Against a backdrop of division in politics and the wider world, it felt good to hold the first meeting of the Equality Book Club to discuss and explore issues of social justice with people who are committed to learning from each other and moving forward together.
We started by discussing why we were here, to agree that we were here to learn, but also committed to building a more equitable voluntary sector. Some shared their scepticism about top-down movements for change, and were keen to explore ways of building a grassroots movement to demand better of sector leaders.
Our first book, Angela Y Davis’ seminal work, Women, Race and Class, felt appropriate as a start point, as it traces the history of the anti-slavery and civil rights movements in the US, and it feels as though history is in danger of repeating itself with many themes feeling very resonant. We discussed the divide and rule tactics being used to pit vulnerable communities against each other, gendered behaviour being depicted as biological, and middle class white women’s racism in prioritising votes for women over abolition of slavery. These themes all have parallels today.
Most people hadn’t read the whole book and as I made absolutely clear, the first rule of Equality Book Club is that it will never matter if you haven’t read the whole book!
Inevitably, we moved on to share some of our experiences in the voluntary sector, and our desire for meaningful change, acknowledging that while it’s good that there are public campaigns emerging such as #charitysowhite and #aidtoo it can be difficult for some people to comment publicly because they are isolated in their roles, or can’t be too outspoken for fear of damaging future employment prospects. It’s sad that the power dynamic that infects society is so damaging to a healthy and equal voluntary sector.
As next steps, we agreed that this group could become a useful support network beyond its Book Club and learning role.
We agreed we’d do the meetings roughly every six weeks to give people enough time to read the book. (But don’t forget the first rule of Equality Book Club).
I’m very grateful to everyone who came and everyone who’s shown support and interest. Hope to see you at the next one:
12.30 - 2pm Monday 28 October Venue: TBD
There were several votes for our next book: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Save the date and I hope to see you there!