by Ana Gregory, Religious Exploration Committee
This is the story of how our new Justice & Diversity Library (located in fellowship hall and Goodreads.com) came into being.
In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic was taking hold, the Religious Exploration Committee (REC) moved RE to Zoom sessions – a time for families to connect and hear Robin read a story. Robin began building a library of books about racial justice to read to the children for these sessions. As the year moved forward, more books of the same theme were added, days grew warmer, and “The Summer of Justice and Diversity” was born! There were still more Zoom sessions in 2021 with a continuation of racial justice discussions with children. Robin continued to expand our collection with books supporting social justice and diversity themes. RE sessions continued, and for two months RE focused on a quilt project inspired by the reading of Stitchin’ and Pullin’ by Patricia McKissack, a collection of poems that looks at African American history as told through the people in Gee’s Bend, Alabama and their amazing quilts. Following the tradition in the book, children completed quilt pieces representing their stories, and we combined them on our RE bulletin board. As more books fattened our library, the presence of a wide rainbow of social justice topics was clear. Robin considered hosting a weekly online story hour with justice stories by BIPOC authors. She thought at this point that we should offer the library to the larger community.
And this is how the idea of a justice and diversity library was born. Next, Robin employed the COA class to categorize books into several social justice categories: racial justice, environmental justice, LGBTQIA justice, economic justice, classism justice, food security justice, immigration justice, freedom of religion, ableism, ageism, sexism, etc.
I took the project from this point and organized the books into the categories above using Goodreads.com, a social cataloging website, and added color-coded labels for easy searching. We have 520 books in our library. Most are for children, but we have many for adults as well. You can see what we have online, or you can walk into fellowship hall and pick one off the shelf. There are at least 50 books in the racial justice category (red label) and 80 in ‘freedom of religion’ category (orange label). Please come and browse after coffee hour or view the library online. All are welcome.
Building and organizing this little library has meant a lot to me. It affirmed my nature as a lifelong learner and brushed against my unrealized dream of becoming a children’s librarian. It provided me with a means to promote values that I hold dear such as allowing everyone a slice of the American pie no matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or color. It reminded me that we are unique here. All are truly welcome. The next step is to offer this resource to those outside of UUCW, and this has never been more important. Like the characters in the books on our shelves who stood against the rising tide of oppression, we can follow suit with this small act of social justice one page at a time.