Evanston Public Library creates community through Black History Month events


Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staffer

The Evanston Black History Scavenger Hunt was based on research from the Shorefront Legacy Center, a group dedicated to promoting and educating about local Black history and culture.

Shreya Srinivasan, Reporter

Evanston Public Library celebrated National Black History Month with games, events, speakers and its Evanston Black History Scavenger Hunt throughout February. 

The Black History indoor Scavenger Hunt highlights some of Evanston’s historical landmarks that commemorate the city’s Black history, such as Family Focus, located at 2010 Dewey Ave.,  and the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. 

Each day of February focused on a different center. The library also hosted various storytelling and arts-and-crafts activities throughout the month with the goal of educating and engaging Evanston’s youth.

Kennedy Joseph, the STEM experiences library assistant at EPL’s main branch, said they created the scavenger hunt to promote community and connection.

“Evanston has such a deep, rich history, especially pertaining to the Black community,” Joseph said. “I think the biggest thing is recognizing Black History Month and, especially for Black kids, knowing that being Black is something to celebrate.” 

One of EPL’s larger events, the Black History Family Game Night on Feb. 19, partnered with the Oakton College to have their Black Student Union members come talk about the college’s programming. 

Carmen Francellno, the family engagement coordinator at the main branch, said she wants to deepen EPL’s relationship with Evanston’s Black community. Francellno is trying to launch an “African American read-in” with Oakton College in March, she said. 

“We are trying to be more intentional about offering throughout the year,” Francellno said. “I definitely think it’s important for representation and for people that are not a part of Black culture to understand some of the things that happen in different cultures.” 

This year, EPL worked to make its Black History Month offerings available both online and in person.

As a part of its monthly Short and Sweet initiative, the library hosted a storytime and kids arts and crafts event based on Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel to space. Liz Steimle, the event’s assistant programming coordinator, read books like “Mae Among the Stars” by Roda Ahmed, followed by a make-your-own rocketship bookmark section. 

“The inspiration behind it was trying to find something for everyone during the transitional phase from the shelter-in-place to in-person programming,” Steimle said. “This program is a hybrid program, with a link to the storytelling video for people who aren’t comfortable with in person programming.” 

EPL also brought in Black artists, authors and experts throughout the month, including Dr. Ruby Lathon, who spoke about holistic Black mental health care on Zoom.

Drawing on her battle with thyroid cancer, Lathon talked about the importance of diet and therapy for preventing age-based diseases for the Black community.

“Most of us need some level of therapy,” Lathon said at the event. “When we’re dealing with Black mental health, there’s a lot of data that shows Black women carry more stress and fear. If we don’t deal with our problems, we push it off as just being part of our personality.” 

EPL set up events like the scavenger hunt in concert with the Shorefront Legacy Center, which is dedicated to promoting Black historical figures and culture in Chicago’s North Shore. 

Joseph’s collaboration with the Shorefront Legacy Center allowed them to educate Evanston residents about its rich Black history, they said.

“One intention that I have created is for young Black kids to go and say, ‘These are cool things that are happening in my town,’” Joseph said. “For me, Black History Month, a lot of it is about community. It’s just these little pieces of fun facts that really make you feel proud to live in a town like this.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @shreyasrin

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