By Thomas Cathey | Special to The OBSERVER

Former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
Former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, left, introduces bestselling authors Nic Stone, center, and Ibram X. Kendi during the Oak Park Speaker Series at the Guild Theater. Thomas Cathey, OBSERVER

The Oak Park Speaker Series presented “How to be a (Young) Antiracist” on Feb. 4 at the Guild Theater featuring New York Times bestselling authors Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone.

Former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the authors covered several subtopics pertaining to the book, including how they initially collaborated on the project, Stone’s experiences with her children and how they inspired parts of the book, and the pushback from certain states and politicians against their kind of literature – and how to combat it.

The most critical takeaway is the importance of today’s youth and their willingness to make a change. Kendi said there needs to be an overhaul of the American education system to make sure they’re getting the correct education.

“If we had a high-quality, free, robust educational system where all of our kids were learning an antiracist education as opposed to the current, largely racist education, I think it would make it much harder for elected officials to hoodwink their constituents [into voting for them and upholding their policies,” Kendi said during the talk.

Adults foremost need to take the thoughts and ideas of today’s youth more seriously, Stone stressed to the sold-out, predominantly adult audience towards the discussion’s conclusion.

“This is a book that is coming from a place of respect for your mind, for your power that you have to put out to the world,” Stone told the younger attendees before addressing the older audience members. “Grownups: stop treating these kids like they are stupid, [as if] their opinions don’t matter, like they are unable to think for themselves. … They are smarter than we are!”

“How to be a (Young) Antiracist” is essentially a youth version of Kendi’s 2019 original work, “How to be an Antiracist.” Stone, well regarded for her work in youth fiction, was brought on to help tailor Kendi’s messages from the original book to a younger audience. Kendi and Stone have been on a national book tour since the start of the year.

“Dr. Kendi is world renowned, one of the most provocative and important not just African-Americans, but people, today in this country and on Earth,” Johnson said after the discussion. “And then Nic Stone in her own right, a New York Times bestselling author – to have them join forces and take a book that he wrote about antiracism to adults and for her to convert it into a way that’s digestible for young people between 12 and 18, I think is extremely powerful.”

Johnson was determined to get both authors to Sacramento at any cost, reaching out to Kendi personally. He also had help from two high-profile colleagues.

“I just shot Kendi a text one day and said, ‘Can we get you to come out to Sacramento?’” Johnson recalled. “I knew it would be very costly; his honorarium is very steep. Angelo Tsakopoulos from Sacramento, Chet Hewitt and I basically committed to the idea that we’re never not gonna get somebody to Sacramento because of not having enough money.”

Tsakopoulos and Hewitt, who played a key part in bringing the authors here, got the chance to ask the authors questions as well during the talk. Also featured was a college-bound high school senior who asked a few of her own questions and even got to go on stage with the authors and take pictures with them.

The Oak Park Speaker Series is a recurring event put on by Johnson’s St. Hope program and is presented by Underground Books. Johnson’s mother, Georgia “Mother Rose” West, who runs Underground Books, was also in attendance.