OLEAN, NY — The steering committee of the Race Unity Circle of Olean had been in the habit of meeting monthly at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery.

When the pandemic hit, the committee met on Zoom “a couple of times” and “socially distanced” in a member’s garage “a couple of times,” recalled committee member Niki Kronenwetter of Portville.

When the warmer weather came around, the group decided to form a book club for discussing issues central to the group’s belief ”that all people are members of one race: the Human Race.”

Sign Up for Greater Olean Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The book club met for the first time in June and discussed "The Water Dancer," a novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Kronenwetter recalled an engaging conversation among the six people who sat in a circle with chairs spaced six feet apart.

The book for the July 28, 7 p.m., meeting is "Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race," a non-fiction book by Debby Irving. Persons interested in attending should reserve a spot at rucolean@gmail.com, and they should plan on wearing masks and bringing their own chairs.

If attendance is large, club organizers may make two or three groups for discussion, Kronenwetter said. Club meetings are set for the East side of the shelter in Lincoln Park, near the gazebo and South Barry Street.

The date and title for the August meeting will not be decided until the steering committee meets Aug. 4, but the date will most likely be a Tuesday. Kronenwetter said Circle members have found that Tuesdays work best for most of them. When the colder weather comes, the club may have to meet online, she added.

Olean’s Race Unity Circle was founded in 2017, inspired by the Race Unity Circle formed in Poughkeepsie in 2014 by members of the Baha'i Faith in response to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Both the Poughkeepsie and Olean circles are multi-cultural and multi-faith.

Circle suggested resources include the following books:

  • “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Isabel Wilkerson
  • “Seeing Heaven in the Face of Black Men,” Tod M. Ewing
  • “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “Notes of a Native Son” and “I Am Not Your Negro,” James Baldwin
  • “The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation” and “Amazing Grace,” Jonathan Kozol
  • “Tears We Cannot Stop,” Michael Eric Dyson
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Michelle Alexander
  • “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,’ Robin Diangelo
  • “White Rage,” Carol Anderson
  • “Race Matters,” Cornell West
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race,” Ijeoma Oluo
  • “Citizen,” Claudia Rankine
  • “The Origin of Others,” Toni Morrison

Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox. 

Download the FREE TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.