For Brooks kids, a trip to the public library turned into a lesson on ruin and release

Brooks Middle School teacher Quentin Wright decided to use a field trip to the library to inspire his students to use art and freedom of expression to cope with social injustice.
Brooks Middle School students pose with their english teacher Quentin Wright (far right) as they tour the Orland Park Public Library. Provided by Quentin Wright

One Harvey teacher treated his students to a field trip at a local temple of knowledge.

Brooks Middle School students visited a Black Lives Matter exhibit at Orland Park Public Library earlier this month. The “Black Lives Matter: A Child’s Vision” exhibit documents Orland Park’s June 2020 protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

For english teacher Quentin Wright, a trip to the library presented the perfect opportunity to bridge literacy, excursion, and social justice advocacy. This trip comes as book banning and protests over race-conscious curriculum have turned schools into the latest culture wars battleground.

Those conversations are avoided because they’re uncomfortable for educators and students, Wright said. “Being that this is a library, I feel like it’s a great place to go, learn to articulate those emotions,” and learn how others have coped in similar situations.

The exhibit boasts a physical and digital component. Replete with portraits, cubist Afrofuturistic paintings, and black-and-white photography on canvas, viewers can also scan nearby QR codes, transported to a digital archive with anti-racism research.

That’s been seen in five continents, said Aisha Scott, a Brooks alum and Midlothian teacher who narrated the exposition.

Aisha Scott, a teacher in Midlothian and Brooks alum, narrated the “Black Lives Matter: A Child’s Vision” exhibit currently on display at OPPL. It’s about “collective care,” Scott said. Provided by Quentin Wright

Local view, global impact

Orland Park’s protests were inspired by a young boy who wanted to peacefully protest, to which roughly 300 people attended, Scott said, and later decided to document through art.

The reception’s been both inviting to some in the south suburban area drawn to dialogue around race and evidencing and those revolted. “To be honest with you, I think some people saw Black Lives Matter, and they were completely turned off,” Scott said.

However, COVID-19 “had us looking at each other not just in a local sense but a global sense,” Scott said, adding she believes the largely white and Republican Orland Park community is changing—both ideologically and demographically.

Scott will travel to South Africa next summer to share the Black Lives Matter digital curriculum as a global fellow with the NEA Foundation.

Room 150 sounds off

Pictured left to right, beginning with the top row: Destiny Harris, Treasure Lewis, Debbie Curtis III, John, Ari, Ashley, and Damaris Santana. HWH / Amethyst J. Davis

The HWH spoke with a few eighth graders who roamed the OPPL and saw “A Child’s Vision.” Here’s what they shared about the trip, how it impacted them, favorite hobbies, and surprise free books.

Destiny White, 13: The student council class president expected the visit to be “dry,” she said, but found the visit inspiring and impactful. “That encouraged me—I went home after that and told my mom about the whole thing,” White said, who posted about the event on her Snapchat.

Treasure Lewis, 13: Lewis liked that artists “painted girls with the afros and different colors and boys and people holding hands that were different skin colors.” She raved about the library, eager to return with her sister. “They’ve got stuff about African Americans that we can learn.”

Ashley, 13: It was a fun trip to repeat, Ashley said. Next time, she’ll “try out the video game room or see the rest of the books.”

Stephanie, 13: “It showed me little people can do so much stuff to impact the world,” Stephanie mused, a soccer lover who has aspirations of becoming a graphics designer.

Debbie Curtis III, 13: A member of the broadcasting club and young graphic designer for a comic, Curtis was drawn to the mangas and creative energy at the library. “They also had a gaming lounge and a teen lounge, so it was pretty fun.” Curtis finished her 500-page book in three days.

Students pose in front of marker promoting the exhibit. Provided by Quentin Wright

John, 13: “In eighth grade, it’s very educational—the Constitution and stuff,” John said of this initial thoughts about Mr. Wright’s surprise field trip. “I thought it was really cool somebody was thinking about other people” and “sticking up for other people,” he beamed of the exhibit. He snagged—and finished—his book about a glob of ink that learns by taking words.

Ari, 13: The student council vice president and technology enthusiast was excited for the trip because she enjoys reading and the exhibit “showed how our world faces these issues and how people are fighting for it, and I like that.”

Damaris Santana, 13: Initially, Santana wasn’t too keen on going to OPPL. “Since I was little, I wasn’t into reading,” she said, preferring math. Her perception on libraries has changed, drawn to OPPL’s spaciousness. “Now, if they [family] ask me to go, I’m probably gonna go—but not read a book.”

Ayriana, 13: “I like that many people came out to support Black Lives Matter,” Aryiana, who loves to draw and cheers at Brooks, said of the OP summer 2020 protests. The exhibit, coupled with the floors and interactive spaces, was also personal for Ariyana. “I’m half-Black, so I learned about my culture.”

Correction, 12/22/2022: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Scott as a fellow with the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a global leadership fellow with the NEA Foundation. This article has been updated to reflect that information.


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