I just bought my copy of Jennifer Baszile’s book, “Black Girl Next Door,” the focus of NIOT Princeton’s next “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege,” to be held on Monday, February 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library.
I am reading this book straight through; I can hardly put it down. It is the quintessential story of a black girl growing up in a mostly white Los Angeles suburb but it is also a compelling work, beautifully and evocativally written. The paperback version is $15 and I predict you will want to give it to each of your children, nieces, and nephews.
Here’s hoping you can attend on Monday night whether or not you have read the book yet. Also Baszile will read from and sign her book at Princeton Public Library on Sunday, February 7, at 2 p.m., as this town’s observance of the 21st Annual African American Read-in, sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.
The book begins in first person with Jennifer, at six, winning a race against her best friend, who then informs her that black people have something in their feet that makes them run faster than white people. When the teacher agrees, Jennifer’s father has to set her straight. In trips to her grandparents in Louisiana and Detroit, she discovers her heritage. In her all-white classroom, blacks are portrayed only as downtrodden and enslaved. She wants to portray Harriet Tubman in a fifth grade “Parade of Heroes” but a wise teacher gently guides her, instead, to be Rosa Parks. She went on to earn her doctorate at Princeton University and be the first black female professor the history department at Yale.
It reads like a novel but it is a too-true story. You may remember Ntozake Shange’s “Betsey Brown,” the novel and the musical co-written and directed by Emily Mann nearly 20 years ago at McCarter Theatre. Betsey Brown was my favorite heroine, and she was fictional. Jennifer Baszile — and she is a real person — is my new favorite. Barbara Figge Fox
NEW JERSEY: THE STATE OF THE CHILD
WHAT IS WORKING, WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
Saturday, January 30, 2010
8:30 – 2:30
Shiloh Baptist Church, 340 Calhoun Street, Trenton, NJ
Workshops will include: Immigration, Housing, Environmental Education for Kids, Health and Healing-NJ Family Care, and CASA.
The cost is $12 in advance–$15 at the door. If you’re interested please make your check (includes breakfast and lunch) payable to NJ Council of Churches and mail to: 176 W. State St., Trenton, NJ 08608. Contact the council at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 609-396-9546 for more information.
Linda Oppenheim, a long-time member of the NIOT board, is currently the administrator of Princeton’s web presence on the site. Linda urges NIOT members to register as a user of the site. “Anybody can view the web pages; users can post comments. The folks in the national office actually created a page for us with a link to Barbara’s blog and a link to the Daily Princetonian article about the march a few years ago.”
Current members of NIOT Princeton, please sign on to the Princeton chapter’s web page. If you have difficulty doing so, contact Linda Oppenheim.
Several of the February events @Princeton Public Library focus on issues of bias in race, religion, and ethnicity. Not in Our Town/Princeton is directly involved in the events on February 1 and 7.
Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege
Feb 1, 7:30 p.m.
The dialogue on race and white privilege begun at Not In Our Town’s series “Engaging Together to Explore White Privilege” continues. There is no need to have attended any of the series’ sessions to participate. This will be a drop-in format, facilitated by members of the Princeton-based interracial and interfaith social action group. Topics will include feelings about the term “white privilege” and issues relevant to our community and nation. The topic for this month will be Jennifer Baszile’s “The Black Girl Next Door,” to be featured at the library on Sunday, February 7, at 2 p.m. (see below).
Witherspoon-Jackson Genealogy Group
Feb 4, 3 p.m.
The new Witherspoon-Jackson Genealogy Group will meet monthly in the Princeton Room to share ideas, listen to speakers, get beginners started with researching their roots and help each other with problems.
The group concentrates on the history of families who lived in the historic Witherspoon-Jackson community. On the steering committee are Carl E. Brown, Jr., Penney Edwards-Carter, Lucy Hall, Robert Harmon, Wallace Holland, Henry F. Pannell, Shirley Satterfield and Joseph Tadlock. Those interested in Princeton history or genealogy are invited to attend.
African American Read-In: Jennifer Baszile
Sunday, Feb. 7, 2 p.m.
The author of “The Black Girl Next Door” will be the speaker at this event. Baszile’s memoir is about her childhood in an affluent Southern California suburb as a post-segregation child in a not-quite-integrated world. In trips to her parents’ childhood homes in Louisiana and Detroit, she sees their very different American pasts. Baszile followed the path her parents set out to become the first black female professor at Yale University, in its history department. This is the 21st year of the African American Read-In, celebrated in communities across the nation. Initiated by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English, the Read-in focuses on literacy and black literary culture.
Contemporary Fiction Group: “What Is the What” by Dave Eggers
Thursday, Feb. 11, 10:30 a.m.
Moving, suspenseful and unexpectedly funny, this epic novel is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the “Lost Boys” forced to leave his village in Sudan at age 7 and trek hundreds of miles by foot to find freedom. When he finally settles in the United States, his life is one of promise as well as heartache and new challenges.
Feb 28, 3:30 p.m.
Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum, who serves Congregation String of Pearls in Princeton, will tell the classic story of the holiday Purim. The heroine is Queen Esther of Persia, whose bravery in the face of irrational hatred is still a model of many virtues worth emulating by both children and adults.
SATURDAY, FEB. 6, 2010 | 7:30pm | Solley Theater | $20/$15 Members | William D. Carter, III an evening of Musical Inspiration featuring Gospel, Classical & Contemporary
SATURDAY, FEB. 19 | 7:30pm | Solley Theater | $5 donation suggested | “Whitewash” is an acclaimed documentary exploring the complexity of race in America through the struggle and triumph of black surfers. Director Ted Woods will be present to introduce the film and answer questions.
SATURDAY, FEB. 27, 2010 | 1-2:30pm | Solley Theater |
Mlanjeni Magical Theatre combines storytelling and puppetry based in East African traditions. Hosted by storyteller Mlanjeni duma, the imaginative show introduces young audiences to traditional African folk music, dance, magic and stories.
All are sponsored by Bloomberg and J. Seward Johnson Sr. 1963 Charitable Trust