Tyrinne Lewis: In your opinion, how are the presidential election and race in America linked?
Paula Farmer: At the race panel last year the conversation kind of covered Race in America 101, but a lot of political things came up. It being an election year I think everyone will be thinking about it anyway. A big part of how they’re linked is because of who is in office now. He’s a divisive leader and there is a lot of flared racial tension. People are very aware of gerrymandering and that voter suppression is real. Now more than ever candidates know that there needs to be BIPOC voter turnout, since not all white men are winning anymore.
TL: Election years bring politics to the forefront of many people’s minds, do you think that people are
more engaged in politics this year compared to past elections?
PF: It feels like people are more engaged and are getting involved like they never have before. People are sharing more of their opinions and there’s this sense of urgency after the 2016 election. Even though it feels like there’s more engagement it’s not a time to assume anything. Any activist or politician I’ve spoken with says it’s still just as important to get out the vote, as they expect people to potentially feel overwhelmed or helpless as it gets closer to the election.
TL: How did you go about selecting the panelists? What do you hope they will contribute to this event?
PF:Initially I sent out messages to various people in the book industry to see if they had any authors that they thought would be interested in participating. All the panelists with the exception of Brian Copeland, I got from recommendations from former panelists and booksellers. Brian was on the panel previously and he brought levity to the discussion which I thought was great. My hope is that they each can speak to different aspects of the issue. Whenever I’m working on one of these social/political events no matter the theme, I am very deliberate about having a diverse representation on the panel. It’s important that it’s diverse in race, ethnicity, age, gender and thought. That way each panelists has a different experience and area of expertise that they can contribute to the discussion. I always feel honored to work with a pool of wonderfully diverse authors and activists from the Bay Area.
TL: Why do you think it’s important to publicly discuss race in an event like this?
PF: Maybe it’s because of where we are with Trump. It is a great way to be able to talk about race without only bring negativity to the conversation. Ultimately an event like this provides a safe space for people to navigate questions. It’s important that we don’t assume people of other races don’t have questions and it’s also equally important to acknowledge it’s not BIPOC responsibility to educate those who have questions. The people coming to these events are actively seeking out this information which is wonderful. I was pleasantly surprised during the aftermath of the first panel at how many people reached out to say how much it meant to them. It proves that people want to talk about it and that there is a place for it with events like this.
TL: This is the second Annual Race in America discussion you’ve hosted, do you hope to expand these
events in the future?
PF: In a perfect world I’d love to do this full-time and do three to four events a year on a larger scale. In
reality my time is much more limited, so in regards to expanding them I think the next step would be
addressing new social issues. Last fall we had an immigration panel which was a topical issue at the time and it went very well. In future I hope to have one on the environment or the Green New Deal, but in
general I look forward to continuing to put on more of these events.
An ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion.
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Chair: Paula Farmer (Book Passage, Corte Madera)
-Tyrinne Lewis (Rakestraw Books)
-Anthony Ramirez (Books Inc. Campbell)
-Linda Sherman-Nurick (Cellar Door)
-Ann Seaton (CALIBA)
-Calvin Crosby (CALIBA)