Taking on race and class in a small space: The wee tale of a library display

Last Saturday afternoon, a 23-year-old black man died after being shot by a 24-year-old police officer during a foot chase. This being Milwaukee, (it later came out that)  not only was the police officer also black, but they’d known each other in high school.  Nonetheless, this “black man shot and killed by cop” incident turned out to be the “one too many” for a critical mass of local residents.

Sunday, Sweetheart and I woke up to the news that overnight several businesses had been burned by angry mobs. Along with a lot of other people, I showed up to do a little cleaning on Sunday (see previous post).

Monday, I realized I could put my librarian superpowers to work. I’d been planning on taking down my genocide display, anyway. I would put up a display that would possibly help provide some information and context about what had led to Sunday.

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The genocide display

Which I did. The rest of this post features that display, and how it changed during the four days I photographed it. (I was off today, and work tomorrow, so may add a photo if there are any more changes.)

Day 1:

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I used Twitter, because people who post there are doing so publicly. I was trying to find local tweets, but I love Charles Blow’s writing and he referenced Dr. King, so I made him an honorary local for display purposes. (He’s the top left.)

Eugene Kane spent years as a Milwaukee Journal, then Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist. Now that he’s retired, he writes a weekly column at Urban Milwaukee, a really good place to find out what’s really going on in the city. I put him the center because he’s a respected community voice, and was just lucky that his font settings were slightly larger and centered. “Every Black person in Milwaukee on my Twitter feed is upset and disappointed at violence in Milwaukee today. It’s everybody’s problem.”

Before heading to Twitter, I’d already hit up the shelves for material to stock my display. I’m still learning what I do and don’t have in my collection, and was kind of appalled to see that there’s only one copy of Carter Woodson’s “The Miseducation of the Negro” in the entire system. Of course it wasn’t at my branch. I found some worthwhile material, though, and hoped someone would take some of it home.

Monday night I posted a picture of the display on my Facebook feed. Barbara, one of my writing buddies, suggested I swap out the tweets as the week went on – another way of providing access to information.

I thought it was brilliant and did it, but only once. It’s interesting to see how things die off in a news cycle. There really wasn’t much to change out after Tuesday. I did, though, get to replace a hole in the display because someone borrowed something! (Note the DVD on the extreme right in the Day 1 picture.)

Day 2:

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As to the tweet swapout, the longer passages are from the comments section of the New York Times. Both commenters grew up in Milwaukee and had stories about what it had been like for them. The center tweet recommended two books, one was the Ta-Nehisi Coates. I put it in the display. The other title had already been borrowed.

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The next day, someone borrowed “Between the World and Me,” and one of the other DVDs, and I had to put some things in their place. Even though our amazing outreach librarian scheduled it months before, this program (at different branch) next Saturday could not be happening at more appropriate moment. (Note: We have a great program on how to grow garlic at the same time. No pressure…)

Day 3:

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Just before we closed on Thursday, I looked at the display and found that someone had borrowed another DVD. So I ran over to the DVDs and found another one to place in the display. (It’s the video on the top left in the pictures above.)

Day 4:

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Then, I snapped this picture and went home.

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