To Gaze Across The Horizon and Imagine

There is something special when you take some time out of your day to simply read a book.

Not for an assignment, trust me, we’ve had plenty of those required-reading-assignments that moved as fast as watching paint dry. Necessary, not not nurturing.

So, we count it joyful when the calendar turns to May 1 and we get to finalize the reading list for the summer of reading!

If you are like us, you have seen the overly loud screams and shouts about the content of books, some of those by authors beloved by our teens.

We do not ban books, period.

Our focus is centered on African American literature, supplemented by reading Caribbean, AfroLatinx, and AfroBritish writers whose story intersects with the African American experience in the United States. While not a monolith, there are some references that make up who Black people in America have been and the gifts they are to the world.

Jazz came from American Black people, as did Soul Food and so many fashion moments, a freedom of existing even in the midst of the most trying circumstances. Black Americans gave to so many a voice and a willingness to keep fighting as they gazed into a country that othered-them in so many ways.

The Black British and Black American experience have some similarities explored in literature because they both have ancestral ties that involved colonialism and English oppression in tangible ways. The American Black culture had over 400 years of trying to be and become outside of the lives of West Indians colonized by the British such as Jamaica and Barbados.

One of the things we encourage our teens to do is read broadly and consider all the ways that they show up in the world.

Libraries are their windows and until 2021, they were easily accessible in their schools and communities. For our literary circle, they were respite and welcoming space, especially for our teens who could not afford the books we were reading or who wanted to save their money for a different title than the one we were encountering that week, whatever the reason, libraries were and are a place of being, welcoming, and discovery.

We do not ban books and we stand with the notion of an educated populace being important to any nation.

To ban books is to say that there is only one way of being and thinking, it is totalitarian and racist, something this country claimed it is not about.

Now, this is not a political organization or space, but one can not be quiet in the face of such egregious actions sweeping this nation.

It is for this and several other reasons that we have decided to do a few things differently for our 2023 literary summer that begins on Tuesday, June 27:

  1. We truncated our summer to account for schools in the Northeast and for summer school. We will meet every Tuesday, June 27 – July 25. Five weeks instead of ten. Still 3-5pm EST.
  2. While our enrollment is still limited because of the engagement we cherish, we have decided to make this year free except for the $75 enrollment to cover our administrative costs. Registration is still required.
  3. We will be virtual except for a few in-person moments along Long Island
  4. For the first time in our history, we will consider applications from non-Black teens who are committed to engaging in Afrodiasporan literature. We remain open for middle and high school students with our most engaging participations being those entering 8th-10th grade.

What would you like to read this summer? We have more than five weeks of books, plan to encounter a bit of Afrofuturism, contemporary, and poetry while developing a broader understanding of the literary arc and the place of stories in making of humanity. We read because we breathe and we breathe because we live and we live because we are.

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