At the beginning of each school year, Frederick Community College hosts a campus-wide book discussion. A book is chosen, and students, staff, and faculty members are encouraged to read it in order to participate in discussions around the central themes of the book. This semester, the book chosen for the discussion was Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah.
The book discussion consists of three separate events, each one tackling different themes present throughout Born a Crime. The discussions are led by two facilitators and are open to students, staff, and other faculty members.
The first discussion, on Sept. 26, was facilitated by Ms. Chianti Blackmon, and student assistant Natalie Arias. In this discussion, participants talked about topics surrounding race and identity.
“We wanted to pick the themes of race and identity because identity is so broad, and it shifts, based on what’s going on in your life,” says Ms. Blackmon, director of the Multicultural Student Services.
At the beginning of each discussion, ground rules are set by the facilitators, and the central themes are introduced.
During Ms. Blackmon’s event, five dots were set up around the room, each with different statements attached to them. Students were to choose only two of the five they have experienced. The statements included “race is a part of my identity,” “my culture at home conflicts with my everyday life,” “I struggle with my identity,” “I find myself split between multiple worlds,” and “I have experienced discrimination based on my racial identity.” The results, between the 80 participants, were almost entirely evenly split.
The group also focused on the importance language plays in someone’s race and identity. “The discussion invited students to make the effort to speak someone else’s language, even if it’s just the basic phrases. You are saying to them, ‘I understand you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being,’” said Ms. Blackmon.
Professor Ramon Jones and Professor Anne Hofmann facilitated the second series discussion, on Oct. 10. This discussion engaged conversations around multiculturalism, multilingualism, and multiperspectivity.
“We wanted students to see things from a more global perspective, not just from an American author, but from someone who has these different backgrounds that come together, to expand students’ awareness,” says Professor Jones.
The event was a mix of small and large group discussions. Each person actively engaged in conversations surrounding their point of view, and how different experiences play a role in shaping an individual’s perspective.
“Is multiperspectivity possible?”, “How do we work towards it?”, “What hinders it?”, “What are the benefits of working towards it?” — all of these were questions that the group set out to answer.
Even though two of the three discussions have occurred, students can take part in the third campus book discussion coming up on Nov. 12. Facilitated by Dr. Kathy Brooks and Dr. Christian Thompson, the final discussion will cover the themes of identity, and what it means to “not fit into the box.”
There will be several discussion focuses such as, “how people see you vs. how you wish to be seen,” “advantages of boxes,” and “what you do when your identities clash.”
“The topic is really relevant to what’s going on now, and to students,” Dr. Brooks said. “A lot of the time students are struggling with different identities and how they coincide and how they clash. College is a time to discover yourself in so many different ways. It’s a very timely topic to figure out what your identity means.”
The discussion will consist of small groups, where participants will answer questions given by the facilitators. Participants will get a chance to share their own stories. Brief audio and video clips about the book will be shown.
“This is a great opportunity to place yourself into an environment where you can learn about people who are different from you that would be potentially uncomfortable at times, but that’s where a lot of growth happens,” says Dr. Thompson.
The Born a Crime third campus-wide book discussion will be on Nov. 12, from 9-10:15 a.m. in the Blackbox Theatre, Room F142.
“Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” is an autobiography written by Trevor Noah. The book documents Noah’s childhood, and his experiences growing up during apartheid South Africa. Noah comes from a black mother, and a white father. As a result of being born from a biracial couple, his mixed-race existence was a crime. Noah’s mother kept him hidden from the world for most of his childhood, knowing the punishment they could face if the government found him. Through documentation of personal experiences, Noah conquers topics such as racism, and identity. He showcases his own struggles of dealing with discrimination, and figuring out who really is, underneath the color of his skin. Noah is now a host on The Daily Show, a satirical news program that airs on Comedy Central.