Beacon Press Report, General Assembly 2018

UUA General Assembly Off-site Participation: Kansas City, Missouri | 2018

Part of General Assembly 2018 Event 303: General Session III

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions of General Session III (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

Barb Greve: Beacon Press has long been the UU’s voice to the wider world. I’m happy to see that the Press continues to do good work and to flourish. Here to tell you about Beacon’s work this year is Helene Atwan, who has been Director of Beacon [Slide #1] since 1995.

Helene Atwan: Thank you so much; it’s a pleasure and honor to be with you today, and a real privilege to report on the work of Beacon Press.

Like the Entire association, we’ve been very focused on confronting the systemic issue of White Supremacy and working to dismantle it. [Slide #2] First, I want to affirm that books do matter—we’re reaching a lot of people! These are just two examples from our comprehensive Social Impact Report. [Slide #3] And sometimes our books work in ways even we couldn’t foresee, like these two congressional interventions on gun violence and prison reform. Both issues, of course, which disproportionately impact communities of color. [Slide #4] Beacon first published this book 25 years ago, two years before I came to work as the director. After all that time, we’ve managed to pull back all the rights that were licensed so we now have the hardcover, paperback, eBook *and* the audio book, all with new material. This book may be older than some of you listening to me, but I promise it will speak to you as powerfully as it did to readers of all races and generations 25 years ago. And Cornel West continues to be on the front lines in the fight for racial justice. [Slide #5] Today we are seeking out new activists, with new ideas and perspectives, who have a lot to teach us about what true racial equity looks like, and how we might achieve those goals. In fact, it was Cornel West who called out to us the work of Charlene Carruthers. [Slide #6] We’re learning more about what it takes to build community, to honor people, and to find common ground.

In Crystal Fleming’s memorable title, we need to learn How To Be Less Stupid About Race. [Slide #7] We’re examining closely what steps we need to take, all of us, to have a more inclusive and equitable society—in our churches, in our workplaces and even in our friendship circles. [Slide #8] Many of you have seen Robin DiAngelo in action and know the power of her ideas. For the first time, and for us, she’s put those ideas into an accessible, inexpensive book. We couldn’t bring her to Kansas City, but we do have the book at InSpirit in the exhibit hall—and we will try hard to bring Robin back for workshops at the next GA. [Slide #9] One of Beacon’s most celebrated strengths is in putting a historical lens on current issues—and reframing the “master narrative.” These books look closely at the legacy of civil rights movements….

And at what we can learn from the outrages of our past— the terrible injustices we visited on African Americans, as in medical experimentation on slaves in the 1840s, or the Army hanging at Levenworth all 8 of the black soldiers on Death Row while all 9 of the white soldiers were freed-- and this in the 1960s. Our authors work to surface this history, to lift up these stories so we can learn from them.

[Slide #10] And so that we can learn how history teaches us to resist.

In the political arena, and on our playing fields. [Slide #11] Many of you know our ReVisioning American History through Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s revolutionary book, AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE US. That book has now sold over 100,000 copies! These are the latest books in that series, the Paul Ortiz was just published and the Daina Berry/Kali Gross is coming later this year. Upending the “Master Narrative.” [Slide #12] And while we focus on these urgent issues of racial equity, we’re also publishing books that address the full range of social justice issues we’re all concerned about.

Part of the struggle for racial equity is the fight for economic justice, worker’s rights, good jobs and good pay; and of course, it all starts with our public schools, and making sure all children are afforded a quality education, not the Betsy DeVos vision of privatized, religiously affiliated, and even *cyber* charter schools, that have White Supremacy built into their very fabric. All the issues you see displayed here are part of building a just society. [Slide #13] So, I give you these words from Reverend Barber: “We need you to stand up again, to speak up again, to come together again until justice is realized, love is actualized, hate is demoralized, war is neutralized, racism, classism, and religious bigotry is marginalized, and the beloved community is actualized.” [Slide #14] And we have two powerful authors about to speak… hope you can join us! [Slide #15] We couldn’t do this work without your support, and the support of the UUA and the Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. [Slide #16] And for the past two decades, we have been lucky enough to have Tom Hallock helping to guide our work daily; starting in July, he leaves us—but not entirely. We can’t thank you enough.