You would have thought the kids and I were headed to Mecca by the way we bolted out the door to head to the library yesterday. I was partially ready to see the newly finished Abrams street and all the other buffing and polishing that had taken place in Downtown Arlington. When we found out the new East branch library wasn’t open yet the bibliophile in me was confident that there would be new gems awaiting us at the other location. I decided to decline in finding out why no one sent me the memo that the new east branch doesn’t open until November.
While the library staff was kindly explaining this to me over the phone, I realized that information had indeed been shared all over the Arlington city website, library website, You-Tube channel, excreta as I was squinting my eyes to fact check on my crack screened laptop. I apparently just really didn’t get the memo. Yet, sourly there was still a part of me as a ghetto-geek that just personally feels like I should be notified on matters regarding the local athenaeum but I digress.
As I actively chose to ignore my 5 year old kicking the back of my seat while driving I began to talk about the special presentation that PBS-kids aired the night before. I had text as many people as I could from my contact list in my phone about what a brilliant job KERA did explaining race and racism to young children. I was also wishing I wasn’t such an introvert because I only text about 4 people but the point is, I had never seen anything like that before.
In a very guided and knowledgeable way the half hour special talked about subjects that can be very heavy and difficult for us parents to explain. The host and National Youth Poet Laureate Gorman sweetly pulled us in every time she flashed that gorgeous smile and incorporated the differences between what race is, what a racist is, and what racial justice is all about.
By the time we made it to the promised land-wait, I meant the library we were so excited to be in the most magical place in the universe. Searching for my typical transformative non-fiction books my eyes happened to land on Say Her Name by Zetta Elliot. I was not familiar with the author but I was confident that the book was congruent to the tragic murder of Breonna Taylor.
In addition to that, the book was a book of poetry and pose. I have not been so moved by poetry in years. I wept, I laughed, and before you knew it I had read the whole thing while my boys were pretending to be “book bandits” and asking the children’s librarian if she sanitizes her hands before and after touching the books.
The truly ironic thing is that the book somehow in that moment made me feel so connected to everything and everyone in spite of social distancing. That book made me feel proud to be an American citizen who just so happens to be African-American. Yes, ethnicity is never first on the list of identity.
That book made me recall of how shocked I was to see that most people at the Martin Luther King celebration at the beginning of the year in Arlington didn’t look like me. I thought wow, this was really his dream. I love my city because I feel safe to dream, I feel included, heard, and well before it was “trending” to do so might I add. I love all the diversity and cultural inclusion because it seems so effortless. There wasn’t a shelve or table I could walk pass and not see books written by Asian, Black, or Hispanic authors.
Here in the American Dream City I feel free to speak, seek, and search. Apparently the universe sends more of it your way when your intentional about speaking up, seeking, and searching. I wasn’t look for that book on Saturday.
I think that book was looking for me.
Say her name.