GREENSBORO, N.C. — Public libraries offer endless knowledge. If you want to know about it, there’s a book in a library that can teach you. The Greensboro Public Library is taking people beyond what they can learn in a book. It’s bringing people together to learn about their neighbors in a way no book can teach.
Adult Programming Coordinator Beth Sheffield says they’ve gotten a lot of requests for programming related to racial equity and social justice. So she and her team started the 21-day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge learning circle.
The first one was last month.
“There are no subject experts with our project,” Sheffield said. “We are all learning together. So we have a Google spreadsheet that has different links to different videos and articles and we just ask that people spend 20 minutes a day focused on social justice and racial equity.”
The goal is to help people discover how racial inequity and social injustice impact our community and to help identify ways to dismantle racism and other forms of discrimination.
“I like when we come together,” Sage Chioma said. “Because there are a lot of fractures and a lot of different groups. So when we come together, it’s hard work and it’s painful work. But it’s necessary.”
Chioma was part of the inaugural learning circle where they focused on several key areas like education, criminal justice, and public health.
“In the justice system, when we unpacked that, I was heard. And I think it’s really important that we hear each other. Some of my background is clinical. So I know how much pain all of us are in. Not just Black people.”
She moved to Greensboro from New York about 16 years ago.
“When I came here, it was because NYPD had started knocking on my door to ask questions about my son. He wasn’t in trouble. They were just doing I guess what they call good police work. I don’t know. And I felt like he was being targeted.”
She and Sheffield shared some of the tough moments with us.
“When people talked about the first time they got scolded for just waving at a Black child then realizing you’re not supposed to do that,” Chioma said.
“The moments of vulnerability within the group and people willing to share personal stories within the group of incidences of driving while Black, and incidences of going to a neighborhood store and being followed because you were of a certain color,” Sheffield said.
Chioma says these frank conversations were painful.
“It was hard. But it was worth it because we’re worth it.”
More than 20 people signed up for the second challenge that just started. They invited FOX8 to sit in on a Zoom session and shared their reasons for signing up.
“I have biracial grandchildren. And I’m concerned about them too. So that is one reason I’m trying to keep the dialogue open,” Becky Floyd said.
“For me, it’s to share and to learn because I probably have my own biases that I’m not aware of,” Antwyan Jones said.
“My son is very active,” Jane Maydian said. “And he said, ‘Mom it’s great that you’re so excited now, but will you still be excited three months from now or six months from now?'”
Everyone we spoke with for this story believes this kind of hard work is what it will take to make real change.
“So, the empathy that comes out of us hearing one another’s story, the compassion. It’s hard to hate somebody once you get to know them,” Chioma said.
“What are the small things that we can do that are in our power to do? that’s what’s so important. One person at a time. One article at a time. One action at a time,” said Sheffield.
And one story at a time.
To find out more about the learning circles, visit the Greensboro Public Library’s website.