Breaking Barriers With Books is a reading group, composed of medical students and Fruit Belt community members that meets four to five times a year in a Fruit Belt community space. We meet over potluck dinner to review a reading from African American literature that opens a discussion about race. We have read works by W.E.B. Du Bois, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, Claudia Rankine, and others.
The readings have provided candid discussions about racial dynamics in the United States, and African American attitudes toward history, institutions, policies, and politics. While discussions begin with the reading, they move into considerations of contemporary events in the United States, in Buffalo, and in the medical school.
Breaking Barriers With Books provides opportunities to talk about race with candor. It provides students with insights into the African American community and advice about how to respond to racist situations. We learn information that is unavailable in the popular press or lecture. We learn about a community that is organized by relationships, principles, and leadership that White observers are often unaware of. Students find the program extremely useful, and are grateful for the mentoring and education that community members provide.