As the Black Lives Matter movement has grown in influence around the U.S., recommended reading lists of books on race have proliferated online. However, when Bryan Mills pulled up the catalogue of Cordova Public Library, he couldn’t find any of the books he’d been recommended. Mills decided to solve the problem himself, taking up donations on Facebook to purchase those books for the library.
Mills quickly raised more money than he knew what to do with. Before he’d finished setting up the fundraising page on June 4, Mills had already received $200. Four days later, donations had grown to $1,896.
“I was literally thinking that I might, with the help of a few friends and community members, get six or eight books on the shelves,” Mills said. “This is already way larger than I thought it would be.”
Mills, who owns a computer repair service, is first compiling a list of adult nonfiction books on anti-racist themes, and also intends to selection fiction books and books aimed at younger readers. While curating, Mills has relied on reading lists compiled and promoted by black people, he said. Mills is also coordinating with library staff to explore the possibility of using funds to purchase digital licenses for books on the Libby ebook app.
“I want to be careful to honor the intention of the donors who are donating money for anti-racist materials, not necessarily just materials that are talking about ‘inclusion’ or ‘diversity’ in general,” Mills said. “The main goal is to educate people about anti-racism specifically, as opposed to just saying, ‘Diversity is good,’ which is perfectly fine and not in any contradiction to the idea of anti-racism.”
Books Mills plans to purchase include “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See” by Jennifer Eberhardt, “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, and “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla Saad.
Mills hopes that his program will allow other Cordova residents to educate themselves about race-related issues, he said.
“As a white person, I want to learn as much as I can about this subject so I can be an ally to the black community and fight against the systemic racism that has been here all along, and I am just now noticing,” Mills said. “That’s what caused me to want to seek out resources, and I hope that other people will do the same thing. When they seek them out, I want them to be available.”