It has now been a year since Cincinnati broke out in riots over the shooting death of a young black male. Race relations have not improved. There is now a boycott of the boycott of Cincinnati. I don’t want to preach to you what I think the leaders of Cincinnati need to do to improve this city, but here’s what you can do.
Late last year the Cincinnati Enquirer asked its readers to vote for a book that would be the focus of a community-wide reading project. The project: On the Same Page; the book: “A Lesson Before Dying,” by Ernest J. Gaines.
The idea is to have as many people as possible to read the same book, then have several book discussions at various locations and dates so the city can connect and learn from its neighbors. The plan is to then have the author of the book speak not only to a crowd at the Shoemaker Center but also on local television. Gaines will try to help us learn the lessons in the book.
In a Cincinnati Enquirer article from February 28, Gaines says he hopes that people learn the lesson of responsibility and commitment to the community and to oneself from reading his book.
“A Lesson Before Dying” is set in Louisiana in 1948. The story involves two main characters, a black man sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit and the story of the teacher who tries to teach the prisoner he is not a “hog” and that he can die with dignity.
I read “A Lesson Before Dying” in 1995 as one of my English summer reading books.
After the first fifty pages or so, I forgot I had to read the book for school and started reading for fun. I was sad, angry, hopeful and shocked for the characters and community in the book. I even cried throughout.
Over the last six years, I have suggested to this book to many friends who needed hope; who thought their life could get no worse. Gaines showed me that things can always be worse.
Why not skip the history reading for the weekend and read something that is enjoyable and insightful? Come to a book discussion and tell your neighbors how you think race relations in the book relate to Cincinnati.
And what you think we as citizens can do to help destroy stereotypes, in both directions.
Become vocal in the community if you want change.