1619 series was a ‘journey of love, history, learning’

For the third year in a row, the library was proud to collaborate with local partners to host a Family and Community Discussion Series focused on intergenerational, anti-racist discussion circles inspired by books and other media.

“I always look forward to these circles!” said one participant, who told us they’ve participated in this series for the past two years. “I love being able to talk to other people about our different points of view, and being able to have a space where hard conversations can be had.”

This year’s three-part series, which wrapped up with live music and a discussion circle on November 6, was inspired by the 1619 Project. The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Audience member listening at D-Composed performance

‘More like THIS please’

The final session, inspired by the 1619 podcast episode “The Birth of American Music,” began with a custom concert by Chicago-based Black chamber music collective D-Composed, drawing a crowd of 100 people. Local musicians The Snake Doctors also performed, followed by a discussion circle.

Discussion circles, a structured process where we come together in community to explore a subject, are at the heart of the series. Trained facilitators ask questions and give everyone an equal opportunity to share, listen to one another, and reflect.

“We’re proud that we were able to create a safe and sacred space to discuss race, our shared history, and our personal stories,” said Restorative Practices Coordinator Tatiana Swancy. “For each circle, about 35 diverse community members of all ages came together to talk and share. We received a lot of positive feedback and are grateful to everyone who participated.”

One participant who said they got involved “to continue my education of white supremacy by opening my exploration of Black history,” told us: “Keep em coming! More like THIS please 🙂 More and more open spaces for new perspectives, especially multimodal with art, circles, food… LOVE!”

Chamber music collective D-Composed played a custom concert for the third session of our 1619 series at the Main Library in November.
The Snake Doctors also performed for the final 1619 session.
Audience listening to D-Composed concert at Main Library
D-Composed and The Snake Doctors drew an audience of about 100 people in the Main Library Veterans Room.

Partnership makes it possible

For all three years of this series, the library has collaborated with Oak Park Elementary School District 97, Oak Park and River Forest High School, the E-Team of Oak Park, Dominican University’s Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) group, and the Township of Oak Park.

In 2020, the series focused on Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. And in 2021, the series was based on the March graphic novels by John Lewis.

A group of people posing for a photo in the Main Library
Some of the collaborators involved in the 1619 series.

‘Looking forward to more to come’

Another participant told us: “First I must say I truly enjoyed the community circle! My thank you to Oak Park library, Oak Park Township … and most of all the employees/friends that took on this personal journey of love, history, learning, (in my mind some glimpse of reconciliation of so much taken away but not lost) that was shown in this community circle.”

“There is so much more to do, I am hopeful, optimistic for the future,” they added. “Looking forward to more to come.”

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