Posted by: Viola | June 18, 2022

you can dream again

you can dream again

a prose poem by Viola Allo

The lesson is to know the signs, to know the face and the form, the function and the force, of the predator. This knowledge prepares you for the future unfolding today in all the ways you can be eaten alive. The predator knows how to consume you, as you arrive and as you leave, lies in wait for you to bring your limbs into the building, pursues you until the close of day, knows how you walk, sit, talk, breathe. He is in his office seeing you through the walls, seeing through your clothes, looking for all the holes in who you are. The only way to survive is to know what he knows and liquidate it, know the darkness in which he destroys you, which fully fills your own hushed body, hollowed out by the fear of retaliation. Know this darkness which feels solid as a granite slab you swallowed in small cubes and assembled inside you, see it in your bulging belly and liquidate it. Let it flow out of all the holes in the bubbled skin you have left. It is over now. It is over. It is over. You can cry now. You can close your eyes. You can think of every beautiful thing in the world and let your own thoughts fill you. Yes, you can close you eyes now. And you can dream again.

***

Poem by Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to use or share this poem online.

Posted by: Viola | June 18, 2022

the volcano people

the volcano people

a poem by Viola Allo

where we come from in West Africa
there is a kind of pepper
it looks like a fire
is shaped like a flame
and when you eat it
it burns through you

inside and out
you will feel the heat 
and if you eat plenty of it
as my people tend to do
the fire becomes familiar
you need more to feel it

and the more you eat
the more you speak
the heat melts your face
and you begin to sing
the heat warms your feet
and you begin to dance

people begin to see
who you really are
your color rises and comes forth
and no one can ignore you 
a person who looks
and moves like a mountain
with a mouth of fire

***

Poem by Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to use of share this poem in print or online.

Posted by: Viola | June 7, 2022

a safe space at work

a safe space at work

a poem by Viola Allo

good morning, Black woman,
sit down
this email hits you today
to announce that we created 
a safe space for you
are you sitting down?
this is a safe space for you to sit down in
so sit down sit down sit down 
why stand up in this safe space?
why stand when you can sit?
why stand when we say you can sit?
if we say sit, please sit
if we say you are safe, you are safe
if you choose to stand
then know this, Black woman,
you stand alone


***

Poem by Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to share or use this poem online or in print.

Posted by: Viola | June 6, 2022

the pandemic is no excuse

the pandemic is no excuse

a poem by Viola Allo

the pandemic
the pandemic
the pandemic is the reason
they give for the colleague
who thinks it is okay to be rude
the times are tough
the times are rough
the chaos makes people coarse
the chaos makes people curse
so the question
i would like to ask is
what about me?
what about me?
Black woman silent in my cubicle
what about me?
knowing never to be rude
not even to my screen
knowing to recuse myself 
from every conversation
on equity and inclusion
because the pandemic
is no excuse
for me 
to be real

***

Poem by Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission tp use or share this poem online or in print.

Posted by: Viola | May 24, 2022

this table

this table

a poem by Viola Allo

they say
come to the table
Black woman
they say
this table has a space for you
a seat at the table
they say
a chair a glass of water for you
but you know
this chair is not stable
this glass is not clean
this water is not safe
to drink
and 
this table 
is not your table

***

Poem by Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to use or share this poem online or in print.

Posted by: Viola | May 24, 2022

as a Black woman i am

as a Black woman i am

a poem by Viola Allo

as 
a Black woman
i am 
love
i am 
joy
i am 
a person
i am 
free

***

Poem by Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to share online or in print.

Posted by: Viola | November 28, 2021

Graduate school – Complete!

Exactly a month ago, I turned in my final assignment for my graduate program. This final assignment signaled the completion of my graduate program in library science. I am so very happy to share that I have now successfully completed all the work for my master’s degree in library and information science (MLIS).

For the last few weeks, I have been resting and recovering from all the assignments and writing. It has been an intense journey. There have been so many twists and turns, ups and downs, and now it is finished. I am free. I am so proud to have seen it through to the end and to now have my MLIS degree.

I am so grateful to all my mentors, supporters, and loved ones who have encouraged me on this journey. So much gratitude to the ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program, the PLSEP program, and the CLA Yelland Scholarship–thank you and thank you and thank you, again and again, for all your generous support. It means the world to me.

