Interview & Invitation: Join us at the Longest Table

A Black woman with short hair, wearing purple sunglasses, gestures while sitting at a table.

Laura Johnson works for the United Way of Central Maryland as Senior Vice President and Chief Acceleration Officer. She is also a member of the library’s Racial Equity Alliance and will be a host at the upcoming Longest Table event on Oct 1. She recently shared her experiences at the Longest Table.

How many years have you participated? 

Two to date. The first I attended was online during the pandemic with Daryl Davis. I previously had heard him on a podcast and was excited to see him as the featured speaker at the Longest Table.  He shares a riveting story about his journey as a musician and his quest to open hearts and minds with members of the Ku Klux Klan. At the Longest Table, I held onto his every word. To be at a virtual table with him and our community was a a profoundly memorable and moving experience.

What made you decide to do it for the first time?  

Beyond the opportunity to meet Daryl Davis, I really just love the idea. I love the name: The Longest Table, where anyone is welcome and anyone can have a seat. There’s a place for everyone. I love that we can make the “table” as long as we need to make it. 

Have you always been a host? 

I have been a host both years. This year, being a member of the Racial Equity Alliance, we’ve had the opportunity to contribute to the “menu” for conversation so I appreciated the invitation for input.  

I like to welcome people, to make sure that everyone feels like they belong and that they have a good experience. Hosting is in my DNA from growing up and having big holiday gatherings as well as coordinating major events in my professional line of work, I gain great enjoyment in connecting with others. Being a host for the Longest Table means creating space for sharing, laughing, and   elevating our common bonds; honoring our lived experiences.

What do you love about The Longest Table? 

There is something so inherently simple and impactful about breaking bread together. It’s like family dinner – where we laugh, cook, tell stories, debate, disagree sometimes, and just enjoy being with each other.  

Last year in person, in particular… It just did something amazing for my spirit after sheltering in place for so long. The weather was simply beautiful, with the sun shining on everyone’s faces. I felt a connection, being there in person, and I was not truly prepared for the deep conversations and feelings that they evoked. 

I love the experience! We are all so busy, and we don’t always stop to see people and connect – beyond “hey, how are you.” This event allows people to stop for a moment and connect for a moment in time – to SEE each other. 

I go back to Daryl Davis, who shared how as a child he was so miffed and confused about racism, after having been the target of a hateful act in a parade. He couldn’t understand the rationale of racism. His story of convincing several klansmen to hang up their hoods was so profound and his ability to find common ground, to help people evolve to a different understanding of our connectedness as humans inspired me. 

He was able to hear and be open to different perspectives, then he invited us to do the same. I heard such joy and heartbreak at last year’s event and appreciated the opportunity to be present. 

What does the Longest Table have to do with racial equity? 

We all come from different places and lived experiences, so this provides a respectful and safe access point to build common ground. It also pushes us to acknowledge the internal work we need to do to heal, to speak up, to do something that builds a community where we all have a “seat at the table.” The incidences of hate in Howard County may not always make the evening news but they’re lurking here in this community. We also know there are so many inequities and disparate outcomes across education, housing, health etc.

Howard County is an amazing place to live, work, and play – but we have much more work to do. 

What advice would you have for someone considering coming for the first time? 

Listen with an open heart. 

Find joy and share joy – however that shows up. There’s something joyous in breaking bread with neighbors. 

Take the experience to heart and see what part carries on into our everyday lives. What are the next steps to make Howard County a better place?

Tell us a little about yourself?  

I am the new kid on the block at the United Way of Central Maryland, which is a sponsor of the Longest Table. I have a new position responsible for looking at how to accelerate impact. The task is to stop admiring the problem and find ways to take best practices and create something different. I like to think about how, with Covid, we marshaled the best science and funding to make vaccinations a reality as quickly as possible. I have hope that we can apply a similar type of strategy to social issues. 

The United Way is an organization that truly has a heart. I work with real people who are truly compassionate and want to help people live their best lives. People truly care. 

I am also honored to represent the local chapter of the NAACP. I have held positions on the executive committee as the past education chair for Howard County’s NAACP, and been state co-chair of education committee – Maryland State conference (MSC  NAACP). Although it’s technically a volunteer opportunity, it’s an everyday commitment. I believe, though, that no price is too high when you’re fighting for what is right and just. 

