As I look at the growing pile of books read this past summer, I am aware of the silver lining of having a broken foot. As a dance maker and performer for most of my life, I am definitely more sedentary than I have been for years. But happily, I have been able to devour an array of titles that now sit by my bedside. And with each one, I am reminded of the blessing of reading and the knowledge and understanding gained as I enter worlds that go beyond my own life experience. I engage viscerally within these worlds, gaining a sense of knowing and insight. Reading catalyzes understanding—expanding our exposure, encouraging connection with others and our environment. Reading invites us to explore imagination and expand perspective. It is always a spark and a seedbed for my creative work.
September is a time when we refocus on formal learning as millions of people of all ages return to school. Even now, I still feel that sense of anticipation that comes every fall. This year, I think about the recent threats to our collective freedom to read brought about by the persistent and divisive culture wars that are raging in this country.
My heart hurts, and my spirit resists.
Books are our direct pathway to encountering and understanding difference. And understanding difference is key to building a more just and tolerant society. Poet and memoirist Maya Angelou said, “If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”
In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “What I love the most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”
Let’s keep the road to reading open in our schools and libraries and keep aiming for that higher ground. Let’s make sure that reading is possible for all in the fullest and freest way.
Watch for a growing list of recommended book titles that expand our understanding in the realm of racial justice. Initiated at our August 8th ‘A Response and a Call: Joining Hands for Justice’ discussion with host Mellissa Craig and dancer/ maker/ curator Deborah Goffe of Scapegoat Garden, visual artist/curator Andre Rochester, and me, JDPP’s Joining Hands for Justice Reading List is a beginning and an encouragement to read some of these wonderful books. Your suggestions are welcome, too, at https://forms.office.com/r/FwzdVSedDy