SEEN Community Update: Books, Black History Month, and More!

Dear SEEN Community,

“One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.”

So begins Ezra Jack Keats’s classic, A Snowy Day (1962), a book celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and a joy of tracks, sledding, snow angels, snowballs, and trying to save all that joy for another day. We certainly hope children young and old are celebrating the weather, not just trudging through. Or maybe that they’re curled up warm with a good book – maybe one that celebrates universal experiences of childhood, one written or illustrated by BIPOC individuals, or gives authentic representation through diverse characters.

We start this week with children’s books in order to give thanks to Temple Sinai and all their donors for their book drive. We received boxes of books at the end of January for our Little Free Libraries, and have started to put them out!

Remember, while Keats was white, he contributed to an evolution in children’s literature: Peter was the first non-caricatured African-American to be featured in a major children’s book, again in 1962. Recognizing the impact, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation shares books that reflect our diverse population, and they have a great list of books that celebrate African American History, for Black History Month and every day in between. Have you read any of these? We’re dropping new books into the libraries regularly, and aiming to share new ones for Black History Month.

We’re also excited to share that after months of special programming, SEEN will be hosting a General Meeting on Monday, February 28, at 8 p.m. on Zoom. Please be sure to mark your calendars! The meeting will provide an important opportunity to come together and converse – one of our first opportunities since last year, except for the December solstice event – and will include time for direct actions. We are also looking for people to help plan some upcoming events and to reengage or lead committees of interest.

Actions

  • Watch or Attend. The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 15, starting at 7 p.m. at the high school. We continue to encourage members of the “network” to attend Board meetings, and to make public comments. The agenda and link to YouTube for streaming will be available on the District website.

Announcements

  • Celebrate Black History Month. SEEN is celebrating the breadth of Black excellence and Black history this month by sharing, attending, listening to, reading, and visiting. With a robust calendar of events available throughout the month of February, we’re sharing these events on the SEEN Cares Facebook page and Instagram page.
  • Community Reading, Discussion, & Artmaking Group. SEEN is also happy to announce our continued collaboration with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, supported by a grant from Humanities NY. We focused on Ralph Ellison’s essays in the fall, and this spring, we will focus on James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, edited by Toni Morrison, with continued focus on issues of representation, art, community, belonging, and inclusion. Books are now available at Northshire at a 20 percent discount (mention the SEEN reading group for the discount).

Resources

  • Talking About History and Memory. One of the hottest topics with regard to Black History the last couple of years has centered around Black people writing and rewriting history. Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the force behind The 1619 Project edition of The New York Times Magazine, the podcast of the same name, and now the book, shares her perspectives on an episode of Code Switch from last month, “Nikole Hannah-Jones On the Power of Collective Memory.”
  • Talking While Black. Though the scale is remarkable, the backlash Hannah-Jones experienced following the 1619 Project is not unique to her. After a wave of support for Black lives and anti-racist action or language after the murder of George Floyd, BIPOC and changemaker voices have found themselves the subject of reactionary backlash – as social media targets, on lists of banned books, and like Hannah-Jones, have had their jobs impacted. We see some of this here in the Saratoga Springs City School District as well. In the mini-series “Talking While Black,” This American Life host Emanuele Berry shares stories about the people caught in the crosshairs, including a school superintendent, a teen, and an author. As a content warning, “Act One: The Incident,” focuses on a text chain created by white teenagers in Michigan to host a “mock slave trade,” buying and selling their Black peers. The portion highlights the experience of one of the teens, a sophomore in a mostly white school, who was “bid on” by her peers.

~ The SEEN Team

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