Riverside Book Club
Join the Riverside Book Club online the 2nd Saturday monthly for a time of fellowship and lively discussion over a monthly book selection.
DECEMBER 2023 BOOK CLUB
Poverty, by America
Riverside’s Book Club is reading “Poverty, by America” by Matthew Desmond for discussion at its December 9th meeting (11-12:30 p.m. Eastern, Zoom). Co-sponsoring and facilitating the session will be members of the Democracy Focus Group of Riverside’s Mission and Social Justice (MSJ) Commission as part of MSJ’s sustained emphasis on actions and programming that address structural poverty. Discussion Facilitators from the Democracy Focus Group: Sheila Rule, Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, Sumati Devadutt, Aida Montero, Lissa Dodington, Arelis Figueroa, and Derrick Biney-Amissah.
“How am I helping to keep other people poor?”
Sociologist and “Evicted” author Matthew Desmond wrestles with that question in his new book Poverty, by America. While acknowledging “systems” and “structures,” he brings us face to face with the many ways we benefit personally from keeping so many other people poor. And he points us to options for changing that.
The New York Times review of Poverty, by America (3/23/2023) says Desmond’s “central claim … is that the endurance of poverty in the United States is the product not only of larger shifts such as deindustrialization and family dissolution, but of choices and actions by more fortunate Americans. Poverty persists partly because many of us have, with varying degrees of self-awareness, decided that we benefit from its perpetuation.”
Desmond doesn’t stop with an analysis of the problem. He goes on to challenge us to engage in specific individual and systemic changes toward the goal of eradicating poverty in America.
The possibilities are many, from speaking up for fair housing in our neighborhoods, to patronizing businesses that pay a living wage and banks that offer free or low-cost checking for all, and helping people in poverty access the benefits that they are due.
NOVEMBER 2023 BOOK CLUB
On November 11, 2023, at 11:00 AM, via ZOOM, the Riverside Book Club discusses the book, Behind the Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley, was once both a slave and a seamstress to Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Ms. Keckley’s book was banned over a century and a half ago. That is largely because Lincoln’s son feared that the book revealed little-known sides of the President and Mrs. Lincoln. The banning occurred over a century and a half ago. However, the struggle over truth-telling and the banning of books continues.
Keckley’s book is being discussed within the context of the Banned Books Movement, which, to date, has resulted in 35 State legislatures passing various legislation regulating content that can be taught in public schools and legitimizing the banning of related books. American Library Association research indicates that a disproportionate number of banned books have to do with histories of people of color or issues related to people of LGBQIA+ communities.
Riversider Tami Tyree will be the presenter and facilitator of the Book Club discussion. The book is available in Riverside’s Welcome Center on the first floor, near the Claremont entrance. It is also available through local libraries, and in digital form at various outlets.
About Tami Tyree:
Tami Tyree is a multidisciplinary artist with a degree in Theater and Communication from Howard University. She is a singer, actress, writer, arts educator, and historian. She founded Echoes of Our Ancestors. It teaches African American History. The program has been performance-driven, through song, since 2007. Ecohoes of our ancestors has been able to presents free and low-cost experiences above and beyond the classroom. She has received awards and artistic grants.
OCTOBER 2023 BOOK CLUB
On October 14, 2023 at 11:00 AM via Zoom, The Riverside Church Book Club partners with Riverside’s Anti-Racism Task Force to review Resmaa Manakem’s New York Times best-seller, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies.
Webster’s Dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of one race over another. However, Menakem indicates that definition of racism may be too superficial. In My Grandmother’s Hands, he scrutinizes it more closely, paying attention to the trauma that it produces in human bodies. He says of his book:
“If you are African American, in the book, you’ll explore the trauma that is likely internalized and embedded in it (your body”… if you are a white American, the book will offer you a wealth of practices for mending this trauma in your own neural system”… if you’re a policeman or policewoman, you have almost certainly suffered or observed this type of trauma . The book offers you a real path to healing.” [p.9].
The October 14 event is the first of a series of events in which participants will be able to explore racism and its visceral impacts, and to begin the process of healing. The initial meeting will take place via ZOOM, facilitated by members of both the Book Club and the Anti-Racism Task Force. The book is available in Riverside’s Visitor’s Center, and through local libraries. It can also be ordered through local bookstores and is available online as an e-book through Central Recovery Press.
