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Lessa Pelayo-Lozada's picture

Black Caucus of ALA Denounces ALA’s Decision to Hold 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Please forgive duplication.  For anyone who may not have heard yet, this is an issue that I'm sure out committee will need to address in some manner...


Black Caucus of ALA Denounces ALA’s Decision to Hold 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.

For immediate release: March 10, 2014

Media Contact: Jason Alston, jasonalston@gmail.com

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), condemns the American Library Association’s (ALA) decision to continue with plans to hold the ALA 2016 annual conference in Orlando, Fla. in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict and that state’s refusal to revise or repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws, which were included in jury instructions in Zimmerman’s trial for second degree murder for fatally shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. in 2012.

BCALA believes that “Stand Your Ground” laws enable a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality against African-American men perceived without merit to be threats or assumed without evidence to be engaged in criminal behavior. Kenneth Nunn, a professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, wrote in the New York Times in 2012 that, “African-Americans, black males in particular, have been constructed in popular culture as violence-prone and dangerous,” and that this construct produces a fear in Americans that deadly force against such people is consequently reasonable in general.

BCALA therefore contends that Florida law should require more than perception of a threat before use of deadly force is deemed justifiable. BCALA predicts “Stand Your Ground” will be used in future killings where racial bias played a factor in the actions of the accused. Months after the Zimmerman verdict, another travesty of justice occurred when a Florida jury failed to convict Michael Dunn of murder for shooting into a car and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn said he fired because he felt threatened by Davis and other Black teens in a car Davis was riding in, but the unarmed Davis had not exited his vehicle or physically confronted Dunn. Dunn was convicted only for attempted murder after he continued firing at the vehicle as the teenagers attempted to flee.

BCALA believes that ALA, which claims various commitments to diversity and tolerance, should have begun plans to find a new venue for ALA 2016 following the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman. BCALA must question ALA’s true commitment to diversity and racial tolerance when ALA, North America’s largest and strongest library association, still plans to hold its largest and most financially lucrative function in a state that has become Ground Zero in initiating weapons laws, as well as voting policies, that potentially put the rights and safety of African-Americans at risk. ALA annual conferences are generally well-documented and publicized, and BCALA fears that librarians, 20,000 strong, conducting business and spending money in Orlando will negate any claim that librarians have to being advocates of equality and social justice.

BCALA, rather, is committed to creating, supporting and cheerleading initiatives that facilitate success in young Black males. The organization is particularly encouraged by President Barack Obama’s recent unveiling of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which the president hopes will, “(I)mprove significantly the expected life outcomes for boys and young men of color (including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans) and their contributions to U.S. prosperity.” An initiative to support Black male success coming from national leadership will hopefully catch on with those who otherwise wouldn’t care or would see these youths as a threat.

BCALA was formally established in 1970 and remains the forefront networking and professional development vehicle for African-American librarians. An independent non-profit organization, BCALA sponsors scholarships and travel assistance, produces a quarterly publication and holds a biennial conference. BCALA serves in an advisory role to the American Library Association and collaborates with other ethnic affiliate organizations on diversity initiatives in libraries.

Alanna Aiko Moore's picture

Hi Lessa!  Thanks so much for posting.  I agree that as the ALA Committee on Diversity that this falls squarely in our camp and that we should have some discussion on how to address this.  Do we want to make a statement to support BCALA?  Take other action?  What do the other members of COD think?  Can we begin discussion?



Dale McNeill's picture

We can definitely discuss here. We could also also have a conference call next week. 

I'm at the PLA conference and very much appreciate that the statement was posted here; thank you, Lessa.

I do feel that, as a Council committee, we should make a statement to Council. To me, personally, this is about a perception and reality of safety, not a political issue.




Dale McNeill

Texas Chapter Councilor

Silvana Mazo's picture

When I accepted the nomination to COD two years ago, the charge I based my decision was: To analyze and address the impact of diversity issues and trend on the profession, and the relevance and effectiveness of library leadership, library organizations and library services to an increasingly diverse society. If I really believed that ALA should not hold conferences where ethnic groups felt unsafe or discriminated against, I would not have attended conferences in places such Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Chicago, Arizona. I believe this is not the place and time to use COD as a political voice and it should remain true to devoting its resources to the profession. 

Lessa Pelayo-Lozada's picture


Alanna, Thanks for asking the important questions for our committee to start discussions.  

Fellow COD members, I posted the below earlier today to the APALA list-serv, but I think that it also holds true for the COD.  As THE ALA Committee on Diversity, I think we need to have this discussion unless we are all in agreement to stand with BCALA.  Then, no discussion necessary, just someone to draft a statement.


Hello All,

There has been much discussion over the last day on the Council list-serv regarding BCALA's statement.  If anyone is interested, you can follow the Council list and discussion in a read-only format as a non-member of council here:  http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/alacoun-ro

Much of the discussion on the list has centered around "punishing" Florida for laws which don't promote equality and that, if we are to use that as our bar, we cannot go to many, many states for conferences and that there are already few venues which can accommodate a conference of our size, the cost of moving the conference will be great, etc., and we cannot choose which laws we agree with.  I think that these are all knee-jerk reactions that see 1 single ethnic caucus taking a stand for an ALA core value alone and BCALA needs the support of it's other caucuses, as well as (committees), round tables and divisions who have members which face unsafe situations when ALA chooses to go to certain locations.  This issue of safety is not limited to POC and is an issue which affects many groups encompassed in the term diversity.
I hope that APALA (and the COD) can have the discussion necessary to come to an agreement about where we stand with BCALA and how the ethnic caucuses can work together to ensure ALA is being held accountable for their core values.
I personally am in support of BCALA's decision and thank them for engaging council and the membership in a reflection of our commitment to improving and supporting diversity.
Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada
ALA Councilor-at-Large, 2012-2015
APALA Talk Story Committee Chair

Lori Mestre's picture


I agree that providing a statement from our committee would be valuable.  I believe we can still show support without agreeing to a boycott.  As mentioned in a previous post, there is always some issue that may be occurring in a state that may be contrary to values/goals/efforts of any number of groups within ALA.     It was good to read the follow-up statement that BCALA did not and has not called for a boycott. In lieu of a boycott, it may serve the profession, and others in a long term effort, to find other ways to voice our concern over the  “Stand Your  Ground” issues, in the hopes of educating others and also providing examples of the work we are doing to advocate for all forms of diversity and social justice.  I understand that even with a stance by ALA groups, it still will not alleviate the potential fear of being "unsafe" in that environment.    I agree with Lessa that we do need to come together to impress upon the council and membership" the importance of our commitment to improving and supporting diversity", as well as discussing how we can work to "ensure ALA is being held accountable for their core values".

Lori Mestre

Lori Mestre, Ed.D; M.A.L.S.
Professor and Head, Undergraduate Library
245 Undergraduate Library MC-522
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 62801