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Photos By Franz Mahr, Words By Jenn Tisdale

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been to the MLK  Memorial Library. I’ve walked past it dozens of times. It blends in. When you think libraries you often think of a museum of sorts, or the elementary school library where Miss Media Manley taught you how to sit and be quiet while reading (this might also be the library where you gave a presentation and accidentally referred to your diorama as a diaphragm, but I digress). The MLK Library is fairly unassuming but once you get inside you’re struck by the space. It’s larger than it seems, as if you just wandered through the wardrobe. And last Friday night a building named after a man who stood for freedom was reminding us of those freedoms in the form of The DC Public Library’s Banned Books Week.


The DC Public Library’s Banned Books Week, which started yesterday and goes through the 27th, is a celebration of your right to read. The kick off party at the MLK Library was emphasizing more than that, it focused on your right to create, to express yourself however you want, to exercise that 1st Amendment we all hold so dear. The evening itself was boisterous and loud, two things you don’t often associate with a library, so it felt a bit like we were being the bad kids.


In charge of the entertainment was the Go-Go Symphony. Finally, a symphony I can get behind. There were a few dancers, and normally I would be leading the pack but a rather large video of Martin Luther King Jr. was being shown on one wall and it felt a bit strange throwing down while MLK looked on. The artwork by various local artists revolved around the idea of being Uncensored which is the theme of this year’s banned books week. And of course how can we have a Banned Books Week without some banned books scattered throughout, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, etc.


The evening did its job. I left wanting to reacquaint myself with these books in an effort to remind myself of what all the fuss was about but mostly I wanted to remind myself of my right to read what I want when I want it.