Resmaa Menakem is a psychotherapist who specializes in the effects of trauma on the human body, and the traumatic impact of white body supremacy and racism in the context of American society. Stay tuned for Zoom registration link.
Moderator: Rev. Mira Sawlani-Joyner, Minister of Justice, Advocacy & Change
Presenters: Dr. Pamela Davis, Chair, Mission & Social Justice Commision, Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, Anti-Racism Task Force, and Reuben Martinez
JUNE 2023 BOOK CLUB
On Saturday, June 10, 2023, at 11:00 A.M., via ZOOM, The Riverside Church Book Club discusses The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith and Food Justice. In his introduction, Carter asks, “What comes to mind when you hear the words “soul food”? Do the words make you hungry and cause your mouth to water? Or do you visualize foods that are associated with soul food: red beans and rice, fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and corn bread?
Or do the words “soul food” bring to mind special occasions when family, friends, and play cousins gather to break bread, tell jokes, and play spades? For Black folks, some or all of these things can come to mind when we think about soul food because soul food has always signified more than just a cuisine.”
In the podcast, ZOCALO Public Square, Carter continues, “Soul food is how Black people define ourselves, and celebrate the stories of how we survived. And yet, soul food’s overwhelming cultural power presents a strong argument for reexamining it. Are the stories we tell ourselves about traditional notions of soul food still useful? Is the idea of soul food really about the food itself, or is it rooted in the wisdom of the communities that created it? How might soul food be used to tell stories about who we want to become, and not only who we once were?”
Rev. Dr. Christopher Carter is an Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. He is also pastor within the United Methodist Church and has served in Battle Creek, Michigan, and in Torrance and Compton, California. Moderating the Book Club discussion will be Ms. Martha Wiggins and Dr. Stephanie Phillips.
For more information about the author and moderators, click here.
MAY 2023 BOOK CLUB
On Saturday, May 13, 2023, the Riverside Book Club will meet to discuss Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark. In the book, Taylor says that she has become increasingly uncomfortable with our tendency to associate all that is good with lightness and all that is evil and dangerous with darkness. “Doesn’t God work in the night time as well?”
In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Taylor asks us to put aside our fears and anxieties and to explore all that God has to teach us “in the dark.” She argues that we need to move away from our “solar spirituality” and ease our way into appreciating “lunar spirituality” (since, like the moon, our experience of the light waxes and wanes). Through darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and we feel God’s presence around us, guiding us through things seen and unseen. Often, it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most. [Amazon Book Review].
Barbara Brown Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of An Altar in the World, Learning to Walk in the Dark, and Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. She has been an Avon lady, a cocktail waitress, a horseback riding instructor, and a hospital chaplain, but her favorite job was teaching world religions at Piedmont College for twenty years before putting the chalk down in 2017. She now divides her time between writing, speaking, and caring for the land on which she lives. Barbara and her husband Ed tend a small farm in the foothills of the Appalachians” [Author’s Website, [https://barbarabrowntaylor.com’]
Moderating the discussion will be Reverend Charlene A. Wingate who serves as the Support Minister for Worship and Arts at the Riverside Church as well as the Student Support Services Leader in the New York City Department of Education.
With over two decades of teaching experience, she finds joy in applying her studies of music, religious education, and equity to the development of inclusive worship services. In addition, she is an Adjunct Professor of various courses for the Certificate Program at New York Theological Seminary, and serves at Riverside as the Chairperson of the Adult Christian Education Committee, former Vice Chairperson of the Education Commission, overseer of the Open Bible Study (OBS) small group, producer of Riverside’s Fresh Start early morning service, and worship leader, liturgist, and guest preacher.
Rev. Wingate is an ordained minister with the American Baptist Churches (USA). She earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts at City University of New York, and a Masters of Arts at Teacher’s College, Columbia University in New York. She earned a Masters of Divinity, MARE at New York Theological Seminary and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College of Education in New York. Her religious affiliation is with the American Baptist Churches (USA).
The book is available online in Kindle, audiobook and paperback formats, and is available for purchase in Riverside’s Giftshop.
