2022-23 COMmon Read: The 1619 Project

December 16th, 2022 - 12:21pm
The 1619 Project Book CoverCollege of Marin Library is partnering with the Umoja Equity Institute for a year-long anti-racism, anti-censorship festival focused on The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.

“The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine, marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The book aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for The 1619 Project.   

Today, the book faces continued racist backlash. Texas and Florida have already banned it, and politicians in seven other states are attempting to ban it. Additionally, Republican legislators have introduced nearly 200 bills in 40 states that would ban critical race theory. Related to these efforts, there has been an overall increase in book banning in the last year. As legislators and conservative groups across the country attempt to ban this book, Umoja and the library encourage everyone at College of Marin to read it in part to consider the argument it contains and in part as an act of resistance.

The library has given away over 1,000 copies of the book to students, faculty, staff, and administrators! Fall semester events included:

  • An official kick off with faculty and staff at Convocation in the Jonas Center in August, 2022.
  • A Constitution Day event September 19, 2022 in partnership with ASCOM, Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society, the League of Women Voters of Marin County, and Canal Alliance to register students to vote and raise awareness about the 2022 midterm election—the first election for some of our students! 
  • A celebration of Banned Books Week on September 21, 2022, with the world’s quietest protest on the lawn outside of Fusselman.
  • COM Drama Production of African American playwright, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins', play, "Everybody," produced by Performing Arts Instructor, Erin McBride Africa.   
  • Two voter research events October 19, 2022 to help students learn about initiatives on the ballot.
  • Four college-wide book discussions, focusing on the book’s Preface, “Origins,” and chapters 1-2, “Democracy,” “Race,” and “Sugar,” as well as book discussions among several IDEA Community-in-Practice affinity groups.
  • A December 5, 2022 celebration with students from Communication and English classes sharing their reflections and research on the book as related to our community in Marin, and throughout California and the nation. Student Jori Felici performed two wonderful songs, including a grand finale sing-along of “This Little Light of Mine." Communication Instructor Frank Crosby recorded the main event, and Communication Instructor Colleen Mihal set up a recording station to capture 30-second reactions from students, faculty, staff, and administrators, which will be shared at Spring Convocation, 2023.
  • Additionally, nearly twenty instructors incorporated the book in their fall curriculum and more plan to incorporate the book in the spring! This is the highest instructor participation rate since we started the COMmon Read program in 2014.  
  • Librarians Dave Patterson and Sarah Frye provided a COMmon Read update at the President’s Town Hall on Wednesday, September 20, 2022 to an audience of 72 on Zoom and many students tuning from the Student Services Center.
  • Librarians Dave Patterson and Sarah Frye provided a COMmon Read update at the Board of Trustees Meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

Consider this your call to action: Read! Participate! Get involved!

You may look at the book and think—I don’t have time to read this, it’s 493 pages! Good news: Each chapter stands alone, examining key aspects of decades and centuries of racism. Together, these paint a picture of how systemic racism impacts all aspects of life in 2022. 

The dream of COMmon Read has always been that different people from across our college would find creative ways to engage around the book of the year. This has never happened better than this year, when we're seeing so much engagement from every possible corner! Reading these topics may not be easy, but we hope that doing so together will help us build a stronger community.  

Learn more about this year’s COMmon Read and stay tuned for additional events this spring, including a culminating event in the James Dunn Theatre on Thursday, April 20, 2022, which will be free and open to the entire community!