Our Stories

Pasadena Educational Foundation Book Club

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism
– and, even fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about
ourselves and each other.

by Dr. Ann Snow
Pasadena Educational Foundation Board member
Professor, California State University, Los Angeles

 As Dr. Ibram X. Kendi noted in his book How to be an Antiracist, individuals have the power to transform, if they choose. The Pasadena Educational Foundation Book Club read this book as it first selection last Fall in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and at the height of the pandemic. Interested PEF board members and staff came together to read and discuss the book as a way to understand the history of racism in the U.S. We aimed to grow in our understanding of its pernicious consequences as we, in the PEF, seek to promote excellence and equity, key cornerstones in our mission to support the Pasadena Unified School District.

The PEF Book Club has tackled other powerful reads with the same goal as we seek to expand our understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of PEF’s effort to infuse these important notions into our work at the foundation. Our book choices come from nominations by board members who actively attend the Friday book discussions; they include award-winning and best-selling authors who write about topics relevant to the social and political times. White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism (Robin DiAngelo) was our second book, followed by Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson. We next read Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Bondless Compassion. In this compelling book, Fr. Greg Boyle relates stories about the successes and challenges faced by former gang members who work at Homeboy and Homegirl Industries in our own backyard of East Los Angeles.

Our most recent book club selection was particularly note-worthy. Recommended by PEF board member, Mrs. Alma Stokes, West of Jim Crow: The Fight against California’s Color Line poignantly hit home. The author, Dr. Lynn Hudson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, former student of Mrs. Stokes, and PUSD graduate agreed to moderate the discussion via zoom from Chicago. West of Jim Crow is intended to “drive a stake through the heart of one of American history’s most persistent myths” namely, that racial segregation and discrimination were peculiar to the South. Chronicling the roots of White Supremacy in California, and importantly, the fierce resistance by Black Californians in pockets throughout the state, including Pasadena, Dr. Hudson, in her book and remarks, left us with much to consider in our social justice efforts. Several of the author’s former classmates and PUSD principals joined the meeting, adding their own experiences to the discussion.

What is the PEF Book Club reading next? We are currently compiling a reading list as we keep the momentum going in this sobering and enlightening process. We are open to suggestions and welcome other interested readers!

Dr. Marguerite Ann Snow Ph.D.
Charter College of Education
Department of Applied and Advanced Studies in Education

Dr. Snow’s teaching and research interests are in the following areas: Immersion education, content-based instruction, English for Specific and Academic Purposes, standards, pedagogical grammar, and academic writing. Read her full bio here.