Story updated September 21, 2021 to include event information.

By Shannon Sigafoos

Like her Black peers and Black people around the world, Fayola Fair ’19 has spent much of the past year grappling with questions of community engagement and activism in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

As the world around her began to embark on a renewed interest in Blackness, Fair looked around at her hometown of Jamaica, Queens, New York—and at her position as a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University—and began to wonder about how to bring the realities of racism, Black history, and social progress to the consciousness of not only those around her, but young people in particular. 

Last Nov. 15, she launched the Reading for Black Lives Project, which focuses on education and introducing readers to new ideas with which they can actively engage.

Fayola Fair '19 started the Reading for Black Lives Project

Fayola Fair ’19 started the Reading for Black Lives Project

“I was really thinking about how I can make the world a better place for people who are coming behind me, and recognizing the fact that we are living in a world where oppression still exists and that we live in a very unequal society. Recognizing that and then not doing anything about it, to me, just felt very disingenuous,” shares Fair, who was motivated by watching her mother teach others. “I did a lot of community organizing work at Lafayette, and now that I’m in a much bigger landscape in New York City, I wanted to find out how I fit into this landscape. I don’t necessarily have to change the world. I want to change the life of the person next to me and the people in my community.” 

The Reading for Black Lives Project was created as an opportunity to provide literary resources centering around Black authors as experts and sources of knowledge, and Fair releases new recommendations on a biweekly basis via the project’s Instagram account. She also has curated the recommendations based around specific themes, such as Queer reads, Black History Month, Pride Month, Mental Health Awareness, Black Feminism, and Caribbean American Heritage. 

Upcoming Event

  • Fayola Fair ’19, founder of the Reading for Black Lives Project, will discuss her work virtually on Thursday, September 23, 2021 from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. In conjunction with the event, Association of Black Collegians and Lafayette Libraries will be collaborating with Reading for Black Lives to collect books by BIPOC authors, children’s books, and books in Spanish or other languages. Learn more and register for the event.

The Lafayette library recently shared Fair’s recommendations for young adults, which she says came from her own ability to begin seeing herself in these coming of age stories. Going through the college experience and still being only a few years removed from her time at Lafayette has given Fair an opportunity to consider how she can still do important work that impacts those generations coming behind her. 

“I was a part of the Lafayette community for four years. I’m so proud of that community as an alum, and I’m really thinking about the ways that I can support students on campus. How do I balance the fact that there is a community there that I still really care for?” says Fair. “It’s about giving back but it’s also about moving away, and the time and space between then and now. Anytime I get a follow [on social media] or anytime someone shares the information I’m putting out there, I’m just glad that the work I’m doing is resonating with people and that they are finding it helpful. That really means a lot to me.” 

Fair is looking forward to being a high school associate teacher in the fall, and in the meantime, is planning events for the Reading for Black Lives Project—such as a free book fair at the end of the month—that will continue the momentum of her personal mission of helping others flourish through education.

“I’m very focused on supporting others in helping them become their best selves, and helping them navigate and understand this world we’re living in,” says Fair. “As I continue in my own journey, I want to continue to highlight various aspects of the Black experience.” 

Find out more about the Reading for Black Lives Project via the website or Instagram.

Categorized in: Alumni, Alumni Profiles, Alumni Success Stories, Diversity, Featured News, News and Features

1 Comment

  1. Jash K. Patel says:

    I have seen many of my African-American friends being traumatized by racism. They are even afraid to go out of their homes after what happened to George Floyd. Thus, if I get an admission at Lafayette (I was waitlisted and if I apply for transferring), I will start a club, “Lafayette Stop Racism.”

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