Toronto Peoples' Library looks to make literary works by BIPOC storytellers more accessible
TORONTO -- Dennis Passley is on a mission to get Toronto reading books by authors that they might not know about, yet.
“We want to make works from the marginalized communities accessible to the community, works from Black and Indigenous authors,” he tells CTV News Toronto. “In my opinion, Black and Indigenous [people] hold the weight of the community they currently live in.”
Passley says that while the Toronto Public Library does a good job of stocking these books, finding them isn’t always easy.
“When you want to read something like that, there’s usually crazy holds,” he explains. “So, you are waiting months to actually get the book.”
It’s what inspired Passley to create the Toronto Peoples' Library, an Instagram page with a goal of amplifying the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) storytellers.
“It was basically for my son,” Passley elaborates. “I want him to grow up in a world that I envision for myself, and the best way to do that is to put myself in a position where I can help affect change.”
To do that, the Toronto Peoples' Library is selling black T-shirts with the names of more than 50 authors displayed.
The goal is not only to bring awareness and to introduce these authors to a wider audience, but also to fundraise so that they can help get more copies of the literary works into the GTA library system.
“We don’t take any money from this,” says Graeme Mathieson, the T-shirt designer. “We want 100% of the profit to be going to procuring the books and getting those into libraries.”
Recently, Toronto Peoples' Library was given a little publicity by the Canadian band Arkells.
“They have been so great with us,” says Zuleika Sequeira, digital and social media lead for Toronto Peoples' Library. “Dennis works with them, he plays the saxophone and he’s been touring with them for a while.”
Passley reached out to the band, asking for their support. Arkells responded with their own social media post promoting the initiative.
“They decided to post a picture with Dennis and with Max Kerman, the lead singer,” Sequeira says. “They’ve always been really supportive with movements like this. And that really kind of pushed this momentum forward.”
Toronto Peoples' Library hopes to build on that momentum by having their new followers share their message and spread the word.
“If someone can’t afford to purchase a T-shirt, they are now aware of an author that they maybe didn’t know about,” says Sequeira. “And they can do more research on them, they can check out a book, they can broaden their horizons.”
“The more we can learn about each other’s stories, the better we are as a society,” adds Mathieson.
Passley hopes others will advocate for getting books by BIPOC authors to become more accessible, too.
“Take up the argument for these works being more prevalent in our society within their communities,” he says. “I don’t think you could fully understand the Toronto story without researching those stories. Research the history, retrace where we come from, and use that to build a stronger community for tomorrow.”
You can learn more about Toronto Peoples' Library here.