The Evanston-North Shore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, along with its Theta Alpha Chapter at Northwestern University, partnered with the Evanston Public Library to host its yearly Midwest Impact Day of Service on Saturday, Sept. 30.
The theme of this year’s service, “Seeing Black in REaD,” was literacy and featured four Black, female authors, a keynote address on African American history and a panel discussion on book banning.
Children gathered in Room 108 of the library for storytelling and snacks while other attendees were free to listen to a reading from award-winning journalist and author L’Oreal Thompson Payton and other featured guests in Room 107.
Payton’s new book, Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power, addresses dealing with imposter syndrome, self-doubt and the impossibly high standards placed on Black women from childhood.
Writing the book, Payton explained, was a master class in unlearning perfectionism, which the author said she still struggles with from time to time.
“It’s interesting,” Payton said. “Throughout the course of the book launch, I have gone back and forth with, ‘Am I really a recovering perfectionist?’ and I feel like [I’m] aspiring because old habits die hard. So there are still the tendencies that I have, like, ‘Oh, this isn’t exactly how I wanted this to go.’
“But I’m learning, especially now as a new mom, to let go of the idea that I had and just embrace what is and learn to go with the flow, but it’s a lot easier said than done for me and my Type-A tendencies. So I’m trying, is the point.”
Payton, who said she wrote the book for her 16-year-old self, wants Black women and girls to be carefree.
“I’ve done some other events where there have been mom-and-daughter duos who’ve come, and I’ve had one mom who bought [the book] for her mom and her aunties and cousin,” she said. “I wanted to have this ripple effect and to encourage Black women and girls, especially, who feel so much pressure to be perfect and to be a certain way, [and hope] that it empowers them, encourages them, motivates them to show up as their full, authentic selves to be vulnerable, to be real, to not have their guard up all the time.”
Erasure of history
Sherwin K. Bryant, associate professor of Black studies and history at Northwestern, gave the keynote address, “The Erasure of African-American History,” on the insurrection of 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the Black townspeople who were killed.
“Ultimately, it was said that the river ran [red] with blood, and [there were] floating corpses of African American bodies,” Bryant said.
Years later, Bryant said, many of the white descendants of those involved in the coup would come to power in Wilmington, which was once a thriving, predominantly Black city before the uprising.
H. Leon Prather Sr.’s We Have Taken A City: The Wilmington Racial Massacre and Coup of 1898, Bryant added, was, in many ways, suppressed and could not be checked out at the Wilmington public library during his childhood.
“There’s a way in which a range of practices seek to silence events, people and practices in our history to a kind of whisper,” Bryant said.
The three-hour event concluded at 4 p.m. after a discussion and Q&A on banned books with Olivia Pierce, president of the Theta Alpha Chapter, and Logan Phillips, a doctoral student in the Black studies program at Northwestern.
Charmekia McCoy (He’s Only 8), Janeen Jackson (Hello, Sweet Baby: An Adoption Journey) and Laura Williams, whose books focus on “developing an early love of art and learning,” were the other featured guests that day.