Ashleigh Desvigne-Lee (left) and Sierra Zweig celebrate the dedication of the Little Free Library at the YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood on June 19. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ashleigh Desvigne-Lee (left) and Sierra Zweig celebrate the dedication of the Little Free Library at the YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood on June 19. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

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Black authors, racial justice focus of YWCA’s little library

“This will maybe start some courageous conversations,” says one woman at the ribbon cutting in Lynnwood.

From a modest space, a handcrafted Little Free Library, come mighty voices.

Listen to Ijeoma Oluo: “It’s the woman who grabs her purse as you walk by. The store clerk following you around to see if you need ‘help.’ … The person locking their car doors as you walk past their vehicle.”

Oluo, the Seattle-area author of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” offers these and many other examples in a chapter titled “What are microaggressions?”

Listen to Michelle Obama, who in her bestselling autobiography “Becoming” wrote: “I remembered them all, every person who’d ever waved me forward, doing his or her best to inoculate me against the slights and indignities I was certain to encounter in the places I was headed — all those environments built primarily for and by people who were neither black nor female.”

Their books are two of several dozen in a Little Free Library installed outside YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood. Built by YWCA staff member Michael Carpenter, the shingled structure was dedicated during a small ceremony Friday, Juneteenth, an event marking the end of slavery in the United States 155 years ago.

The collection includes books on racial justice, and highlights fiction and nonfiction by African American women, said Annalee Schafranek, marketing and editorial director for YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish. The public is invited to stop by the little library, along the sidewalk at 6027 208th St. SW, to pick up a book — and perhaps leave another book in its place.

With titles for children, teens and adults, books were obtained in collaboration with the Lynnwood Library. Many had been deaccessioned by the library.

Kresha Green, regional director of the YWCA’s Snohomish County housing services, said a social justice group decided on the library as it considered ways to “celebrate anti-racism.”

“This will maybe start some courageous conversations over the traumas of racism,” Green said before taking part in Friday’s ribbon cutting. A small group joined in outside YWCA Pathways for Women, where the Little Free Library is near 13 housing units that shelter women and their children.

“Today is a special day,” said Green, explaining the history of Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, a Union officer backed by troops brought word to Galveston, Texas, that all slaves were free. “Today we celebrate something new,” said Green, who wore a Black Lives Matter shirt.

Mary Anne Dillon (left) and Thomas Glass look over a title available at the newly dedicated Little Free Library Friday morning at the YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Mary Anne Dillon (left) and Thomas Glass look over a title available at the newly dedicated Little Free Library Friday morning at the YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Along with Oluo’s excellent “So You Want to Talk About Race” and the former first lady’s “Becoming,” initial titles placed in the little library included “Paradise” and “Home” by Toni Morrison, “The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small” by Marian Wright Edelman, and “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander.

After the dedication, hundreds gathered at nearby College Place Middle School to take part in a Juneteenth march organized by Black Student Union members from Edmonds district high schools. Across Snohomish County, young people have largely been the ones to step up, protesting the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

Since then, the Black Lives Matter movement has energized people across the nation and increased awareness of racial injustice.

Vicki Dorway, community resources coordinator for YWCA in Snohomish County, said it’s important for white people to learn themselves about Black history and racism, and “not only rely on people of color.”

Her statement reminded me of a book I received as a Christmas gift. It was “So You Want to Talk About Race,” and it was given to me by my daughter — a public defender who sees all too clearly the realities of the criminal justice system.

The newly opened Little Free Library will focus on books about racial inequity and social justice at the YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The newly opened Little Free Library will focus on books about racial inequity and social justice at the YWCA Pathways for Women in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Oluo’s book is an eye-opener that’s helped me better understand the lived experiences of others — from which I’ve been shielded by white privilege and by myriad systems, from education and policing to home lending.

“It is our responsibility to stand up and fight for racial equity, especially in light of recent events and the ongoing injustices faced by people of color,” Mary Anne Dillon, executive director of YWCA in Snohomish County, said in a statement last week.

A Little Free Library may be a small thing, but this one has a colossal goal. The hope is to educate people about inequities that still exist today, and provide “inspiration to bring these injustices to an end,” Dillon said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Books explore equity

A Little Free Library with books by Black authors, many by women on topics of race and equity, is located outside YWCA Pathways for Women at 6027 208th St. SW in Lynnwood. The public is invited to take books and perhaps leave books for others.

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