APRIL 2023 BOOK CLUB
On Saturday, April 8, 2023, at 11:00 A.M., The Riverside Church Book Club will discuss Shauna Niequist’s I Guess i haven’t learned that yet – Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop Working. According to Annie Downs, New York Times Best Selling Author of That Sounds Fun:
“When everything we’ve been clinging to falls apart, how do we know what to keep and what to let go of? I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, now a New York Times bestseller, is a clear-eyed look at where we go from here–and how we can transform our lives along the way…. With her characteristic candor and grace, Niequist writes about her experience learning how to:
• Discover new ways of living when the old ways stop working;
• Embrace the challenges and delights of releasing our expectations for how we thought our lives would look;
• Trust God’s goodness in a deeper, more profound way.
Shauna Niequist is the NYT bestselling author of I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, Present Over Perfect, Bread & Wine, Bittersweet, Cold Tangerines, and Savor. She lives in New York City with her husband Aaron and their sons Henry & William. She is a bookworm and a passionate gatherer of people, especially around the table.
Always involved in educational and community affairs, Dr. Anderson was chairperson of the Education Commission when the Riverside Book Club was established. Mary Biggs, commission member suggested the idea and the rest is history. Dr. Anderson has served on the Church Council and recently was Co-Chair of the Riverside Church Senior Minister Search Committee. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the New York League for Early Learning and currently is President of the BMCC/CUNY Early Childhood Center Board of Directors. Dr. Anderson is a member and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Riverside Hawks, Hope Health and Hoops Incorporated.
After graduating from South Carolina State College, Dr. Anderson’s career began as a Social Investigator for New York City. As a Project Director with City University of New York Graduate Center, she worked with public school administrators across New York State to implement educational programs for Children with Special Needs. She completed a Masters in Social Work at New York University. Then, after working as a Projector Director with City University of New York Graduate Center, she completing her work as Project Director, she began teaching full time at BMCC, City University of New York and went on to complete another Masters and a Doctorate in Higher Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. After 33 years as a professor and university administrator Dr. Anderson retired in 2015. Teaching, counseling and advocating for children and youth is her calling. She is grateful for the opportunity to fulfill her calling as an active member of Riverside. No stranger to the Riverside Book Club, she has facilitated/ moderated several Book Club topics including “How to be an Anti-Racist” and “Caste”.
The book is available for purchase in The Riverside Church Gift Shop, available online in Kindle and paperback format, and as an e-book in public and university libraries.
MARH 2023 BOOK CLUB
On Saturday, March 11, 2023, The Riverside Book Club will meet to discuss Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Overstory, by Richard Powers. The moderator for the discussion will be Rev. Dr. Alan Bentz Letts, longtime Riversider, environmental activist and founder of the Beloved Earth Community. For a brief summary of the book, see the quote from Amazon.com. The book is available in the Riverside Gift Shop, from Amazon.com and in most local libraries.
“The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.” [Amazon.com]
Book Club- February
Today, Christians and non-Christians alike will agree with Matthew 22:27-39, that “… Thou shalt love thy neighbor as Thyself”. However, bell hooks, in her award-winning trilogy of books on love, raises the question of whether most people understand what true love is. The trilogy first identifies the culturally created, media driven false images of love. Then the books contrasts these false notions with more realistic concepts of love. The result is a beautiful aroma of hope that begins within intimate relationships, and spreads throughout through the world at large.
On Saturday, February 11, 2023, the Riverside Book Club will discuss the first of hooks’ trilogy, All About Love: New Visions. The presenter is Rev. Dr. Colleen Birchett, Minister of Curriculum Development at The Riverside Church. The discussion will take place between 11:00am – 12:30pm via ZOOM. Copies of the book are available in Kindle format through Amazon.com and in the Riverside Gift Shop.
To learn more about the author and presenter, see the information below. To register to join the discussion and to locate a list of future books to be discussed be sure to click on the links below.
Gloria Jean Watkins [better known by her pen name, bell hooks, was an award-winning author whose books frequently appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List. She was the Distinguished Professor in Residence at Berea College. By the time of her transition, on December 25, 2021, she had produced around 40 books for adults and children, numerous children’s books and scholarly articles. Her work formed the foundation for various documentary films and she contributed to numerous public lectures. She was also a social justice activist. Her themes included: feminism, love, gender, race, art, history, sexuality and social justice. Her books also explored the intersections of race, capitalism, gender and the ability of these intersections to impose systems of oppression and class domination, particularly on people of color. She taught at the University of California, Yale University, Stanford University, City Colleges of New York, and Berea College in Kentucky. She also founded the bell hooks Institute in 2014.
