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New Little Free Library in St. Paul aims to confront racism with books about diverse communities

The Bruce Goodman Little Free Library will open Sunday, Sept. 11, at Jewish Family Services in St. Paul.

ST PAUL, Minn. — In February of 2021, the skyways of downtown Minneapolis were mostly empty on a cold weekday morning when 70-year-old Bruce Goodman was walking through them to get to a medical appointment.

Empty because the winter of 2021 was still a time when downtown skyways were sparse, due to the pandemic.

Goodman was walking and remembers little other than footsteps approaching, and then hands on his body.

He was being mugged.

He fell and injured his shoulder. He doesn’t recall much of the actual attack.

In the weeks after, he dealt with the rehab of a torn rotator cuff, and the reaction of people when they asked why he was in a sling. The reaction more than once, he said, of those who asked him, was that they assumed his attackers or attacker was Black.

“I realized right away – after about the fourth time – that this is not the conversation I want to create,” Goodman said.

For years Goodman worked with and served on the board of Jewish Family Services (JFS) – a social work and mental health resource center in St. Paul.

He went there seeking counseling and guidance, and a therapist asked him, “What does empathy mean to you?”

Goodman said in those sessions he began to realize he wanted to change the conversations people were trying to have with him that had roots in racism. He wanted no part of those conversations.

So he asked JFS what he could do and together they came up with a plan to open a Little Free Library at the center in St. Paul. Filling that library would be books curated by the "Read In Color" initiative – one that diversifies representation in books offered to our community, and uplifts voices and stories about diverse communities.

“We need to get off the sidelines because we have the individual power to do that," Goodman said. "It's will take a lot of us who haven’t been speaking up. I am taking ownership of creating a better community. We can all be a bridge to something better."

The Bruce Goodman Little Free Library will open Sunday, Sept. 11, at Jewish Family Services in St. Paul.

In October, families and kids are invited to come for an afternoon party celebrating the library, and what it means to "Read In Color."

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