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June 3, 2020 | Devin Cook

Black Lives Matter: A Resource Guide

As a public library, our mission is to empower our community with knowledge and “treat our patrons and each other with respect, dignity and kindness.” Throughout civil rights history in America, public libraries have played a major part, including one of the first known sit-in demonstrations, occurring in 1939 in the Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library of Alexandria, Virginia. 

But the fight for civil rights in America is not over, not even a little. Now is the time to get educated on the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means today. Started in 2013 by three black organizers–Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi–it began as a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman. The movement is now global with more than 40 chapters in the United States alone, and has only grown as thousands of cases of police brutality against black people have occurred since 2013. According to The Washington Post’s database tracking police shootings, 1,252 black people have been shot and killed by police since 2015. That data doesn’t include the hundreds of others who were killed in police custody by other means. It does not address the disproportionate amount of black people that are incarcerated and arrested for the same crimes that white people commit at an equal rate or higher

For those who respond to Black Lives Matter with the phrase, “But all lives matter!” Ask yourself: if your friend falls down and scrapes their knee, do you put a bandaid on all your other friends who aren’t bleeding, who didn’t even fall down? Or do you help the friend who is clearly bleeding? 

This goes beyond the issue of police brutality and violence against people of color. Racism is systematic in American society. It is present in our schools, our housing, our health care system–our country’s history is steeped in the mistreatment of African Americans, and we have to do better. The least we can do is educate ourselves on white privilege and the racial inequality present in our society, and contribute what we can to the fight for a better standard of living for our fellow Americans. 

This resource list was developed in collaboration with Paducah-McCracken County NAACP and Paducah Minority Leaders. These are our recommended anti-racist books, which can be placed on hold and later picked up at the library, or checked out digitally. 

For anti-racist kids, the following books deal with race and identity.

Early Books:

Juvenile Books:

In addition, the Healing Library, a project focusing on assisting families after periods of trauma, has compiled a reading list for children and teens to educate on anti-racism.

Here are some documentaries that can be checked out and watched:

  • The Force shows the aftermath of a federal investigation into the Oakland Police and their history of misconduct. 
  • When The Levees Broke documents the huge impact of Katrina on black neighborhoods in New Orleans. 
  • Whose Streets? details the Ferguson, Missouri uprising following the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown. 

13TH, a Netflix documentary directed by Ava DuVernay, examines the U.S. prison system and how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America. It is currently available to watch for free on Youtube.

Here is a resource guide for white people, including material for parents, referencing articles, social media accounts to follow, and other sources of information for anti-racist education and resources.

If you have the means to do so: attend protests. If you are white, it is imperative you do not shout over black voices, incite violence or property damage–you are there to protect the people of color that are present and use your privilege to shield them from possible police brutality. Click here for some tips on how to protest safely and what supplies you will need.  

If you cannot protest, and you have the means to do so, consider donating to organizations that provide bail funds for protesters. Many have been arrested at peaceful protests across the nation, including in Louisville, Kentucky. Do research on organizations that are helping to lead this fight and donate. Be careful who you send your money to, and make sure that organizations or GoFundMe campaigns that you support use your donation to aid black lives during this time. Fact check social media posts and your news sources reporting on protests and police brutality. Do the work and educate yourself. 

Silence is violence. Use your voice and encourage your friends and family to engage in unlearning racism. Call out racism when you witness it. On May 31st, there was a rally attended by hundreds in Noble Park here in Paducah. There will be more to come, asking for us all to “Stand for Solidarity.” Stay informed, but be mindful of what you share on social media. Refrain from sharing graphic videos or photos of police brutality against black people–use your voice in other ways to raise awareness and encourage others to fight for justice.

Mayor Harless has asked for our community’s input on how our city can improve. She says, “We start with understanding. Share your stories of injustice, your ideas for solutions, and your thoughts on how to move forward. We can’t change what happens in other cities, but we can take responsibility for what happens in ours.” Your response remains anonymous unless you include your information in your answers. Take the survey here.

Your voice matters.

Black Lives Matter.