Morse High School staff have re-launched a book group with a new focus this year. Pictured are, from left, teachers Suzanne Davey and Rebecca Deschaine, library ed tech Brenda Fagan, librarian Dawn Lee and Principal Eric Varney. Courtesy / Morse High School

BATH — In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a program created at Morse High School in 2019 that centered around social issues now focuses specifically on combating racism.

School librarian Dawn Lee, who is facilitating Read Woke and Big Table Discussion, said the book discussion group was formed after the BLM movement sparked nationwide protests last summer following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis.

“It seemed like it would be purposeful to focus on racism,” Lee said this week.

Initially, the program allowed students and staff to choose books to read and then discuss at monthly in-person meetings. When the pandemic started, Lee said, the program was put on hold, but now it has returned. Meetings are happening virtually, but the format is the same. The current book, “This Book is Anti-Racist,” by Tiffany Jewell, discusses the history of racism and explores what communities can do to fight it.

The school’s next discussion on Jewell’s book is scheduled for Jan. 13. The Teach-In Read-In program at Patten Free Library is accepting submissions now for presentation on the website next month.

Lee said she wanted to hold these educational discussions after overhearing the all-too-casual usage of racial slurs from students.

“It’s the use of the n-word as a joke,” she said. “It’s calling someone out for looking different.”

Lee said the program will not be confined to the school, as she is partnering with Patten Free Library in a related program for the community. Teach-In Read-In is scheduled to begin in February to coincide with National Black History Month. Participants will be able to post articles, audio and video on a dedicated website about local Black people who might not have gained recognition in the past, be they writers, musicians, athletes, or scientists. To learn more, visit sites.google.com/view/teach-inread-in/home.

“There’s a part of history that we need to recognize that we don’t know a lot about,” Lee said.

Roberta Jordan, Patten’s outreach and instruction librarian, said she collaborated with Lee in fall 2020 on how to build on the work Lee was doing with the Red Woke project at the high school.

“We wanted to take it a little wider, to see if we can get adults more involved,” she said.

Jordan said she looks forward to seeing the stories that emerge. For example, she said, a library staff member is working on a video submission about Robert Benjamin Lewis, a Black inventor and writer who lived in Bath in the 19th century.

Lee said she is already working on more projects and book discussions at the high school for students and staff and anticipates the program will continue indefinitely.

“We always need to check ourselves when it comes to social justice issues,” she said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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