Veronica Chambers and Jennifer Harlan’s Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter is an essential overview of the Black Lives Matter movement (2021). The creators bring BLM to life through photographs, timelines, graphics, and accessible text. This is a book that belongs in every library and classroom serving students 10 and up.
In the first chapter, readers are introduced to BLM co-founders, Opal Tometi, Patrice Cullors, and Alicia Garza, as they accept a Glamour Women of the Year Award in 2016. Then, the chapter explores how their life experiences shaped their activism.
Subsequent chapters explore a range of topics, including the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin and the 2014 murder of Michael Brown. In both instances, social media was used to challenge dominant media narratives and as a tool to organize activists.
Throughout the book, Chambers and Harlan connect BLM to other movements for racial and economic justice. In doing this, they also produce a fascinating national history.
The expansion of BLM into various localities throughout the US and the world prompted Garza, Tometi, and Cullors to create the Black Lives Matter Network “to centralize the organizing principles of the movement” (45). They encourage local activists to individualize their activism to the communities they serve, while committing to core principles.
In addition to all this thorough work, the creators offer readers a rigorous, but approachable introduction to systemic racism. They demonstrate that BLM connects police brutality to slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other interconnected instances of systemic racism that have sustained racial division and hierarchy in the US. Even more, they note that Black Lives Matter, although often associated with police brutality, also engages other issues of systemic racism, including housing and education.
A range of other materials, including the role of Black music and art in activism, are also explored.
The creators of Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter create an accessible read without compromising breadth or depth. I am very impressed with all aspects of the collection.
After reading this book, I feel informed, encouraged, and exceptionally inspired. I’m currently seeking my teacher certification, so I can transition from college to high school teaching. This is a book that I will proudly include in my classroom library.
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