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By Ryan Signorino, ’19, ’21
St. Bonaventure University has selected “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown as the All Bonaventure Reads (ABR) book for 2020-2021.
“I’m Still Here” challenges readers to face how the institutions we live within have an inherent structure supporting whiteness. The author, who was named Austin in part to avoid preconceived ideas about black-sounding names, recounts her experience growing up in a white community and her journey working toward racial inclusivity in society.
Brown discusses how racial injustice has permeated all facets of society and in order for people to move toward understanding and equality, they must be more willing to live out their words rather than simply speak them.
“While Brown describes situations ranging from her childhood to her experiences in the workplace, and everything in between, she challenges everyone to think about race and skin color in a way that they may not have done before,” said St. Bonaventure residence director Nicole Honeysett, a member of the ABR selection committee.
“It is important to listen and learn from others, but Brown will also push students to understand themselves and their own experiences. This memoir will allow students to reflect and discuss what we see happening in the United States and in the global community surrounding race,” Honeysett said.
The All Bonaventure Reads format will be different this year, as are many initiatives, due to COVID-19. The university’s first-year students typically receive the ABR book at Orientation in July, read it during the summer, and prepare an essay as their first college assignment.
With Orientation moving online this summer, “I’m Still Here” will be given to students when they move in during Welcome Days and will be incorporated into the curriculum of the first-year seminar course, SBU-101, along with other campus events during the fall semester. The summer assignment will instead be an essay asking students to reflect on themes found in “I’m Still Here,” St. Bonaventure’s 15th all-campus read.
“With her experiences with racism and bigotry ranging from her childhood, to university, and to the workplace, (Brown) continues to challenge the reader to ponder over the depth — or lack — of their privilege due to the color of their skin, at all ages,” said James Matthew Villanueva, a student representative on the ABR committee and a junior adolescent education and English major.
“As an Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black, indigenous, person of color (BIPOC) in a predominantly white institution, discussions on race and privilege are imperative for all students to examine on their road to SBU,” Villanueva said.
“For white students, it is important (for them) to recognize their privilege but not feel shamed for it, rather understand how they can use it for good causes,” he said. “For BIPOC, Brown emphasizes the importance of embracing your diversity. Rather than trying to be a chameleon in a sea of white, she illustrates that a diverse environment can be beautiful for all parties.”
“I’m Still Here” is a New York Times and USA Today best seller. Brown graduated from North Park University and received her master’s degree in social justice from Marygrove College. She is a media producer, author and speaker.
Programming for ABR will be announced at www.czszylhls.com/ABR once events are confirmed. Learn more about “I’m Still Here” and Brown at austinchanning.com.
(Ryan Signorino is a graduate assistant with St. Bonaventure’s Student Success Center.)
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