Stacey Abrams at ALA Virtual Conference

A highlight of my experience of ALA Virtual Conference today was hearing Stacey Abrams speak in the President’s Program. Stacey Abrams’ mother was a librarian, so she’s part of the family!

Here are my notes from her talk, as I frantically tried to get down her major points. (She talks quickly.)

We’re in the midst of two massive conversations. One is about Covid-19, disease and how it disproportionately affects African Americans. The other is about systemic ineqalities.

We need to call out the injustice, and then be intentional about remembering it rather than just going on to the next thing.

Solutions: Reformation and Transformation

For Reformation, we need to follow best practices that work in other nations. For transformation, we need to channel public moneys to address inequities in healthcare and education.

Then the moderator asked about voting rights. Voting is the most fundamental power for citizens in a democracy.

Racism is a disease in our country. Voting is the treatment that actually makes (slow) progress. It’s not a panacea, but a treatment that must be repeated, like chemotherapy.

We can’t divorce the vote from the necessity of protest. We need protest in the street and the vote both. Voting doesn’t solve all our problems, but silence damns us all.

The act of voting is about persistence, not perfection.

For targeted communities, voting is an arduous challenge.

We need to pay attention to the system, not just to politicians. One person isn’t going to be a hero who saves us.

She also talked about the Census, because it’s also an equity issue. The census shapes the next decade of equity and political power. The census determines who is here and what we need. The neediest places are least likely to be seen or heard.

She supports Fair Fight for voting rights and Fair Count for census rights.

1) Libraries are essential for supporting the census, because they’re a trusted resource.
2) The resources for funding libraries comes from the census, so they feed themselves when they feed the census.
3) Libraries need to help tell the truth about who we are.

Then the conversation shifted to talk about her book. It talks about history and challenges, as well as what things look like today. It also talks about America’s role on the world stage.

We need to hold our leaders responsible, and we each need to make our country stronger. Libraries need to amplify voices that unite our nation. And we need to address systemic challenges.

As a profession, we need to work at reflecting the diversity of America. Diversity occurs because you remove barriers to entry and build strategies to overcome them.

Librarians should advertise ourselves! Be intentional about cultivating leadership.

The final question is what is she reading? (How refreshing when a politician can truthfully answer that question!) The answers were Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James

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