Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week, Sept 24-Oct 1: Read a Banned Book Today

Dear friends, fellow writers, and upholders of intellectual freedom,

Did you know that in some schools and libraries, books such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been challenged or banned?  

This week marks Banned Books Week, sponsored annually by the American Library Association. Several years ago, when I served on the Plainfield Cultural and Heritage Commission, we held a couple of community "read-ins" at the Plainfield Public Library to observe this important week of intellectual freedom by having Plainfield residents (adults and children) read passages from books that, for numerous reasons, had been banned in schools and libraries around the country. 

Our special guest in 2005 was renowned poet and scholar Cheryl Clarke, (link) who read aloud the love scene between Celie and Shug in Alice Walker's Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning yet much-banned The Color Purple, along with selections from one of her own highly-regarded books of poetry. The following year, we focused on Latin American authors as part of Hispanic Heritage Week, as they overlapped. Others who read at these events were Plainfield residents Herb Green (reading from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), Alice Logie (reading from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax), Julie Jerome (reading from Heather Has Two Mommies) and a couple dozen other folks. 

It was gratifying to know that all the books we used for the read-in were provided to us from our own library. Below are challenged classics, some of which I teach in my literature classes:

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
1984, by George Orwell
 Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Native Son, by Richard Wright

Click on this link to see the Top Ten books that were banned in 2010:

The dangers of book-banning are well-known in our country--below is a link to the ALA site, where you can find a comprehensive list of the most-banned books, along with more information about the events for the week:

All best,


Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15, 1963


Ballad of Birmingham

(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)
Clockwise from top left: Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, 
Denise McNair, and Addie Mae Collins
Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?"

"No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren't good for a little child."

"But, mother, I won't be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free."

"No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children's choir."

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

The mother smiled to know that her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
"O, here's the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?"
                           --Dudley Randall, 1969 

This link will take you to a site which provides more information about the historical events which inspired the poem: The Ballad of Birmingham

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fall Library Grounds Community Clean Up!

Saturday, September 17, 2011, 9:30 am 

Volunteers Meet on Library Steps
Gloves, rakes, bags, and water will be provided
Councilman Adrian Mapp with Vivi and Gigi at past community cleanup!
Hi, all--it's that time again! The Plainfield Public Library, our community treasure, is due for another community clean up of its exterior grounds. Those of you who could only access Internet service or use the free WIFI at the library during the past week because of the hurricane can certainly speak to how critical the library is to our city and its residents. 
As I have mentioned in the past, we, as a community, need to add to our priorities the protection and enhancement of the cultural institutions that are the life-blood of any city. Last year, one of the community service projects of the New Democrats for Plainfield Club was to assist in cleaning up the exterior grounds of the library for our children and all other library patrons. To that end, I hope you will join me, club members and all other community volunteers as we get out our brooms and bags to make the library look fabulous in anticipation of the exciting opening of the renovated Children's Library.
The Children's Library is set to open on Saturday, September 24 at 9:30 am, so it behooves us to ensure that every one of our little visitors is able to see our library at its finest--meaning spruced up, cleaned up, and dressed up!
We will gather on the library steps at 9:15 am to begin our work. If you have hedge trimmers, please bring them! We would also like to clean the weeds out of the sidewalk cracks, especially on the Park Avenue side of the library, so if this is your area of expertise, please assist us!
We will provide rakes, gloves, bags, water, and camaraderie. Hope to see you there! 
All best,