Do you have any favorite memories or thoughts about the Library? 

I come from a family of readers and educators, and the library was always a summer escape. The library is such an anchor for any community. Our library system here in Howard County is one of the most progressive and modern systems that I’ve seen in terms of engagement with community and non-traditional thinking about spaces. There are all those tools in the DIY Center at Elkridge, and sound studios, and, of course, events like the Longest Table. 

The library has such beautiful spaces! And, they are true community spaces. 

There's a place at our table for you! The longest table. Text accompanied by three circle photos: a mother and daughter, two

Please join us for dinner and conversation beginning at 5 pm at the Longest Table on October 1 at Howard Community College. Tickets are on sale now for the rain or shine event, with an indoor space available in case of inclement weather. 

Author Works with Naima Coster: What’s Mine and Yours – 2022 One Maryland One Book 

By Piyali C.

Swatches of color in pale green, beige-pink, cranberry, orange read, and yellow are layered above the silhouette of a town. The swatches resolve to be

Tue, October 4 | 7 – 8 pm
HCLS Miller Branch
Register at this link. 

The theme for One Maryland One Book this year was “new beginning.” As a member of the selection committee, I was assigned to read What’s Mine and Yours as a potential title. It took me a while to recognize the theme in this story, but I realized that instead of the theme being overarching, hope or a new beginning, operates somewhat cyclically in this novel.  

The story opens with the prospect of new beginnings – two men stand at the cusp of a beautiful, happy life. Two fathers share a cigarette and a brief conversation one day about their dreams surrounding the amazing lives that they envision for their children. However, disaster strikes soon after and the lives of both those families take vastly different turns than what the fathers dreamed.  

The story revolves around two families who confront each other over a busing initiative in 2002 in Piedmont, North Carolina. Jade has suffered an immeasurable loss in her life already. Now she wants her only son, Gee, to get all the opportunities that she did not have so he can become a successful, sensitive Black man in America. After her husband is incarcerated, Lacy May, a White woman, is equally determined to keep children like Gee away from her White-passing, biracial daughters. She does not want them influenced by the children from the east side of town at their predominantly white school.

However, Gee and Noelle, Lacy May’s eldest daughter, become friends, which soon turns into more when they meet during a school play. The lives of these two families intersect despite the mothers being on opposite sides of the debate over the county’s decision to enforce integration. The busing initiative provides the primary conflict, with the repercussions manifested in the adult lives of the central characters – Jade and Gee, Lacy May and her three daughters. Despite the different directions each character grows, they all manage to find their new beginnings by the end of the book, in big ways and small.  

Although the story begins in Piedmont, North Carolina, the issues addressed in What’s Mine and Yours are relevant to other parts of United States, including in Maryland and even Howard County. The theme of school desegregation to address socioeconomic disparity is especially pertinent as The Baltimore Sun reports, by 2014, Maryland was the third most racially segregated state in the nation, with one-quarter of its schools considered highly segregated.  

The integration efforts described in the book will touch a relatable chord and inspire interesting and, hopefully, productive discussions. While the story revolves around an effort to desegregate schools, the book explores other, hugely relevant issues, such as the struggles of Black teens trying to prove that they are good enough to be in a White-dominated world, the question of why they have to prove that they are good enough, White-passing biracial people and issues that they deal with, complicated relationships between lovers, sisters, LGBTQIA+ identity, infidelity, abortion, and miscarriage – all things relevant to our present moment. 

We are thrilled that Howard County Library system is the only public library in Maryland on author Naima Coster’s six-stop tour! 

A young Black woman with short curly hair, wearing a black V-neck shirt stands by a wall painted in flowers.

Naima Coster is a graduate of Yale University, Fordham University, and the Columbia University School of the Arts where she earned her MFA. She has taught writing for more than a decade in community settings, youth programs, and universities. She currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Antioch University in L.A. She is a 2022 mentor for the Periplus Collective.

One Maryland One Book is a program of Maryland Humanities. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Maryland State Library. We would also like to thank our valuable partners Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) and the Office of Human Rights & Equity (OHRE) and the Last Word bookstore.  

What’s Mine and Yours is available in print and e-audiobook

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list.
 

