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Celebrating Black History Month 2018

The Davis Family Library is celebrating Black History Month in February 2018 with a display of books, audio CDs, DVDs, podcast recommendations, multimedia-based interviews and programming. Come to the atrium to see what we have in store and get a sneak peek at go/bhmdigital/. Read below to find out about the variety of ways to engage.

Katrina (Literatures & Cultures Librarian), what are the libraries doing to celebrate Black History Month?

Let me highlight three projects in detail:

a collage of 55 artistic book covers from the Black History Month Display

User Experience & Digital Scholarship Librarian Leanne Galletly has prepared a digital space that allows users to preview the books appearing in the Davis Family Library’s Black History Month display. This collage includes The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, and The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis, among many others. Click on the image above to access podcast recommendations, too!

The Black History Month Display in the Davis Family Library atrium, February 1st- 28th, will include books, CDs, DVDs and podcast recommendations created by and about black writers, entertainers and artists. The scope is broad with works from the late sociologist W.E.B. DuBois (1868- 1963) and living, contemporary screenwriter Issa Rae (1985- ); jazz pioneer Miles Davis (1926- 1991) and Grammy award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar (1987- ); the cinematic classic The Color Purple (set in the 1930s and made in 1985) and  filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s Selma (set in 1965 and made in 2014). We’ve also got Senegalese author Mariama Bâ’s French-language classic Une si longue lettre; Cuban singer Celia Cruz’s Azúcar Negra in Spanish; and Pelé: Birth of A Legend, a documentary on the Brazilian futbolista extraordinaire. Blackness, after all, is not contained to any one, geographic region. You can get a sneak peek at the books by visiting go.middlebury.edu/bhmdigital.

eight images of participants who participated in recorded interviews

The In Your Own Words oral history project can be found in the Internet Archive, go.middlebury.edu/ia.

Second, In Your Own Words, an oral histories project, features interviews with students, staff and faculty from the Middlebury community responding to a variety of questions, among them:

  • Racially and ethnically, how do you identify?
  • How do notions of race and ethnicity change based on where you are and who you’re with?
  • What do you wish others knew about race and ethnicity?

These audio recordings cover identities linked to the Southside of Chicago, the Afro-Caribbean and East Africa and can be found on StoryCorps and in the Archives along with pdf transcripts. They will also be aired on Wednesdays February 21st and February 28th from 2:00- 3:00 p.m. on the Middlebury College campus’ radio station, WRMC 91.1. If interested in delving more deeply into personal stories addressing African identities, seek out Life Stories, found in Special Collections, in which three alums,  Barbara Ofosu-Soumah (Ghana), Mukui Mbindyo (Kenya) and Cheswayo Mphanza (Zambia), tell of their their experiences at Middlebury.

an advertisement depicting

On Friday, February 16, 2018, the Davis Family Library will host a Jeopardy-inspired trivia event dedicated to black history and culture. A raffle will be held for tickets to the opening night of the superhero film Black Panther.

Third, a competitive trivia game event inspired by Jeopardy will be held this month. Participants will compete for coveted prizes including board games, coloring books and poetry collections. Audience members can participate in a raffle for tickets to the opening night of Black Panther at The Marquis. Twelve categories have been prepared for the game that cover themes like geography, popular culture, literature and more. Sponsors include the Middlebury College Libraries, Vice President for Human Resources and Risk Karen Miller and the Program in American Studies.

Who makes all this possible?

a cartoon of an African American woman at left on a banner announcing the Black History Month Display

Middlebury College alumna Coumba Winfield designed one of the two banners (pictured above) for the Davis Family Library’s atrium display. She is also the founder of PopGig, a 21st century app that allows users to set prices for the services they seek. Download the app here and hear more about it at the Jeopardy-inspired trivia event!

With fear of leaving someone out, let me describe some of the roles people take on:

