Participants are reading a young people’s version of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, an American Book Award winner by the historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.
Discussion questions are being sent to readers, in preparation for meetings on Wednesdays, October 14 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. These sessions will include breakout groups. Then on Tuesday, November 10, the local educator and indigenous activist Claudia Fox Tree will make a community presentation. Each session will acknowledge the tribal land that today is Bedford.
Several individuals and families, including two Bedford High School students and five METCO families, have already registered. The first 24 to sign up receive the book at no charge; others can acquire it online or at retail outlets. The PDC has publicized the book club series through all the parent newsletters as well as the BHS principal’s announcements. To register, write to [email protected].
Many expenses are being covered by a grant from the new Bridges to Boston Initiative, which emphasizes community-building among METCO and Bedford students and families. Click to learn more about the Bridges to Bostont Initiative.
The current book club follows a successful debut, featuring what was called a young people’s remix of the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. “There was such a good response in the summer,” said Kelly Korenak, coordinator of the series. “People appreciated the opportunity to participate, to learn, to think about these things.”
“The selection of this book is important,” explained Kim Dunsmore, council president. “Over the last six months, the tag BIPOC (Black and Indigenous Person of Color) has been more prevalent, and I think the indigenous people need more representation. I thought it was a natural progression to learn more about our indigenous brothers and sisters and understanding their struggle.”
There’s a connection between the first and second book, Korenak observed. “One of the main themes of Stamped was what is missing from history, from school curricula. Definitely the indigenous people’s stories are.”
That was reinforced locally during a summer panel on Zoom sponsored by Bedford Embraces Diversity, she added. Fox Tree was among the speakers, and she recounted episodes about how her children “constantly had to remind people about this history.”
The selection of the young readers’ version was deliberate, Korenak said. “Some history books are very dense. The thinking with both books we chose is it makes it easier for parents to share it with their children. We want to make these connections. We want parents and children to read it together and have these conversations.”
Dunsmore said the preference s for “new books that are family-oriented with education in mind, books of substance that have relevance now.” Some of the classics “don’t always shed the clearest light on social and political issues.”
The book club sessions will continue, Dunsmore said, perhaps timed to coincide with appropriate calendar highlights. The current discussion is taking place close to October 12, Columbus Day, known in some places as Indigenous Peoples Day, she noted.
The PDC is also continuing its individual school groups, Korenak said. “The PDC really wants to build connections between families, and it makes more sense to divide up. We have a group at each school that meets about once a month to build community among families, to know each other, and host outdoor meetups. They are continuing that work this year.”
The Davis School group is planning a “monthly cultural mosaic – kind of like a cultural storytime, with stories and maybe a video. It will be a chance for kids to learn about other cultures,” Dunsmore said. For now, the sessions will be on Zoom.