In an effort to promote diversity and change perspectives about different people and cultures, NOVA’s Alexandria Campus hosted its second Human Library Project event October 25 and 26. Technology Innovation in Learning and Teaching (TILT) organized the event, which was sponsored by Student Life.
This year’s library consisted of 35 human books; the books are people who have volunteered their time and their stories to challenge prejudice through respectful conversation with members of the public. Human books included students, faculty, staff and community leaders who were interested in sharing their unique stories with other people.
Media Specialist Patricia Cooper explained that TILT put together a committee to help organize and prepare for the Human Library Project. The event used as a foundation the Joel ben Izzy quote “It’s impossible to hate someone once you’ve learned their story.” Cooper said this type of event is important to the learning process and can be used to encourage people to overcome prejudices and inspire students and the community to think differently.
“This event came about because one of my colleagues mentioned that she heard about it at a conference,” Cooper said. “When she mentioned it, I said ‘We have to do this on our campus.’ I think it’s important because we have such a diverse population on our campus, and everybody has a story. I just thought this would be the opportunity for everyone to get to know people in the NOVA community and to get to know people who have experienced some form of discrimination or bias. And some of them just want to share an inspiring story, something they want to use to inspire others.”
Second-year NOVA student Beatriz Varela said it is important and interesting to hear from different people who have lived in other countries and who have endured various circumstances.
“I think students can learn that you can’t hate someone once you know their history, just like the quote says,” Varela said. “All of these people have something important to teach us, but a lot of people judge a book by its cover.”
This year’s books included Jerry Massie, an investigator for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassination; Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, who represents Ferguson; Rev. Samuel Nixon, Jr., who spoke about the civil rights movement; and living legends of Alexandria Bill Euile and Char McCargo-Bah. Throughout the two-day event, a number of faculty, staff and students also volunteered as human books to share their experiences with the community.