Immersing Myself In African American Voices

Immersing Myself in African American VoicesI’m still working out how to use my voice to bring more justice, to break down white supremacy, to remember those our society and our institutions have intentionally forgotten.

One of the ideas I’m considering is committing to read almost exclusively African American authors for the rest of 2015. I need to make some radical choices to shift my perspective, to unnormalize my own whiteness.  This may be one way I try to do that.

As I read from Drew Hart‘s Trouble I’ve Seen this morning, I realized how very much I am still steeped in white supremacy, how so much of my understanding of the world is shaped by the idea that the white perspective is the right perspective . . . or worse, that it isn’t perspective at all, but truth.  I need to dismantle that for myself, first, so I can help dismantle it for others.

Years ago, when I was still teaching freshman composition, one of my students, Michael, said, “Why is white English the right English, Ms. Andi?”  I’ve carried Michael’s question with me for years. It’s one of those shaping statements, the ones that burrow in and disrupt.

I’m learning that when I feel uncomfortable, I need to pay attention. When something challenges my perspective, I need to silence my urge to defend myself or feel hurt and turn instead to empathy, to reach and stretch to understand.  It’s not a pleasant thing, this growing, this unnormalizing whiteness, not for this white woman.  But it’s essential.  Absolutely essential as a work of justice in my own heart.

So I am, I am going to read almost exclusively books my African American authors for the rest of this year.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts on those books here, and I welcome your recommendations for my reading.  What books by African Americans would you recommend I read?  Please share in the comments below.  

Today, I leave you with the Bowie State Cheerleaders using their bodies and their talents to speak the truth.

  • Jon Carlsten

    Your quest has profoundly touched me. As a white male who has lived and developed loving friendships, worked for and with African Americans over the past 43 years in Atlanta, I have found it persistently challenging to identify my own racist DNA. While reading is a great way to absorb language, my experience of genuine absorption happens with constant one on one contact with African Americans. Dive in!

    My Black reading list is, was and continues to be the following:
    Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
    Soul on Ice, Eldrige Cleaver
    Lookout Whitey, Black Power’s Gonna Get your Momma, Julius Lester
    Anything by W.E.B. Dubois
    Maya Angelo’s poetry
    Beloved, Toni Morrison
    The Color Purple, Alice Walker
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelo

    I hope this was helpful.
    I am going to attend the Coming to the Table events from 6/6-12, in Harrisonburg, VA. You might want to consider attending as well, or at the very least join CTTT’s FB site. I’m learning every day. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Jon Carlsten
    [email protected]
    1759 Clairmont Rd, #16
    Decatur, GA 30033

    • Andi Cumbo-Floyd

      Thanks so much for that list, Jon. I know most of those, but I haven’t yet read them all. Thanks so much.

      And I’ll be at the National Gathering for sure. I”m on the board of Coming to the Table – love that organization – so I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

  • Katherin Cobbett

    I have been involved in a book discussion group dealing with racism for the past 15 years. I am attempting to attach a list of the books we have selected. (I am not very computer savvy so I hope this works.) As you can see they are not all black authors nor are books limited to racism as only a black and white issue. I hope this list might be of some value in finding books to read in this year as you continue your journey. Blessings.

    /Users/robertcobbett/Library/Containers/ Downloads/60A635B9-06AE-4AE2-8848-1EA7428C15DE/Chrono wh.docx

    • Andi Cumbo-Floyd

      Katherin, Thank you so much for wanting to share your list. I wasn’t able to load it, unfortunately, (I think part of the URL might be missing) but I’m very grateful that you were willing to share it. Thank you again.

  • This is such a great commitment! Some faves across genres

    Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee
    poetry by Derek Walcott, Nikki Giovannni
    Kindred by Octavia Butler (science fiction, which I don’t normally read, but loved this novel!)
    Theology – Shawn M Copeland, Emilie M Townes

    • Andi Cumbo-Floyd

      Oh, Kindred – one of my favorite books ever. And I love Walcott and Giovanni. I don’t know Gbowee, so I’ll check it out. . . and while I don’t read much theology, I will look at Copeland and Townes, too. Thanks, Nicole.

  • Suzanne Terry

    The ones that pop into mind are ones you’ve probably already read. Citizen by Claudia Rankine. The poetry of Nayyirah Waheed.

    Books coming up on my own reading list soon (sometime this summer maybe?):
    – Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
    – Drinking Coffee Elsewhere – ZZ Packer
    – Pushout: the Criminalization of Black Girls in America – Monique Morris

    • Andi Cumbo-Floyd

      Packer’s book is amazing and I really do need to finally read Tatum’s. The Morris is new to me, so onto the list it goes. Thanks, Suzanne.

  • The entire collection of James Baldwin.

    • Andi Cumbo-Floyd

      I LOVE Baldwin. Do you have a favorite title, Brian?