Connecting you to Black history, then & now

Your public library is here to connect us with each other through books, resources, and experiences that celebrate Black history and culture.

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People stand outside the February Idea Box exhibit, "The Work": Black History Museum

View special exhibits, documentary film screening

'The Work': Black History Museum in the Idea Box
All February on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 1-3 pm; Sundays 12-3 pm

The struggle for social justice and racial equity are often referred to as "The Work."

In honor of Black History Month, the second annual Idea Box Black History Museum honors Black Oak Park history and the leaders who have defied racial barriers to lay the foundation of this diverse, progressive village.

"The work" continues. Not only does this museum acknowledge the contributions of historical Black figures in Oak Park, it also celebrates the fortitude of contemporary Black Americans who continue to make advancements toward racial equity beyond the borders of the village. Learn more about the making of this museum »

Multicultural Collection artifacts, including artwork, sculptures, drums, displayed on shelves

African Art Exhibit, featuring African artifacts from Oak Park’s Multicultural Collection
Through February, Dole Branch Library

When learning about cultures, artifacts are useful tools. To enhance your visit, here’s a little bit more about what’s on display through February.

  1. Closest to the library entrance (at right in the photo above), the first column displays artifacts from South Africa and Tanzania. Did you know the Maasai tribespeople were known to be fierce warriors, cattle rustlers, high-jumping dancers, and artisans of intricate beadwork?
  2. The next column features artifacts from West African countries, primarily Ghana and Nigeria. A Ghanaian stool showcases beautiful Adinkra symbols of historical and philosophical significance. Did you know that, as Africa's most populous country, Nigeria is often referred to as the Giant of Africa?
  3. On the third column, we have artifacts from the diaspora and the first Black Republic, the Caribbean country of Haiti. Did you know that François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture defeated Napoleon in the Haitian revolution and war of independence, a series of conflicts between 1794 and 1804?
  4. Closest to the windows (at left in the photo above), the fourth column is dedicated to Egypt. Did you know that more than 90% of Egypt is in Africa, qualifying it as a Northern African country?

Art Exhibit: Alkebulan Shadows by Jason Dorsey
Through March 11, Main Library Gallery

"Alkebulan" is the oldest and the only word of Indigenous origin referring to the continent of Africa.

Alkebulan Shadows is a portrait photography project that challenges colonial imagery with contemporary, non-intrusive, non-exploitative photographs of Indigenous African people from various countries.

These images aim to enlighten and restore dignity back into the Black-circulated image. Equally serving as a celebration of Africa's sprawling diversity, each photograph symbolizes the gradual re-emergence of cultural identity, restoration, and hope. Learn more about the artist and see the exhibit »

Brondihouse: Learn about Black History with ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson
Saturday, February 18, 12:30-2:30 pm, Main Library Veterans Room

Children in grades K-12 are invited to learn about early West African civilizations and their long-lasting impact on human history, continuing to today. Learn more and register »

Film Screening: Who We Are
Sunday, February 26, 1-4 pm, Main Library Veterans Room

Join us for a screening of the documentary Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (PG-13, 1 hour, 57 minutes), followed by a discussion. In this film—which interweaves lecture, personal anecdotes, interviews, and shocking revelations—criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Jeffery Robinson draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America. Held in partnership with Maywood Youth Mentoring Program, Inc. Watch the trailer and register now »

Tea cups and saucers set on a table with teacakes and flowers

Donate gently used teacups for the Uniquely You Tea Party

Through February 16, Main Library Lobby

Do you happen to have a fancy, gently used teacup and saucer that you'd like to donate? If yes, please feel free to bring them to the Main Library Lobby. We will be sure to put them to good use!

The library's Community Engagement team is collecting teacups and saucers in preparation for the Uniquely You Tea Party (a safe and empowering space for children ages 8 to 12 who identify as Black girls) to be held Sunday, February 19 at the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association.

Watch 'My Black History'

'Black history is the history of humanity itself'

"Black history does not start, nor does it end with slavery; it is boundless and evolving," says Juanta Griffin, Multicultural Learning Coordinator. "Black history is the history of humanity itself, and each of us has much to learn."

This 40-minute video features history told from the perspective of individuals across the African Diaspora, which were collected by Juanta during a year-long project.

As the Ubuntu word represents the philosophy "I am because we are," and the Adinkra symbol Sankofa means "using the past as a way to the future, or to retrieve," these eight community members' stories give a glimpse of our culture beyond our neighborhoods.

"All of our histories are connected. The humanity of Black history, Haitian history, South African history, Gullah history, Nigerian history, and all of our histories are connected, and focus on the oneness," says Juanta. "I am because we are."

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