July 2, 2021 -- Cultural Content
Dear Friends,

It’s been such a pleasure to see people of all ages in our newly opened spaces! If you haven’t stopped by yet, what are you waiting for? All three newly renovated floors are open, and our hours are expanding again soon, so check here for up-to-the-minute information on when we’re open, then pack your mask (still required) and come explore the new PPL and all the new possibilities now available!

And although we’ll be closed for the July Fourth holiday on Sunday, July 4 and Monday, July 5, you can make a virtual visit to our beautifully restored Auditorium on that Monday evening at 7pm via our YouTube channel, when we’ll be streaming “Hope in the Ever-living Now: Writers Respond to Frederick Douglass’s ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’”  

Our partners in producing and presenting this dazzling program are the City of Providence Department of Arts, Culture + Tourism and the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading (LHCPR); it is presented as part of PVDFest Ideas 2021: Commemoration and Legacy.

The event will be hosted by LHCPR Co-Director April Brown, who will deliver excerpts from the incisive, incantatory, searing speech that Frederick Douglass delivered to the Rochester, NY Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society on July 5, 1852. She will then introduce our incredible lineup of Providence poets and creative writers -- Africia Ben, Marlon Carey, Damont Combs, Becci Davis, Queen G, Christopher Johnson, Vatic Kuumba, Sylvia Ann Soares, and Shaffany Piaget Terrell -- who will each perform an original work created in response to Douglass’s text. Get all the details here!
We recently asked April to reflect on all that is going through her mind as she reads and re-reads Douglass’s words from his fraught moment in 1852, from the vantage point of our fraught moment in 2021. (Photo credit: Jonathan Pitts Wiley)

Here is her response:

“Conjuring up Frederick Douglass’ words on this Fourth of July seems to me like a beckoning call from all of the ancestors in the tree of life. Today I met with children from Southern Illinois (affectionately known as Trump country – whew!) and we discussed the subject of being included. These young people talked about their impressions of belonging – their city, their sports team and school clubs, etc. We talked about being American and how the promise of America is that everyone can be included in this country. I wonder…Do these children believe that?
It is curious to me that just a year ago, folks were marching in these streets declaring that we do not all belong. Conversely, this year we are commemorating a new federal holiday – Juneteenth that barely begins to address fully the peculiar institution of slavery, while at the same time the idea of teaching this subject to school children has some folks in a mode of denial that we have not seen for several decades.
In 1852, Douglass’ makes it plain writing about the Fourth of July, “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you not me.”
When the selected writers come to the Library next week and respond to the call that Douglas put before us as Americans, here is what I recommend: we need to all listen, pause, and remember to take a collective breath and respond to the call, pick a lane, and do something to make this country better. As the co-director of the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading Committee, I know that it is a part of our mission to elevate the voices of ancestors calling us to action. Hughes said of Douglass, “[he] might be dead, might have lost his soul, but instead decided to be bold.” 
We need to understand that the call does not go away because we ignore it. In fact, the call becomes louder and more urgent. And if we are not careful – the response will be made for us - and that will shake us to our core. 
This Fourth of July, when you are at the barbeque, beach, parade, or however you celebrate your summer patriotism ask yourself these questions; is freedom free? Are we all free?
If the answer to either of these questions is no, then I suggest you be about the business of figuring out how you are going to answer the call.”
Please join us!
In gratitude,
Christina Bevilacqua
Programs & Exhibitions Director
Janaya Kizzie
Events Coordinator
In Other News:
PPL's 2020-2021 Creative Fellow Kelly Eriksen Perez's new interactive sound installation is up at PPL! It’s called “Yesterday Recording Station,” look for it on the desk to your right as you enter the Empire Street door. Everyone is invited to press the button and record their story--it will then be transmitted to a radio signal (via a transmitter above the Empire Street door).

Here's Kelly's description: 
Record a sentence beginning with the words "Yesterday I heard...". Press and hold the button to record your voice. When you are finished recording, release the button. Recordings from this recording station are being collected and broadcast over radio waves throughout the library and surrounding area. There are two radios stationed in the library playing the yesterday collection out loud. Tune into the 88.3 FM in and around the library to listen to the yesterday collection. What does yesterday sound like? What did you hear? What about last week? Last year? What does a party sound like? What does lying in bed sound like? What sounds demand attention? What sounds offer comfort? How do you describe them? Where do sounds live? Do they live inside you? Between us? How do we hear, enjoy, name, organize, digest, express, assemble, and remember sounds?
We recently learned that Chazan! Unfiltered, the irrepressibly inventive graphic memoir produced by PPL Trustee and avid supporter Joseph A. Chazan, M.D. in collaboration with Erminio Pinque and Lenny Schwartz, was the only graphic novel to win a National Indie Excellence Award for 2020! The book also won an “IPPY” from the Independent Publisher Book Awards for 2020!

PPL hosted a very lively conversation with Joe, Erminio, and Lenny last winter, you can watch it here. Congratulations to the creative team!
PPL is excited to be part of the team producing
PVDFest Ideas, a forum for big thinking in public, this year focused on projects that engage the themes of commemoration and legacy. PVDFest Ideas programs will take place between mid-June 2021, and late September 2021; learn more about the festival and how to submit a proposal here. And we invite you to read essays on these themes by PPL’s Janaya Kizzie, along with those presented by our Ideas partners: FirstWorks, the Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, the RI Council for the Humanities, and the RI Historical Society.