July Summer of Learning Event Focused on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
The TLA 2020 Virtual Summer of Learning live event on July 7 began with a heartfelt and honest opening address by Charlotte Moore, Executive Director of the Black Bodies Project.
“I want you to listen with your heart,” she told virtual attendees in her live address. Moore is a print and television news journalist, filmmaker, and writer. Her film, “Black Bodies,” is currently available for streaming online, and she is the creator of a portrait book called Benevolence In Black which celebrates the beauty and benevolent good works of black people who live in the Austin area.
Moore showed a photo taken by Elliott Erwitt in 1950, of an African-American man next to two water fountains marked “white” and “colored.” The “white” fountain is much nicer than the “colored” one.
“When you look at that picture, I think about what that gentleman felt when he looked at those fountains,” Moore said. “He knew the one he was allowed to use was lesser. The message he is receiving from those signs is ‘I’m less worthy’ and ‘I’m not worthy of that.’ Those same messages were repeated to him over and over.”
Systemic racism is found in American health care, education and in the justice system, Moore said. “These systems continue to keep people down.”
“As we work to topple and transform those systems, I am inspired to tell the stories of black people,” she said. “I’m going to do what I can do. These people trusted me with these thoughts they carry with them every day.”
Every time she has shown the “Black Bodies” film at a film festival, people stay and talk afterwards, and it’s encouraging to see the depth and enthusiasm of those conversations, she said.
Next, a panel discussion on “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” featured incoming ALA President Julius Jefferson from the Library of Congress; Dr. Rhea Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library; Patricia Alvarado of Irving Independent School District; Yvonne Dooley from University of North Texas; and Christina Gola, TLA 2020-2021 President.
“We think about libraries creating an environment where one will be treated fairly,” Jefferson said. “Leaders in libraries and in library associations, these individuals have to be committed to serving populations regardless of what they look like, and regardless of what you look like. We must make sure that everyone who enters a library is treated with respect.”
It’s important to make the values of the library clear to everyone who works or volunteers there, panelists said.
Lawson said that at the Houston Public Library, staff and volunteers know that “in this organization, this is how you will behave, these are the goals and values of this organization.”
Author Stephen Harrigan was the featured speaker at 1 PM during the event. He had recorded his interview earlier, and joined in the live chat to answer questions from viewers.
Harrigan discussed his latest book, Big Wonderful Thing, a sweeping narrative of Texas from prehistory to the present, published by the University of Texas Press.
He drove to many places across Texas during his research for the book, including to Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site to view the ancient pictographs there. Indigenous people left cave art records of their presence thousands of years ago.
“What struck me, looking at these huge and mysterious murals, was that some of them were 4,000 years old,” Harrigan said. “These were made at the same time the Pharaohs were building the pyramids in Egypt.” Texas has 500 years of written history, and 1500 years of unwritten history, he said.
“I reflect on how our own contemporary history is connected to all of that,” Harrigan said. “The emotional connection to history is what I’m seeking, to make it meaningful, to make it fun.”
An interactive live chat about “Information Overload: Tips, Tricks and Tools for Self-Care and Preservation” drew a lot of engagement from viewers.
Moderators for this live interactive discussion were Brandi Dawson, Lewisville ISD; Kristi Starr, Lubbock ISD; Esther Garcia, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences Library; and Michelle Cooper, Region 7 Education Service Center.
Setting limits to your work so you don’t end up working endless hours from home is important; setting aside your phone to focus on yourself and your family is vital too, panelists said.
Participant Jennifer Muniz commented, “When you clock out, CLOCK OUT. Remember, this is your time.”
Another participant, Chermaine B., wrote, “This has been a good time for me to try new things that I told myself I didn’t have time for.” She decorated her outdoor patio so she can read or work outdoors and is enjoying the new space.
Author and illustrator Don Tate gave the closing address for the July 7 virtual event. In addition to his presentation, he also joined for a live chat with participants.
He talked about how as a kid, he wasn’t a big reader. “When I finally discovered a book that featured a person that looked like me, I became a reader.” That book was Black Boy by Richard Wright. “I was 21 when I discovered that book. That’s why it’s so important that libraries are diverse.”
Tate discussed his journey from illustrator to author. He spoke about why he chooses to focus on lesser-known figures of African-American history in his work.
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton tells the story of a man who wrote and published poetry while he was enslaved; Tate’s upcoming book, William Still and His Freedom Stories: Father of the Underground Railroad, describes the life of William Still, an abolitionist and writer who chronicled many of the stories of people he met coming through the Underground Railroad. During his research, Tate discovered a diary of William Still’s at a historical library in Philadelphia and was able to hold it in his hands, a moving experience.
Tate speaks often at schools, which he finds rewarding. “These kids are the next generation of authors and illustrators and I love being able to inspire them.”
Virtual attendees, remember we have added many more educational sessions (look under the orange button on the Virtual home page.) Mark your calendars for our next LIVE event on August 4.
If you want to register for Summer of Learning, there is still time. All of our past sessions have been recorded and are viewable through the portal, and will be available until August 31. Go here to register and to learn more about our August speakers.