New YWCA Little Free Library dedicated to empowering voices of Black women and girls

Staff and supporters of the YWCA gathered in a Lynnwood neighborhood Friday morning to dedicate a Little Free Library filled with books on racial justice and those written by Black and African American women and girls.

The idea of a Little Free Library is this: Build a box — about the size of a large birdhouse — and place it on a short post (like a mailbox). Put it in a place where others can get to it, and fill it with books. In this case, the library was installed in front of the YWCA’s Pathways for Women, a 45-day emergency shelter in Lynnwood for single adult women and mothers with children.

The day of the dedication — Juneteenth — was fitting since it is “the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the U.S.,” said speaker Kresha Green, the YWCA’s regional director of Snohomish County Housing Services.

“From 1619, when the first slave ships arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, until soldiers arrived in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were the essential forced labor that helped to build the United States of America,” Green continued. “And even though people were oppressed by unimaginable racism, Juneteenth continues to represent America’s celebration that involves and unites us all. On this day, since 1865, this celebration has continued across the U.S.”

The idea of creating such a library was first raised in YWCA Race and Social Justice committee meetings about two years ago, and one staff member in particular — Sierra Zweig — doggedly pursued the concept, and was among those helping to cut the ribbon Friday morning. Also assisting with the dedication were Ashleigh Desvigne-Lee, YWCA lead family advocate, and YWCA Executive Director of Snohomish County Mary Anne Dillon.

The library was built by a now-retired YWCA staff member, Michael Carpenter.

Emphasizing the YWCA’s commitment to stand against racism, Dillon said the Pathways Little Free Library contains books, graphic novels, essays, short stories, poetry, zines about racial justice and titles written by authors of color, with a particular focus on African American women and girls — all with the goal of “expanding their reach and amplifying their voices.”

Titles include Becoming, by Michelle Obama; Paradise and Home by Toni Morrison, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small by Marian Wright Edelman, and the New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.

Book were obtained in collaboration with the Lynnwood Library, with the goal of helping people learn about race and social justice. Each book includes a bookplate on the inside cover featuring a modern-day Rosie the Riveter designed by a staff member.

Dillon said she especially hopes children and families living in the surrounding neighborhood will use the library. YWCA staff and Pathways for Women residents will oversee and maintain the library collection.

Anyone interested in donating books to the YWCA Little Free Library can email YWCA Community Resources Coordinator Vicki Dorway.

The library is located at 6027 208th St. S.W., Lynnwood.

— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel 

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