Book Cover - #BlackLivesMatter to Black LiberationActivism abounds here in the Twin Cities!  Barring a blizzard, the Minnesota Women’s March on January 19, will bring tens of thousands into the streets.  15 NOW, the $15/hour minimum wage campaign, has made strides in both cities and, as an organizing campaign, is gaining ground at the airport.  Doctors, nurses, other health care providers, and unions continue to push for single-payer healthcare – the MN chapter of PNHP (Physicians for a Nat’l Health Program) has been great at educating, organizing and pushing this urgent conversation.  And there are many other inspiring examples and ways for people to get involved.

The East Side Freedom Library convenes conversations about history, issues and strategies.  ESFL staff are especially on the lookout for intersections between issues and movements.  In the next two weeks, ESFL will host three exciting events about intersectional movement history and contemporary organizing.  On Monday evening, January 21, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, we will host “Labor and Black Lives Matter,”  the third program in our on-going series, “Labor and Social Movements.”  The two previous events were full of energy — “Labor and #MeToo” and “Labor and Environmentalism” – and we know this Jan. 21 event will be powerful as well.  A panel of activists from BLM and labor will set out the issues and attendees will have time to participate.  ESFL will also display some great resources, off our shelves:   Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s  From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, Barbara Ransby’s Making All Black  Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century, and Patrisse Khana-Cullors’ When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, and labor history books including David Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness, and my own Black Labor in Richmond, Virginia, 1865-1890.  Don’t miss this MLK Day event!

January, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Black student sit-in in Morrill Hall at the University of Minnesota.  That action, taken by students of color, was crucial to changing the University of Minnesota:  the Morrill Hall sit-in led to the creation of the African American & African Studies program, and paved the way for the creation of other programs representing histories, literatures and other scholarship by, for and about communities of color.  On Friday evening, February 1, ESFL will host a program about the legacy of the Morrill Hall actions.  Dr. Horace Huntley, a leader of the 1969 event, who became co-director of the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, and a History professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, will co-present with Dr. Jimmy Patino, a professor of History and Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Huntley has published several oral history books about the civil rights movement in Alabama, and is an author of “Nerve Juice” and the Ivory Tower Confrontation in Minnesota.  Please join us for this significant event marking the 50th anniversary of the Morrill Hall sit-in.

The next afternoon, February 2, activist, scholar and lawyer Lydia X.Z. Brown, who works at the intersection of transgender and disability rights, will conduct a workshop, “No Liberation without Disability Justice,” at ESFL.  They have been brought to the Twin Cities by the Disability Studies program at the University of Minnesota, for public presentations at the University and Macalester College, and this free workshop for organizers and activists at ESFL.  Please note: the accessibility entrance is on the Jessamine Street side of the building.

Mark your calendars for these and other ESFL events!  I’m highlighting these program themes  – Labor and Black Lives Matter,  Civil Rights Activism at UMN, and Disability Justice – because they all particularly crystallize our mission at ESFL:  to inspire solidarity, work for justice, and advocate for equity for all.  These events – each individually but especially as a trio – offer historical context, public discussion of ideas, and brass tacks strategies.  It’s a new year, the time of resolutions and making change:  come to the Freedom Library and be with others who are walking the talk!