mandatory so every teacher or every part of the staff will not be attending, but it is recommended for staff to join and discuss the book. Johnson believes it’s an important club to be had.

“So one of the goals that we talked about for the book club, in general is that by giving teachers an opportunity to participate in conversations about race, that will put them in a better position to facilitate conversations with their students,” Johnson said

Johnson mentioned that she feels it’s important for teachers to have some experience with how these kinds of conversations are facilitated in order to have effective conversations with students in the event that another unarmed person of color is brutalized by police or any other racial topic that should ever come up.

Virtual school has put a strain on many other activities and clubs. One might assume that because the club is now also being held virtually it may be harder or less effective but Johnson feels different.

“In a strange way I feel like it probably is going to make it easier,” Johnson said. “When we were back on campus I felt like everyone was, kind of like isolated or just really focused on their individual campuses.”

Since this was the first time all Da Vinci campuses were incorporated in the club it’s a better way to connect with all staff. All three campuses usually do their own thing in regards to CD, spirit days, etc. But this is a dialogue that DVC staff feels should be shared with everyone.

Christopher Jackson, the 12th grade English teacher, has also read the book and will be facilitating some of the meetings. He feels this is a significant opportunity for everyone to reflect on their ideas. He commends those willing to take part in these difficult and at times uncomfortable conversations in order to evaluate their thoughts and question their ideologies.

“Well, I’ve always been interested in educating period, no matter what it is, and so I think the number one reason why I wanted to facilitate it is because I definitely want it to be a part of the dialogue where people get to a point where we see each other as humans,” he said.

The book discusses topics including the definition of racism and the fact that racism isn’t an absolutely recognizable trait in society. In many cases, racism is obfuscated by 

“You can be racist without being the person who’s like wearing a shirt with a confederate flag screaming obscenities all the time you know that like racism can be much more subtle,” DVC Counselor Artia Thomas said in regard to the book. “And he [the author] uses a lot of personal anecdotes and personal stories that I feel like just humanize it, but it’s a lot I mean like it’s a long book, and you’re someone who is just like starting to think about racism, it could be a little overwhelming and a little bit too much.” 

So maybe this book is a little overwhelming but discusses topics that will pertain to Da Vinci students. Especially DV’s students of color. 

It’s very important to remember this is just one step in the right direction. 

“ I do believe that Da Vinci is taking steps to even move further in the process of truly being an anti-racist school, I guess, or community,” said Jackson.

Both Jackson and Johnson hope to see more steps like this in order to strive to be a truly anti-racist school.

“I would say we’re doing more but I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that we’re doing enough,” Johnson added. “I think everybody needs to do more.”