Anchorage Reads returns to the library with focus on anti-racism
by victoria petersen
After a five-year hiatus, the Anchorage Public Library is bringing back their Anchorage Reads initiative. The community-driven program, which relaunched Feb. 1 and will run through June 20, is essentially a city-wide book club. A committee made up of community members and library partners helps choose a book, create events and engage the public in discourse about how the book can be applied at the local level. The last Anchorage Reads was in 2015, but the library is “really excited” to bring it back, Meneka Thiru, community engagement librarian with the Anchorage Public Library, said.
“Stamped from the beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi and the young adult version, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds were the books chosen for this year’s program.
“With all the conversations around racial and social inequity last summer, the Anchorage Reads committee came together and decided that relaunching the program with a book that was focused on anti-racism made a lot of sense for our community to be able to navigate for conversations around these issues,” Thiru said. The program is also reaching out to schools. The Anchorage NAACP, United Way of Anchorage and the Anchorage Education Association donated 150 copies of the young adult book to 15 different schools where school librarians can distribute it to students.
This year, the library is collaborating with a number of local partners, including the Alaska Humanities Forum, Storyworks Alaska, Anchorage School District, Friends of Anchorage Public Library, Alaska Black Caucus, Anchorage Education Association, United Way of Anchorage and the NAACP of Anchorage. Taylor Strelevitz, of Alaska Humanities Forum, said the program directly aligns with their own mission and other projects the organization is pursuing.
“It’s just been a great opportunity for us to think about conversation and the value of it, and anti-racist work in a different context outside of our own programming,” Strelevitz said. “We’re really excited to be part of it… We’re thinking about ways our community can really come together to address anti-blackness, and this is a great opportunity for that to happen,” Strelevitz said. “One of many reasons why we’re participating.”
Before COVID-19, the library would host in-person events like author talks, group discussions and panels. Thiru said the library will be missing these in-person events this year, but hopes that the remote nature of the program in 2021 will allow more people to be involved, including those who are outside of the city or people without access to transportation.
The virtual events include month book club discussions, with the next one taking place from 6 to 7 p.m. March 18. Thiru said the library also encourages residents to host their own events and discussions. To learn more about the program, see upcoming discussions and register for events, visit the Anchorage Public Library’s website at https://bit.ly/AnchorageReads2021.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE CO. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska