It all started with a grant received by McKinley Elementary, a Title 1, Tulsa Public School, in Oklahoma. The idea was to pull our neighborhood young adults and recent McKinley Elementary graduates in and keep them reading throughout the summer, thus preventing the “summer slide!”
The unfortunate reality of the situation, in retrospect, was that we really had no way to reach these kids. We had a marquee, which advertised the school’s “Summer Cafe,” support and our volunteer based summer camps for our school’s youngest students and we had a telephone. We enthusiastically approached the all call, reaching out to our 5th and 6th graders, but the result was negligible, at best. In addition,if the young adults wanted breakfast, I’m certain they slept right through it and likely lunch as well.
The positive to all of this was that Jennifer Latham, a local Tulsa writer, but not a lifelong Tulsan, had a recently released young adult out, entitled “Dreamland Burning.” The book was a fictionalized account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. The young adult novel, published by Little Brown was not only engrossing, but it was assigned to the 9th graders at Tulsa Public School’s leading high school, Booker T. Washington, which was actually in the novel.
Ms. Latham accepted an invitation to speak at our “Meet the Author Night,” scheduled for August 7, 2017 and from there the event took off. One of our initial supporters was the Tulsa Regional Library, Rudisill, which houses the Tulsa African American Resource Center. Rudisill generously agreed to feature the book and event with a display, the Tulsa Historical Society joined our “Meet the Author,” night, along with representatives from the Rudisill Regional Library and the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, along with and a good portion of the 9th grade class from Booker T. Washington. And, I can not end the evening accolades without mentioning the “Power” of Peach Pies! Peaches are huge in Porter, OK and the Peach Barn generously donated nearly 100 miniature peach pies for our event. We also offered our guests some miniature sandwiches, fresh vegetables and fruit along with cold lemonade. Both the lemonade and peach pies themes fed throughout the novel, so we were eager to tie in!
Though Booker T. Washington draws an incredibly diverse and motivated group of students, not all are well endowed. However, given the generosity of YALSA and Dollar General, we were able to purchase 50 copies of the hardback “Dreamland Burning” book, given the paperbacks are not out, and distribute them to all young adults in attendance. A number of our guests arrived with their own copy of “Dreamland Burning,” but most everyone walked away with Ms. Latham’s personalized autograph, regardless.
In summary, in my mind this was a powerful, nearly spontaneous, “grass roots” event, which could not have turned out better, had I planned it myself!
Written by Donna Bishop. I received my Master’s in Library Science from the University of Oklahoma, which I worked on concurrently with my Master’s in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. I started out my professional library career in academic libraries, beginning with Tulsa Junior College, then due to my husband’s career advances we moved to New Orleans, where I became the Director of the Tulane Business Library, then on to the Chicago area, where I worked in the library at Benedictine University. This was followed up with a short term position at the Houston Public Library at which time I took a long term reprieve from working when we were transferred to Calgary, in Alberta Canada, then on to London. Returning to Tulsa, the point it all started, I decided to get my Alternative Teaching Certification and have just concluded the process, I hope, and here I am loving the challenge.