I am so thrilled to be be standing here, cap in hand and ready to toss it into the air. I am grateful to the SJSU iSchool for making it possible for me to be here.

MLIS class of 2021! That is me!

Posted by: Viola | March 31, 2021

Supporting and respecting BIPOC in the workplace

For anyone who has BIPOC coworkers.


1-Be respectful of their mental and physical space and focus. If your BIPOC coworker is working on a task, take a moment to say hello and ask them how they are doing or what fun stuff they’re working on; and if you need their assistance with something, ask if you can trouble them for a moment of their time or if they might be free to talk with you. Otherwise, consider giving them space and letting them get their work done.


2-Be conscious of the time of day and the day of the week. At the end of the workday and toward the end of the workweek, everyone is tired, and BIPOC staff might be extra tired because they’re dealing with micro-aggressions/bias, everyday stresses due to racism, and the exhaustion of code-switching and white-centering or catering to white fragility. If you are approaching BIPOC staff for something that is not urgent, please wait for a fresh workday or please determine if it can wait for a fresh workweek before you bring it up, especially if it’s something potentially stressful.


3-Understand that BIPOC must speak for themselves. They have their own voices and perspectives. Unless they’ve given you permission to speak on their behalf, it’s better to just step back and ask them to share their views for themselves. This doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for someone who is BIPOC; it just means you are not their messenger or spokesperson. You can amplify their voices but you first need to let those voices emerge from the BIPOC.


4-Please never tell a BIPOC that they are in trouble with the boss when they have done nothing wrong. This is workplace terrorism, and it needs to stop. And even if they’ve made a mistake, it doesn’t mean they’re in trouble. It just means it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.


5-Please do not summon BIPOC to an office or to an enclosed space. BIPOC are not slaves or servants or minions. Above all, Black staff or staff descended from Black Africa are not to be summoned or directed as if they are incapable of thinking for themselves. Check your power and check your privilege before you treat Black staff as if they need to be kept in line or reminded of their place.

Note: if you notice that BIPOC are emotional or crying during an interaction or conversation, stop the interaction immediately and offer support or help or comfort or space. Stop talking to or at the person. Allow BIPOC to take a break, to leave, to breathe, to know that it is okay to walk away and rest and revisit the conversation later. Nothing in the moment is urgent or an emergency or crisis and nothing should be grounds to cause fear or terror in BIPOC. BIPOC should not be made to feel that they have caused a crisis or are involved in a crisis in the moment. Prioritize feelings of safety and protection for BIPOC, because BIPOC may already be feeling afraid and fearful that their lives are at risk. Do not further frighten or intimidate or dominate or aggress or terrorize BIPOC.


6-Let BIPOC do their work. They were hired, so it’s their job. They show up to their job to get their work done. They do not need to focus on you and your issues. They are there for their work. Respect that and respect their focus on themselves and their work. If you have an issue at work, strive to find solutions and communicate with your manager, rather than projecting anger or frustration at BIPOC and create conflicts for BIPOC to then navigate. Please find solutions for your issues and do not harm BIPOC because you feel unhappy at work. BIPOC who show up to work are shouldering things you may simply not be able to imagine, please do not burden them to solve your issues, unless they are specifically related to the tasks assigned to BIPOC staff and are part of their job duties.

Note: If you have BIPOC coworkers, and in this case, specifically Black coworkers, keep in mind that the George Floyd trial that began this week is a re-living of his killing and re-traumatizing of Black people, and even if justice is met in the court, the horror/terror of what was done to him and what has been done to Black people historically (and continues to be done) can never be erased from our minds and can never be hidden from history. Show compassion and respect to your Black coworkers. Show gratitude and humility and give them the space and honor and resources that they and their ancestors were robbed of. They are living with a specific kind of terrorism in America and across the globe that is called anti-Black racism and white supremacy. Black people are survivors of nightmares many cannot imagine. Black people are a miracle and a gift to humanity.