Join a Book Discussion Group

A stack of books next to a keyboard, being checked out of the library.

Books: They are one of the fundamental reasons for a public library – purchasing, lending, recommending, and discussing. After all, as much fun as reading is all by itself, sometimes there are books you NEED to talk about. HCLS staff facilitate a wide variety of groups that read and discuss all sorts of books – from nonfiction to romance to graphic novels. Some meet online, some in person, and some change depending on guidelines.

Maybe you’re looking for something new to do this fall? Maybe you (like me) have missed social interaction and think an hour or so, in a small group, once a month, sounds about right?

Consider joining one of these regular meetings, led by library staff. Each month’s title is held at the branch for you for the month previous to the meeting, unless otherwise noted.

CENTRAL BRANCH

Eclectic Evenings: Second Tuesdays at 7 pm
Read an eclectic array of various genres, both contemporary and classic. 
Sep 13: The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

Noontime Books: Third Thursdays at 12 pm
Consider a variety of fiction and nonfiction books, diverse in themes, characters, settings, time periods, and authorship. 
Sep 15: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Reads of Acceptance: Second Thursdays at 7 pm
Discuss books pertaining to LGBTQ+ experiences! All identities are welcome. 
Sep 8: The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

EAST COLUMBIA BRANCH

Black Fiction: First Saturdays at 1 pm
Discuss critically-acclaimed recently published fiction titles by black authors of African descent.
Sep 3: The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Good Reads: Second Mondays at 7 pm
Consider fiction and nonfiction titles that embrace universal themes.
Sep 12: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

In Other Worlds: Fourth Wednesdays at 7 pm
Welcome sci-fi enthusiasts and other intrepid readers! 
Sep 28: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Nonfiction Addiction: Third Thursdays at 7 pm
Expand your mind reading and discussing a variety of nonfiction books, from memoirs to history, and from philosophy to popular science. 
Sep 22: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Romantic Reads: Fourth Wednesdays at 7 pm
Discuss your favorite romance author and book or series with other fellow romance readers.
Sep 28: any title by Suzanne Brockmann

Warning: Graphic Content: Third Tuesdays at 7 pm
Discover the full spectrum of what is available as a graphic novel – from Archie to horror and Caped Crusaders to crime drama. 
Sep 20: Something is Killing the Children, vols. 1 & 2 by James Tynion IV

ELKRIDGE BRANCH

ELKS Excellent Reads: Second Tuesdays at 12:30 pm
Read mostly fiction, both contemporary and historical, as well as narrative nonfiction. 
Sep 13: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

Murder, Mischief and Mayhem: Fourth Thursdays at 7 pm
Discuss titles including detective, spy, intrigue, and mystery. Mostly fiction, occasionally true crime.
Sep 22: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Read. Think. Talk.: First Mondays at 7 pm (Second Monday this month due to Labor Day holiday)
Discuss great novels about the American experience before they’re critically acclaimed television shows and films. 
Sep 12: The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Thursday Next Book Club: Third Thursdays at 7 pm
Read mostly fiction, both contemporary and historical, as well as narrative nonfiction. 
Sep 15: What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (One Maryland One Book selection)

GLENWOOD BRANCH

The Reading Cafe: Last Tuesdays at 7 pm
Dip into a different genre each month. 
Sep 27: What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (One Maryland One Book selection)

MILLER BRANCH

Asian American Literature: Second or Third Mondays at 7 pm
Enjoy a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, biography/autobiography that explores the Asian American identity and experiences. 
Sep 19: On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

Bas Bleu: Third Wednesdays at 7 pm
Bas Bleu, French for “bluestocking,” refers to an intellectual or literary woman. We read a variety of literary fiction, and all are welcome – not just bluestockings!  
Sep 21: What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (One Maryland One Book selection)

Global Reads: First Mondays at 7 pm
Read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books on different cultures around the world as well as immigrant fiction. 
No meeting in September because of Labor Day holiday.

