Racial Justice and Inclusiveness Committee
The Friends of Roslindale Branch Library have formed a Racial Justice and Inclusiveness Committee to plan educational events, discussions, and presentations related to race, ethnicity, religion and culture. We also created a special list of books related to these topics.
If you are interested in joining our committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schedule of Events
We will be discussing a new book about a disturbing, little-known event that happened in 1906 to Ota Benga, a young black man who was put on display in the Bronx Zoo's monkey cage as part of a "human zoo exhibit." We will discuss how this incident still affects race relations today, namely its connection to mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, and the many high-profile shootings of black males. The Friends purchased a limited number of copies of this book which patrons can borrow on a first-come, first-served basis.
Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga
By Pamela Newkirk
In 1904, Ota Benga, a young Congolese “pygmy”—a person of petite stature—arrived from central Africa and was featured in an anthropology exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, the New York Zoological Gardens displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, 4-foot 11-inch tall man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe.
Spectacle explores the circumstances of Ota Benga’s captivity, the international controversy it inspired, and his efforts to adjust to American life. It also reveals why, decades later, the man most responsible for his exploitation would be hailed as his friend and savior, while those who truly fought for Ota have been banished to the shadows of history. Using primary historical documents, Pamela Newkirk traces Ota’s tragic life, from Africa to St. Louis to New York, and finally to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he lived out the remainder of his short life.
Illuminating this unimaginable event, Spectacle charts the evolution of science and race relations in New York City during the early years of the twentieth century, exploring this racially fraught era for African-Americans and the rising tide of political disenfranchisement and social scorn they endured, forty years after the end of the Civil War. Shocking and compelling Spectacle is a masterful work of social history that raises difficult questions about racial prejudice and discrimination that continue to haunt us today.
The Friends are planning a group outing to see the theatrical performance of Mr. Joy, the story of a Chinese immigrant who becomes the victim of an attack. We plan to do a carpool to Hyde Park for the show followed by optional coffee, snacks, and conversation at a nearby restaurant. Tickets are free, but you have to RVSP tickets here. Please email us at email@example.com if you want to join us and need a carpool.
What happened to Mr. Joy? A Harlem community is shaken when Mr. Joy, a Chinese immigrant whose shoe repair shop has been a neighborhood pillar for decades, is the victim of an attack. Through the lens of Mr. Joy's customers, from the bubbly eleven-year-old Clarissa (who captured everyone's heart in Daniel Beaty's Emergency) to the sincere and savvy “gangsta granny” Bessie, we learn the profound yet unassuming impact the shop owner has had on each of their lives. Playwright and ArtsEmerson Artist-in-Residence Daniel Beaty (Breath & Imagination, Emergency) returns with another moving reflection on transforming pain into power. A poignant, funny and stirring solo piece, Mr. Joy invites us to consider how we respond to violence as individuals and as a community, and the power of the invisible ties that bind us all.
Featured Poet: Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges
Rozzie Reads Poetry will host a special open mic featuring Danielle Legros Georges reading her own work and members of the Friends will read works by other poets of color. Julia Burros, Boston's Chief Art and Culture Officer, will give a brief introduction.
Danielle Legros Georges is a professor in the Creative Arts and Learning Division at Lesley University. Her areas of academic interest include arts and education, contemporary American poetry, African-American poetry, Caribbean literature and studies, and literary translation. A writer and poet, Legros Georges has been widely recognized a variety of recognition for her work with and recent literary awards such as the 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry; the 2012 Massachusetts Cultural Council Finalist in Poetry; Lesley University Faculty Development Grants; and a 2013 Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship/Andrew W. Mellon Grant.