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Book industry voices support for Black Lives Matter

by | Jun 4, 2020 | News

Publishers, booksellers, agents and literary organisations on both sides of the Atlantic have all joined the chorus of outrage and support for change following the murder by police of the unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Hachette UK is donating £10,000 each to the United Families and Friends Campaign, a coalition of families and friends of those that have died in the custody of police and prison officers, and the Inclusive Indies Fund, which is helping diversity-led independent publishers weather the coronavirus crisis.

In a lengthy and powerful statement, Hachette’s UK CEO David Shelley said: “All of us at Hachette have been watching events unfold after the murder of George Floyd, the most recent victim in a series of horrific incidents, with increasing shock, sadness and anger.  Nobody should ever have to fear for their safety because of the colour of their skin, but they still do. It’s difficult to imagine what the Black community must be feeling and with atrocities like this still happening, there is a more urgent need than ever for us to stand together and educate ourselves, become better allies and offer financial support where we can….

“We wanted to do something tangible to help support and further the work of organisations working towards a more inclusive culture. So today we have made a donation of £10,000 to The United Families and Friends Campaign and £10,000 to The Inclusive Indies Fund.

“Finally, books are among the most potent agents of change in the world. The work of Layla F Saad and her book Me and White Supremacy helped me learn a lot about the institutional racism of the world we live in, to realise a lot about my own biases and false assumptions, and helped to open my eyes to the extra barriers people of colour face.

Penguin Random House has this message on its homepage:  ‘We stand against racism and violence towards the Black community.  And we commit to listening – to our readers, our authors, and to our teams – as we work toward becoming part of the change’.  It also has a list of ‘Anti-racist books and resources for our readers’.  The publisher said: “We stand in solidarity with everyone fighting for racial justice around the world, and with our colleagues and authors who are experiencing profound grief and pain right now.  We all have work to do, to educate ourselves and to agitate for change.  At Penguin we make books for everyone, because a book can change anyone. That means making sure that Penguin gives voice to those who, for too long, have gone unheard. We will continue to work to make sure we’re living up to that promise.  We hope that our books can go some small way to help us learn, challenge our thinking and inspire us all to action. #BlackLivesMatter.”

In the States many independent bookstores have offered refuge to protesters or first aid help, and there has been a ground swell on social media urging people to shop at black-owned bookstores.  Anti-racist titles have been selling well across the country.

Among agents, Rachel Mills at Rachel Mills Literary in London posted: “Today we use our voice to say, we stand with our authors who have had to fight for their voices to be recognised.  We see the challenges they have and continue to face for the same rights so many take for granted.  We stand with you and support you.  And to all those who may not have the same platform but share the same truth, we are here and we are listening.”

And Words Without Borders, the online magazine dedicated to international literature, said: “Today we use our platform to stand in solidarity with the fight to end police violence and all forms of oppression against Black people. And we will be thinking hard about how we can sustain and deepen this commitment going forward.

 

 

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