UM-Flint "Community Read" to Foster Discussions on Race

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UM-Flint's Common Read 2016-17 book "Between the World and Me"
UM-Flint's Common Read 2016-17 book "Between the World and Me"

Collaborating with several Flint organizations, the University of Michigan-Flint kicks off a year-long Community Read this Saturday, October 8 at the Flint Public Library, broadening the reach of UM-Flint's Common Read of Ta-Nehisi Coates' book Between the World and Me.

The Community Read events are scheduled monthly through May 2017 (see schedule below) and share the purpose of the Common Read by offering a series of facilitated discussions to bring interested individuals together to read the book and then share opinions and experiences related to the challenging topics it presents. Between the World and Me won the 2015 National Book Award for Non-Fiction.

The Community Read facilitators will guide participants to boldly examine issues of race and racism from their own vantage points and to reflect on passages emotionally described by Coates within the book, which the author writes in letter form to his teenage son.

Participants can discuss underlying issues of current race-related incidents that have been occurring around the country, while contributing personal experiences and beliefs about racism evident in their own lives, families, and neighborhoods.

Along with collaborative local organizations, the UM-Flint Social Work Department, the UM-Flint Department of Communication Studies, University Outreach, the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching, and the Black Student Union, all hope to see a diverse group of residents attend these public discussions about the book's central themes of race and racism, engaging in conversations that pry deeply into the heart of race topics that ultimately affect everyone.

Offering A Safe Place for Honest Talks about Race

The Community Read provides a safe place for people to express differing opinions, to better understand the diverse experiences of others, and to develop new personal relationships that bridge racial and cultural differences within the community. Those who have not read the book but are interested in joining in the discussion are also welcome to attend.

"I'm hoping people will come to a Community Read whether they agree with the book or not," said Todd Womack, UM-Flint Social Work advisor and instructor. "If you value community and you value relationships, you will benefit from being there. This is not a rhetorical conversation where we talk to vent. We want to use it to enhance our community and get to know each other."

Each monthly session will tackle a different section of the book as members of the community progress through the book together.

"We can create a legacy of hate or one of love," said Womack who has three sons and is concerned for their future. "You can't test what you believe by just holding onto it."

Otrude Moyo, associate professor and chair of the Social Work Department, said the Community Read can positively impact the future of Flint neighborhoods. "When you are faced with a hard issue, you are able to pull people together because you are learning together. It makes sense to continue to cultivate community before you're faced with a crisis because you are able to address issues in a better way."

The UM-Flint School of Education and Human Services will host a Twitter chat 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. October 8 and in future sessions. Connect with SEHS @umflintsehs #communityread.

Other Community Read Dates:

  • November 10, 5-7pm, Flint Central Church of the Nazarene, Pages 21-40
  • December 10, 11am-1pm, Neff Center, Beecher Middle School, Pages 41-60
  • January 12, 5-7pm, Flint Public Library, Pages 61-80
  • January 13, 11am-1pm, UM-Flint
    Guest: Akil Houston for presentation and discussion
  • February 11, 11am-1pm, Flint Central Church of the Nazarene, Pages 81-100
  • March 9, 5-7pm, Neff Center, Beecher Middle School, Pages 101-120
  • April 8, 11am-1pm, Flint Local 432, Pages 121-140
  • May 11, 4-8pm, Memorial Park Celebration! Pages 141-152

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