My original plan was simply to get a pass for the exhibit hall, spend a couple of days at ALA Midwinter in Chicago, and head home. But these were not the best laid plans, as they grew exponentially. I was invited to the ALSC Day of Diversity on Friday, I embraced the opportunity to room with Debbie Reese and also to present at the Ignite Session. (20slides/15 seconds per slide. Topic: “The Kids are Not All White”)
I still wonder what I was doing in the Friday event filled with movers and shakers in kitlit diversity. Selfishly, I’ll claim the day was a personal victory as I was able to make real life connections with people I’ve connected with virtually for years. I met such inspiring people, such ordinary people doing such great things. I’m not going to name drop because I will miss names and I do not want to do that, but if you followed events on Twitter or FB, you’ve seen the photos. I’ll post some that I have to the blog later, too difficult to work that right now.
On a bigger scale? The flaw in any diversity event is that you end up preaching to the choir. Those lacking a social consciousness see it and think it’s not about them. Event organizers assume everyone attending is on the same page, has similar motivations and expectations and we end up beginning the conversation in the middle. My needs often lack profundity; I can be extremely plebian in my approach and I did find satisfaction in the connections I made and quite humbly I have to say the recognition I received. I do often feel like giving up my blog. I don’t feel like I’m making a difference, that I’m just fighting the same old fight again and again. But I met Satia Orange. My word for the year is ‘diligence’ and Satia certainly embodies the spirit of diligence. Satia challenged us not with what we could do to continue the struggle, but what would we do tomorrow? Those of us in that room were called together for a purpose and if all we got out of it was a reminder of why we do what we do, who else is doing it and new ways we can do it, I want to say that’s a good thing. But, lets remember as Violet Harris reminded us, this fight has been going on since the 1847 with the publication of the Anti Slavery Alphabet.
Pat Mora reminded us that this struggle is based on power. We may think we simply want more diverse books for our children to read, but this is a power issue, one of racial power that expresses itself in economics and the control of the stories we tell. Pat Mora, Maya Gonzales and Jasmin Cardenas spoke the words Saturday evening at Reforma’s annual Noche de Cuentos: we all have stories to tell. When those stories are censored, we lose our identity.
Every turn I made in McCormick Center, I ran into someone I had been trying to connect with, trying to make appointments with and there they were. I’ve seized opportunities and am finding new ways to grow. That, I think is what conferencing with others is all about. We can have the best laid plans, but there’s magic in the air. I was able to connect with Readers to Eaters and several academic librarians who work in reference and instruction as I do as well.
So, right now I’m on the train home. There’s a poem I used to know about getting up this morning feeling good and Black. Putting on my black shoes, coming my black hair, opening my door and Lord! White snow.[1,968 Winters by Jackie Early] Let’s keep fighting the good fight. The train whistle is blowing loud and clear. Beware! We’re coming through!
I just finished listening to the ALA Youth Media Awards. Listening?? I was on Twitter! HA!! An amazing array of diverse books (that’s another post!) But don’t be fooled. Don’t let anyone make you think those books were chosen because of their diversity. It doesn’t work that way, not on ALA committees. Those majority white selectors are all about the integrity of the writing. Yes, they may have made a greater effort to find diverse books this year, but the books and authors won because they are outstanding literary achievements.
Monday! Another week filled with possibilities!