Rev. Dr. Colleen Birchett currently serves as Minister of Curriculum Development at The Riverside Church in New York. As columnist for the Trumpet Magazine, she produced “The Book Corner”, and co-founded the Hurston-Hughes Writers Ministry at Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago. As an editor for Urban Ministries, Inc., she wrote the quarterly Inteen and Young Adult Today along with their related teacher guides which circulated to over 40,000 young people and church school teachers. She is also the author of Family Ties, Restoring Unity in the African American Family, Africans Who Shaped Our Faith, with Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ, along with a number of other books that have been used in church-based Bible study classes. Currently, she teaches English Composition and Literature at New York City College of Technology. She earned a Ph.D. in Instructional Design and an M.S. in Journalism from the University of Michigan, She earned a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary.
Book Club- January
On Saturday, January 14, 2023, at 11:00a.m., via ZOOM
The Riverside Church Book Club will review:
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African Americans, 1619-2019
On Saturday, January 14, 2023, between 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., via ZOOM, The Riverside Church Book Club will gather to discuss Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African Americans, 1619-2019 by Ibram Kendi and Keisha Blain. The moderator of the discussion will be Rev. Jonathan Favors Grimes, pastor of Olive Tree Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The discussion will focus on four periods covered in the book: Black Women’s Labor (pp.1639-1644), The Spirituals (pp1724-1729), The Black Family (pp1649-1654), and Queer Sexuality (pp 1814-1819). According to Kendi:
“If we write a book about the history of a community, it is best to have the community write that history. I think that is what really sort of springs from this text we were able to bring together. We were able to bring together 80 Black writers, each of whom wrote pieces covering five years of African American history, very short pieces. We also brought together ten poets who each wrote poems on 40 years of African American history. We brought together so many researchers from so many backgrounds within the Black Community to really show the history of this incredibly diverse and complex history. We are excited that we have been able to put it together. [Ibram Kendi, 12/13/22, Democracy Now]
The book is available through Amazon.com in Kindle, paperback and hard cover, and through Riverside’s Gift Shop.
Dr. Ibram Kendi
National Book Award-Winning and New York Times best selling author, Dr. Ibram Kendi has authored six books for adults and five books for children. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Founding Director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. He is also a contributing writer to The Atlantic and a CBS News Racial Justice Contributor. He is the host of a new action podcast, Be Antiracist. In 2020, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He has been awarded the 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, known as “the Genius Grant”.
Dr. Keisha Blain
Dr. Blain joined the faculty of Brown University in the Summer of 2022 where she is the N. Blain Professor of Africana Studies and History. She served as President of the African American Intellectual History Society from 2017 to 2021. Her Ph.D. is from Princeton University. She is a scholar of African American history, African Diaspora Studies, Women’s and Gender History. Among her award-winning publications have been: Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom, New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition, To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and internationalism, and East Unites with West: Black Women, Japan and Visions of Afro-Asian Solidarity along with Four Hundred Souls with Ibram X. Kendi.
Rev. Jonathan Favors-Grimes
Rev. Jonathan Favors-Grimes is a native of Atlanta, Georgia where he resides with his family. He has studied at Full Sail University, Bethel University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served as Pastor, Chaplain, Church planter and certified educator. He founded the Olive Tree Community in Atlanta, Georgia, a micro-intentional church community. The Church meets bi-weekly for prayer, study and worship. A major focus is “doing community” on a micro-level. While membership is not required, “branchers” come from all over. Church members, non-churchgoers, those who question faith, and those who have dropped out of other churches all worship together. The church is multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-generational. It has several ministries, including: “That’L Preach Podcast” and “Holy Leaves and Life’s Recipes”.
Book Club- December
On Saturday, December 10, 2022, at 11:00a.m., via ZOOM
The Riverside Church Book Club will review In the Wake: On Blackness and Being book by Christina Sharpe.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the “orthography of the wake.” Activating multiple registers of “wake”—the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness—Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation. Initiating and describing a theory and method of reading the metaphors and materiality of “the wake,” “the ship,” “the hold,” and “the weather,” Sharpe shows how the sign of the slave ship marks and haunts contemporary Black life in the diaspora and how the specter of the hold produces conditions of containment, regulation, and punishment, but also something in excess of them. In the weather, Sharpe situates anti-Blackness and white supremacy as the total climate that produces premature Black death as normative. Formulating the wake and “wake work” as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christina Sharpe is Professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University. She is the author of Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post Slavery Subjects (Duke 2010) and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke 2016). Her third book Ordinary Notes will be published in April 2023 (Knopf/FSG/Daunt).
