African American Resource Center

The current African American Resource Center is at the Burnett Neighborhood Library.

Long Beach public libraries are closed now, but a new collection and related programs centering on race, equity and justice may be available once the libraries reopen.

The Long Beach Public Library Foundation has launched a fund drive to create such a collection in partnership with the African American Heritage Society of Long Beach (AAHS-LB) and local faith leaders. It will be an expansion of the African American Resource Center collection at Burnett Neighborhood Library.

And on Tuesday, June 30, the city announced that Long Beach Public Library and its e-book and audiobook distributor, had partnered to provide "unlimited access to anti-racist and social justice e-books and audiobooks" to all library card holders.

Three books are available so far, a city release said. Those books are:

• "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," by Michelle Alexander, which is available as an audiobook;

• "The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas, available as an e-book and audiobook; and

• "Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor," by Layla F. Saad, available as an e-book.

More books, the release said, will be available soon.

“Public libraries have the potential to play a key role in dismantling racism in our country,” Library Director Glenda Williams said in a statement. “By making these learning resources available to our residents, we can help our community better understand the experiences of the Black community and together develop a shared language that supports Black lives and anti-racist actions."

As for the fundraising effort, the Rev. Melinda Teter Dodge at Los Altos United Methodist Church and the Rev. Katy Hyman at First Congregational Church of Long Beach, brought the concept to the Library Foundation, according to foundation communications manager Kimberly Caballero.

“White Christianity has actively contributed to racist structures and policies, both in the past and the present," Rev. Hyman said in a release. "As a historically white congregation, we want to take responsibility for our role in this and work to dismantle white supremacy.

“We believe that education and activism go hand in hand, so making materials widely accessible to the Long Beach community through the LBPL (Long Beach Public Library) is an important part of the process.”

Money collected through the new fund will be used to buy new materials including books, ebooks and audiobooks that promote the narratives and histories of African Americans, as well as pay for events and activities at the library promoting the same topics.

"The African American Heritage Society of Long Beach is proud to partner with the Long Beach Public Library Foundation to launch the fund for race, equity, and justice resources at the Library," Nicole Ballard, AAHS-LB president, said. "Since 1619, people of African descent have endured devastating physiological, psychological, and socio-economic trauma from systemic racism and oppression in all of its forms. I believe that public acknowledgment of these critical issues, combined with resources and community support, will yield positive, meaningful changes."

This fund is designed to go beyond the African American history to address issues including anti-Black racism, white privilege, white supremacy, mass incarceration, other forms of institutional racism, and human rights issues, the release said. Glenda Williams, the city's director of Library Services, said she was excited to see the new effort.

"I am pleased that we are able to provide more resources on the issues of systemic oppression of Black people and the social injustices that people of color encounter on a daily basis,” she said.

Library Foundation Board President Sharon Weissman said this sort of effort fits perfectly with the foundation's mission.

“As an organization that has long advocated for equity in education and literacy, the Long Beach Public Library Foundation board and staff wholeheartedly agree Black lives matter," she said in the release. "… We agreed our role in ending systematic racism would be to ensure anti-racist education was widely available to all who were committed to learning. Funding resources to educate the public on white privilege, racism, and African American heritage is a critical component to finding equity for all members of the Long Beach community."

Donations to the fund can be made online at lbplfoundation.org/aarc or mailed to Long Beach Public Library Foundation, 200 W. Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90802. Donors are welcome to suggest books that fit into the collection's mission. For more about Long Beach Library services, go to longbeach.gov/library.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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