The Black Voices Project
A virtual book club uplifting black voices
welcome!
The purpose of this digital space

The Black Voices Project is a virtual Black book club and community dedicated to uplifting Black literary/creative voices through a range of mediums including books, essays, podcasts, and more! Our hope is to facilitate meaningful conversations about systemic racism and Black history while addressing current political, racial, and social issues impacting Black culture.

We will read together, learn together and grow together!

Book Selection: On the 1st of every month, ULMS will pick a text to read for the next 30 days. The text will differ each month ranging from non-fiction to fiction and even poetry. Each book selected will all focus on race, anti-racism, and/or Black culture.

Discussion Questions: We know everyone reads at their own pace. Feel free to break out into smaller groups with your friends if that makes you more comfortable! Discussion questions, will be posted each month on this page for those who would like to start a small reading circle in their workspaces and to think through personally. 

Monthly Zoom Group: During the first week of each month, there will be a live zoom discussion to cultivate conversations on the entirety of the text. Zoom details will be shared in the tab below!

Join the Book Club! Ready to participate in the dopest virtual Black book club ever? Head to the join section and get into the loop! 

Here you’ll find books we have scheduled to read in the coming months. Please note, this list is subject to change:

  • September 2020: “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine
  • October 2020: “One Person, No Vote” by Carol Anderson 

August 2020: “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

Although Black lives have always mattered (and Black people have been dying at the hands of systemic racism long before this year), something about this moment feels different. According to the New York Times, between 15 million and 26 million people in the U.S. participated in demonstrations in the weeks following George Floyd’s murder… making this the largest movement in our country’s history.

"This is a movement; not a moment."

Join the Club!
Step one
Subscribe to our book club mailing list.

We’re excited to read with you! Once you officially subscribe to the Black Voices Project, you will get instant access to: 

  • Monthly book wrap up Zoom meeting invitation
  • Adv. notice to claim free books
  • Mini monthly newsletter 
  • Access to our private Black Voices Project Facbook group
  • Free discounts and perks for Seattle Arts & Lectures events and tickets!
Step two
Start reading!

Once you’re subscribed, we’ll reach out to you with this month’s book pick and some think questions to get you started. If you don’t have our selected book, see below for ways to read along!

Step three
Tune in to discuss!

Join us at the end of each month for our wrap-up zoom discussion! We’ll have an in depth discussion and round-table analysis of the book, it’s themes, and real world application. You can also check in with our Facebook group for real time engagement, some surprise giveaways, announcements and more!

In order to truly understand this moment and our role in it, we must know how history brought us here and make a serious commitment to amplify Black voices.

We are in the middle of a collective commitment right now, to #DoBetter, dismantle white supremacy, and fight for equity for all. It’s as if, as a nation, we have hit a boiling point and are suddenly wondering: How did we get here, and what can we do about it now?

BOOK OF THE MONTH
Here's what we're reading:

Citizen by Claudia Rankine recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in 21st-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV – everywhere, all the time.

The cumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship.

Book accolades: 

  •  Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry
  • Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism 
  • Winner of the NAACP Image Award 
  • Winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize
  • Winner of the PEN Open Book Award 

Born in Jamaica in 1963, Claudia Rankine earned her BA in English from Williams College and her MFA in poetry from Columbia University.

She is the author of five collections of poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014), which received the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Book Prize for Poetry, the 2015 Forward Prize for Poetry, and the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry; Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2004); PLOT (Grove Press, 2001); The End of the Alphabet (Grove Press, 1998); and Nothing in Nature is Private (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995), which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.

In 2016, Rankine was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and named a United States Artists Zell fellow in literature. In 2017, she founded the Racial Imaginary Institute, a “a moving collaboration with other collectives, spaces, artists, and organizations towards art exhibitions, readings, dialogues, lectures, performances, and screenings that engage the subject of race.” She is currently a Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.

“because white men can’t police their imagination, black men are dying.”

