Cortelyou public library. (Photo by Chris Farrell)
The library is usually a place where silence reigns, but for an hour this Thursday, February 23, staff and patrons at the Cortelyou branch of the Brooklyn public library will stand that idea on its head.
The branch is hosting a special all-ages karaoke program honoring Black History Month. “We’ll laugh, debate, and just have fun in the library where quiet is the norm,” said Tech Resource Specialist Tierra Blanchard.
“Black History Karaoke draws on a rich tradition of music in African-American communities, from the spirituals that were sung during slavery to the influence of black musicians on modern genres,” explained Neighborhood Library Supervisor Antonia Bramble.
“What makes Black History Karaoke special is the incorporation of jazz, blues, Motown, doo-wop, and funk — styles that originated with black musicians and redefined popular music in America.”
Blanchard had hosted a similar event at the library’s New Utrecht branch, She was encouraged by Dean Carrington, a custodian at Cortelyou Road, to bring Black History Karaoke to the branch. “When I asked some patrons they were really excited,” Blanchard said.
Carrington, a big Motown fan who’s already preparing the piece he’ll perform at the event, also located a disco ball to give the celebration an extra bit of glitz. And while music will be central to the hour-long program, Bramble said other elements will be incorporated as well.
“We thought it would be great for the community to contribute their singing talents to help celebrate Black History Month. We will also have pictures of famous black people with the theme “Who Am I?,” to help young people in the neighborhood understand the contributions African-Americans have made to our nation,” she said.
Bramble said there will be a display of books focused on black history in the meeting room for patrons to check out on the day of the program. “We have had two displays up all month in celebration of Black History Month, consisting of a mix of picture books and nonfiction books for all ages.”
The librarians have also prepared a list of works for patrons interested in checking out relevant books. Titles for children include Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Ellen Levine’s Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad.
For teens and young adults, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin are recommended, and adults might select The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, 13 Ways of Looking at a Black Man by Henry Louis Gates Jr., or Carter G. Woodson’s classic The Mis-Education of the Negro.
The Black History Karaoke program is scheduled for 4pm to 5pm at the Cortelyou branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, located at 1305 Cortelyou Road at Argyle Road.