The Free Black Women’s Library held a read-and-relax event Sunday afternoon at the Underground Museum in Arlington Heights section of Los Angeles.
Taking place in the Purple Garden among purple parasols and plants, the Lavender + Lit on July 21 featured a reading by poet Mahtem Shiferraw, who shared her new collection of poems, Your Body Is War. Her curated reading list sparked a conversation on handling generational trauma.
“With the newer generation trying to distance themselves, they end up replicating the same traumatic act of violence or aggression without actually doing it themselves,” said Mahtem, who spoke from her cultural experience of being Ethiopian and Eritrean. “So part of the process of healing, or when distancing ourselves, we can also recognize what happened because of that ugliness and beauty. We came from that.”
Under the parasols shielding the 40 attendees from the 80 plus-degree heat, the poet and attendees, mostly millennials, discussed their roles in helping an older generation understand the obstacles.
“For Ethiopian people specifically, I know they open more when they’re around friendly faces and when they’re eating and they’re joking, so things come out like that, then they get serious,” Mahtem said. “If I try to have a one-on-one sit-down, they will never talk to me. It’ll be like, ‘Who are you asking me this?’ I don’t mean with just strangers; even my family members will not talk to me like that.”
The two-hour event also allowed the attendees to roam among woven baskets of books separated by genres that make up the library that includes hundreds of works all by black women writers. The Los Angeles arm of the New York-based organization launched in April.