by Kayla Cook, Media Relations & Communications Specialist
On Monday, January 15th, Lawrence Public Library hosted a day full of events in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dedication to community in collaboration with various community partners. Library staff and community members fellowshipped to celebrate one of history's biggest game changers and peacemakers by amplifying Black voices of the Lawrence community and allies.
Barry "Washboard" Barnes shared stories, music, and poems (and even handstands!) followed by a performance from a duo, opens a new window featuring Barnes and Tommee Sherwood—Zydeco Tougeau; Ian Cook shared soothing music, opens a new window to set an ambience of peace and fellowship during lunch; and B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence and open mic volunteers shared powerful poems and music, opens a new window about the Black American experience, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s history and life as a reverend, as well as the importance of demanding and enacting "good trouble"—as John Lewis who led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches said.
"Freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Intellectual freedom is one of the main pillars of public libraries—providing communities free access to a variety of resources. To host a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event at a public library only feels right as, in today's society, it may seem unimaginable to deny a patron library access based on race. However, that exact mistreatment happened to Black Americans daily during the Civil Rights Movement. To center Black voices of the Lawrence, KS community at the helm of this event in a public library on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday speaks volumes to the strides we have made as a country thanks to American leaders such as Dr. King.
"The library thrives on bringing Lawrence together through shared learning and reflection opportunities," said Marc Veloz, the library's Community Resource Specialist. "We couldn't do this without help from our multi-talented and creative community members, the Kansas Volunteer Commission, and the United Way of Kaw Valley for their commitment to making our town a stronger, more beautiful place in which everyone can live."
In keeping with Dr. King’s legacy of community service, the library’s Kids’ Action Club held a donation drive from January 8th-15th to collect sleeping bags, blankets, and canned and boxed food for Just Food and the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County. Learn more about Kids’ Action Club by watching a video from a few former members here, opens a new window.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Lawrence community enjoyed learning, connecting, and growing together as a community to celebrate freedom for all and acknowledge there is still work to be done. Thanks to everyone who braved the snow! We look forward to seeing the community fellowship together at the library at the next Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. Please take a moment to complete a survey, opens a new window on the event if you attended. If you would like to attend another library event amplifying Black voices, stay tuned for an event at the end of March featuring Dr. Maryemma Graham, opens a new window of KU’s History of Black Writing who wrote a book about author Margaret Walker, opens a new window.
Thank you to our event sponsors: The United Way of Douglas County AmeriCorps Volunteers, the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, Barry “Washboard” Barnes, Ian Cook, Zydeco Tougeau, B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence, Taco Zone, and the Kansas Volunteer Commission.
View photos of the MLK Day event here, opens a new window.
Through memoirs, analysis of culture and politics, and new perspectives on American history, these titles will provide insight into what it means to be Black in the United States. Most of the descriptions below are provided by the book's publishers.
About Lawrence Public Library
Lawrence Public Library (LPL for short) is a community hub that believes in the power of connecting with each other through shared knowledge and resources. Located in the heart of Downtown Lawrence, Kansas, we are committed to providing a space where our community can learn, connect, create, and grow through access to our vast collections, resources, services, programs, and knowledgeable staff. The library is supported by tax dollars, record-breaking book sales and philanthropic efforts by the LPL Friends & Foundation, and the dedicated efforts of more than 300 volunteers. All are welcome.