Lions' Digest Winter Issue 03 2020


05 | WINTER 2020

self-led club would be held during June for the

Peer Advocates Program. Over the summer, the

book club discussed Despite the Best Intentions:

How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by

Amanda Lewis and John Diamond. The club was

a success, and in August, Walters was approached

by Baumer for the first time, along with Dr.

Chatters and equity liaison Ashley Diaz, who

currently moderates the club. Baumer wanted to

expand the club to more of the school community.

“I really wanted to shed light on the issues within

our community and I thought a book club would

be a really great way to do that because it can

bring a lot of people who maybe aren’t already

participating in activism together,” Baumer said.

To prepare for meetings, Baumer and Walters

create discussion questions for each chapter

and during the meetings, they fill the role

of facilitating discussions. Since November,

the club has had two online meetings.

The book they’re discussing now, The New Jim

Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander, is what Baumer and Walters

both saw as a good segway into topics of racial

justice. The six part book is a winner of multiple

awards, has become a staple anti-racism piece to

read, and is highly renowned among many for its

acute social commentary. It introduces topics such

as “preservation through transformation,” a term

used to describe how racist structures are preserved

in society through renaming and rebranding.

The New Jim Crow details the transition from

slavery, to Jim Crow laws, and now to what is the

prison industrial complex. Walters explained how

the author skillfully personalized issues such as the

criminal justice system by including testimonies

of people whose lives had been ruined by it. It

forced readers to pay attention to the issue at hand.

“It’s not something you can just ignore. Books

help make it feel like a real problem that needs

to be encountered and dealt with,” Walters said.

“Again, that’s why book discussion is my favorite

way of inspiring that kind of stuff; engaging with

text is really one of the best ways to do that.”

Walters and Baumer recognized that with the

heavy topics that come with social justice, many

difficult conversations have to take place that

can be sensitive or personal. As co-facilitators,

Walters and Baumer devised certain ground

rules to keep the atmosphere secure for everyone

involved. At the first meeting, they encouraged

participants to add to their list of ‘norms.’

“The biggest ones are that, ‘we can share what is

learned here but not what is heard here.’ That means

that if people might share their personal stories,

we can talk about the gist of what we learned from

each other but we can’t share personal recounts or

anything,” Baumer explained. “We also just want to

make sure that when we’re saying what we’re saying

we recognize our own privilege and where we came

from, so as not to discredit anyone’s experiences

because we all have different backgrounds.”

The student leaders hope that the club can help

educate members about these types of issues

and relate them to their own community.

The experience of running the club has

been just as, if not more gratifying, for the

student leaders as it has been for participants.

“Watching these people be so passionate about

it and being able to experience a discussion

that is your doing is incredibly rewarding,”

Walters added. “That’s the best part.”

Being part of a group that strives to create positive

change in their community is meaningful to

everyone involved. Walters and Baumer have

provided an opportunity for students to engage

in important conversations that help develop

a safe and reflective school environment.

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