OPL Responds: Working Toward Racial Justice

A space to share books, organizations and resources for a more equitable future.

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Hello Oakland,  

First, we miss you.    

We are writing this post in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless Black people and other people of color, to the pain and anger felt in our communities and in ourselves, and to the injustice and crisis we are experiencing. It is appalling that the legacies of colonialism continue, as evidenced in the routine dehumanization of Black life. Black lives matter. Our country must change. 

In times of trouble or times of need, library staff often create reading and resource lists.  It is a measure of how little things have changed that this blog post we created in 2014 remains highly relevant. In it you will find links to resource lists on: 

Folks who are especially interested in that last topic might also want to check out the recording of a 2016 panel we co-hosted with Showing Up For Racial Justice. Lindsay Imai Hong facilitated the panel, which included Shayna Cureton from Abundant Beginnings, Marilyn Hollinquest from the Radical Monarchs, artist and activist Ariel Luckey, and Malaika Parker from PACT, and Adoption Alliance  

Many groups, such as those represented in the panel above, are working for more equitable future where structural and systemic change is possibleWhen we are feeling despair, they give us hope. Here are some others you might want to check out. 

  • Anti Police Terror Project (Local) About: “The Anti Police-Terror Project is a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color.” 
  • Planting Justice (Local) About: “Planting Justice is a grassroots organization with a mission to empower people impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities with the skills and resources to cultivate food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing.” 
  • Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) (local) About: “Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, RJOY, interrupts cycles of violence and incarceration by promoting RJ practices and policies in schools, communities, and the juvenile justice system.”  
  • Forward Together (national – local headquarters) About: Forward Together unites communities to win rights, recognition and resources for all families. 
  • Movement Generation (national – local headquarters) About: “Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project inspires and engages in transformative action towards the liberation and restoration of land, labor, and culture.”  
  • Black Lives Matter (global/national) About: “Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” 
  • Black Visions Collective (Minnesota) About: “Since 2017, Black Visions Collective, has been putting into practice the lessons learned from organizations before us in order to shape a political home for Black people across Minnesota. We aim to center our work in healing and transformative justice principles, intentionally develop our organizations core “DNA” to ensure sustainability, and develop Minnesota’s emerging Black leadership to lead powerful campaigns.”  
  • BYP100 (global/national) About: “BYP100 is National, member-based organization of Black 18-35 year old activists and organizers, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a network focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy, and political education using a Black queer feminist lens.”  
  • The Color of Change (global/national) About: “Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. Color of Change leads campaigns that build real power for Black communities. We challenge injustice, hold corporate and political leaders accountable, commission game-changing research on systems of inequality, and advance solutions for racial justice that can transform our world. 
  • North Star Health Collective (Minneapolis) About: Street medics who "work in alliance with mainstream and anti-authoritarian organizations to create a safe and healthy events"
  • Minnesota Freedom Fund (Minnesota) About: The Minnesota Freedom Fund pays criminal bail and immigration bond for those who cannot afford to as we seek to end discriminatory, coercive, and oppressive jailing.
  • Race Forward (global/national) About: “Race Forward catalyzes movement building for racial justice. In partnership with communities, organizations, and sectors, we build strategies to advance racial justice in our policies, institutions, and culture. Race Forward is home to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of local government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Race Forward publishes the daily news site Colorlines and presents Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice. 
  • Reclaim the Block (Minneapolis) About: Reclaim the Block began in 2018 and organizes Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety
  • Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (Minneapolis) About: Formed in response to the killing of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis in 2015, these volunteers continue to organize for civilian police oversight, accountability, and an end to police lynchings of Black and brown people. 

And of course our greatest hope for the future lies in our young people. Oakland youth have a clear eyed understanding of our circumstances and our need for change. We have been greatly inspired by the submissions for the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate programand in particular the powerful poetry of our 2019 Laureate Samuel Getachew, and our 2018 Laureate Leila Mottley 

If you aren't able to leave your house but still want to make your voice heard, you might consider a phone call to an elected official or local government agency.

Oakland and California

  • Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley (510) 272-6222
  • Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf (510) 238-3141
  • Oakland Community Police Review Agency (510) 238-3159
  • Governor Gavin Newsom (916) 445-2841

Find more phone numbers in this pamphlet by the League of Women Voters titled Who Represents Oakland?

Minneapolis and Minnesota

  • District Attorney Mike Freeman (612) 348-5550
  • Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey (612) 673-2100
  • Mayor of Saint Paul Melvin Carter: (651) 266-8510 
  • Governor Tim Walz: (651) 201-3400

Two more things you can do from home (provided you've got internet access):

  • Register to vote. You can ask for an absentee ballot that will let you vote by mail.
  • Respond to the Census. The Census determines how each region is represented in our government, as well as how Federal funding is distributed. Learn more at Fair Count, an organization started by Stacey Abrams.

Over the past few days we put together a special collection of African American fiction and non-fiction e-books as well as short list of e-books on anti-racism. You can check these out from home. Many of the anti-racism books were picked by members of our Racial Equity Team. This team was formed in 2015 and works to eliminate institutional racism within the Oakland Public Library. We know that in order for our world to improve, we must start with ourselves.  In a recent letter that addresses the current crisis, our complicit past, and our work for a better future, the Racial Equity Team wrote 

Oakland has a rich legacy of racial justice. As library workers, we hold a shared vision for our community to be strong and informed -- and we have the power to shape this together. To realize our vision, we must hold ourselves accountable in our commitment to and work towards racial equity, inclusion, and justice. 

We’d love to hear from you - what are you doing to support racial and social justice in our community? What are some of the organizations you’re involved with that are committed to structural change? Who are the people who give you hope? Please share in the comments section. This is a space where we can share resources, inspiration and hope for a more equitable future. 

We hope that you will stay strong, informed, and healthy. We hope that we will see you soon. Our hearts are with you.  

-Your Oakland Public Library Staff