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As Florida schools review thousands of books, Jacksonville nonprofit opens the Little Free Diverse Library

"These books are for everyone because we all have to learn how to coexist together."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As books are being taken out of Florida classrooms, a nonprofit is working to increase the access to books about diversity and discrimination outside the school system.

You may have seen library pantries pop up in neighborhoods. This one is not reinventing the wheel, but it is reinventing the purpose behind it.

The Little Free Diverse Library is opening Wednesday, February 15th in front of Yellow House at 577 King Street. That is in the Riverside area of Jacksonville. 

“These stories should not be politicized," said Kimberly Allen. She's the CEO of 904ward, the nonprofit behind the book box. 

Allen says the writing was on the wall. She knew more books were going to be challenged so they began working on this idea last year. 

Now, with thousands of books under review by school districts around Florida, she wants to make sure people have access to these stories.

“Books really expand your thinking about other people," Allen explained. "So the books are not necessarily just for people of color or just marginalized communities. These books are for everyone because we all have to learn how to coexist together and so having these as a sort of learning ground for how or where or what you learn.”

Happening this AM: The Little Free Diverse Library is opening in Riverside! 904WARD wants to make sure young people & adults have access to books about people from all backgrounds and cultures. Learn more on Good Morning Jacksonville now!

Posted by Leah Shields on Wednesday, February 15, 2023

It all goes back to 904Ward’s mission to create racial healing and equity through conversations and opportunities to learn. The end goal is to have a minimum of 20 of these accessible libraries around Duval.

“Our big audacious vision is to end racism so that all people thrive. And we have a very clear sort of way that we do that work. First, is acknowledging history and being willing to have those conversations about it," Allen said. "And then working to address persistent inequities. The libraries are the first way, the simple way, that we can help people learn about the experiences of people that might be different from them.”

There is no due date for a book. You take a book and keep it. 

You can also put a book in as a donation.

If you want one in your neighborhood or would like to learn more about getting involved, reach out to 904ward.org or email books@904ward.org. 

The first Little Free Diverse Library is dedicated to a local civil rights activist.

Bryant Rollins passed away last spring. His widow, Shirley Stetson, 'did the honors' in unveiling the library and she was surprised with what she found painted on its back: a portrait of Rollins.

Rollins was an author and journalist, he was active in the Civil Rights Movement and he started a consulting firm for diversity and equity training where he and Stetson worked together.

She calls the Little Free Diverse Library's dedication to him "fantastic" and says the library is needed.

"He was a bigger than life figure and the word that goes with him is 'truth,'" Stetson said. "What the governor is doing requires that there be an equal and opposite reaction."

Stetson says she's working on getting Rollins's memoir published.

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