Community Book Read continues to do its part in helping combat racism in Cedar Valley – WCF Courier

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WATERLOO — Those who took part in the Cedar Valley All-Community Book Read proved for a second year in a row that progress can be made in the fight against racism, but understood there is still a long way to go.
The Cedar Valley Antiracism Coalition hosted the book discussions throughout October and will “probably do it again” next year, said Dee Vandeventer, one of the group’s leaders, in a telephone interview.
This year’s feature book was “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson.
The book, a #1 New York Times Best Seller, is described online as centering around an “unseen phenomenon” in America, a hidden caste system, or a rigid hierarchy of human rankings, and exploring it through an “immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people.”
“It’s appalling to read the history of racism in America but even more appalling to think it’s still happening today,” wrote Vandeventer, one of the coalition’s leaders, while taking notes on “quotes” from people during discussion. “We can and must do better.”
There were a few of the others she noted:
“How is it that this is the first time I’m learning about Tulsa and the Black Wall Street massacre? I never learned about that in school.”
“As if lynching wasn’t horrific enough, I couldn’t believe photos we’re taken, turned into postcards and sold.”
Vandeventer said a few hundred participated in discussions that helped people become aware of our country’s past and present out of hope that it helps build a better future.
“It’s been 400 years. We’ve made progress, but it is slow and won’t happen overnight,” Vandeventer said. “A lot of people still don’t feel comfortable here, and we have to keep moving forward.”
People, she said, favored the weekly hour of panel discussion, as opposed to just 30 minutes the first year, to “get a lot deeper” into the issues.
“Panelists will speak about the reality of racism in our community, how it manifests and how it is being challenged,” the coalition’s website states about the panel discussions.
Another addition for readers was the three “open” groups for those wanting to join, but not coming affiliated with an organization and needing more people to have a discussion.
As a result of the community’s work, Vandeventer felt an example of change evident in the area was the “resounding endorsement” by Waterloo residents during the November city election of candidates “based on actual ability,” not on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.
Another encouraging sign was the sheer number of people — more than 700 people, according to the Waterloo Community School District — who showed up to West High School last week to listen to Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Waterloo native and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, talk about The 1619 Project.
The crowd applauds as Waterloo native Nikole Hannah-Jones is introduced on stage during a “homecoming” event and stop on her 1619 Project book tour at West High School on Tuesday.
But there is still work to be done to call out racism in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area.
“Some people will never get it, but I’m hopeful that there will someday be equality for all,” Vandeventer said. “We’ll talk, march and do whatever needs to be done to keep racism atop of mind.”
In a September guest column in The Courier, members of the local coalition noted it was founded last year because of a “tipping point,” when George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other unarmed Black Americans were killed.
“Urged on by the late Congressman John Lewis to ‘Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble,’ and standing on the pages of the 2018 24/7 Wall St. report listing Waterloo/Cedar Falls as having the worst social and economic disparities along racial lines of any U.S. metro area, we came together and formed the Cedar Valley Antiracism Coalition,” it reads.
“Out of despair rose hope. Our ‘good trouble’ took the form of the Cedar Valley Book Read. Last fall, more than 60 book groups came together to read Ibram X. Kendi’s ‘How to Be an Antiracist.’ Between the community and the University of Northern Iowa, individuals, groups and organizations across all disciplines purposefully entered into a shared experience in order to learn, grow and create a more flourishing community.”

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