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Jay-Z: Made in America

September 2nd , 2021   |   7:00 - 8:00 PM 

*With Guest Speaker Michael Eric Dyson

By Michael Eric Dyson

This book wrestles with the biggest themes of Jay-Z's career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he’s always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth, and social injustice. As he enters his fifties, and to mark his thirty years as a recording artist, this is the perfect time to take a look at Jay-Z’s career and his role in making this nation what it is today.

In many ways, this is Jay-Z’s America as much as it’s Pelosi’s America, or Trump’s America, or Martin Luther King’s America. Jay-Z has given this country a language to think with and words to live by.

October 7th , 2021   |   7:00 - 8:00 PM 

*With Guest Speaker Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns:
The Epic Story of America's Great Migration 

By Isabel Wilkerson

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is already a timeless classic.

November 4th, 2021   |   7:00 - 8:00 PM

*With Guest Speaker Gregory S. Parks

A Pledge with Purpose:
Black Sororities and Fraternities and the Fight for Equality

By Gregory S. Parks and Matthew W. Hughey

In 1905, Henry Arthur Callis began his studies at Cornell University. Despite their academic pedigrees, Callis and his fellow African American students were ostracized by the majority-white student body, and so in 1906, Callis and some of his peers started the first, intercollegiate Black Greek Letter Organization (BGLO), Alpha Phi Alpha.

Since their founding, BGLOs have not only served to solidify bonds among many African American college students, they have also imbued them with a sense of purpose and a commitment to racial uplift―the endeavor to help Black Americans reach socio-economic equality. A Pledge with Purpose explores the arc of these unique, important, and relevant social institutions. Gregory S. Parks and Matthew W. Hughey uncover how BGLOs were shaped by, and labored to transform, the changing social, political, and cultural landscape of Black America from the era of the Harlem Renaissance to the civil rights movement.

February 2nd, 2022   |   7:00 - 8:00 PM

*With Guest Speaker Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X. Kendi

This is the National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. Some Americans insist that we are living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America--it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.

As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities. In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

March 3rd, 2022   |   7:00 - 8:00 PM

The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became is an intensely political work of speculative fiction charting two distinct storylines, with both layers of the novel's narrative producing unexpected insights and parallels as they are superimposed atop one another. By blending concepts as diverse as the true nature of social constructs, what it takes for fictional stories to become “real,” and some of the more bewildering implications of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, Jemisin manages to explore hidden dimensions of social existence and racism. In so doing, she dramatizes the cues and subtexts that underlie even the most outwardly mundane of everyday interactions into an intensely compelling science fiction story.

And yet, a core component of Jemisin's premise in The City We Became demands that she do something that few authors have ever successfully attempted—tell a story that in some sense has no characters, but instead offers as its protagonists embodiments of the book's core themes.

April 7th, 2022   |   7:00 - 8:00 PM

Invisible Man

By Ralph Ellison

First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison's nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying "battle royal" where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison's nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.