An Inconvenient Book Club: Meets quarterly on First Thursdays at 7 pm
Discuss speculative fiction, cli-fi (climate fiction), short stories, and verse — exploring themes of climate disruption, dystopia, recovery, and redemption. Next meeting in November.
Nov 3: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Spies, Lies & Alibis: First Tuesdays at 7 pm
Focus on spies, espionage, and world intrigue, alternating both classic and contemporary fiction and nonfiction, from the twentieth century and beyond. 
Sep 6: Two Spies in Caracas by Moisés Naím

Strictly Historical Fiction: Third Mondays at 2 pm
Step into the past and connect with characters living in times different than our own. 
Sep 19: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

SAVAGE BRANCH

Mystery: Second Wednesdays at 7 pm
Discuss a wide range of mysteries, including procedurals, detective novels, and capers.
Sep 14: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Nonfiction: Third Wednesdays at 7 pm
Share your thoughts on a varied array of nonfiction selections. 
Sep 21: Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth Century China by Jung Chang

Savage Hearts: Third Tuesdays at 2 pm
Enjoy romantic reads with others who love the genre.
Sep 20: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

IN THE COMMUNITY

Books on Tap: First Wednesdays at 6 pm – meets at The Periodic Table
Read a wide variety of titles and genres looking to experience an equally wide set of perspectives and experiences. Please arrange to borrow books as you would any other.
Sep 7: The Searcher by Tana French

Reading Human Rights: Varying Thursdays at 6:30 pm at East Columbia Branch
In partnership with the Office of Human Rights, read books that promote cultural awareness, diversity, equity. 
Sep 29: The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

You may notice multiple discussions of What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster. This is the One Maryland One Book selection for 2022, and several groups will be reading it throughout the fall. Register here to join us for an event with author Naima Coster at Miller Branch on Tuesday, October 4 at 7 pm.

Author Works with Robin Wall Kimmerer

The book cover shows a single braid of yellow sweetgrass stretching horizontally below the title.

Wed, Sep 14, 7 – 8:30 pm
online
Register at bit.ly/braidingsweetgrasshcls

Acclaimed author and scholar Robin Wall Kimmerer explores the dominant themes of her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, which include cultivation of a reciprocal relationship with the living world. Consider what we might learn if we understood plants as our teachers, from both a scientific and an indigenous perspective.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett and in 2015 addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.

The author, with long grey hair pulled away from her face, leans against a white birch tree. She is wearing a richly colored and patterned poncho and dangling beaded earrings.

As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She holds a B.S. in Botany from SUNY ESF, an M.S. and Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge and restoration ecology. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.

Braiding Sweetgrass is available to borrow in print, e-book, and e-audiobook, or you can purchase online from The Last Word Bookstore.

The event is part of the “Guide to Indigenous Maryland” project. This program is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Maryland State Library, as well as by the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System. Maryland Libraries Together is a collaboration of Maryland libraries to engage communities in enriching educational experiences that advance an understanding of the issues of our time. Learn more at bit.ly/indigenousmd

The Reason That I Read: Mary Downing Hahn 

Top down view of feet in sneakers, a muddy creek, and a man's face in the lower right corner

by Julie N.

I am excited to be able to host my favorite author at Central Branch on Friday, August 19 at 3 pm and to have the opportunity to celebrate her extensive career. She is a fan favorite, a kid favorite, and my favorite! Over the years, many students have been captivated by the stories she creates, the worlds she builds, and the magic in her words. Mary Downing Hahn thoughtfully weaves ghosts, history, and local places into her books.

As an awkward, homeschooled seventh grader I would hardly have called myself a reader. Far from it, in fact! I enjoyed looking at books, but to be honest I can name only a few that ever stood out to me as a child. While visiting the old Miller Branch, I found a book called The Wind Blows Backward by Mary Downing Hahn. Many of you probably know Mary Downing Hahn for her incredibly popular ghost stories such as Wait Till Helen Comes, Deep and Dark and Dangerous, and Took (also in graphic format), but I first fell in love with her realistic fiction. I devoured her adventures like The Spanish Kidnapping Disaster and mysteries such as The Dead Man in Indian Creek.

A boy with a flashlight stands on an open curving staircase, with a spooky hand reaching out of the shadows toward the back of his head. The

At some point, I tried one of Mary Downing Hahn ghost stories, Time for Andrew, and immediately bought my first bag of marbles. I quickly followed that with one of her most popular books, Wait Till Helen Comes, about a young girl at odds with her new step-siblings, a farmhouse complete with a backyard graveyard, and the ghost of a young girl named Helen. 

