Summer can be a great time to explore your inner activist. There are many ways to make change, whether you’re looking for a quiet revolution or witnessing marches in the streets. As of this writing, Juneteenth, celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s, has just been honored by becoming a federal holiday. It’s a good start, but there is still a lot of work to do. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in this country, but not the end of racism. However, the celebration continues to resonate in new ways, given the sweeping changes and widespread protests across the United States over the past year and following a guilty verdict in the murder of Mr. George Floyd. .
Plus, as I look forward to next week, the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising will soon come with the end of this year’s Pride Month celebrations. On June 28, 1969, a series of protests took place around the Stonewall Inn, a gay tavern in New York City. This is significant because it marks a turning point in the gay rights movement. The Stonewall uprisings became a symbol of resistance to social and political discrimination for the LGBTQIA community and an international gay rights movement began.
“Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” by Angela Y. Davis is a collection of essays that connect struggles here and around the world. Highlighting the links between Ferguson, Palestine and Anti-Apartheid, the author shows us that what we need is a movement for human rights and liberation around the world. . Throughout history there have been many battles for basic human rights and their legacies can continue to teach us and hopefully bring us together in the fight.
For adult customers there is “The Stonewall Reader”. This is an anthology published by the New York Public Library for Stonewall’s 50th anniversary and edited by Edmund White. From the New York Public Library’s own archives, this is a collection of personal testimonies, journal entries and many articles from this period. A key aspect of this book is to present both the myth and the reality of the riots from the perspective of everyone, from participants to journalists.
Along the same lines but for young adult or juvenile readers, “The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets” by Gayle Pitman is a collection of historical interviews and information leading up to and including the riots. In addition to the illustrations, there are photos, newspaper articles and historical artifacts. Interviews even include one with a woman who was 10 at the time.
For a local connection to activism, try CJ Janovy’s “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas”. The author explores why many LGBT people remain in such a red state, when it is best known that most are leaving Kansas.
When you’re feeling frustrated with the way things have always been done, discovering new ways to make a difference is essential. Here are some other books that can help you get started. “How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation” edited by Maureen Johnson is located in the young adult area, but is also a great resource for adults. I especially enjoyed Junauda Petrus’ prose titled “Could we please give the police to the grandmothers”. Personally, I think the world would be better off for it!
Also, in the young adult section, you will find “We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World” by Todd Hasak-Lowy. And for younger readers, there’s Keilly Swift’s “How to Make a Better World” located in the children’s room. These are two excellent books for aspiring young activists.
Maybe you are interested in knowing more about these parts of the history of the United States. Or maybe as a modern activist you want to learn more about the roots of the LGBT rights movement in order to start your own grassroots movement. Whatever the reason, the Manhattan Public Library has several selections for you to check out and help you learn more about what some call the beginning of pride and how to create a revolution.
Julie Mills is the Supervisor of Learning and Information Services at the Manhattan Public Library.