It’s women’s history month, and our featured film has lots of women and quite a bit of history–the well-researched and visually gorgeous Daughters of the Dust by writer/director Julie Dash.
Set in 1902 on St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina, the story is ostensibly about a family reunion that takes place just before a faction of the family moves North, but as the late great, Roger Ebert observed, in a review dated 25 years ago today, “…there is the sense that all of them are going…and all of them are staying behind, because the family is…a single entity.” Indeed, the ancestors are present at the picnic, as well as children yet to be born.
The Peazant family is descended from the Ibo people of West Africa, and like others on the Sea Islands, their isolation has allowed them to maintain many of their traditions and rituals. They speak Gullah, which is mostly English in vocabulary but West African in its cadences and intonations. Nana Peazant, the matriarch, fears that the language, the traditions, the family history will be lost when the family assimilates into mainland culture.
It is rare to find a film set in these islands, focused on these people. In addition, Dash has researched and recreated authentic period hairstyles and exquisitely detailed costumes, and used the device of a visiting photographer to create beautiful tableaux. Check out Daughters of the Dust, and enjoy a unique cinematic experience.
Throughout 2017, some of our partners will share their perspective on PPL in honor of our 150th anniversary celebration.
Today’s contributor, Jamie Ritter, was selected by the Maine Library Commission in December 2014 to serve as Maine State Librarian. He is currently reading Virtual Unreality by Charles Seife.
Happy 150th Birthday, Portland Public Library!
You are an incredible resource to your community and serve as a model public library in Maine and across the nation. Bravo!
For 45 years and counting, PPL has been a foundational partner of the Maine State Library in providing, at no charge, “access to quality library collections at accessible locations for all citizens regardless of economic means or accident of geographic location.”
This regional service is critical to all Mainers and enshrined in law. At its heart, it ensures “equal and free access to the state’s great literature collections and informational resources.”
The crux of Maine State Library’s ongoing partnership is our collaborative approach and significant sharing of resources as we serve both individual citizens and other libraries.
Such a partnership requires dedication and perseverance. It’s easy to collaborate and share resources when times are great, budgets are flush, and organizations are fully staffed. When times are more challenging, the test of the partnership relies on the core values we all hold dear: to do all we can do to ensure that free access to library materials remains uninhibited.
This requires trust –trust between us as partners, and the trust we build with our communities so they know we stand at the ready to make sure public libraries remain sacred places that cherish the values of free access, privacy, enlightenment, and intellectual freedom.
Portland Public Library embodies these values and so much more. It’s a special place, embedded in the heart of the greater Portland community. PPL welcomes all, serves as a place of pride for the community, and preserves the best of our democratic values.
Keep up the great work, Portland Public! We are so honored to be your partner in bringing essential library services to Maine people. May your next 150 years be as exciting and terrific as the first.
One of our best-loved locations is our Peaks Island Branch, and we are grateful to our partners in the Recreation Department for ways we collaborate in serving the community in both the library and community room spaces.
We want to share an updated timeline for the proposed renovation project so island residents and organizations can make their summer plans.
We now have approval from the State Fire Marshal’s office and have just received authorization from the City’s Planning Department. This means we can finalize the documents to put the project out to bid.
After discussions with City staff who know the bid climate, we have made the decision to proceed with the bid now, with an October 1st start date for construction. This positions us for the best bids and allows us to keep the Library and Community Center open for the summer months. In September, in order to begin pre-work on the site, we will move the Library to the Peaks Island Elementary School location and Recreation to St. Christopher’s Church.
We have received questions from the community about temporary restrooms during the construction. We want to assure everyone that there will be a set of temporary bathrooms during the closed period for islander use. We will have much more information on this as we get closer to the project.
We had hoped to have the approvals to get ahead of a summer start, but it appears that if we bid for an immediate start we are at risk of receiving fewer proposals and unfavorable bid pricing. The new timing will maximize our budget and also allow for easier construction logistics on the island outside of the heaviest tourist time.
Thank you for your constant support as we keep this exciting project moving forward. If you have questions about the Library’s plans, please do not hesitate to be in touch via email or by phone at 207-871-1700 ext. 755.
– Sarah Campbell, Executive Director, Portland Public Library
-Sally Deluca, Director of Facilities & Recreation, City of Portland