Finger Lakes Community College will host a silent reading event in support of racial justice on the birthday of Ida B. Wells, a black journalist and activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
FLCC Pages for Peace will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 in the Arboretum and Serenity Garden on the grounds of the main campus at 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua.
Attendees are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. Restrooms will not be available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The event will begin with brief opening remarks by organizers and FLCC Student Corp. President Erik DiPasquale.
Then, attendees will quietly read books, poems and other works about racism and the African-American experience written by and about people of color.
“Our plan is to sit quietly and read,” said Maureen Maas-Feary of Rochester, a professor of humanities at FLCC. “Those who would rather not attend are encouraged to join us by reading a book, poem or other work from the comfort and safety of home.”
Maas-Feary was inspired by a similar event she attended in June in Cobbs Hill Park in Rochester. She shared the idea with colleague Beth Johnson, professor of theatre. They quickly found support from colleagues, including FLCC Chief Diversity Officer Sim Covington Jr.; he has spoken about his experiences at several Finger Lakes-area Black Lives Matter events.
The FLCC Student Corporation and the student organization AALANA, which stands for African American, Latino, Asian and Native American, have also signed on in support of the event.
“Reading is a simple and small but important act which contributes to powerful change and healing,” said Maas-Feary. “Literary works have the power to help people with different experiences understand one another.”
Maas-Feary and Johnson said Wells’ birthday seemed a fitting date for the event. Born into slavery and freed at age 16 with the Emancipation Proclamation, Wells (1862-1931) found her voice as a teacher and then newspaper reporter in Memphis, Tenn. She chronicled racial injustices and lynchings, putting her life at risk. Threats eventually forced her to relocate from the south to Chicago, but she continued her work and expanded her efforts as a civil rights activist. She joined in the fight for women’s rights and is credited with helping launch the National Association of Colored Women (now the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs) in 1896 and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Pages for Peace organizers plan to recommend book titles on the event listing on FLCC’s Facebook page. Among them will be two by FLCC alumnus Lester Mayers ’17, “100 Poems for 100 Voices” and the more recent, “African Booty Scratcha.” Much of Mayers’ writing chronicles his experiences as a sometimes homeless orphan and gay black man in New York City.
“There is no shortage of relevant books and articles to consider bringing to FLCC Pages for Peace, but those who don’t have a selection at hand might consider Lester’s works,” said Johnson. “His candid prose reveals experiences many of us simply cannot relate to, and this gets to the heart of our goal – to foster greater understanding, empathy and appreciation to bring about change.”
Those who would prefer to take part in Pages for Peace from home can support with social media posts that include the hashtag #FLCCPagesforPeace.
For more information on the event, contact Beth Johnson at (585) 337-0679 or email CommunityAffairs@flcc.edu.