Black Power Book Club utilizes literature to empower the Black community

Over the past several years, American students have become increasingly involved in social justice activism and progressive politics, thanks mainly to the Black Lives Matter movement’s rise.

This year, the movement has seen a significant increase in participation, challenging cultural narratives about police brutality and law enforcement. One criticism of the year’s earlier Black Lives Matter protests was that they didn’t have a specific agenda.

Senior Aliyah Jones, founder of the Black Power Book Club at GSU, believes reading Black revolutionaries’ works is valuable for young activists. By studying the Black Power movement’s history and exploring existing literature by Black social justice leaders, she said that today’s activists could “refer back to a blueprint” instead of learning how to organize from scratch.

Jones started the organization in 2019 with the intention “to use literature focused on the Black experience as a vehicle to get people involved in work that benefits the Black community.”

She was inspired to start the organization after meeting the founder of the Black Power Book Club’s original chapter at Agnes Scott College.

“She was telling me about it, and I just really thought it was a necessary club to have at [Georgia State] because our Black population is so much larger than Agnes Scott’s,” Jones said. “I was already involved with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. So, I thought, ‘This is a book club; it won’t be that hard.’”

Many similar groups focus most of their energy toward organizing demonstrations, so Jones thought the book club format could specialize in educating activists and introducing them to different perspectives.

“That’s what really attracted me to Black Power Book Club,” she said. “To get into those books that really explore the condition that Black people are in and explain why they were in that condition, not just looking at the tip of the iceberg, [but] looking at how did that iceberg even come there.”

Club members are currently reading “Black Rage” by William Grier and Price Cobbs, two Black psychiatrists who explore the Black experience from a psychological perspective. The authors’ insights resonated with Jones. 

“With one character [in the book], it was about how they act at work,” she said. “They were like ‘I don’t want to tell my white superiors this because they’re going to think I’m uppity.’ It just makes you think like, ‘Oh, maybe that’s why I didn’t do that in this particular job.’”

According to Jones, the authors illustrated how little negative interactions that Black Americans experience in childhood build up to impact them in adulthood, without them even realizing where it’s coming from.

Black Power Book Club frequently collaborates with and promotes like-minded groups, such as the Housing Justice League and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which helps build a stronger community by interacting with a wide range of perspectives.

For students interested in studying Black revolutionaries’ works but not sure where to begin, Jones recommends starting with what’s familiar.

“Find the figure that you resonate most with, like a political figure or movement or something that you didn’t necessarily understand,” she said. “And look at their autobiography or look at a book from the organization and find out what they were really all about. Because, then, you already have a spark of interest in the subject.”

Black Power Book Club doesn’t subscribe to a specific political ideology. Their role is to introduce members to a wide range of perspectives so that they can freely decide which view makes the most sense to them. 

Black Power Book Club is committed to inclusion and varied discussion because it brings greater strength to their movement.

“When it comes to political ideology, if it has a Black agenda, we’ll get around it,” said Jones. “As long as it supports Black people, we’ll get behind it. We’re not going to let those things divide us.”