“The best thing for this library is for the four of you to resign:” Queen Mother Mashariki Jywanza

Editor’s introduction

Queen Mother Mashariki Jywanza has been a consistent presence at the library board meetings over the past several months. A committed community advocate, she has used her voice to advocate for the people’s choice of CEO, Nichelle Hayes, and the library workers that supported her. With her permission, the public comment she gave at the July 24th IndyPL Board of Trustees meeting is published below.

Queen Mother Mashariki Jywanza speaks truth to power

Good evening, and thank you for this opportunity to speak. My name is Queen Mother Mashariki Jywanza. I represent the organizations N’COBRA, Indianapolis Kwanzaa Committee, Red Beans and Greens food co-op, and the Ujamaa Institute of Cultural Development. I have been empowered to speak for them.

First and foremost I want to say how much I love the library. I’ve been involved with the library as a youngster in the Haughville branch, then the Riverside branch. We always were very happy to go to the Central Library – that was an outing for us. My children grew up in the library – 42nd St and Flanner House, when it opened. My grandchildren are children of the world, so they go to all the new branches that open up. They will be at the Lawrence branch when it opens.

When I heard about the summer reading program, I remember walking home with ten books and trying to keep up with my friends – and winning, of course! But unfortunately, I’m very sad to be here today. Before I go there, I’d like to thank Dr. Murtadha, Dr. Payne, and Mr. Lane for their stand on truth and justice, and for the community. We really appreciate that.

We have been circulating petitions to ask for the removal of the other four board members who we feel that we have no confidence in your leadership. Why do we say that? We say that because we started this journey with Nichelle Hayes being the interim for eight months, with no help. She had five interviews – I’ve never had five interviews for any position that I’ve applied for. She made it to the top three. The other two that maybe you wanted flaked out. Nichelle should have been seated. We would not be here today – I wouldn’t be here today saying these things. That’s incompetency to me. Then we bring on consultants, spending taxpayers’ money. I’m a taxpayer, I’m a voter, and I really resent our money not being used wisely. For those reasons, we feel that the incompetency of the four of you have caused a real disruption in the library system. 

I praise the library workers who have kept things going and working. The statistics we heard today are wonderful, but that’s because of the great staff. The CEO that was chosen, not sure why you would allow yourself to be pitted against a Black woman, and I still do not know the process by which you were hired. There seem to be some illegalities there, and we’re very concerned about that. 

But here we are. We feel the best thing for this library is for the four of you to resign. To leave. The Board is in disarray, and that has to affect the work of this library, and we’re very concerned about that.

The other thing that I would like to say – and it pains me to say this – but unfortunately the four of you that have positioned yourself on the wrong side of history, this will be your legacy. Not all the other great things you’ve done. What you will be remembered for is what you have done here, and that really saddens me.

So, again, thank you for listening to me. I’ve spoken before – seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I would also like to say that we’re very aware that there’s some outside political forces that are influencing Hope, and she’s influencing other people. Politics really have no business in this library, and we are very concerned about that as well. Thank you.

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