“Again Serena’s frustrations, her disappointments, exist within a system you understand not to try to understand in any fair-minded way because to do so is to understand the erasure of the self as systemic, as ordinary. For Serena, the daily diminishment is a low flame, a constant drip. Every look, every comment, every bad call blossoms out of history, through her, onto you. To understand is to see Serena as hemmed in as any other black body thrown against our American background. “Aren’t you the one that screwed me over last time here?” she asks umpire Asderaki. “Yeah, you are. Don’t look at me. Really, don’t even look at me. Don’t look my way. Don’t look my way,” she repeats, because it is that simple.”

“Perhaps the most insidious and least understood form of segregation is that of the word. (Ralph Ellison)”

“You are you even before you grow into understanding you are not anyone, worthless, not worth you. Even as your own weight insists you are here, fighting off the weight of nonexistence. And still this life parts your lids, you see you seeing your extending hand as a falling wave— I they he she we you turn only to discover the encounter to be alien to this place. Wait. The patience is in the living. Time opens out to you. The opening, between you and you, occupied, zoned for an encounter, given the histories of you and you— And always, who is this you? The start of you, each day, a presence already— Hey you—”

Rankine addresses “you” throughout the book. Where do you recognize yourself in the encounters described in Citizen, if at all? What perspectives or angles of experience were you surprised to inhabit, and why?

Look up “lyric” in the dictionary, or do an internet search for “lyric poetry.” How does Rankine’s use of “lyric” in the subtitle of Citizen both adhere to and challenge these definitions and usages?

Citizen narrates many instances of micro-aggressions—individual acts of racism that collectively form the crushing experience of racism in America. Is racism a singular action, or is it a series of acts? What is the difference between the singular action and the accumulation of them?

What associations does the image on the cover of book bring up for you? Is it surprising that the work of art it depicts, In the Hood by David Hammons, was first exhibited in 1993? How does In the Hood relate to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012? What does this seemingly disjointed timeframe say about the deadly effects of racism in America?

book access
How to Read Along With Us

Don’t have a copy of our selected book? No worries! Each book is accessible digitally via the Seattle Public Library (SPL). All you need is a free library card. To get one, simply click the button below and we’ll help you get started! If you don’t have a Seattle based address, you can always get a free eCard and access the book via the King County Library System (KCLS). If all else fails, you can also check out the library’s audiobook option (also free)!

Our goal is to make these books, podcasts, poems  and conversations accessible for anyone who is willing to show up for the Black community. We know that anti-racism work doesn’t stop when the protests end. Anti-racism work is a practice! It requires intention and commitment.

“Revolution is not a one-time event.” - Audre Lorde

Build your library
Get a free copy of this month's book!

Owning a personal collection of books is a special opportunity each of us should have. We want to help you get started!

If you love that “new book” smell or simply enjoy the traditional flip of a real page, this one is for you! Each month, we will send the physical version of our selected book of the month to the first 10 readers who claim a copy via the button below! If you miss your chance to claim a book, don’t worry! You can always come back next month and try again.

RESTRICTIONS: First come, first served. One book per household. 

Since the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Shaun Fuhr, Manuel Ellis, and others– race has been top of mind in our nation’s consciousness. Those around the nation are reaffirming that, “Yes, Black Lives do Matter”! It is clear that people want to do better. Now, communities are looking for ways to learn how to show up even further for the Black community in this time and all time.

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers" - MLK Jr.

exclusive access

As an official member of the Black Voices Project, you will have access to exclusive discount opportunities, tickets, events, and more provided by our friends from Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL)! 

Free Youth Starter Library
Middle school aged students
Access to books is just as important for our youth as it is for adults.

While the Black Voices Project is centered around a digital book club experience for adults, we also recognize that many children don’t have access to leisure books or books with stories and characters they can relate to. For a limited time, you can now request a FREE Youth Starter Library!

Each Youth Starter Library will contain 3 books written by authors of color from the middle grade fiction genre (ages 8-12). The books will be pre-selected randomly from our existing catalog of 30+ titles including:

  • Hidden Figures (Young Readers Edition)
  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
  • +More!
How to REQUEST YOUR LIBRARY

Interested in claiming a Youth Starter Library for your child? Simply click the button below to get started!

RESTRICTIONS: First come, first served. One library per household.