Black History Month: What PIHers are Reading and Watching

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Books, plays recommended by PIH staff

Posted on Feb 17, 2022

In honour of Black History Month, Partners In Health staff have shared their favorite books and plays related to Black history, culture, and antiracism.

Although the annual celebration is confined to the month of February, PIH recognizes that amplifying Black voices, stories, and history is essential year-round.

Below are some of the recommendations that inspire our staff.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois

I recommend The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois, a novel by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers that tells the story of an African American family in the South, tracing their story from the Civil War and slavery through the civil rights movement. The novel was a New York Times bestseller, longlisted for the National Book Award and selected by Oprah’s Book Club. 

Nosipho Beaufort, southeast regional director, PIH-US

A Kids Book About Diversity

Charnaie Gordon does an incredible job of both writing and curating diverse and inclusive books for children of all ages. I’ve been so grateful for the resources she provides, such as A Kids Book About Diversity, to introduce my little ones not only to hard discussions about racism and injustice, but also wonderful representations of Black joy and Black excellence, both historical and modern. (And many explorations across other aspects of diversity too!)

Annie Michaelis, senior director, health information systems

Choir Boy

Choir Boy is a coming-of-age play that ​was on Broadway ​a few years ago. It tells the story of a ​talented prep school student who is Black, queer, and on scholarship. He is the target of vicious, anti-gay bullying by another boy at the school. The play is grounded in African American culture, hymn singing, and step dancing. Its story explores themes of race, sexuality, music, and hope. Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney also co-wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning film Moonlight (with Barry Jenkins) and, fun fact, he actually went to my daughter’s public magnet ​high school!

Naomi Ortega Tein, business development officer

The Color of Law

I would like to recommend spotlighting The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. This book discusses the history of racial segregation in the United States and how local, state, and federal governments created the racially segregated neighborhoods leading to marginalization of communities of color through “red lines” that continue to be reinforced to this day. The Color of Law is highly relevant to the work we do at PIH. This book also provides a wealth of context that can further open the eyes of our understanding and ultimately shape how we approach the work. I hope those who read this book gain a deeper understanding of the Black community and the variables (social determinants of health) that contribute to poor health outcomes.

Cicily Gray, senior project lead, PIH-US

The 1619 Project

I would like to recommend The 1619 Project. This book evolved from a long-form journalism initiative developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times. The project was launched in August 2019, timed to the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in colonial Virginia, and centers important historical contributions of Black Americans as necessary to the development of the United States—long before 1776.

Tina Thomas, impact officer, PIH-US

Bound for Canaan

I recommend Bound for Canaan by Fergus Bordewich. After reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, I wanted to learn more about antislavery resistance efforts. This book explores the history of the underground railroad, examining the moral and political complexities of this movement for social change, including its undertones of religious inspiration and racial integration.

Cate Walters, development officer

Originally published on pih.org

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