“People” not “leaders”

One nationally known blind man, Dr. John Langston Gwaltney’s book , Drylongso, became the inspiration for the Community Change Drylongso Awards, begun in 1989. As Libbie Shufro and I shared lunch, we began to name people we honored for their consistent dedication to anti-racism work. We wanted to lift up individuals who were not often publicly recognized. That discussion led us to our library and to Dr. Gwaltney’s book. Together we read excerpts from it and found stories of remarkable people who lived quiet lives of dignity and resistance in the face of oppression; they are the “Drylongso” of the world. Thus was born the Community Change Drylongso Awards, celebrating people who have been called “ordinary” people doing “extraordinary” things. We were purposeful in the beginning NOT to recognize those who had already been noted and made notable by public attention. We wanted to name the “Drylongso” people of Boston.

Commensurate in purpose with Drylongso, and with the concept of our library as an “Oasis”, we began inviting people to “bring lunch” and to engage in conversation. Emerging from these gatherings, came the anti-racism “Brown-Bag” lunch program, with focused discussion around the work of a particular person or group. The “Oasis” was becoming a place of purposeful networking and planning.

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