Mary began her career as an illustrator and a children’s librarian before, thankfully, directing her sights on writing children’s books. Her first book was published in 1979 and she has authored dozens of books since then. Most known for her ghost stories, she doesn’t shy away from writing genuinely scary books for children, and they love her for it! Notably, she has won more than 50 child-voted state awards for her work. 

I love reading her stories and recognizing the locations where they took place. Mary Downing Hahn is the author of the first book I loved and many more that followed. She is a valued author, a local favorite and she is, without a doubt, the reason that I read.

Julie is the teen instructor and research specialist at Central Branch.

Author Works with Michael Twitty

Portrait of Michael W. Twitty, wearing a zip-up hoodie and touching his beard.

Thursday, Aug 11 from 7 – 8 pm at Miller Branch.

Please register to attend. Limited seats.
Register at bit.ly/twittyhcls

In partnership with the Howard County Jewish Federation and Baltimore Jewish Council

In his new book KosherSoul, Michael Twitty, author of the acclaimed The Cooking Gene (read a review), explores the cultural crossroads of Jewish and African diaspora cuisine and issues of memory, identity, and food.

Twitty examines the creation of African/Jewish global food as a conversation of migrations, a dialogue of diasporas, and the rich background for people who participate in it. At the same time, he shares recipes for Southern culinary touchstones like apple barbecue sauce, watermelon and feta salad, and collard green lasagna, while blending the traditions of his mixed identity into new creations such as Louisiana style latkes and kush. KosherSoul is more than a cookbook, it’s an exploration of selfhood when born at a crossroads of race.

The question is not just who makes the food and who it belongs to, but how food makes the people, reflects the journey, and validates the existence of these marginalized identities. Twitty aims to move beyond the idea of Jews of Color as outliers, but as significant and meaningful cultural creators in both Black and Jewish civilizations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A highly sought-after speaker and consultant, Twitty has appeared on programs with Andrew Zimmern, Henry Louis Gates, Padma Lakshmi, and most recently on Michelle Obama’s Waffles and Mochi.

He is a TED Fellow and was just named as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. His first MasterClass course, “Tracing Your Roots Through Food,” is now available. Over the past year he has partnered with Atlas Obscura to teach multiple online seminars and was the first guest on a new web series for their food division. Michael will also be a Consulting Producer on a new food competition program coming soon from OWN. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

NEW Healthy Living Series in July

A pile of fruit including lemons, limes, tangerines, apples, kiwis, and a bananas.

by Chloe M.

Did you know there is a link between your mood and what you eat? Can you effectively mitigate challenging situations for yourself and those around you? Have you learned about the new mental health crisis number 988?

If you are an adult who answered no to any or all of these questions, you need to join us for the new Howard County Health Department Healthy Living Series. The series consists of three upcoming classes offered at the library (HCLS Miller, Savage, and Central branches) with the goal of fostering resilient communities. Taught by a variety of healthcare professionals, the free classes are supplemented with peer lived experience. We engage on topics including nutrition, self-care, and effective coping, which are recommended for even the healthiest of adults – not just to have solid information yourself but in case you need to assist friends and family members.

The 2021 Howard County Health Assessment Report data was published last fall. The data demonstrated an increased need to share mental health information and resources with adults in Howard County. Thirty-five percent of residents reported feeling depressed or lonely during the two-week period prior to being surveyed. Additionally, 50 percent of residents reported experiencing feelings of nervousness or anxiety in the 2-week period of being surveyed.

These trends were particularly concerning among young adults (18-24 years old). Respondents were asked, “Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by ‘feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?’” Six percent of all residents responded, “nearly every day. However, when broken down by age, nearly one quarter (23 percent) of residents ages 18-24 said they felt down, depressed, or hopeless “nearly every day.” Residents were also asked, “Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by ‘feeling anxious, nervous, or on edge?’” Ten percent of all residents responded “nearly every day.” A quarter (25 percent) of residents ages 18-24 years old said they felt anxious, nervous, or on edge “nearly every day.”

