Promise’s Little Free Libraries event on July 16 attracted not only community members and volunteers, but individuals who share an expansive history with the original Friendly Inn Settlement House, even before Promise Neighborhood initiative began in the Central community.
Sheila Shaw was one such person who came out to participate in the Little Free Libraries Event, where volunteers came out to build six little libraries that will be placed throughout the neighborhood. Residents of all ages are encouraged to take a book and read it and keep it, or return that book or another favorite for others to enjoy.
Ms. Shaw donated 15 books and magazines to the event. Among the books she donated, there are poetry books , daily spiritual reading books, history books and some biographies about such important people as Malcolm X , Winnie Mandela and Steven Biko who was a South African freedom fighter/activist in the 1960s and 1970s.
As a teenager Ms. Shaw started a club called the Larkets, which was a group of young women including her that would come together typically on Thursdays to hold meetings to discuss plans of action to improve the community. Each Saturday as a fundraiser, they had a dance and sold hot dogs and soda.
Ms. Shaw also had the opportunity to know singer and song writer Edwin Starr most known for his number one hit “War.” Of Starr, Shaw says “he and his singing group got their springboard back in the 1950’s here at the Friendly Inn.” Starr would participate in the dancing and club socials that the Larkets would host at the Friendly Inn.
The themes that she and her Larket members endeavored to emphasize ranged from how to manage and conduct meetings to saving money.
Ms. Shaw explained that she donated the books because “young people do not know their history. It’s important to know history to know how you got to this point. My family is informed.”
Ms. Shaw describes herself as a lifelong Central resident saying, “I have always lived in the 79th area.” She attended John Hay high school prior to – as she lamented “the schooling of the Central area began to unravel in the 1960’s.” In discussing the decline of the Central area she states that “welfare really killed us as a people.” At the time she was “coming up” there was no welfare and “we did everything ourselves. Welfare was supposed to be a temporary relief to people, not something they live on for the rest of their lives.”
Ms. Shaw has three living children out of a total of four and eight living grandchildren out of a total of ten. She lost two of her grandchildren to a heart-attack and sickle cell anemia. She also lost her daughter from sickle-cell anemia.
When asked how she learned of the little library event she explained that she had gone to the Langston Hughes community center for her nutrition situation where she also received literature about Promise in a bag. She called the number on the pamphlet and she was referred to Sonya Pryor-Jones, Promise director.
Despite the unbearable heat on the day of the event, Ms. Shaw says she was happy to return to where she had begun so many years ago.
– By Nina Kidd