Mary Ann Key Book Club Events in May

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April 26, 2021

Our second edition of the Mary Ann Key Book Club newsletter is packed with new reflections, upcoming event information, and panelist introductions for our big event on May 18.

Reflections from Myron Medcalf

Portrait of Myron Medcalf

"In 1988, my parents moved my family from Milwaukee to a nearby suburb. We were movin’ on up” like the Jeffersons, but it was clear that some of the folks in our new, predominantly white neighborhood did not want us there. Every Saturday, my father would take his three boys to our new house, before we’d officially moved in, and every Saturday, a police officer would follow us to a home we owned. Months after our arrival, my sister came home crying after a security guard had followed her through a store. At school, I would ask kids why I had not been invited to their homes to play and they would tell me that “my mother thinks you’re too hyper.”  

I’ve been thinking about Caste and Isabel Wilkerson’s discussion of the energy attached to the subjugation of individuals across the world and the efforts that were taken to tell us we did not belong in that neighborhood when we first arrived. If you are deemed to be less, a member of a lower caste, then you will endure policies and actions that aim to preserve the power enjoyed by the dominant group.

In America, your position in that system is tied to the color of your skin. Down the street from our new home? Houses my grandmother once cleaned. She could not have imagined her son one day owning a home in that neighborhood. Yet, an elevation in “class,” from one generation to the next, had not changed what we represented to the white people who lived there."

- Myron Medcalf


Reflection and discussion

How has this book helped you understand the steps you can take to recognize and unravel the caste system as it has been illustrated in your own life?


Upcoming book club events

May 3, 8, 14, 20 and 25 

Book Club Discussions   

Join our discussion of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. Hosted by library staff and facilitated by community leadersSpace is limited, and registration required.  


Tuesday, May 18, 6-8 p.m.  

This is a don't miss event. Join columnist Myron Medcalf in a discussion with community leaders Mahmoud El-Kati, Shannon Gibney, Lissa Jones-Lofgren, Ramona Kitto Stately, Terri Thao and Dr. Artika R. Tyner. Registration required.


Event panelists

Portrait of Mahmoud El-Kati

Mahmoud El-Katiis a lecturer, author and commentator on the African American experience. El-Kati is Professor Emeritus of History at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Professor El-Kati is the author of numerous books, includingPolitically Considered: 50th Commemoration of the Supreme Court Decision of 1954,The Hiptionary: A Survey of African American Speech Patterns with Critical Commentary and A Digest of Key Words and Phrases, and Haiti: The Hidden Truth. As a guiding Elder to Solidarity – Twin Cities, a social activist, and educational organization, he stays active in the upliftment and liberation of the African American community. His current work includes being an instructor for the Nu Skool of Afrikan American Thought, a monthly community forum hosted on Zoom, but typically held at the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul. 


Portrait of Shannon Gibney

Shannon Gibney is a writer, educator, activist and the author of See No Color(Carolrhoda Lab, 2015) and Dream Country(Dutton, 2018), young adult novels that won Minnesota Book Awards in 2016 and 2019. Gibney is faculty in English at Minneapolis College, where she teaches writing. A Bush Artist and McKnight Writing Fellow, her new novel, Botched, explores themes of transracial adoption through speculative memoir (Dutton, 2021). In October 2019, University of Minnesota Press released What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Native Women and Women of Color, which she co-edited with writer Kao Kalia Yang. 


Portrait of Lissa Jones-Lofgren

Lissa Jones-Lofgren is Principal and Consultant at Lissa L. Jones, a boutique consulting firm specializing in coaching and training for greater equity and inclusion. Lissa is also the Content Creator and Radio Personality for ‘Urban Agenda’ on KMOJ Radio, Minnesota’s oldest Black radio station. Her favorite role is that of Host of the podcast, ‘Black Market Reads’, a podcast of the Givens Foundation for African American Literature. 


Portrait of Ramona Kitto Stately

Ramona Kitto Stately is an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Dakota Nation. She has a BA in Dakota Art and Culture, and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Teacher leadership from Augsburg University. After 15 years teaching Indian Education in Minnesota, she is now Project Director for the We Are Still Here Minnesota, creating action for narrative change. Ramona is the mother of two children, an accomplished beadwork artist with moccasins on display in the Science Museum of Minnesota, a part of the scholars' team with of the Minnesota Humanities Center’s forLearning from Place: Bdote, and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Minnesota Indian Education Associationsince 2016. 


Portrait of Terri Thao

Terri Thao is passionate about building power with community. She is currently a program director at Nexus Community Partners, a non-profit community building intermediary where she runs the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI).  Terri has spent most of her professional career in the fields of community economic development, community building, leadership development and philanthropy. She also teaches classes on leadership and advocacy at Metropolitan State University. She serves on the boards of the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Minnesota Housing and Voices for Racial Justice. She obtained her bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota. She lives with her family in St. Paul and loves to read in her spare time.


Portrait of Dr. Artika R. Tyner

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, lawyer, author, sought after speaker and advocate for justice. She is committed to training students to serve as social justice engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom. In recognition of her leadership and service, she is the recipient of more than two dozen awards that include: Women in Business, American Small Business Champion, International Educator Citizen, and American Bar Association Difference Makers. She is a prolific, award-winning author of adult and children’s books that includes: Amazing Africa: A to Z and The Leader’s Journey: A Guide to Discovering the Leader Within. She serves as a global citizen by supporting education, entrepreneurship and women’s leadership initiatives in Africa. Dr. Tyner is the founder of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting literacy and diversity in books.  


Share your feedback and questions

Tell us your thoughts as you read Caste. Share your feedback, reflections or questions. Responses and questions may be shared with Myron Medcalf and library staff, and quotes may be shared with readers through our newsletter.


Thank you, Friends.

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The Mary Ann Key Book Club receives generous financial support from Friends of the Hennepin County Library. Thanks to Friends members like you, the library is able to offer expanded access to digital and print editions of Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. You can help expand access to more books, programs and resources, by supporting your library today. GIVE NOW


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The Star Tribune is a valued partner of the Mary Ann Key Book Club. Mr. Medcalf is leveraging his column to further engage our community on the truths of the past, our challenges in the present, and the possibilities of the future.

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