The HCHD Healthy Living Series looks to combat the stigma associated with mental health that continues to prevent adults from seeking help. The three-class series takes place on Tuesday evenings, as follows:

1. When the Going Gets Tough: Managing Stress with Peer Stories

Tuesday, July 19; 7 – 8 pm at HCLS Miller Branch

Become a community care access point! Join us in developing the skillset to mitigate challenging situations for yourself and those around you. This presentation will include real stories from National Alliance on Mental Illness volunteers and stress screening resources.

Registration required.

2. Our Community Care Roadmap: Navigating the Landscape of Mental Health Resources in Howard County

Tuesday, July 26; 7 – 8 pm at HCLS Savage Branch

Follow the roadmap to care with instructional stops along the way at brain health education, early intervention, and intensive intervention. The class introduces new health resources, including 988 and GBRICS.

Registration required.

3. Building Your Toolbox: Nutrition, Exercise, and Self-care for Better Brain Health

Tuesday, August 2; 7 – 8 pm at HCLS Central Branch

Explore the science behind nutrition and mental health to understand the link between your mood and what you eat. Learn how exercise and self-care activities can improve brain health.

Registration required.

If you have any questions, email HCLS Information and Research Specialist Nancy Targett at nancy.targett@hclibrary.org. Together we can create a model community care system in which all Howard County residents know how to prevent and respond to health challenges. We hope to see you there!

Chloe McGeehan is a recent River Hill High School graduate. Through the DukeEngage Gateway summer program, she is working to facilitate collaborations that generate behavioral health resources for residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds. She enjoys trail running, spending time with family and friends, painting, and making music.

Author Works: Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman

Head shot of author, a Black woman with her long hair straight, wearing black, smiling.

Wednesday, Jul 27; 7 – 8 pm
Equity Resource Center, second floor of HCLS Central Branch

Register at bit.ly/boldsolutionshcls

The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions For a Broken System features Black voices across economics, education, health, climate, and technology, speaking to the question “What’s next?” as it pertains to centering Black people in policy matters in our country.

Black background with title in slightly distressed large block letter, "agenda" in red.

Essays by Dr. Sandy Darity, Dr. Hedwig Lee, Mary Heglar, Janelle Jones, and others present groundbreaking ideas ranging from Black maternal health to reparations to AI bias to inclusive economic policy, with the potential to uplift and heal not only Black America, but the entire country.

Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman is an award-winning Ghanaian-American researcher, entrepreneur, and writer. Her new book, The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System, is the first collection to exclusively feature Black scholars and experts across economics, education, health, climate, criminal justice, and technology. She graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2019 with a Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics and a minor in Economics. Currently, she is a graduate student at Harvard Kennedy School studying public policy and economics. Her advocacy, research, and commentary are featured widely by media outlets such as Bloomberg, NPR, Teen Vogue, Slate, and The New York Times.

She will be in conversation with Dr. Sheri Parks, the vice president for strategic initiatives for Maryland Institute College of Art. A noted public intellectual, Parks has appeared frequently in national and international media and is a regular cultural critic for WYPR-NPR and the Baltimore Sun podcast, Roughly Speaking. Her research specializes in public aesthetics, particularly the ways in which people find and create meaning and beauty in their everyday lives, with specific emphasis on race, gender, social class, sexuality, popular culture, and media. Her most recent publication is Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman. In all of her work, Parks strives to explain the deeper cultural histories that inform the expectations, attitudes, and relations that individuals in our country have with each other so that richer understandings will lead to more sophisticated and mutually rewarding interactions.

Computer Basics: Online and In Person

Introducing NorthStar

Build your digital skills and fluency with NorthStar, available for free at Howard County Library System.

Northstar: Digital Literacy Assessment logo, which includes a diamond with blue points on three sides, a yellow point at the top and a black N inside a white square.

NorthStar uses an assessment quiz to help you identify the areas where your skills are strong, as well as areas that need improvement. This easy-to-use resource can help bolster digital expertise for anyone who wants to learn fundamental skills or refresh and update existing skills.

NorthStar points you towards the classes on the platform that will help you with those skills. The classes cover everything from the basics (e.g., identify a mouse, power button, USB port) to more advanced skills like navigating Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, Google Docs, Job Search Skills, and even participating in Telehealth appointments.

