Saturday, January 27, 2018 — Reading Across Rhode Island, the state’s only One Book, One State community read program, kicked off its 16th season with the 2018 selection The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
A capacity crowd of teachers, librarians, community book group leaders and readers of all ages gathered last Saturday under the soaring Pavilion at Grace in downtown Providence. AS220 Youth and Living Literature performances explored the themes of finding your voice and building understanding.
Honorary Chair Jordan Seaberry, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence highlighted the importance of truth telling and shifting the narrative in order to reform a broken system and redefine our definition of justice. He urged readers to place The Hate U Give in historical context, challenging communities to talk about our past, and not to “ignore the voices that say it’s too hard to pursue justice.”
Shawn A. Christian, PhD, Associate Provost and Associate Professor of English, African American, and American Studies at Wheaton College and member of the Humanities Council board, began his talk by remarking on how powerful it is to feel a community of people reading the same book together, writing in the margins, and digesting a story in a way that they can relate to their own lives and those of their loved ones and neighbors. As Christian took the audience through the book’s themes and the arc of Starr, the teenaged main character, he noted that the novel reminds us about the closeness of our past to our present and how that closeness can fuel both societal disease and change. Here again, the centrality of proximity–a theme explored in detail throughout the 2017 Reading Across Rhode Island season–holds true: communities are made stronger through building understanding across difference and it is only through walking in each other’s shoes that we can truly begin to affect change. Christian closed his remarks by urging the audience to reflect on the role this novel provides for you as a reader and as a witness within their communities.
Finally, the kick-off closed with presentation by Holly Harriel, EdD, founder of Civic Salon, LLC. With Reading Across Rhode Island, she will host civic chats in the digital sphere on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These chats will help amplify this year’s conversations in Rhode Island to connect to the global discussion about activism and proximity inspired by The Hate U Give. Visit: civicsalong.community/civiclab for resources, discussion guides, and even playlists. Tune in for an engaging #CivicChat on on Twitter, Tuesday, February 20, 2018 from 8:00 – 9:00 pm. when Shawn Christian and Jordan Seaberry will continue their conversation about themes from The Hate U Give as hundreds of fellow Rhode Islanders become immersed in this important book.
We sincerely thank our dedicated volunteers: the Reading Across Rhode Island Committee, the Rhode Island Center for the Book Advisory Committee, and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Board. These programs and the access to thousands of copies of The Hate U Give are made possible thanks to the support of our generous sponsors and partners.
Stay tuned for more details soon about events with author Angie Thomas when she visits Rhode Island in April. All details will be shared on the Center for the Book website and the Humanities Council’s calendar as well as through our eNews and social media.
All photos by Howe Photography.