Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Made My Day: Every Single Person I Encountered at the U of M Libraries Today!

So I decided that this is going to be the summer that I learn all about the American Civil Rights Movement. I mean I know the most basic of things: Rosa Parks and voter registration and lunch counters and bus boycotts and James Meredith. I know Martin Luther King Jr. and "I have a dream." I know Malcolm X and "By any means necessary." But I don't know any of it in real depth.

Center: James Meredith ... Right: John Doar
And I should.

I should know these stories.

I should know this history.

I should know it well.

The group that started it all...
I think the inspiration came from all of the recent articles (such as this...and this...and this...) honoring the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides that took place during the summer of 1961. This is part of the Movement that I don't feel like I know anything about. It's alarming when you consider yourself a relatively educated person and then realize that there are so many stories about your own country of which you know precious little.

So I did a little web research and headed over to Wilson and Walter libraries to gather a good stash of books and DVDs. And because I'm me, you know I couldn't just go pick up the materials and be on my way. You know I had to chatter on and on about how excited I was for my new summer project. You know I was yapping at anyone who would stand still long enough to hear me.

And do you know that not one person rolled their eyes at me? Not one person gave me the "Yeah, yeah...shut up lady"? Every single person was excited on my behalf. Every single person joined in the conversation. Every single person offered their assistance with enthusiasm.

The subject librarian I called asked for my email so she could send me a reading/resource list.

The undergrad listening to his iPod and shelving books (in his Joe Mauer t-shirt) helped me look for a misplaced book. When we couldn't find it, the guy at the Wilson Library circulation desk assured me they'd contact me once a copy was located. When I asked him (after he processed the 5 books I was checking out) what I needed to fill out the get the process started to find the missing book, he smiled and said "It's already happening!"

The wonderful Walter reading room!
A student staffing the Walter Library learning commons (full of tapes and DVDs) gave me tips on how to get an extension on their 3-day check-out policy...and then she told me how much she loved what she learned in her history class when they talked about the Civil Rights Movement. At the circulation desk, one student double- and tripled-checked the holds/reservations list on the DVDs while the other one scanned all my materials (not due until Monday!).

I think there are times when our parade gets rained on...when we're marching to the beat of our own drum because no one quite gets where we're going. No one plays along. And while it's always up to us to be tough and carry our own torch in life, really, the journey is so much more fun when there are folks cheering us on as we go. I felt wholly bolstered today. There was no sarcasm or apathy. There was only tangible support and shared enthusiasm. It was awesome.

That today went the way it did only contributes to my excitement about this summer endeavor. I'm off to a great start...with sincere thanks due to all the helpful and delightful people I encountered!

If you have any suggestions for my summer project, please do let me know. I just watched this tonight (it was AMAZING!) and am now making my way through the Eyes on the Prize series. Am happy to know about any books, articles, websites, films, etc. that you think I should see. Share! Share! Share!


koritsimou said...

I have a very slightly related book recommendation: If you're interested at all in the music surrounding that era, there's a large section in "A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race & The Soul of America" by Craig Werner. In the interest of full disclosure, he's a very good friend and mentor, but it's a legendary book in musicologist circles, it's very readable, and it helps you feel the emotions of the time.

geanette said...

Emily, you continue to amaze me every day. You should blog next on how terrifically you have committed yourself to the idea of your blog. You truly are (one of the) "....people, places and things that bring a little more light to our world.) My world is way more full of light since I met you.

Now, sending this terrific link to my sister who is a librarian!

geanette said...

Me again. As I was typing in my sister's email address to send her this link, I though, wait, my 5 other siblings and their spouses would also really enjoy this! Then I thought about my grown nieces and nephews who would also probably love it. So don't be surprised if you have new followers -- names like Roberts, Plehal, Delacueva, Ewers, Ruff.....

Emily said...

Aw! Thanks Geanette! So very sweet of you! :)

Kassie said...

What an exellenct endeavor. I highly recommend the memoir Blood Done Sign My Name, it chronicles the civil rights movement and right afterward in a small Southern town. It is both infuriating and incredibly compelling. Also written by the older brother of one of my clients.

Kassie said...

It's by Timothy Tyson by the way!

Emily said...

Thanks, Kassie! I feel like I just heard about this one from someone...will add it to my every growing stack of stuff. I have to finish Eyes on the Prize...I feel like then I'll have my "learner's permit" and can really take the plunge. :)

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