Spring Book Study: Not Light, But Fire by Matthew Kay

Updated: Jan 20

Please join us in an exciting book study and discussion on a timely, integral topic in education: navigating race conversations in the classroom.

Matthew R. Kay centers his provocative and highly practical book Not Light, But Fire on wisdom shared by Frederick Douglass in 1852 when he was invited to deliver an address to a Rochester audience celebrating the Fourth of July; in his speech, he challenged Americans to admit to their constant preoccupation with “meaningless race conversations.” Douglass, who was often rebuked for his directness, was frequently told his role should be to “shed light” on the American race problem. Douglass’s retort, “It is not light that is needed, but fire” has inspired Matthew R. Kay, a veteran black high school teacher in Philadelphia, to bring the fire to classroom talk about race. He proffers the idea that high school classrooms are one of the best places to have these conversations if we create communities built on dialogue and respect.

He provides practical guidance on how to cultivate such a fertile environment: how to recognize the difference between meaningful race conversations and hollow ones; how to actually build conversational safe spaces, not merely to declare them; how to react to unexpected challenges and directions in discussions; and how the administration and structure of schools might equip teachers to engage in these conversations thoughtfully.

Kay’s energetic and direct voice draws readers into this timely and often scary topic, and he refreshingly offers many practical suggestions and anecdotes that teachers will be able to identify with, reflect on, and use in their classrooms immediately.


  1. Launch Session: March 2, 2022 (via Zoom. 4:30-5:30)

  2. Asynchronous discussion - Last week in March

  3. Wrap up: April 26, 2022 (via Zoom. 4:30-5:30)

Cost: $20 (Note, does not include cost of book which may be purchased through Amazon or other book retailers).

Discussion Leader:

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