At the Oak Park Public Library, we are committed to developing thoughtful and worthwhile programming that’s motivated by a holistic view of anti-racism. We recognize that anti-racism is not only about dismantling oppression — it’s also about celebrating our cultures, taking care of ourselves, and centering the stories of people who have not been typically centered. Anti-racism is for all of us, and it includes celebrating Black joy and culture.

I’m excited to share that this spring we have several virtual anti-racism opportunities for our community to participate in. They include discussions about different forms of media, stemming from our year-long Anti-Racism Resource Challenge (see oppl.org/arrc for details).

Here I’d like to highlight two upcoming community discussions in particular, as they use a model you may not be familiar with — the community circle.

What is a community circle? It’s a tool to have conversations where personal stories, self-examination, and collective action are highly valued. Circles (often called peace circles) are a structured process to build community, where everyone feels connected and respected in their authentic selves. 

Circles honor our stories, our community relationships, and our ability to keep learning from each other. They are rooted in restorative practices, which have been used increasingly at the library over the past five years. As the library’s Restorative Practices coordinator, I am passionate about this model. 

Led by library staff who are certified facilitators, we begin the circle by agreeing to a shared set of guidelines and values for the discussion. We come together to explore a subject by asking a series of questions and providing all with an equal opportunity to share their experiences, listen to one another, and understand the importance to their own lives. Circles as we practice them are rooted in the traditional practices of indigenous cultures in North America. 

Circles have the effect of building bonds, or at least trust with one another, because circles are thoughtfully constructed, reciprocal spaces that allow for genuine communication. Everyone has a turn to speak, and what you say in the circle stays in the circle.

Please join me and your neighbors this spring for two virtual community circles:

Wednesday, March 31, 6 p.m.: Community Circle – Identifying the Real Story of Rosa Parks.

April 15, 6 p.m.: Community Circle – Exploring The 1619 Project’s “The Birth of American Music.”

Register and find more anti-racism opportunities at oppl.org/calendar.

Tatiana Swancy is Restorative Practices coordinator at the Oak Park Public Library.

Join the discussion on social media!