By Birute Skurdenis
Some Oakland Public Library branches benefit from patrons’ ability to sponsor special events while poorer neighborhood branches can struggle to do anything outside their City budget. The Friends of the Oakland Public Library Equity Grants are small grants ($1,500 each in 2022) that allow these branches to pay for special events. Branch director Brian Guenther and Librarian Stephania Singleton explained how the 81st Avenue Branch used from their grant.
The Branch, located on Rudsdale Avenue below International, was able to offer honorariums to speakers or their organizations to supplement adult program events at the library. Earlier this year, over 200 attendees from across the country participated in an online visit with labor activist, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association.
At the suggestion of library staff whose family had been in the Bracero program, the library invited Kitty Calavita, Professor Emerita of Criminology, Law and Society and Sociology at UC Irvine, to give a presentation on the Bracero worker program. The Bracero Program issued temporary work permits to millions of Mexicans to ease U.S. labor shortages from the early 1940’s to the mid 1960’s. Among Professor Calavita’s extensive publications is Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration and the INS, originally published in 1992 and reissued in 2010.
In one of the first in person events after the pandemic shutdown, local filmmaker, Cheryl Fabio, screened her newest documentary, “East Oakland Counter Narratives”, interviews with local Black families who settled in the neighborhood during the 1950’s. The presentation included the appearance of some of the people interviewed in the film. Fabio is the producer of 2017’s “Evolutionary Blues: West Oakland’s Music Legacy.”
The grant also allowed the branch to purchase supplies for August’s “National Night Out” event. Except for the pandemic shutdown, the branch has hosted a National Night Out party since the library’s opening in 2011.
Library staff are highly appreciative of the Equity Grants. The branch will receive a slightly increased Grant for 2023. Asked what they would do if they had won the $2 billion lottery, librarian Singleton would love to see an up-to-date media center where people could learn a variety of media skills and produce podcasts.