Knowledge, as they say, is power and one local book club is looking to bring this power to their people through knowledge found in books.
Books and Breakfast Westchester was started by Westchester Woman Tarin Gonzalez to bring people of color together for a book swap, breakfast and discussion on prominent Black and Latin role models, their experiences and the issues affecting their communities.
“The purpose of the program is to politicize the community and make them aware of the issues affecting us, Gonzalez, a Port Chester resident and community activist, told the small group at their inaugural meeting. “We want to attempt to have the type of program here in Westchester that brings folks like us together in a space to have this type of dialogue, instead of candy coating things and white washing the issues,” Gonzalez said.
Books and Breakfast aims to inspire people of color by introducing them to historical achievers and social justice issues through books. The program was created by the national grassroots organization HandsUpUnited, which was started after the death of Michael Brown and the riots that followed in Ferguson.
HandsUpUnited describes itself as a collective of politically engaged minds building towards the liberation of oppressed Black, Brown and poor people through education, art, civil disobedience, advocacy, and agriculture.
To achieve this liberation, HandsUpUnited created programs that aim to educate and empower participants to resist racism and class warfare, like their War Against Hunger, Its OK to Dream program and their Tech Institute, which teaches computer programming and web development to help build grassroots movements, grow small businesses and ideas, as well as address issues of economic and educational inequality.
HandsUpUnited strongly believes liberation for Black and Brown oppressed individuals will solely be achieved through self-determination and other impractical means of political education, their website reads.
About 10 people, aged 20 to 60, attended the first Books and Breakfast Westchester meeting held at the brand new SUNY Purchase Multicultural Center, which the college agreed to create and fund after protests from the local Black Lives Matter movement following the discovery of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on campus.
Saturday’s discussion celebrated George Washington Carver, who was born into slavery and became a world-renowned scientist and inventor that created various uses for the peanut, including turning it into fuel, and is credited with improving the lives of sharecroppers (who were mostly Black) by creating planting procedures that yielded more crops and healthier soil.
Attendees could choose from a table full of donated books to take home with them, enjoy refreshments and some healthy food.
The idea is you take a book, and leave a book for someone else. You can find HandsUpUniteds book wish list here.
“We want to make sure there is an emphasis on reading and learning about our history and having a dialogue to learn about each other and our experiences,” explained Gonzalez.
Next months Books and Breakfast will be held in Yonkers, for its centralized location.
“We really want to have mom and dad, or mom and children, said Gonzalez. “We want kids from the neighborhood to come in and be around us and hear each others’ stories. It’s important for people to talk and be around people who lived their experiences, so they can learn as well. A lot of the time, we dont see that in the narrative, especially in Westchester.”