Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Dr. Cornel West

On Sunday night, at the height of the blizzard, I had the privilege and honor of meeting Dr. Cornel West.  One of my friends had been invited to “Drinks with Dr. Cornel West”, and, since she knows how much I admire him, she graciously allowed me to be her plus one.  I expected it to be a large, awkward cocktail party, as many events like this are, but he was so personable and friendly and genuinely interested in meeting us and talking to us that it was not only a highlight of the conference, but possibly my life.  5 of us talked to him about the importance of libraries, BCALA and the Coretta Scott King Award, Interracial Relations in Chicago in the 1940s, and the recent protest at the Port of LA a few weeks ago.  We talked about his talk at the University of Chicago earlier in the day where 2,000 people came out in the storm to hear him speak and his slow slow cab ride from there to meet us at the convention center.  We could’ve probably sat there all night if his publisher hadn’t broken us up due to their dinner reservation.

The next morning, we all, along with a few hundred others, celebrated the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Sunrise Celebration.  This is the second year I’ve attended, and even though it’s at the crack of dawn — hence the name, it is so worth attending.  I won’t give all the secrets away, but I’ll just say it’s a very moving event and if you can muster the energy to listen to the alarm clock and you’re ever at Midwinter, do attend.

At the Sunrise Celebration, Dr. West was the keynote speaker and spoke on breaking fear and spreading love.  Remember to pay respect to those who came before you and loved you and helped you to where you are today.  He also spoke to moral consistency, knowing what you want your message to be and living the message and doing everything to better our communities locally and nationally.  We need to have a militant tenderness and be rooted in the right reasons for all we do with a deep sense of humility and determination.  We need to maintain integrity in a world where everything is for sale and make sure we protect those children who deserve a deep education and not cheap schooling.  There is something sweet about librarians, Dr. West said.  And that sweetness is what has helped us grow and change into what the community needs.

After Dr. West, Satia Orange, past director of OLOS, gave the call to action.  What really resonated with me was that she said “conference should be more on focusing on resources for delivery of services for those suffering from exclusion of opportunity — not on promoting our careers and maintaining our institutional positions…More than ever, the people back home need us”.

At the end of every Sunrise celebration, attendees are asked to create a circle around the room and join hands as we sing “We Shall Overcome”.  This is that part that gets me and many others everytime.  The unity in the room makes you feel like you can go home and do anything and make a difference for your community.  That what you learned here will help change the world.  The photo below isn’t from this year, but from last year.  This year the circle was so large we had to double up and join two circles together.  It was an amazing experience.

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