Bronzeville: King Library & Mariano’s

(Unedited) Late Monday afternoon, I made my way to a local library. A Black library. In a Black neighborhood.

SN: In my previous life, I was a librarian; and, in my next life, I will be a movie-trailer editor. I friggin’ love books & reading! I heart libraries. The head librarian, Ms. Jones at Brainerd Branch Library has been my librarian my WHOLE life, my library game is serious! Lol lol lol.

I wasn’t at my library, but King branch was pretty cool. I always love the intergenerational nature of libraries. I thought of Brother Mike and the work he did with YouMedia at Harold Washington Library. (wassup ancestor? watch over our city, brotha.)

I thought about the many endeavors I’ve started at Brainerd branch, including the tutoring program that I began as a volunteer, and it turned into a paid gig. That program was so cool, I had the honor of tutoring both, children and their parents. There is power in literate parents and children.

At the library, I was looking for a children’s book that I wanted to check out the illustration work. I found the book in the “Heritage Collection” with other books for children and teens, and I got stuck in that section of the library. I came across a Nat Turner book and from there, it was on. This became two hours of self-care. I kept pulling books off the shelf, and with each book and page turned, stress fell from my shoulders; and, my heart opened. At some point I checked-in with myself and I was like, “damn, I didn’t even know my heart chakra was closed.”

It wasn’t just the books, it was everything: it was the…children’s librarian being overly friendly; it was the Black security guard repeatedly checking on me; it was the siblings on the children’s computers singing, giggling and navigating the internet; it was the adults on the internet and those waiting for their reservation time to boot the adults currently on the computer off; it was the bad fluorescent lights; it was the circulation desk clerk buzzing patrons into the bathroom; it was the patrons trying to use the copy machine having no idea on how to make it “go”, and eventually begging for help; it was the brothas bringing their children into the library and reading with them…It was the whole atmosphere. #BlackPeopleRead #BlackPeopleUtilizePublicSpaces

Off the shelf and into my hands…flipping pages:

  • Nat Turner: Slave Revolt Leader by Terry Bisson
  • Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Stephen Alcorn
  • Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carol Boston Weatherford
  • Savion: My Life in Tap by Savion Glover
  • Zora and Me by Victoria Bonds
  • Odetta the Queen of Soul by Stephen Alcorn
  • The Black Muslims by William Banks

Nearing shutdown time, I ask to be buzzed into the restroom to rewrap my headwrap, change shoes and freshen lipstick, all while holding my breath cos the smell from that flamin’hots cheese curls #2 that someone left, before me, was putrid.

Bronzeville RenaissanceI make my way to the Mariano’s for the Bronzeville Renaissance event to celebrate tomorrow’s grand opening of the new Bronzeville Mariano’s. I appreciated the invitation, but I was not sure what to expect. I thought of the homie, Sandi-Mae, as she always says she goes to events, not clubs. I was tryna channel her cos yeah, I’m a concert, plays, and dance typa girl, not really into “cocktail attire” events, but I get my foo-foo-she-she on, occasionally.

Nina and Bob Mariano know how to throw a shing-ding.

Mariano'sDisclaimer: For those two hours I choose to merely enjoy the evening. Not think about gentrification or question if this is really a good thing for this community.

I get to the spot and they have the lights on the ground positioned upward to make the Mariano’s sign pop, and there’s valet parking. On the inside, there’s security, in suits with earpieces. I sign in, check my jacket and wait for my mama to get there. I need my road dog.

While waiting for her, I check out the spot. Okay, okay, I like.  A stage, live music, food stations all over, places to sit and stand, servers walking around with tastey-goods, wine and other dranky dranks. I’m thinking to myself, I know the store manager is nervous. The event is happening tonight and the grand opening is tomorrow, so they have to get everything set for a 6am opening.

Every server that came to me had pork in their sampler dishes. The presentation was nice, but I do not eat pork. And then, I found the dessert table—bread pudding with sauce, banana pudding, peach cobbler and a glass of Bronzeville Spritzer. Also had yummy maki rolls, black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes, and pumpkin bisque with candied ginger chunks…yumsters!

img_8705I saw a fellow art therapist and her partner. Check out Black owned business Jimmy’s Vegan Cookies. Also saw Nora Brooks-Blakely and I’m excited to hear that there’s a new Gwendolyn Brooks publication coming out soon . Saw an advisory board member from my job, and as always advocated for my girls . I saw some other folk I knew and Mom had a good time, as well. She knew the director of  Matthew’s House, they received a $5,000 donation from Mariano’s.

Also, the ribbon cutting ceremony was symbolic.

At the end of the night, a floral station was setup and the man creating the arrangements made my heart smile. You tell him what you want as your floral base, and then he created flower magic. He was an artist, designing detailed and intentional arrangements. It was such a pleasure and warm fuzzy evoking to see him do this. He was passionate in pulling my sunflowers and yellow tea roses from the bucket for my base, and then added complimentary greens and yellows. Along with the floral bouquet, there was a Mariano bag with goodies. I left the event feeling refreshed.

Long day, but worth it!


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