~Viola Allo

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt okay. We had a state-wide lock down in California in mid-March, and my library sent staff home. Two months later, we returned to work, and I think that was when I began to notice the new level of anxiety I was feeling. The anxiety would arise when I had to leave home and interact with others, whether at work or at the grocery store (the only two places I was going to where I might interact with people–of note is the fact that there was now an armed security guard at the grocery store, no doubt due to violent incidents at some stores).

A few days after our return to work, the killing of George Floyd hit me like a ton of bricks. From that point on, it became a little hard for me to “pick myself up” mentally. Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed–not only was the pandemic making me anxious, now the persistent racism in the USA was making me depressed.

I have a pretty well developed mental health toolkit, built up over years of struggling with anxiety and depression. My tool kit is full of wonderful strategies, my tried-and-true methods for finding joy and remaining calm in the naturally rocky waters of life. But the pandemic had yanked several of my key strategies right out of my toolkit and flung them far away from me.

Yoga and the Yoga Studio Community

I am a yoga enthusiast, yoga instructor, and mindfulness lover. Taking yoga classes three or four times a week, as well as teaching a weekly yoga classes, was my way of staying grounded, anxiety-free, and connected to a vibrant yoga community at the yoga studio where I teach, soaking in lots of deep breathing and positivity. In mid-March, my studio closed down due to the pandemic, and it has yet to re-open to the public. Suddenly, I had to practice yoga on my own, at home, with no familiar faces and smiles around me. It simply wasn’t the same. I took up walking, and now I do some jogging. But I am missing the physical healing and mental health benefits of weekly yoga and the warmth of my yoga community.

The Library and the Library Community

I so love being at the library, and library work has been a happy place for me from “day one” when I got my first job as a library aide. Eventually, as a reference technician, and then as a library instructional assistant, and now as a library assistant, I found even more joy in interacting with patrons and coworkers. This was a great boost to my mental health, and I felt fully engaged and energized by work. The pandemic took most of that energetic feeling away, replacing it with concerns over spreading the virus or getting sick. When we arrive work each day, we do a “daily health check” before we start a shift. Sometimes, I want to exclaim, “Yes, I feel fine physically, but I just want to feel happy again, happy to be around people and happy to help people find what they need at the library!”

New Strategies for Self-Care

With some gyms opening up for outdoor fitness, it is possible to return to working out with other people around. However, for me, there is always that fear of infection. So I am coming up with new tools for my toolkit. One of them is dancing to Afro beats or Afro pop music. The sounds and rhythms of African music take me back to my childhood home in Cameroon, and as soon as I put on my favorite songs, I feel a smile creep across my face. I go for my walks, do a little jogging, and then I set aside time to dance to my Afro beats playlist on Spotify. I listen to Burna Boy, Niniola, Tiwa Savage, Rotima, Ayo Jay, King Thona, Fireboy, Buju, Zubi, Maleek Berry, and many other Afro-fusionists, and I feel happy once again.

Library Support for Mental Health

Our library system is doing its best to be mindful of the mental health of staff and patrons, advocating that we be gentle with each other and be flexible and understanding, because the pandemic has certainly had an impact on how we all process the information overload and the near-constant change and updates unleashed by the pandemic. Issues of anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating or finishing tasks, or even issues of feeling safe and able to trust those around us are all very real mental health challenges caused by the pandemic’s stressful disruptions–disruptions in the economy, employment, educational practices, family living situations, and grief from losing loved ones to the virus (Xiong et al., 2020). We cannot just forge ahead in 2020, assuming that we are the same people we were in 2019 capable of cruising through whatever life threw at us a year ago.

As we move toward fully re-opening to the public, I hope libraries will take up the challenge of preparing staff to not only be more caring and understanding of each other but of patrons, as well as take up the challenge of examining our policies and procedures and simplifying things wherever and whenever possible. We can also invest in programs and services that encourage our staff and community members to exercise safely, eat healthy foods, and communicate with loved ones, all wonderful antidotes to the stress of the pandemic (Xiong et al., p. 62). In this way, we can all learn to just breathe again and be okay with where we are, right now, in this new pandemic reality. I guess that is what my inner yogi would say to my students if I were still teaching my candlelit, Sunday night, deeply relaxing, yin yoga class.

