More NJLA Redux: Fantastic LGBTI Roundtable program!

April 29, 2006 at 10:09 am

So, this is the first time you’re hearing from me — I feel like I’ve been lurking too much and posting too little (actually not at all!)… But even several days after attending the Documenting their lives: LGBTIQ Identities program at NJLA on Tuesday, I find myself still thinking about it. The roundtable has put together some pretty amazing programs in the past — including others at this year’s conference, but the Identities program hit close to home for me, or at least down the street in Newark. The bulk of the program included a preview/trailer of The Sakia Gunn Film Project, a documentary that is currently in process and a discussion with the film’s creator, Chas Brack. For those of you who don’t know the story of Sakia Gunn, she was a 15 year-old black lesbian living in Newark — after leaving a club early on Mother’s Day in 2003, Sakia was stabbed in the chest by a man who had made a pass at her. Sakia and her friends had made it clear to the man that they were lesbians, and it is very clear that this was a hate crime, but Sakia’s death got very little media attention — and what attention the incident did garner did not make explicit the circumstances of the murder. Mr. Brack’s film (due out by early 2007) seems to be a tribute to Sakia, but it’s also a wake-up call to the rest of us. Sakia was poor, she was black and she was gay — and I see teens like her everyday. I can’t WAIT for this film to be finished so that I can (hopefully) have a showing at my library here in Elizabeth.

The discussion following the trailer was extremely interesting as well — there was a teacher from Newark Public High School in attendance and she shed some light on some of the aftermath of what had happened to Sakia. Program moderator, Laura Baldwin, also offered some further information — comparing media coverage of the Matthew Shepard murder to that of Sakia’s. [One researcher reported that in the two months following the murder of Shepard -- a white, middle-class teen living in a rural area -- reports of the crime showed up in over 500 major news outlets. In the two months following Sakia's murder, only a handful (11 if I remember correctly) major news media outlets covered the story. And our own ABC affiliaten reported the murder and showed Sakia's photo, but did not mention that this was a hate crime -- or "bias crime" as it was ruled when Sakia's murderer stood trial.]

So, what does all of this have to do with libraries? Well, first off, the big question is: are we serving our LGBTI populations? And on top of that, are we reaching out to LGBTI teens? AND, if we’re in an urban setting, are we being sensitive to the LGBTI patrons of color? As a community center, and usually a safe haven, are we doing enough to educate our patrons? Help them get the information they need?

The remainder of the NJLA presentation was a sampling of another documentary — one that was touching and funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. It’s called No Dumb Questions and it follows a family (mom, dad and three young daughters) as they discuss how transgendered Uncle Bill is becoming Aunt Barbara. It’s a GREAT video and I think a great addition to library AV collections.

The LGBTI roundtable provided a bunch of great handouts at this program — and from what I understand, they will soon be posted to the NJLA website[www.njla.org], so I urge you to take a look. Many of the resources provided would aid in both collection development and just in a better understanding of the LGBTI community.

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