A few things to know about NorthStar:

  • No HCLS library card is required to register a learner account on NorthStar.
  • You receive unique recommendations for classes based on their initial assessment.
  • These are self-directed online classes that can be taken from any location, so you can take classes at any library branch, from home, from work, or anywhere and on your own schedule.

If you need a computer or internet to access NorthStar, come to any HCLS branch. You can also borrow a Chromebook (a type of laptop) and a wi-fi hotspot (which provides internet access) from the library and take them home with you. For more information on how to borrow a Chromebook and wi-fi hotspot, visit hclibrary.org/chromebooks or call your local branch.

Get started with NorthStar by visiting bit.ly/hclsnorthstar and creating a Learner Account. You will need an email address to get started.

If you would like some in-person help with digital skills, register for one of our computer clinics (listed below). Find the full schedule here: bit.ly/hclscomputers

Computer Skills Open Lab
If you’re looking to improve your computer skills, visit our computer skills open lab. Boost your technical knowledge by getting hands-on assistance with topics such as:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Using the internet
  • Setting up an email account
  • Creating and saving documents

We work with you at your skill level and provide information and guidance to develop the skills you are seeking or resolve the problem you are facing. Use our PC laptops and earbuds, or bring your own laptop and headphones. Bring your questions!

Tue, Jul 5 at 1 – 3 pm | East Columbia

Thu, Jul 21 at 10:30 am – 12:30 pm | Elkridge

Tue, Aug 2 at 10 am – 12 pm | East Columbia

Thu, Aug 18 at 10:30 am – 12:30 pm | Elkridge

Register for for any of these session at bit.ly/hclscomputers or call 410.313.7700.

Computer Basics
Wed, Jul 13 at 6:30 – 8:30 pm | Central Branch
Mon, Jul 25 at 2 – 4 pm | Savage Branch
Wed, Aug 10 at 6:30 – 8:30 pm | Central Branch
Mon Aug 22 at 2 – 4 pm | Savage Branch

New to using computers? This class introduces some basic computer terminology and takes you through practice activities, such as opening and saving files and folders, searching the internet, and creating an email account using Gmail. Use our PC laptops and earbuds, or bring your own laptop and headphones.

Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas 

Against a summery orange background, that shows a ferris wheel and light-rail train, two young Black boys smile

by Eliana H.

R. Eric Thomas is a Baltimore-based television writer, playwright, and the bestselling author of Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America and Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters. He is also the (temporary) Prudie, answering questions for the Dear Prudence column in Slate magazine through mid-summer. He is visiting in-person at the Elkridge Branch + DIY Center on Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30 pm. He will be discussing his debut young adult novel, Kings of B’more. I had the wonderful opportunity to read an advance copy, and I am so excited to share it with you.

Have you ever seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? In the popular movie from the 1980s, the title character, a high school student, skips school to take his best friend and girlfriend on a whirlwind adventure all over Chicago. When the main character of Kings of B’more, Harrison, learns that his best friend, Linus, will be moving to South Carolina in just a few days, he is inspired by the movie – which his dad has just made him watch – to plan an adventure all around Baltimore for the two of them. Despite his grand ideas and the help Harrison enlists, things (of course) don’t quite go as planned. The boys manage to have an epic day nonetheless.

Throughout the book, I was struck by the beauty of the friendship between Harrison and Linus. Author R. Eric Thomas captures a fresh, unique voice and perspective for each of them while highlighting the ways in which they complement one another. They can have entire conversations with their eyes, they see and value the truth of each other, and they show their affection in ways large and small. As two Black queer young men, they certainly face some challenges. But Harrison and Linus support one another as each discovers his own way to take on the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the language that Thomas uses, with vividly descriptive passages that bring the surroundings to life. Baltimore really becomes another character in this story, not just the setting. 

With ups and downs and so many adventures, Thomas has packed an entire coming-of-age tale into a story taking place over a single weekend. The growth each character experiences occurs in a way that is completely natural in terms of what they are going through. Harrison and Linus feel authentic and well-developed, and I was so glad to get to know them as I read. Despite a very satisfying ending, I would love to know what happens next. And I am definitely planning my next foray into Baltimore as soon as possible! 

I hope you will join us at the upcoming author event to hear more from R. Eric Thomas, ask questions, and consider purchasing a book for signing (if you want).

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).