Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Newest Little Library Launched On September 28 at Zebra Youth

On September 28, Orlando leaders held Unleash Knowledge: Free Little Library Project Launch for a free, diverse, “little library” at the Zebra Youth headquarters on 911 N. Mills Ave. in response to banned books.

“The Power of Youth in Action” is the slogan for Global Shapers, the organization that initiated the little library. The Global Shapers community was born from the World Economic Forum and is described as a network of young people working to address local, regional, or global challenges. Cecilia Gonzalez, Global Shaper Impact Officer and UCF student, joined forces with Brent Feldman, member of Global Shapers and current Valencia College student, to bring this project to the Orlando community.

Pictured: Brent Feldman, member of Global Shapers and Valencia College student, and Cecilia Gonzalez, Global Shaper Impact Officer and UCF student, display a collection of banned books.

The event started with opening remarks from Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), Dr. Kimberly Allen, CEO of 904ward, Cecilia Gonzalez, and Heather Wilkie, Executive Director of Zebra Youth. Eskamani spoke about the importance of having free and accessible books for the youth. The free little library was installed in front of the Zebra Youth location, covered with a ribbon.

“We have to ensure that we are creating a welcoming environment where students can see themselves in the classroom, in text,” Eskamani said. She also discussed the book banning occurring in Florida and the empowerment of extremist policies. PEN America, a network that advocates for free expression and challenges censorship, released a report stating that over 40 percent of all book bans in the 2022-23 school year were found in Florida.  Eskamani explained that there is also an economic barrier affecting specific communities to be able to get these books.

After the event’s opening, Eskamani unveiled the Little Free Library named The Julius “July” Perry. Perry was a prominent Ocoee resident in the early 1900s, and was beaten, shot and lynched in 1920 during the Ocoee Massacre.  His murder was a warning to other Black citizens who dared to vote.  The books range from banned books to various other popular titles. To install this library, Global Shapers fundraised more than $500 to build it and purchase books. Later, 904ward and Zebra Youth partnered for the cause.

Representative District 42 Anna Eskamani unveils the new Little Free Library “The Julius ‘July’ Perry” outside of the Zebra Youth location, 911 N. Mills Ave on September 28. (Oriana Torre)

Gonzalez expressed that she was inspired to undertake this project because she hadn’t seen many little libraries around Orlando and became curious about the process of building one herself. She also emphasized that recent book bans had inspired her to include those books so people could continue reading them.

The need to respond to book banning also prompted Dr. Allen to focus efforts on providing inclusive opportunities throughout Florida. The organization, 904ward, plans to establish approximately 45 little libraries across Florida, with 22 already in place.

Regina Newkirk, Director of Equity at 904ward, shared how reading a book about Jewish culture helped her understand both the differences and similarities among people. “Books can expose you to the differences, the new ones of others’ experiences while also showing you the baseline: we are all the same; we are all people,” Newkirk said.

This event brought discussions about inclusivity, equity, and the creation of welcoming spaces for youth in the Orlando area. Interested individuals can visit this little library, pick up a free book, or make a donation at 911 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803.


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Oriana Torre, Reporter

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