Normally, this is the writing space where I make announcements and hopefully tease out a desire to inspire one’s love of reading, or to engage one in critical thought on topics related to all things librarianship, literacy, censorship, and love of literature. But this week’s Jag Journal article will focus on gratitude. The past two weeks have been the final culmination of a year long task of getting visiting authors to come to ISD during the month of November. Two of the four visiting authors have already come and gone: Lamine Dieme and Taylor Mali. Two more are on their way. More on that later. For now, the long list of people who have made the last two weeks a success will get some recognition here in this article.
To Jackie Dieye & Marciale Hounton & Raluca Petrescu:
You are the first to come into my list of gratitude because without your non-stop support, I would not have been able to accomplish the tasks that were required to make the visiting author events happen. Marciale translated the French-English conversations when I could not do so myself. She arranged transportation, she arranged evening events in the library, she made sure food arrived, furniture was set up and questions were answered in my absence. Jackie, you covered all of the same territory, particularly making the visiting author’s local trips come to fruition. You opened up your home to the author to provide a family meal with delicious home cooked dishes and local flavor. Both of you ladies took over all tasks in the library while I left to guide the author to classes, film workshops, or generally run around like a chicken with my head cut off hoping and praying that I wasn’t neglecting some crucial item. Raluca, when all of us were off on our different paths escorting poets and illustrators, running back and forth between classes, you held down the fort. You took over the circulation responsibilities, and for that we are all lucky and grateful. Furthermore, you did the thankless task of moving furniture. Sweat labor. You're an organizer, and a lifesaver. All three of you were my calm in the middle of the storm. Thank you.
To Adja Sakho and Shambhavi Chauhan:
Embracing the ideals of DEI, (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion), can sometimes be a hard sell. We educators certainly know how to espouse these values, but sometimes putting them into practice is another task, one more in a long line of other tasks we are already slogging through. But you took on the challenge as well as brought these values to ISD. Lamine Diémé is a local illustrator and children’s author. When the crunch time came, you organized the event, provided teachers with the challenge, and I will have to say that your hard work paid off. Children came into the library looking for Lamine Diémé’s books because they wanted to take home French and Wolof books for their parents to read to them. Let me write that again so that way it’s clear that even if the reading week event was a taxing challenge to teachers who didn’t understand French, the event was a success. Children want to take these books home. They saw themselves in this author/illustrator’s work, and they came to the library looking for more after having those books introduced to them in their classrooms. You ladies made that happen. I’m so grateful for your contributions and so proud of the outcome.
To Alice Ndeshyo and Wendy Kinyeki:
Every event on this campus last week began and ended with you ladies. Tables, food, transportation, hotels, bills, breakfasts, dinners, and myriad emails back and forth saturated your week. And under pressure, you offered nothing but graciousness. Thank you.
To Anna Rosenberg:
You never have to do the things you do for the library, but you graciously offer help anyway. You know that everyone loves those delicious croissants that come from La Parisienne. You did the ordering and organization. For that generosity, I thank you.
To Kelly Chumrau & Lorne Byrd:
Kelly, when discussing topics related to DEI, you got on board with a local author and illustrator and chipped in the visiting author’s speaking fee. This is not a small contribution. It is a literal investment in the belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion matters. Thank you for your generous support. Lorne, you answered the myriad emails to connect students with the poet, making a schedule that allowed all high school students to have access to the poet. And when I emailed one more time asking you to double check and triple check the schedule, you graciously did so. Thank you for the support.
To All ISD Teachers:
You brought the authors into your classrooms, either physically or virtually through the authors’ works. You promoted poetry, you came to the poetry events, you encouraged children to write and read, and you gave up teaching time. You gave up community meeting time, you gave love, support, and snaps to budding young poets, and I suspect they will thank you for it, if not now, certainly in the future. I do, however, thank you now. These events can’t be successful without your support. To you I offer my gratitude.
To Shelly Stein, Fode, Drummers, and Dancers:
Every year, there is a scramble to figure out how to make the opening ceremony powerful, a reflection of our beliefs as educators that reading and literacy matters, and that we all value the year long effort to make reading a dynamic and central part of our lives. Reading has value and leads to critical thought. But equally important is pleasure. Shelly, every year you bring the pleasure of reading, storytelling, and communication through music and dance. You are the embodiment of truly investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion. You routinely walk the talk. And routinely, the visiting authors speak very highly of what you offer. Thank you, Shelly. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
This year’s celebration of reading week inspired many writers to come to the library and check out various works of poetry: Natalie Diaz, Jose Ontiveros, Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, and Carol Ann Duffy to name a few. And now the works of Taylor Mali. Proof positive that bringing an author to the campus does inspire literacy, love of reading, and in this particular case, the courage to write and share what one has written.
The middle school poetry slam offered up some of our most courageous students. Sixth graders treated us to an exaltation of Nature, a keen examination of Star Wars, and a quirky love of cats. Seventh grade served up a glorification of the mother. Eighth grade brought the protest poetry followed by snaps and ovations, showing how much middle school students appreciated a voice that speaks out against brutality and injustice.
The highlight of the week for me, however, was the opportunity to give a high school student what he asked for: daily access to Taylor Mali. Moises Kambale came to the library a week before Taylor Mali’s arrival and advocated for himself. He wanted to meet with and work with the poet. Graciously, high school teachers consented to release him from class, and Moises got to work one-on-one with Mali, shadow him throughout his day, share his own work with Taylor Mali, and get feedback. Taylor expressed a genuine love and support for Moises’ budding talent, and appreciated the personal assistant and right hand man position that Moises filled throughout the week.
Although the week was full, I would also like to thank the parent community who came out for a weekend book club after reading The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison. After Toni Morrison's passing in August, several parents, teachers, and friends said, "we should have some kind of celebration of her work." And indeed, it didn't take too much persuasion to get a group of like minded individuals together to read this collection of essays and come together to discuss her works. Topics on the menu included art, agency, historical examination of feminism, historical agency for storytelling, and our general awe at the mastery of Toni Morrison's work. Thank you for the support, and I look forward to more rich and in depth conversations about any writer or work that is of interest to the ISD community.
ANOTHER VISITING AUTHOR: OLEY DIBBA-WADDA
ISD is quite fortunate to have teachers on the campus who are invested in the process of bringing local authors to the campus. In the year's past, we've had Ghanaian author, Ayesha Haruna Attah, author of The Hundred Wells of Salaga. We've hosted Senegalese author, Boris Boubacar Diop, author of several books, but namely Murambi: The Book of Bones, and expat author, Anna Badkhin, author of Fisherman's Blues. This year, math teacher, Denrol Carayol has helped the ISD library to bring Gambian author, Oley Dibba Wadda to ISD. Her book, Memoirs of an African Woman on a Mission is already making the rounds among the ISD staff and among the ISD parent community. Come to the library to check out a copy of her work.
Oley Dibba Wadda Details:
Title of Book: Memoirs of an African Woman on a Mission
Date of Visit: Friday, 22 November, 2019
Time: 6:30 - 8:30pm