Around the Island

“Talking About Race” in our community: Library to host series

The Shelter Island Public Library has announced plans for a “community conversation” series to focus on anti-racism.

The impetus for this idea, said the library’s Head of Reference Jocelyn Ozolins, was the Black Lives Matter rally on Shelter Island in June last year. “I remember reading in the paper that the school valedictorian, one of the organizers, called for everyone to take personal responsibility for racism,” she said. “That triggered the idea.”

The valedictorian, Emma Gallagher, said at the time that she and other high school seniors had organized the rally to “honor those who have lost their lives due to police brutality, express our support for the black people in our community, across America and around the globe.”

Along with Abby Kotula and Henry Binder, she consulted with the Police Department, school superintendent and Town Board members to secure approval for a peaceful demonstration in response to the killing of George Floyd and other victims of racism and brutality.

Then-councilman Mike Bebon who, along with his colleagues, applauded the students’ plans, urged that they “think beyond the demonstration. Don’t let it end with one protest, but keep the dialogue going.”

The library recently won a competitive grant from the American Library Association and the Association for Small and Rural Libraries as part of an initiative called “Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries.” The grant will be used to support the series.

The discussions will be held on Zoom on the following dates: Sept. 13, Sept.27, Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. To obtain the Zoom link, register at

Through this series of four conversations, the library seeks to find a way to talk about a difficult subject. The hope is also to understand implicit biases as well as to learn ways to support anti-racism efforts in the community.

“We expect that these conversations will allow, in a non-judgmental space, a way for a wide range of community members to explore racial injustice in an in-depth manner and to learn to understand others’ experiences,” Ms. Ozolins said.

She will moderate the discussions, to also be facilitated by writer Becky Cole, a Shelter Island resident, and Denise Oliver-Velez, a retired professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at SUNY New Paltz.