ABOUT THE DECEMBER MODERATOR
The Rev. Dr. Andrea C. White is Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Her teaching and research fashion a nexus between womanist theology, black critical theory, and phenomenology. She has lectured and preached across the United States, and her international lectureships have taken her to Brazil, Denmark, England, India, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland. She holds a Ph.D. in theology from The University of Chicago, Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College. She has been an ordained American Baptist minister since 1998 and is a member of The Riverside Church.
Register below to receive the ZOOM link to join the discussion.
Book Club- November
On Saturday, November 12, 2022, at 11:00a.m., via ZOOM, the Riverside Church Book Club will review Shelly Rambo’s book, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining. Webster’s Dictionary defines trauma as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” The Book Club reviews this book, while discusses possibilities for applying its contents within the context of Covid-19, where, in New York State alone, infections have decreased by 5%, but deaths have increased by 31%, (1 in 272), bringing trauma and stress into lives of loved ones left behind (New York Times, 10/19/22). Register here to receive the ZOOM link to join the discussion.
Join the Riverside Church Book Club with Dr. Smith to review her book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, published by Whitaker House.
The book choice was inspired in part by the gradually escalating turbulence associated with American politics, — turbulence unheard of, since the violence that erupted near the end of the 1960’s – in spite of Dr. Martin Luther King’s calls for non-violence. Indeed, social science researchers have been noting that social justice activism has become an extremely stressful enterprise, particularly for Progressives, who are “pushing back” against the “far right”, fearing tht they will reverse gains brought by the Civil Rights Movement.
For example, Kennith Smith, in “Politics is Making Us Sick” attempted to track the negative impact of political engagement on public health during the Trump administration, as the country moved toward the 2020 presidential election. His team interviewed 800 people in 2017 and interviewed 700 of them again just before the 2020 election. They tracked stress indicators such as loss of sleep, suicidal thoughts, inability to stop thinking about politics and intemperate social media posts. They documented a statistically significant rise in such stress indicators, particulary for young adults on the “political left”. K. Tutashinda, in “The Stress of Politics in Lifestyles in African American Development” also observed social activists from marginalized groups such as African Americans, the Latin X generations, members of the LGBTQIA community and called for “self care” for social activists.
Rest for the Justice Seeking Soul, by Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith in that tradition. However, while concerned about the “self care” of social justice activists, unlike most writings on that topic, she focuses on the value of establishing an intimate relationship with God. The book contains a three month supply of daily devotions. It is designed to become a companion that is accessible, even in the midst of “the struggle”. The book is available in both paperback and can be ordered instantly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is Director of Clergy and Resource Development at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC). She has been a past member of its Board of Directors and is currently Secretary of the Board. Proctor is a social justice ministry that seeks to empower churches and ministers in urban settings as they deal with problems they face within that context. Dr. Smith assists with that at Proctor through training, resource development, acquisitions, and organized attempts to change public policy.
Additionally, she serves as co-chair of the Minority Outreach Subcommittee of the Nonpartisan Ohio Voter Outreach Committee (NOVOC) and is founder of Crazy Faith Ministries of Columbus, Ohio. For 22 years, she served as senior pastor of Advent United Church of Christ. She is also a national organizer and trainer for the African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a division of People for the American Way. She was recently named the first Gordon G. Cosby Seasoned Voices Fellow by the SpiritHouse Project, an organization that has been on the forefront for social justice for decades.
She graduated from Occidental College in 1976, where she earned a BA in English literature, and is also a 1986 graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she earned an M.Div. She also earned a D. Min. from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, studying under the late Rev. Drs. Samuel Proctor and Charles E. Booth. At Yale, she was awarded the Wolcott Preaching Prize and has since preached nationally and internationally. Moreover, she was recently inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. College of Ministers and Laity.
She is the author of Crazy Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, and The Book of Jeremiah: The Life and Ministry about the work and ministry of Jeremiah Wright. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in the United States was released in October, 2020, and earned two awards: the 2021 Independent Press Award in the “Cultural and Social Issues” category and the 2020 Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishing Association (IBPA)
Regularly, she contributes to The Dallas Examiner, and to The Wilmington Journal. Her work has appeared weekly in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. She has a blog, “Candid Observations,” that concentrates on the intersections of race, politics and religion. Additionally, she distributes a “Tuesday Meditation” nationally and internationally. She is the mother of two adult children, Caroline, a certified music therapist, and Charles, a writer and performer of music throughout Ohio.
