For my activist project this semester, I decided to establish a book club at my local library system that primarily focuses on literature pertaining to social change and feminism.
Libraries are a fantastic and essential community resource. They provide people with experiences that cannot necessarily be found elsewhere. Specifically, libraries are important fixtures in the organization and implementation of books clubs. They provide books (both physical and online copies) for free, making them economically accessible to community members. Moreover, they foster a safe environment for individuals to meet and discuss literature. Overall, they are unique and important institutions that facilitate services that are truly invaluable and educational.
At my local library system, I discovered that there were no book clubs currently existing that focused on issues related to social change and/or feminism. I was very surprised considering the scope of book clubs offered. I took this opportunity to engage in activism and found my very own book club that would focus on these topics in great detail.
Establishing a book club through a legitimate library system is certainly possible, but does require time and effort. For instance, in order to become a certified book club leader, one must partake in a lengthy series of classes which consists of numerous homework assignments that must be completed. This is to ensure that those individuals directing official book clubs with the library are prepared, legitimate, and serious about their objectives. Once I completed this process, the remaining planning period for my book club was very enjoyable and a lot of fun.
For my first text selection, I decided to choose Angela Y. Davis’ book titled Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016) in its entirety. I chose this book because it was a new publication by a well-known scholar. Moreover, the entire book is a reasonable length and approximately 158 pages long. The content of the book was very relevant to mission. For example, some of the chapter titles include: (1) Progressive Struggles against Insidious Capitalist Individualism; (2) Ferguson Reminds Us of the Importance of a Global Context; and (3) We Have to Talk about Systemic Change. The book ranges in topics from feminism, neoliberalism, and international studies, all while arguing for social change from an intersectional lens.
While the entire book is filled with significantly relevant selections, I decided in the end to only assign a few passages for my first official book club meeting. This is because I did not want the first meeting to be too broad or general. Rather, I wanted it to be focused and specific. I also did not want people to get discouraged by the amount of assigned reading, so I felt that it was in everyone’s best interest to start small and slowly move to longer texts over time.
One problem that I did run into was the fact that the library system only owned a limited number of copies of Davis’ book. Since one of my objectives was for people to have access to the text for free, I ended up copying the pages, uploading them to a PDF, and sending them out to those who signed up through email. The response was, overwhelmingly, positive. People thought it was a very efficient, easy was to disperse the text. Moreover, a lot of people enjoyed reading the passages on their tablet or smartphone. In the end, the problem was resolved with success.
My first book club meeting was on March 18, 2016 and, personally, I believe that it was a huge success. I had a total of thirteen people attend the meeting (not including myself) and their ages ranged from about 17 to 34. Everyone was very enthusiastic and participated in the discussion which was very gratifying. The discussions that we had were intricate and, at times, complex, but were carried out thoughtfully and respectfully.
In the end, I think the length of the texts worked well. People enjoyed both the content and length of the text which is important to note. Moreover, people enjoyed meeting at the library. It is a welcoming space that many found comfortable and inviting. In terms of what didn’t work, I would say that I would have allowed myself more planning time altogether. I would like to do even more in-depth research on each topic in the future so that I can come to the meetings and be even more prepared and informed. In the future, then, I would definitely re-read the texts a few more times to really grasp all of the nuances and subtleties that I may have missed before. In the future, I hope to assign Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists (2015).
In terms of my relationship with activism, I can definitely say that I learned how fun and impactful it can be. I learned that I am capable of leading a discussion on an important text as well as able to teach what I have learned about social change and feminism to others. The experience, overall, was very empowering. In general, I have learned that activism has many shapes and sizes. Moreover, activism is important no matter how big or how small one’s objective may be. Changing the world through activism is powerful. I learned that every bit of activism I can do really can make a difference.
My feature objective for this activism project was for the public to have the opportunity to learn about and discuss social change and feminism in an open, safe environment. In the end, I believe that I achieved my goal.