To the City College Community,
I’m pleased to announce the very first "Community Reads" project at CCNY. Our project is an effort to pull the entire CCNY community together around an effort to read, and discuss, a work that carries particular significance to our campus, especially in these difficult times. Conceived initially as a way to welcome new students to the college by engaging them in a joint exploration of a text, we are happy to include anyone on campus who would like to join.
Members of our faculty, staff, and student body worked diligently in committee over the past months to select an appropriate work, and I am happy to say that they have made an inspirational selection. After reviewing 80 different titles, the committee decided to adopt The Warmth of Other Suns, written by bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism and the National Humanities Medal. The Warmth of Other Suns details the lives of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, three African Americans seeking to flee the South to join the Great Migration. Ta-Nehishi Coates called this stunning piece of work, "absolutely revolutionary," and I think it's a perfect piece for us all to read together.
As part of the project, we are thrilled to announce that Ms. Wilkerson has agreed to serve as the keynote speaker at this year's Freshman Convocation, giving our campus community the opportunity to discuss The Warmth of Other Suns, book, but also to hear her speak on her much-anticipated forthcoming work, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. We will soon announce how you can participate in our community read and secure a copy of the book.
These are difficult times for us all. The pandemic has opened fundamental questions about how hardship deepens and exposes the inequities that exist in our society, and how these inequities, in turn, produce disparate experiences of violence, power, and injustice. But the pandemic has also deprived us all of the daily regeneration, in human contact, of our community. The idea of us all joining together to read and discuss a relevant work is designed both to direct our collective attention to issues of race and injustice, and to help reconstitute our community.
The committee that worked on this selection process put in many hours, sifting through recommendations, weighing the merits of one work against another, and thinking deeply about what kind of a conversation they wish to convene. I would like particularly to thank Professor Renata Kobetts Miller, who led that effort and chaired the committee, as well as those from the faculty, student government, and staff who worked with her to make this selection. All of us at CCNY will benefit from your careful review of these works and each of you has my gratitude for your hard work and wisdom.