Wright Library's Let Talk Series Creates Space for Conversations about Race
Wright Memorial Public Library is committed to providing opportunities for the community to talk openly and honestly about racism.
Central to this effort is our Let’s Talk initiative, an event series that began in 2018 to promote in-depth conversations, intentional community, respect, active listening, and problem-solving among neighbors.
Talking about racism can feel uncomfortable, but not talking about it allows injustice to continue is a tagline guiding Let’s Talk programs discussing race relations.
We invite you to join in these conversations, to learn more about it, and to sign up for the Let's Talk email list to stay informed about future events.
This continuing effort has resulted in multiple programs that examine racism in our lives and look for paths toward change. We strive to be a valuable community partner to others who are navigating issues of race locally and nationally.
Hosting Community Conversations
In early 2018, inspired by the American Library Association’s Libraries Transforming Communities Initiative, Wright Library began experimenting with community conversations. The ALA's Libraries Transforming Communities program seeks to strengthen libraries' role as core community leaders and change-agents.
We organized a successful community-wide screening and discussion of the film Disturbing the Peace, a documentary about the Israeli and Palestinian group known as Combatants for Peace, made up of former enemies who now work together for peace. Screened at a packed auditorium at the University of Dayton and followed by Q&A with the filmmakers, the film is a striking example of how people can change their minds and work together to change the world.
Disturbing the Peace gave us confidence to begin conversations about local issues that directly affect people in our community. Wright Library set a goal to provide opportunities for people to meet in person to talk honestly about issues that matter, and developed the program series called "Let's Talk" dedicated to in-depth conversation among neighbors.
Librarian Elizabeth Schmidt won grant funding to be trained by the American Library Association in the Conversation Cafe method, which focuses on listening, to bring back to the community to enrich the process.
One of the first local issues we addressed was racism and white privilege, a topic that hit close to home for many in our community.
In October 2018, we partnered with Catholic Social Services to screen the film White Like Me by Tim Wise and discuss the white privilege it depicts. We broke into small groups and utilized the Conversation Café process to have an intimate conversation about race.
Each group was led by a trained library staff member or partner, and conversation agreements guided participants to listen and be curious instead of argue and judge.
A diverse group of almost 50 people attended the 2.5 hour program, and many stayed to talk long after the event was over. People made friends and exchanged contact information. Attendees were hungry to explore racism and white privilege in an environment that was welcoming and open.
In feedback from the event, many people requested more programs on the topic, and since then, Wright Library has committed to continue the conversation by providing ongoing opportunities for people to wrestle with racism in America, Dayton and Oakwood, and in their own lives including:
- Book discussion, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Racial Wealth Gap Simulation by the Hall Hunger Initiative
- Book discussion, How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi.
We are actively planning future events and welcome your feedback and input. Contact the library to suggest a Let’s Talk topic or program.
Join the Let's Talk email list to hear about future programs.
Choosing to Participate is a poster exhibition created by Facing History and Ourselves and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service to encourage dialogue, engagement, respect, and participation in our communities. Wright Library displayed the posters outside the Library through June, 2020. View the posters.
Choosing to Participate Recommended Reads
- Preschool - 2nd Grade
- 3rd - 6th Grade
- Teens: Making a Change in the World and in Your Life
- Teens: Fiction About Understanding Each Other Better
- Teens: Nonfiction to Dialogue, Respect, Engage & Participate
Children Need Diverse Books book list curated by Wright Library
Wright Library’s Jacqui Taylor’s Presentation at Pecha Kucha: Long Overdue: Representation in Children’s Literature presented Nov. 19, 2020