The past week, the United States has witnessed what Angela Davis has called a possibly unprecedented moment in demands being made globally for radical and systemic challenges to racism and legacies of slavery. In the week and days following the murder of 46-year old George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department; on the would-be 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by the Louisville Metro Police Department the month prior; and in the days, months, years, decades and century following the continual lynching of Black communities in this land (and beyond), we are witness to a national uprising. In one week, this mass mobilization of righteous anger and deep love for our Black siblings has fought for — and won — major milestones that we have been fighting for for years and seemed almost unimaginable wins just a week prior. Here is an (ongoing) list of some of what the people, united, have achieved since May 26th.
This moment is exciting, inspiring, painful, intense, beautiful, shocking, brilliant, and messy. And we’re here for all of it. But immensely important in these moments is also grounding: spiritual/religious grounding, community grounding, and historical grounding. This moment is both new and a legacy of what was made possible by the freedom fighters before us; both visionary and historic; we are speaking new languages and articulating new demands crafted from the alphabets of James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and so many others.
So let’s dive into their words.
James Baldwin is a no-brainer (and a fitting read given it is also pride month in the USA!) when wanting to dive into writing of/on Black liberation in the USA. His writing is hauntingly passionate and deeply emotive. The Fire Next Time is a relatively short read but nothing short of breathtaking.
Also, we cannot discuss Black liberation in the USA without uplifting the role of Black Muslims’ resistance to the carceral state. Garrett Felber’s Those Who Know Don’t Say is a new book published earlier this year and provides incredibly well-researched, cited, and documented discussions of the Nation of Islam and incarcerated Muslim organizing–whose immense and vital contributions to the Civil Rights Movement remains largely overlooked elsewhere.
Finally, the final “required reading” is a short essay by Eve Tuck and C. Ree, an Indigenous (Unangax̂) writer and Korean American writer, respectively, whose reflections on decolonization, generational trauma, and state violence are important to place in conversation with this unit. Decolonization is no simple conversation, process, or practice, but if we are to be honest about decolonization we must recognize the United States is a global military empire on stolen land.
Finally, we’ve also updated our police, prisons, and abolition unit with more links and resources, if you’re looking for a more-focused conversation on what that structural change looks like, and what demands to defund the police really means and why people are making it.
If this is your first time reading with us, we also highly recommend our very first book, Assata Shakur’s Autobiography, for pre- or post- reading on this unit. Or really everything else in our digital library 🙂
We’re excited and honored that the brilliant poet, singer, and songwriter Jamila Woods will be joining us on Youtube Live as our discussant for this unit! Join us Saturday, July 25th at 11:00 am CST for a conversation on Youtube Live to discuss this unit!
“Assessed value of household and kitchen furniture owned by Georgia Negroes,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)
In light of the ongoing and accelerating Indian military occupation of Kashmir, lack of media attention, and urgent calls for international solidarity, #BecauseWeveRead is honored to be partnering with Stand With Kashmir to host this ‘Emergency Read’ on Kashmir. Join the brilliant Sanjay Kak (filmmaker & writer), Hafsa Kanjwal (professor & writer), & Mohamad Junaid (professor & writer) in a conversation describing & contextualizing what is happening on the ground in Kashmir, right now.
Referred to in the New York Times as “India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence,” Arundhati Roy stands as one of the most influential writers in the world today. Her writing includes the award-winning The God of Small Things, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, Capitalism: A Ghost Story, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, among other fiction and non-fiction work. But beyond her writing, her work also extends into the streets: Roy is an outspoken activist, frequently working on and discussing issues related to India’s illegal military occupation of Kashmir, anti-Zionism, political repression, caste and class, and a myriad of environmental and human rights issues — many of which are discussed in our February/March 2019 read, The End of Imagination. We love a principled, badass woman.
In light of ongoing massive protests in Sudan, their lack of coverage in mainstream media outlets, and the dire need to contextualize these protest within Sudan’s own particular political and historical contexts (which many non-Sudanese and non-African people seem to lack knowledge of), we’re calling for a #BecauseWeveRead ‘Emergency Read’ for the month of January to help us better understand what is happening in Sudan right now, and how we can support. We’re joined today with Nisrin Elamin, a Sudanese PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford University. Her doctoral research focuses broadly on the phenomenon of “foreign land grabs” in post-secession Sudan. It seeks to understand how the differential impact of state-driven land dispossession is being negotiated and contested in several communities in the agricultural Gezira region.
To raise our collective awareness and understanding of global politics, race, capitalism, gender, religion, culture, history, colonialism, socioeconomic disparity etc, in ways that disrupt normative narratives
To uplift and celebrate stories of those whose identities are marginalized and whose voices are systematically silenced globally, as their stories are powerful models of effective resistance against power, and their lived experiences challenge state narratives.
To build & mobilize transnational communities, conversations, and movements united in shared struggle while simultaneously making radical literature more accessible to the communities that need them the most.
Every two months a new unit will be announced here on our website, in our newsletter, and on social media. Each unit has a central book that will always be made available as a free e-book, and is accompanied by additional multimedia resources such as essays, films, databases, poetry, photoessays, and other materials that complement the unit.
Think of each unit as a mini syllabus on a particular topic.
Throughout each 2-month long unit, all of our members (i.e. anyone who is reading with us around the world at any particular time) are encouraged to post their thoughts, reflections, favorite quotes, or other commentary related to the readings or unit on social media using the hashtag #BecauseWeveRead to be part of a global conversation.
Each unit also includes a Youtube Live discussion hosted by Hoda Katebi and a different esteemed guest. Past guests have included Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, and others. The Youtube Live discussions are open to the public and viewers are encouraged to ask questions and engage in the conversation with the host, guest, and each other.
You can find previous live discussions, many of which have also been adapted into podcast episodes, linked in each book post in our digital library, or on the “Community Discussions” page.
#BecauseWeveRead is unique for many reasons, but we’re most excited about our growing list of local chapters globally!
Smaller, more intimate conversations on a local level are an incredibly helpful tool to better understand and engage with texts while simultaneously learning from and building community.
Our global chapters are largely autonomously run by local leaders (most of whom are women and non-binary people of color!) who we train and support as needed. Each chapter hosts an open, local community discussion for each unit, and often hosts other events and projects related to the unit.
Our chapters have organized everything from sold-out panels and poetry slams on Islamophobia & Anti-Blackness to letter-writing events and book drives for people currently incarcerated to week-long event series at their local university supporting the struggles of Kashmiris under Indian occupation!
Get involved & find the closest chapter to you on our “Chapters” page!
Can’t find a chapter in your city? Get in touch with us if you’re interested in launching a new chapter and bringing #BecauseWeveRead to your community!
#BecauseWeveRead actively adapts and responds to major global crisis as they develop. To do so, we occasionally will call for one-month ‘Emergency Readings’ on a particular crisis that needs urgent attention.
Typically, we focus on situations that: a) lack global attention b) are deeply misunderstood/the general global public lacks major context c) are immediate and actively-unfolding situations in which people on the ground are asking for global solidarity in ways that #BecauseWeveRead and our chapters and members can clearly respond to
Unfortunately, there are countless important issues and causes globally that deserve to be uplifted. We are often inundated with requests to launch an ‘Emergency Read’ in respond to various ongoing local & global crises and unfortunately cannot focus on them all.
We want to name that several factors go into announcing an ‘Emergency Read’, and even if an official announcement is not made, often times many of our chapters will still focus on these issues on a local level.