This June, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our GVP DEI Book Club. The book club was born during the pandemic in equal measures as a way to stay connected, and as part of our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Over the past year, the book club has grown into a beautiful community committed to practicing one of GVP’s core values, lifelong learning. Our wide variety of books, pictured above, served as inspiration for thoughtful, honest, and challenging conversations– expanding our awareness in our identity of ourselves, our community, and our school. It has also provided space to break down barriers between stakeholder groups, becoming a place of community building, vulnerability, and openness.
Last May, in our end-of-year reflection conversation, one member said, “Big thank you to GVP for having changed my life in the last two years.” Another added, “I have a skyrocketing level of new awareness to people who are marginalized, and a new level of discomfort in myself and my country.” Through this journey, the book club has offered grounding space to explore these new ideas. As one member put it, “Some of these books have been really hard to read. It is nice to read them and know you have support in it. I know I have a safe place to feel and to share. We have created an amazing safe space so that we can read things that are emotional and challenging and still support each other.”
Reflecting on this past year, I have been asking myself, what have I learned? How have my convictions changed or become stronger? I’ve learned that my personal journey in DEI and my commitment to lifelong learning is anchored in reading, having conversations with people different from me, and gathering as many stories and perspectives as possible. I cannot rely on my own perspective alone, but I must challenge it, my assumptions, and my subconscious bias. I must ask myself, “what is being centered, and what is in the margins? Who is not in the room?” And as one of our book club members said, “The more I read the more I feel a need to do something. What can I do?”
The need to “do something” is a common theme in our book club conversations. It is hard to study issues of inequity and not feel a sense of conviction. I’m coming to terms, more and more, with my personal role in challenging oppressive systems and advocating for justice wherever possible. I have recently been inspired by The New Jim Crow Organizing Guide and its four roles in social change: helper, advocate, organizer, and rebel. This framework has allowed me to see the interconnectedness of all people working for social change, and has empowered me to see myself within many different facets of advocacy. It is my hope that in year two of our book club, we can continue our commitment to lifelong learning and also be a community that keeps each other accountable for our role in social change.
As always, the work is ongoing. We are taking the summer off to rest, reflect, and re-energize for book club in year two. Stay tuned through our GVP newsletter to get updates on next year’s inspiring, community-led conversations.