  • Kat Cyr, Rachel Manning and their student workers in Interlibrary Loan help to prepare bibliographies and pull featured items from the shelves.
  • Digital Media Tutors like Pedro, Dan, Caleb, Alfredo, Fayza, Rachel and Emma, Cataloging Specialist Marlena Evans, Librarians Amy Frazier and Leanne Galletly and Alumna Coumba Winfield help with developing print banners and advertisements.
  • Kim Gurney and Dan Frostman help to reserve props and digitally mark items as “on display.”
  • Lisa McLaughlin, Michael Warner and Marlena help with much of the invisible magic of ordering items and cataloging print and multimedia purchases.
  • Carrie Macfarlane helps me to problem solve and to manage my own creative ambitions. ;)
  • Every person interviewed shared their personal testimonies, which is no small feat: Jade Moses, Shenisis Kirkland, Clark Lewis, Kemi Fuentes-George, Kizzy Joseph, Nicole Curvin and Sarady Merghani.
  • Patrick Wallace prepared all of the audio files for the Archives.
  • Bill Koulopoulos’ group provided the funds for transcription.
  • Meg Daly and Maddy Goodhart planned the airing of the shows on WRMC.
  • Austin Kahn posted advertisements for Jeopardy.
  • Susan Burch educated me, as she always does, on the Life Stories project.
  • And all this is without mentioning the many people who will be staffing the trivia event!
Twelve headshots of librarians

An image of Middlebury College librarians. (Patrick Wallace not pictured.)

How can we help?

  • Know your librarian. There are 12 of us and we all have different strengths and expertise. 
  • Make appointments. It is a tremendous help to be able to anticipate office visits.
  • Heed advice. Want to develop a display? Read go/displays/. Or want new items purchased? Use go/requests/
A screenshot featuring an image of late author Julius Lester (1939-2018).

A screenshot featuring an image of late author Julius Lester (1939-2018). He is the author of seven items in the Middlebury College Libraries catalog, including Black Folktales. The text reads, “”It’s strange that whites fear that anything addressed to blacks is an automatic rejection and condemnation of them. That is not necessarily so… whites do not want to acknowledge the fact that if they want to know blacks they will have to immerse themselves in what blacks have to say, and that there is no white Dante who can take them gently by their…hands and lead them on a guided tour of blackness and keep them from getting a little singed by the fires.” ~ Julius Lester, in a letter, 1970 (Children’s Literature Review, Vol. 41)”.

 

 

What did you learn in the process of prepping all this?

  • Kathleen Collins was an African American cinematic directing pioneer and a Middlebury Language Schools alum who developed 1982’s film Losing Ground.
  • Stand-up comedian, actress and talk show hostess Whoopi Goldberg directed a documentary about a humorist who influenced her by the name of Moms Mabley.
  • Roxane Gay, writer of Bad Feminist, wrote a work of fictional short stories late last year called Difficult Women. It is en route to the Davis Family Library.
  • There’s a book in our collection titled The Loneliness of the Black Republican.
  • Julius Lester (1939- 2018), author of Black Folktales, recently passed away. With a book history project in grad school, Singed By the Fires, it was his work that first taught me I could incorporate blackness into librarianship. So, I dedicate this work to him.

What’s next?

About a year ago, I wrote that I hoped my work would be contagious. I wanted it to inspire others to further and more regularly engage with difference. People have been receptive to those cues and are creating ever more dynamic discourses on this campus.

From easiest to hardest, Leanne [Galletly] (User Experience and Digital Scholarship Librarian) and I want to make the spreadsheets used for the displays from the last year public. I want to find more time to read, research and contribute to national discourse on librarianship. Lastly, I need to recruit more professional peers who are people of color into my life.

African American Music Appreciation Month 2017

Literatures & Cultures Librarian Katrina Spencer kneels next to a newly installed display featuring African American musics..

I grew up in a very musical household and that identity follows me wherever I go.

Name: Katrina Spencer

Title: Literatures & Cultures Librarian

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Collaborators: Kat Cyr, Arabella Holzapfel, Amy Frazier, Terry Simpkins, Marlena Evans, Heather Stafford, Innocent Mpoki, Joe Antonioli, Sue Driscoll, Dan Frostman, Kim Gurney, Janine McDonald, Todd Sturtevant, Bryan Carson, Joy Pile, Ryan Clement, multiple student workers, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and others. Many sincere thanks to all of the energy you all have put into this.

Whatcha got goin’ here in the atrium and on the main level of the Davis Family Library?

Of the 23,000+ CDs we have in our collection, we are highlighting over 300 works by and about African American musical artists from June 1st- 22nd. Former President Barack Obama declared June as African American Music Appreciation Month, an initiative first shaped in 1979. President Obama was able to draw further attention to the commemorative month with his 2016 proclamation and the many artists his administration invited to perform at the White House.

Generally speaking, the content spans the 1940s to the early 2000s, including artists from every decade in between. African American music started much earlier than this, but when it comes to largely accessible sound recordings, the early 20th century was perhaps a good place to start in terms of our holdings.  However, we do plan to include some very early recordings and have a few monographs that address African American music in the late 1800s- early 1900s.

