The Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. While America was focused on the current COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism and police brutality continued to murder Black men and women. The morning after the march in Seattle in response to George Floyd’s murder, I was reading Jane Eyre with an incredible sense of guilt. It wasn’t just my white privilege guilt it was also the guilt of reading an even more white privileged author and fictional character.
I took a long hard look at my bookshelf and reading lists and noticed the overwhelming lack of Black, Latino, Hispanic, and Asian authors. I reached out to my friend, Biblio Brie, who took it upon herself to take the role of Social Justice and Equality Librarian on her Facebook page. She has done an amazing job sharing reading lists, news articles, and personal accounts. So, I asked for books suggestions by nonwhite authors for sci-fi and novels that make you cry.
She immediately recommended anything by Octavia E. Butler. As every good librarian does, I looked through my local libraries catalog for “Butler, Octavia”. Unfortunately, my public library does not own a single physical copy of her books, they only have ebooks. I was livid. Librarians know that as much as technology has changed, nothing can replace the pleasure of a real book or browsing the shelves. And every librarian knows a thing or two about the digital divide.
With the disappointment in my local library, I bought Kindred from a bookstore in the Bronx, The Lit. Bar. The bookstore is also owned by a black woman. And yes, this made my white privileged guilt feel a little better. But it also reminded me how librarians can fight systemic racism. First, by making the Library Science degree and job market more inclusive. And by growing their physical collections to include non-white authors.
If you want to grow your local libraries collection, simply ask your reference librarian to purchase the book. While librarians grow collections based on popular reading lists, they also order books requested by enough patrons (some cases it only takes two requests). Libraries are here to serve their patrons and by requesting a book purchase you are helping librarians build more inclusive collections.
I live in Long Island the epicenter of systemic racism in the Northeast. After the island’s natural beauty was demolished for suburbs, Robert Moses swept in with roads, parks, and bridges designed to segregate communities. This designed segregation is still prevalent on the Island. There were a few BLM marches on the Island and many more in NYC. Pandemic or not, systemic racism is still a prevalent issue in our society.
So, where do you start supporting the Black Lives Matter during a pandemic? By re-educating yourself. I grew up in the South and needless to say my education was deeply rooted in systemic racism. While going to college out-of-state and meeting people from all over has helped me understand systemic racism, there is still a gap to fill.
The original project of this blog was to read classic books paired with cocktails. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those books are written by white men. So, I am reworking my reading list. The first on that list is Beloved by Toni Morrison. My mom sent me this book last year and the good old’ excuse of “I’m too busy because of grad school” stopped me from reading it. No more excuses.
Where to Start
Want to start your re-education journey with me? Here are some links shared by Biblio Brie and by the Library Think Tank group.
BBC Culture “Why Octavia E Butler’s novels are so relevant today” by Hephzibah Anderson
New York Public Library, Schomburg’s Black Liberation List for Young Readers
First Books’ Books by African American Authors & Illustrators
The Mary Sue “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors” by Cree Myles