Read Against Racism – An Interview with Gloria Kimbwala: ‘Work begins in your heart’

Gloria Kimbwala has been a part of the Redding community for the last three years, but my first introduction to her was only last week. During a June 5 protest for black equality at Redding’s City Hall, Gloria delivered an impromptu speech that was both raw and powerful.

Trained as a software engineer, Gloria now works in the tech industry to develop diversity, inclusion and belonging. As part of a company that deals with economic empowerment, Gloria says she looks at life through the lens of how creating belonging and inclusion can benefit people economically. Having had opportunities to work with the United Nations, she chooses to hold herself to the UN’s sustainable development goals. Gloria moved to Redding to be closer to family and currently splits her time between Redding, San Francisco and Amsterdam. I interviewed her by phone about her newest personal project, Read Against Racism.

Can you tell me about the Read Against Racism fundraiser you just started for the Shasta Library Foundation? Particularly why you chose this cause?

Professionally, I do a lot of work with unconscious bias and how to be an ally. Here in Shasta County, we need to find ways for the whole community to move forward. That will require a foundation for the micro conversations that need to happen. One of the ways to make significant change is through literature. I am working with the Shasta Library Foundation to get common anti-racism literature for both children and adults into every branch of the Shasta Public Libraries and on permanent display.

What prompted you to develop the Read Against Racism fundraiser locally?

I’ve been working with a group of people to find restorative justice solutions for our community. There is no point in me going all over the world to teach inclusion if my home does not feel like a JUST place to live, with a strong sense of belonging. Lately, since George Floyd’s death, I have become even more vocal about Black Lives Matter and about creating more change in my local community. At the end of the day this is where my kids live and where I live.

What books about anti-racism will be bought for Shasta Public Libraries with this funding?

The Shasta Library Foundation and I talked about including books that are currently on the New York Times best seller list, all of which I recommend. If you look at the Read Against Racism page on the Shasta Public Library site, you will see many more books are also being purchased for the project. I like to leave it up to the hands of the demographic that is doing the work so it has been up to the Shasta Library Foundation to choose the books for each library.

Can you talk about your experience working with the Shasta Library Foundation on this project?

Shasta Library Foundation has been really helpful to doing this work. It’s gone from just an idea, to them saying ‘we’re going to do this’ and figuring out the cost. I learned that the Shasta County Library is one of the most underfunded libraries per capita. When you start to look at the quality of the programs they put out, they do a lot of work for being as underfunded as they are. I hope this project will also be a way to highlight some of the work that they do for the community. They are a really good organization and my boys spend a lot of time at the library.

What do you think our local community needs to understand about the work of anti-racism?

It would be beneficial if the community understands that racism is not only a black person problem it’s a white person problem. People often say that Redding isn’t diverse but Redding was diverse before it was ever called Redding. We live on indigenous land and there’s lots of indigenous people here. It just doesn’t feel diverse because there is not enough amplification of diverse people’s voices.

A good starting point to have insight into the problems our area faces is to watch the documentary 13th and then watch American Son or When They See Us. When you see these things, you realize you don’t want any child to go through that kind of system. It brings a more human lens to the problem.

The people of Redding want to do what’s right, it’s just figuring out how to do it and where to start. I like to say that the work begins in your heart and then in your home and then in your community. The hardest part is definitely doing it in your community. It’s a long and difficult process and it’s going to take a while. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have to forgive yourself. When you know better, you do better.

Gloria recommends that readers utilize the resources Justice in June, as well as this compilation of Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources. You can contribute to the Read Against Racism fundraiser here.

Annelise Pierce

Annelise Pierce is fascinated by the intersection of people and policy. She has a special interest in criminal justice, poverty, mental health and education. Her long and storied writing career began at age 11 when she won the Louisa May Alcott Foundation's Gothic Romance short story competition. (Spoiler alert - both hero and heroine die.) Annelise welcomes your (civil) interactions at AnnelisePierce@anewscafe.com

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