Edison Public Library kicks off Black History Month with stamp unveiling


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EDISON – The Edison Public Library is focusing on offering more programs to showcase the diversity of the fifth largest township in the state.

Gabriel Ramos, community engagement librarian for the Edison Public Library system, said oftentimes the Reference Desk librarians field questions on what the library is doing when it comes to focusing on diversity.

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The Edison Public Library system includes the Edison main branch on Plainfield Avenue, the North Edison branch on Grove Avenue and the Clara Barton branch on Hoover Avenue.

Ramos said they are focusing on three different aspects: first, improving the library collection with more audio visual materials and hand print materials that will target more for a wider array audience in the community. Second and third, more outreach in the community and providing more programs like the recent Black Heritage Commemorative Stamp Unveiling held on Feb. 4. The program was a partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Metuchen-Edison Branch and the Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections.

The unveiling kicked off a series of programs the Edison Library is holding to celebrate Black History Month, which is an annual celebration in February recognizing the many achievements by African Americans.

“I believe it’s the first time our library is doing a series of events for Black History Month,” Ramos said, adding he and his co-workers have worked together for six months to set up all the programs.

The series of Black History Month events cover art, music, current social issues and history.

“Black history is part of history,” Ramos said. “We want to inform the public and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in this country.”

With such a large undertaking, Ramos reached out to community engagement partners to help with the programs including Reginald Johnson, president of the NAACP Metuchen-Edison branch.

During the unveiling, Carissa Lawson, an Edison resident and morning anchor for News 12, served as master of ceremonies.

“Edison and Middlesex County have become a more diverse community over the years,” she said. “A lot of people who have lived here for a long time have seen changes. Just this year alone, Edison Township elected its first ever African American council president to serve its constituents, and Rutgers University appointed its first-ever African American president.”

Lawson said diversity is often a term that comes from an empty buzz word, with it being used more frequently.

“Yet it remains an issue that is crucial to the success, especially, of public libraries,” she said. “Diversity benefits everyone, particularly in a public library setting which individuals from all walks of life can gather to gain information and meet as a community.”

Lawson said the Edison Public Library is creating an environment that appreciates, acknowledges and celebrates differences by communicating effectively and respectively within context of beliefs, identities and cultural backgrounds.

“As a result, the library will better serve the increasingly diverse community of Edison more effectively,” she said.

The United States Post Office is honoring the late journalist and newscaster, Gwen Ifill, with a commemorative stamp this year.

Clarence McKnight, member of the Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections, said the Black Heritage Commemorative Stamp Unveiling is celebrating 43 years, the longest Postal Service series.

The celebration included gospel singer Renee Connell, who sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Johnson then awarded the Edison Public Library and Mayor Thomas Lankey with a plaque for their dedication to diversity.

Edison Council President Joyce Ship-Freeman and Gregory Edwards, first African American male trial court administrator, were also awarded for their leadership efforts in the community.

Additionally, McKnight led a discussion about the Black Heritage series and a Stamping Thru History talk on Civil Rights. Members of the New Jersey Orators also provided a special presentation.

The Edison Library’s Stamping Thru History Stamp Exhibit will run through Feb 29.

For more information visit www.edisonpubliclibrary.net.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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