On September 10, 2022, at 11:00am, via ZOOM, The Riverside Church Book Club, will be reviewing the book, Lanterns, by Marian Wright Edelman. In her preface to the book, Edelman prays, “O God, I thank You for the lanterns in my life who illumined dark and uncertain paths calmed and stilled debilitating doubts and fears with encouraging words, wise lessons, gentle touches, firm nudges, and faithful action along my journey of life and back to You.”
Edelman was born on June 6, 1939, and entered young adulthood midway through the first year of the turbulent 1960s, a very dark and uncertain decade for people of African descent. Their average life-span was seven years less than that of White Americans. Black children had only half of the possibility of completing high school and only a third of the chance of completing college as White children.
They had less than a third of the chance of ever entering a profession. Black Americans earned no more than half as much as White Americans and were twice as likely to be unemployed (“Digital History of Black America, 1960, Online, 2022).
Moreover, six years after the landmark Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education decision of 1954, only 49 Southern school districts had officially desegregated and less than 1.2 percent of Black school children in the 11 states of the Old Confederacy attended schools with White children. Less than a quarter of the South’s Black population could vote, serve on grand or trial juries, use public beaches, use restaurants or use hotels occupied by White people.
In the North, most neighborhoods, businesses, and unions openly excluded Black people. Technology displaced Black workers, putting severe strains on Black families. This was also the time when, according to the Tuskegee Institute Report, that, by 1968, an estimated 3, 445 Black people had been lynched.
In Lanterns, Edelman describes her encounters with certain “lanterns” during those dark times. She explains how they had a permanent impact on her life. These included her parents, Arthur Jerome and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright, educators at Spellman College and others, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Fannie Lou Hamer, William Sloan Coffin, Ella Baker, Mae Bertha Carter and her husband, Peter Edelman.
As a result, Edelman became a significant “lantern” in her own right. Through her influence, she helped to organize and impact: the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, the Poor People’s Campaign, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Washington Research Project, and the Children’s Defense Fund. She also founded the Freedom Schools currently operating in at least 24 states with at least 7,200 children enrolling (www.childrendefense.org). As such, inevitably she has been a lantern, lighting the pathways of following generations of such “lanterns”, who have in turn found their niches in a variety of professions that advocate for children. Her book includes 25 lessons with guidelines for current and future “lanterns”.
MODERATOR, Eileen McArthur is one such “lantern”. She will be facilitating the Book Club discussion. McArthur has focused on children and adults with communication disorders, as well as the arts and spirituality. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from St. Lawrence University and a Master of Education degree in Communication Disorders from Seton Hall University. She then entered a career that spanned over 40-years as a Speech Pathologist. Eventually, she focused primarily on children with autism and also hearing impaired students.
Over the course of her career, she contributed much to the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with communication impairments. She worked within and supervised departments in hospital, clinics and school settings, including Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York. She also created and distributed a quarterly newsletter for parents of deaf children, and has received awards for her outstanding work, serving as what Edelman would consider a “lantern” in a field which was growing in its understanding of children and families with special needs. Parents were especially appreciative of the impact that McArthur had on their children.
Her advocacy for the needs of children has not been limited to her profession as a speech pathologist. She also spent decades addressing the spiritual needs of typical children, not just those with communication disorders. For example, at churches such as Stamford First United Methodist Church, she supervised the team of Vacation Bible School teachers and was a head Sunday school teacher. In those spaces, McArthur focused on helping children to form an understanding of God and of how to translate that understanding out into their relationships with others within their church, community and families.
In addition, she advocated for young people in the Arts. She coordinated the annual “FUMC Young Artist’s Showcase”, where young artists from throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut competed and performed. In her retirement, she fondly reflects on her years as a “lantern” within her community and family.
She has three sons: Damon, a college art professor; Timothy, a physical therapist; and Daniel, a real estate financial analyst. Her husband, Rev. Dr. Douglas McArthur, recently retired as pastor of Stamford First United Methodist Church in Stamford, Connecticut.
The book is available online, at Amazon.com and via The Riverside Church Bookstore.