The Way We… Make Reparations

Who does racism benefit? (Racists.) Where should white people stand in a BLM protest? (On the perimeter.) How does posting a black square on Insta help stop racism? (It doesn’t.) Indeed, we can care all we like but if don’t repair, well, racism wins. Wordfest is privileged to share personal stories from three powerful authors — each driven to help galvanize white and non-Black allies into action-focused accomplices. With generosity and pragmatism, they all answered questions from students at Calgary’s St. Margaret Junior High School (kids want to know what to do to help which, of course is everything.)

Frederick Joseph

When his book The Black Friend: How to Be a Better White Person made the New York Times bestseller list, Frederick Joseph broke down in tears thinking of his grandmother, whose dreams of being a writer were repeatedly interrupted and, eventually, shattered by racism. With sincerity and encouragement, Joseph — founder of The Black Panther Challenge that enabled 75,000 low-income kids to see the Marvel movie for free — explains how white people can stop perpetuating racism by turning awareness into action. As he fights for change, the author also faces a dramatic personal health challenge with characteristic grace and resilience.

Koa Beck

“I love when they make trashy people look good.” That phrase — casually uttered by a white colleague while looking over Koa Beck’s shoulder as she admired a magazine cover photo of Nikki Minaj — changed the former editor’s life. “I have a memory of going back to my desk and working the whole day, but I was in a fog after that.” In conversation, Beck fearlessly asks, and answers, questions about race and misogyny that expose the urgent need to break rules that uphold the patriarchy. As referenced by actor Viola Davis in her Emmy speech, Black icon Harriet Tubman saw that as a line that black women couldn’t cross. In her ground-breaking book White Feminism, Beck decides, however, that it’s time to “lay white feminism at the feet of white feminists for them to understand — and undo.”

Desmond Cole

The author of the provocative, award-winning The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, Desmond Cole is as engaging in conversation as he is powerful on the page. His story about the devastating bullying he endured by his elementary-school principal serves as a milestone moment in his own understanding of insidious, unwanted attention and powerlessness. He also re-visits a story he shared with Wordfesters on his last visit to Calgary in February, 2020, about the violence against, and false arrest of, a Black Halifax mother named Santina Rao (who wrote about her ordeal with more grace than we deserve). Cole encouraged us to sign petition asking the Crown clear her name; it garnered 70, 000 signatures and last fall, that mobilization resulted charges against Rao being dropped. “That’s what we can do together,” Cole says. “That’s the power of collective action.”

Buy the Books

White Feminism

Owl’s Nest Books | Shelf Life Books

The Skin We’re In

Owl’s Nest Books | Shelf Life Books

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person

Owl’s Nest Books | Shelf Life Books

Borrow the Book from the Library:

White Feminism

Calgary Public Library

The Skin We’re In

Calgary Public Library

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person

Calgary Public Library

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