What motivated you to put this together?

There were so many motivations. First, I have lived now in five states– California, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Vermont– and while the demographics, landscapes, weather, and food fare change, the consumption of African American music as an avid pastime does not. Scratch that: it’s global. People love the soulful sounds born deep in the South of our country, among pain, oppression, and affliction, within the church, in the Great Migrations to urban spaces, on stage at Harelm’s Apollo Theater, within both Motown’s and Los Angeles’ major recording studios, and shown on MTV and BET. When you tell the story of African American music, you tell the story of our nation.

Second, I attended the Posse Plus Retreat back in February when I was hired and some of the facilitators did a great job of playing music during our set-ups for activities. There I told American Studies professor (and musician) Dr. Will Nash, “I’ll give you all the money in my wallet if you can tell me who’s singing this song.” He thought for a minute and replied, “Is it Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine?”” I wasn’t expecting a white man, some 20 years my senior, to know an R&B hit from the 1990s– and I was wrong. Thankfully I was only carrying $1.63 in cash! But that conversation made me realize even more profoundly that music transcends race, class, geography, and other markers we tend to think divide us.

Lastly (and transparently), I love to see people of color taking ownership of our library spaces, myself included. Frequently at predominantly white institutions, people of color and oppressed minorities do not see themselves systematically reflected in the curriculum, the history of their colleges, and/or in the body of faculty and staff. My efforts in the library aim to speak to that scarcity of representation. I’m on a mission to reassert esteem, to remind my audiences that we’re in the 21st century, and that “America” is increasingly and beautifully brown.

How’d you decide what to include?

We crowd-sourced. We started up an Excel file and invited various people on the library staff to add to it. The seven of us rather easily came up with hundreds of works that would fit into our theme. Ha! New recommendations were coming in while we were loading the shelves!

Can I just say that I learned so much in the process of preparing this display? I found out about “soundies,” some of the very first “music videos” of the 20th century that preserve early performances by black artists, that the ubiquitous tune,“The Entertainer,” was composed by a black man, Scott Joplin, and, perhaps most importantly for me, if you ask for help on a project, you’ll get it. This display was nothing if not a collaborative effort.

The layout of the display is a bit unconventional. Can you say a few words about that?

Sure! The idea of adorning our tables (and carrels) with display materials had been brewing for awhile, however, the opportunity to test it out only presented itself this month. The whole point of a display is to draw attention to a theme. While it’s easy to walk past shelving containing “themed” items en route to a study space, it’s harder to miss items in a display that occupy one’s study space. I call it a “guerrilla” method. It’s a more aggressive attempt to engage an audience. (And people are noticing.)

What were some of the challenges in shaping this display?

I wish the students who are normally here during the academic year could see and enjoy the display. Many of them who frequent the Anderson Freeman Center <3 would appreciate the work. However, as we prepare for Reunion, many alumni will likely have an opportunity to encounter it.

We also realize that streaming is perhaps the most popular way for young people to consume music. While we have resources for this (see “Music Online: Listening (North America” within our databases under “M” at go.middlebury.edu/lib), the CD cases and inserts make for great visuals. For those of us wanting to listen to the CDs, know that we have multiple disc drives behind the Circulation Desk to loan out.

This display will last until June 22nd as the whole campus is gearing up for Language Schools and the content includes music in the English language. However, I have made efforts to include artists from the black diaspora like Beny Moré (Cuba) for the Spanish School, Les Nubians (France) for the French School, and Seu Jorge (Brazil) for the Portuguese School.

What do you want people to take away from the display?

I want people taking in the display to think critically about the contributions African Americans have made to this country. Music is merely one of them. Our economic contributions are often hard for people to stomach because they are mired in blood, sweat, and tears. Our scientific contributions experience historical erasures as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Hidden Figures suggest. And our political ones are often met with violence, aggression and unpopularity, as the Civil Rights Movements demonstrate, while ultimately forwarding this nation.

How else can we enjoy this effort?

Like our Facebook page. For three weeks we will be sharing videos and trivia that speak to the African American musical experience and history. The content will be loosely chronological and you can follow the evolution of African American music with us.

Last words?

This display is an act of love. We welcome students, faculty, and staff to approach library workers with display development ideas and to continue making the library spaces your own. Also, while the music CDs typically “live” behind the circulation desk, they are still accessible to you. Come check it all out.