Following a nationwide battle against critical race theory, some black students are leading protests against book bans and forming book clubs to provide access to a wide range of stories.
Christina and Renee Ellisstudents at Central York High School, a predominantly white school in Pennsylvania, are among students who are part of the Panther Anti-Racist Union, a student-led racial and social justice advocacy group.
The two sisters fought alongside their peers to challenge a ban issued by an all-white school board. The group staged a protest with dozens of students, parents and educators to challenge the ban on works by black authors, including a book on Rosa Parks; hidden numbers, a story about black women mathematicians who helped win the space race; and documentary film I’m not your niggawhich explores the personal observations of the author and cultural critic James Baldwin.
“We didn’t want history to repeat itself, hiding history, hiding the experiences of people of color in this country,” Renee told NBC News. “We also wanted to make sure the younger kids below get a full education, especially with the murder of George Floyd and the murder of Breonna Taylor and so many other social justice issues in America.
Protesters stood outside the school and held signs with slogans like “BLM” and “Education is not indoctrination”. Another ambitious effort was led by Edha Guptaone of the organizers, who wrote letters to the editor of the city newspaper.
The Round Rock Black Student Book Club
Jaiden Johnson, a seventh-grade student at Meridian World School in Round Rock, Texas, is one of two black middle school students who introduced the Round Rock Black Students Book Club to the community. As a student-led virtual community group, the book club operates as a safe space for students of color to read literature that promotes inclusivity and diversity.
“I wanted a chance for all the black kids in my community to come together and get to know each other better and read about the black characters that inspire us and not just black people and slavery,” he said.
Despite book bans, the book club reads books by banned black authors anyway, including Jason Reynolds‘ novel 2017, Miles Moralesa story about a Black Spider-Man and Brandy Colbert’s 2019 novel, The only black girls in town, about two black girls who discover a hidden collection of newspapers.
“It makes me feel good when I read about characters and they have the same skin color as me and they’re not just background characters like in most books,” said- he declared.
Kharia Pitts, a sixth-grader, is another book club leader. She shared with NBC News that she doesn’t have many books featuring black people.
“I was thinking about other kids who don’t think there are books about black people, and I want to change that, because that’s almost what I thought,” Pitts said.
She continued, “If children of all other races learn the truth and what happened to all types of people, then we won’t have to go back and repeat it,” she said. . “That way we’re not stuck in an endless cycle.”