Reality Bites series continues at the Cedar Rapids Public Library

Reality Bites

Cedar Rapids Public Library — Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 6 p.m.

Footage of James Baldwin from the 2016 film ‘I Am Not Your Negro.’ — video still

Cedar Rapids Public Library is holding the second installment in their new Reality Bites series on Wednesday, Jan. 3. Interested patrons will be taking a deep dive into the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which several attendees watched at the last session, in December.

Victoria Fernandez, programming patron services specialist and programmer of this series, said in an email, “I felt a need to develop a program where community members could exchange ideas and share stories in the local community, face to face.”

The standard format that Fernandez has established is a three-month cycle: learn, discuss and share. The Jan. 3 session is the “discuss” installment. Participants will watch a series of short videos, then break out into small groups to discuss the film and a variety of other African American literature, including, Fernandez said, “W.E.B. Du Bois and his notion of a double consciousness and Ta-Nehisi Coates and his book, Between the World and Me.”

“We will also discuss implicit bias, privilege, cycles of poverty and the idea of being color blind and color brave,” Fernandez continued. “We will explore Peggy McIntosh’s ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.’ This series is intended for everyone. It is my hope that we will have a meaningful dialogue discussing the African American experience in America.”

The film at the center of this first Reality Bites series, I Am Not Your Negro, is a project by filmmaker Raoul Peck, who took unfinished pages from poet, playwright and activist James Baldwin, recruited Samuel L. Jackson to read them, and wove them, along with music, archive footage of Baldwin, newsreels and movie clips, into the powerful and moving film.

The original incomplete project, Remember This House, was to have been an elegy, of sorts, to Baldwin’s dear friends and fellow civil rights agitators Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The documentary is both a beautiful homage to the work that’s been done and, with its juxtapositions and present-day allusions, a call to action for what must yet be done.

“I would like these programs to respond to salient issues in a way that moves our community forward,” Fernandez said of Reality Bites. “It is also my hope that we grow and learn from each other; we step outside of ourselves and we become more comfortable with issues we may not otherwise be comfortable with. To be human is to share stories and in these sessions our patrons will do just that. It will be an opportunity for an exchange of ideas. It is a great way to see where our community is and how the library can best serve them. It is my hope that as we learn more, we become more powerful advocates for each other.”

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