In the wake of national protests over police brutality and racial injustice, many have sought to further educate themselves on issues affecting the BIPOC community. Maryland Smith is doing its part in this process with hopes of making the world a more equitable place – one page at a time.
Launched this year, the Smith Summer Reading and Dialogue Series is an anti-racist reading club that features poetry and literature written by Black and anti-racist poets and authors. Its intent is to dedicate necessary time and space to engage deeply in these important topics, says Maryland Smith’s Jeanette Snider, M. Ed ’11, PhD ’20.
“Many people have reached out saying they wanted to be a part of the change and asking how they could help promote progress at Maryland Smith,” says Snider, associate director of the undergraduate program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Through this reading series, we’ve been able to connect with people in our community, see how they’re feeling and add another touchpoint to engage with them.”
In June, the series kicked off with a poetry forum via Zoom where 60 students, faculty, staff and alums read three different poems, one of which was written by Maryland Smith alum Steven Asifo ’14. After, participants convened to smaller groups with questions to talk through.
“When everyone was grouped back together it was beautiful and there was so much to digest from those sessions,” says Snider. “We ended with people still wanting to talk and there was a definite hunger that we could see from just that one experience.”
That success prompted the creation of a second session, planned for August, focused around Robin DiAngelo’s book, “White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”
This book, Snider says, was chosen to help all members of the Maryland Smith community, particularly those who are non-Black, to understand fully the power dynamics that have been upheld for centuries in the United States.
“As a black woman, I’ve been doing this work for quite some time and have thought about ways we can start this educational process and raise awareness that will ultimately lead to action,” Snider says. “Yes, it’s important to have a conversation and create dialogue, but there is a sense of urgency as well in terms of the work we need to do as a community.”
Poetry is accessible and easy for people to wrap themselves around, Snider says, and books enable people to educate themselves at an even deeper level.
Reading one book or a few poems won’t immediately yield solutions, Snider says, but it does convey how committed the community is about creating change.
She encourages everyone in the Maryland Smith community to be involved, attend sessions and let their voices be heard.
“The opportunity to get out of our silos and communicate with people from different departments and across different disciplines within Maryland Smith has been enlightening,” says Snider.
“To see the breadth of people who are interested in this work, that has been really powerful for people to safely and freely express their thoughts and feelings.”
Visit the Maryland Smith Diversity and Inclusion webpage to access more anti-racist resources.