Social justice and race relations inspire De Anza’s “One-Book Club”


Georgina Munoz-Villanueva

“The Purpose of Power” by Alicia Garza will be featured in De Anza Students One-Book Club.

Georgina Munoz-Villanueva, Reporter

It was in the early-to-mid 2010’s at Pasadena City College where the idea for a schoolwide book club was introduced to De Anza College’s dean of equity and engagement division, Alicia Cortez. 

At De Anza, a program of that kind started to take shape eighteen months ago, with the intent to encourage students to connect with each other in the face of the social isolation experienced in the past months due to the pandemic. 

“I did a little research and I found that many colleges and universities do this as a way to engage students in dialogue and create a sense of community,” Cortez said. “Given our current state, it’s much more important now to create a sense of connection.”

Alicia Garza (De Anza College)

Cortez said she observed that historical inequities within certain communities were especially heightened during the pandemic. She added that this moment should be viewed as a call to action to support students from disadvantaged communities, who suddenly found themselves with little hope in succeeding in online learning, leading many to decide to leave school entirely. This is especially important since many of those students usually rely on a college education to lift themselves out of the minimum wage.

“After the pandemic started we felt like it was about time to address these issues,” Cortez said. “So a subcommittee of different faculty members got together and decided to launch this project.”

After surveying members, it was decided that “The Purpose of Power” by Alicia Garza would be the first book the club will be reading this quarter.

According to Community College Review, an online college review site, enrolled students identified as minorities account for 80% of the De Anza student body, putting the school 5% above the state average at 75%, which highlights the school’s responsibility to better address their needs. Issues regarding inequality that minorities can face in America are addressed in Garza’s book, making it relevant to the student community. 

“The Purpose of Power” is about the life of its author, cofounder of the national Black Lives Matter organization. It is divided into three parts that cover her childhood through her adult life and her involvement with the movement. The book had already been circulating amongst faculty but it was only recently that, under the suggestion of her advisor, that Sara Sangari, 19, political science major decided to start a student-led club around the book. 

“A club like this is extremely relevant in institutions like De Anza since students from all different social, economic and political backgrounds come here to learn,” Sangari said. “Pieces like this, as a college student, makes you really aware of the barriers that people in lower economical levels face and the privileges that others have.”

Sangari also mentioned how this book was different from others she’s read in the way that it is personal and relatable.

“Our generation is familiar with the use of social media to spread awareness, which makes the book much more easy to relate to,” Sangari added.

Dihan Lin, 21, computer science major, decided to join the book club earlier this month. She said that clubs like this are more appealing for students like her due to it not being a class requirement, lowering another barrier to entry.

“I hope to learn about the creation of the movement, how it has progressed, and what modern perspectives of racism are through this book,” Lin said. “I love reading but I had never seen a club like this before so as soon as I saw it I knew I had to join.”

Students interested in joining can go to the club’s page on De Anza’s website for more information.