Eagle Rock Community Puts a “Stamp” on Social Justice

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This week, we wrap up our synopses of a number of classes currently underway at Eagle Rock School with It’s Lit! Circles — a gathering of students and community members in what’s known as a Literature Circle for the purpose of discussing literature in depth.

(Source: Schlick Noe, K.L. & Johnson, N.J. (1999). Getting Started with Literature Circles. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.)

Literature circles such as ours provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to works of literature. In this case, the Eagle Rock community has dedicated this trimester to reading the book STAMPED, Racism, Antiracism, and You, which was written by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.

STAMPED is a “remix” of Kendi’s 2016 National Book Award Winner, Stamped From The Beginning. And as the author explains, it’s not a history book. Rather, it is a “book about the here and now. A book to help us better understand why we are where we are. A book about race.”

That falls in step with one of Eagle Rock’s founding principles, which calls for a commitment toincrease capacity to exercise leadership for justice.” This trimester’s theme is to express our sincere commitment for being an antiracist, social justice-focused educational organization. And we do that in part by reading, thinking, discussing, sharing, and pushing each other and ourselves.

To help us critically examine systems of power and privilege as they relate to race, instructors Eliza Kate Wicks-Arshack (our Human Performance and Outdoor Education program manager), Tara Jewell (our School Team Projects coordinator), and Janet Johnson (our Director of Curriculum), are combining efforts to facilitate It’s Lit! Circles. Additional support is being provided by 20021 Public Allies fellow, Nathaniel Phillips; Societies and Cultures Instructional Specialist, Cedric Josey; and Residential Life Program Coordinator, Courthney Russell, Jr.

The class has been meeting twice a week online to examine the historical context of the assigned reading. Then class participants split up into smaller groups to discuss what they read. In diverse groups comprised of both students and staff, we hold in-depth conversations on a range of topics, including the world’s first racist, the contradictions upon which the United States of America was founded, the intentional construction of race inside a hierarchy — and even why the story of Tarzan was written and what its implications have been since the character first appeared in literature in 1912.

Students — led by those charged with leading our community discussions — are drawing from the tenets of 19th century black literary societies as they learn about group identities, their own identities, and systems of power and privilege related to race.

STAMPED, Racism, Antiracism, and You suggests there are three kinds of people in in the United States: segregationists (haters), assimilationists (cowards), and antiracists (those who truly love). And it asks its readers — that’s us — to determine which kind of people and community we want to be. Because it is a choice.

Armed with access to this information — and equipped with an understanding based on prior knowledge, personal experiences, and deep conversation — the Eagle Rock community is broadening its capacity to exercise leadership for justice. And we ask that you join us by creating a Lit Circle of your own and adding STAMPED, Racism, Antiracism, and You to your reading list!

Curious to know more about literature circles? Visit Read Write Think’s webpage for Getting Started with Literature Circles.

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