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Quiet Riots at the Ferguson Library


These are my thoughts, yo.

Quiet Riots at the Ferguson Library

jasmine banks


I keep trying to write about my time in Ferguson on Saturday. It is hard to extrapolate what I have been feeling and what I've felt about Ferguson all together. How do you provide summation for something that is so intricately woven throughout your very existence? My friend Kelly mentioned on Facebook she was headed to the Ferguson Municipal Library to help them process some donations they'd received. I quickly Googled the distance and upon seeing it was a five hour drive, I volunteered to help. Ferguson hasn't stopped being on my mind. Neither has Trayvon Martin. For some reason, these two situations imprinted themselves on me in a way others had not and I couldn't shake that voice that told me I had to DO something.

I left early Saturday morning. My front yard was dark and covered in fog. My alarm sounded and I had dressed quickly and without much thought. I stopped abruptly when I exited my home. The cold and darkness took me by surprise as the streetlight illuminated the tree that grows in my front yard. There were shadows, the wet was dripping, and stray cats slinked around the bushes near my car. I unlocked my car, sat down, and breathed deep. I didn't feel prepared because I didn't know how to prepare to enter into a space that has been so charged by both hate and hope. How do you prepare for  the starkest parts of the reality of our humanity to be reflected back at you? Reading that line back feels trite or an attempt to be poetic, but it isn't. The aftermath of Ferguson is a testimony. You can see both hate and hope scrawled in spray paint on damaged and demolished buildings. Ferguson, and other places that have experienced similar unrest and upheaval, bring the covert out of hiding and make it overt. When you drive on to North Florissant you can no longer deny the streams of division that flow strong and unyielding in our society. This is why people who call it out make us so mad. HOW DARE THEY break our illusions. HOW DARE THEY wake us up from the feast of the lotus fruit. So we unfriend those who remind that racism is alive and well. We block and ignore and build our walls high and speak louder because we do not want to hear that there are places like Ferguson. There are places where you can't look into the eyes of the people who have suffered because doing so means you have to acknowledge their pain. Are we strong enough for that? Or would looking at them and honoring their humanity and our own send such strong vibrations that we would be shattered.

Maybe we need to be shattered over and over.

I spent a lot of time in the bathroom at the Ferguson Library. I cried a lot. We processed hundreds of donations that celebrated the power and beauty of Black and Multicultural identity. People around the nation were saying that they cared. They were sending love and solidarity in the form of stories.

I feel really selfish. My time in Ferguson and helping Scott, the library director, was healing to me. Aren't you supposed to volunteer to help others, not yourself? Each letter I read with "Black lives do matter" healed a small wound in me that was inflicted when someone told me the opposite. Each book with a little mixed girl on it reminded me of how desperate I was as a child to be a character in a book, but I could never find one like me. Each smile and thank you and "I'll grab that box" reminded me that there are people who are still willing to be on the ground and do the work long after the news cameras are gone. There was no glory in the work we did on Saturday. You won't see us in Associated Press photos, nor will we be interviewed about our take on the Ferguson situation.

Because of a little bit of hard work, though, there are books on shelves with little brown and black kids on the pages. There are books about Mecca, and Kimchi, and being a girl without wearing a dress. There are books about being queer and asian and black and white. There are books about being ballerina no matter your color. There are books about Black history and hip hop and fantasy worlds to escape to.

Those books are quiet riots and are the things that change and transform worlds.


To donate to Ferguson Missouri Municipal Library:

35 North Florissant Road, Ferguson, MO 63135

Follow the Library on Twitter and Like them on Facebook for updates about their needs.