References

Xiong, Jiaqi, Lipsitz, Orly, Nasri, Flora, Lui, Leanna M.W, Gill, Hartej, Phan, Lee, Chen-Li, David, Iacobucci, Michelle, Ho, Roger, Majeed, Amna, & McIntyre, Roger S. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 277, 55–64. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032720325891

When I received an email a couple weeks ago about the webinar “Libraries and Wildfire Preparedness: A Statewide Panel Discussion” that was to be hosted by the NorthNet Library System, I signed up immediately (NorthNet Library System, 2020a). The NorthNet Library System is a consortium of libraries in Northern California. My first library job was at the Folsom Public Library, which is a member of the NorthNet consortium. I was eager to learn what member libraries have done and are doing to cope with the wildfire crisis in California.

I attended their webinar on the Zoom platform that was held on October 21, at 10:00 AM California time. I learned a great deal listening to their panelists from various libraries across California, as well as from NorthNet staff who had a lot of resources to share. A great deal of information was condensed into the hour-long webinar, and I believe a recording of the webinar will be available at a future date (I will link it here once it is available). It was well-attended, with over 80 guests present.

The main lessons I learned from the panelists were the importance of knowing who to contact for various services/resources when an emergency occurs and having an emergency plan in place with clear directions on what steps to take when a crisis occurs. They repeatedly mentioned the need for library staff/leaders to know people in different agencies and to forge partnerships and relationships widely, being familiar and connected with as many agencies as possible and the people who work there. They also advised that knowing who the facilities staff and utilities companies are can be crucial to setting up Local Assistance Centers (LACs) using library buildings. These LACs can make full use of library spaces and provide evacuees (and those who have lost homes to the fire) with basic supplies and information on community resources. They noted that many libraries do not have a detailed plan ready for different crises, and when this is the case, it can delay how fast the library responds. Having a detailed plan in place helps the library staff know what to do if power is lost and if Internet access is lost, or how to protect the library and move the collection to a safe place, or what steps to take to set up a LAC at the library.

Panelists also emphasized the importance of training all staff on how the library will respond to a crisis, as well as making sure this training on crisis preparedness is done well in advance of an emergency. In the case of the pandemic, it may have been hard to anticipate it and prepare staff for it, but in the case of wildfires, we know they are coming every year, and libraries can prepare for the fire season. Now that we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a great opportunity to prepare libraries and staff for future pandemic scenarios. The panelists praised California libraries for putting in place services and health/safety practices that can be duplicated if ever there is another pandemic like the one we are currently dealing with.

The NorthNet staff devoted time during the webinar to speaking about the various programs and initiatives they have been working on to support libraries in times of crisis. They have partnerships that support disaster recovery, and you can view these partnerships on their Disaster Recovery Services page. Their key project is their Recovering Together project, which brings together information to support libraries at various stages of the crisis event. It has information clearly organized under headings for preparing, responding, and recovering from a crisis (NorthNet Library System, 2020b). Their Recovering Together website and project also features a blog, which is one of the ways NorthNet is working to share information and resources with member libraries and their communities. This project also has a page dedicated to “Mentorship and Support” with agencies’ contact information and support services. Overall, I believe the Recovering Together project is a wonderful resource for libraries in California facing the wildfire crisis, the pandemic, and other potential crises.

I really enjoyed attending this webinar, and I will take many lessons back to my library. I felt a lot of respect and admiration for the libraries and staff dealing directly with the threat of the wildfires, and I am grateful they are sharing their knowledge with us in this way, because most of us simply are not ready for a crisis and do not have the insights they have. Their wisdom and experience can help us feel stronger in our preparedness for what is surely the new normal of extensive wildfires in California.

References

NorthNet Library System. (2020a). Libraries and wildfire preparedness: A statewide panel discussion. [Webinar]. To be archived at a future date but originally retrieved from https://www.eventbrite.com/e/libraries-and-wildfire-preparedness-panel-discussion-tickets-121781883893?aff=eemailordconf&utm_campaign=order_confirm&utm_medium=email&ref=eemailordconf&utm_source=eventbrite&utm_term=viewevent

NorthNet Library System. (2020b). Recovering together: A project of the NorthNet Library System. Retrieved from https://www.libraryrecovery.org/

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