Our city and nation are hurting in the wake of the senseless, horrifying death of George Floyd nine days ago. The Kansas City Public Library stands in full support of the many across our country – including our staff and their families and others in our community – who have marched in protest and in profound, insistent hope for the future.
Too, we decry the longstanding racial inequities and injustice at the root of their unrest.
We still cling to the words of longtime Kansas City activist Alvin Brooks, who two years ago wrote an eloquent epilogue for a special Library exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the city’s deadly civil unrest in 1968. The four-day episode unfolded in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
“It is important,” Brooks said, “to remember those four turbulent days in 1968. They signal where we’ve been and where we need to go.
“Kansas City’s political, economic, and social communities can’t turn and hide from our issues or pretend that they don’t exist, an approach that certainly didn’t work half a century ago. We have to face our problems together, move not out of guilt but because we crave progress, because we want assurances that what occurred in our city 50 years ago is less likely to occur again, because it’s the right thing to do. We must do it for unborn generations.”
His appeal is newly resonant.
We need more than ever to understand the challenges of a diverse America, allowing us to define and develop effective change when and wherever it is necessary. There is hope for that, we believe, in part because we have libraries.
Libraries are open to all, welcoming and safe and repositories of insight and knowledge. With access to their books, reading programs, and other resources come open minds and receptiveness to a variety of viewpoints and experiences.
Libraries are places of public discourse. They are agents of action.
You see that, hopefully, in the Kansas City Public Library’s wide-ranging efforts to bridge the digital divide, to extend essential access to computers and the internet to underserved individuals and communities. You see it in the diversity of subject matter and views in its public programming, addressing societal issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to the growing rate of home evictions in the city and its disproportionate impact on African Americans.
Two years ago, in multiple programs and that special traveling exhibit, we recalled the racial divides and tensions of 1968.
The Library remains committed to answering Alvin Brooks’ call. While our physical locations are temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak, we continue – through online resources and other outreach – to pursue our foundational mission to educate, to enlighten, to uplift.
We ask you, and our community, to join us.
► Explore a list of news and reading resources recommended by the Library and suggested by people from the Kansas City community.
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► View videos and/or listen to audio recordings of some of the Library signature events addressing issues of equity.