Creation of free library prompts social change


courtesy Lola Kahate-Desouza

The book club Shorewood Moving Forward has decided to sponsor a project to open a little free library with the goal of bringing awareness to social justice issues.

The project first went into action when the book club committee approached the art department at SHS to help with designing the library.

Each side of the little library highlights something powerful, one featuring designs from Native American tribes such as, Mohican, Chippewa, Otoe, Black Feet, Sioux, Oneida, Ho-Chunk, Menomonee and Potawatomi, to name a few.

“In Shorewood, there are a lot of little free libraries, so they wanted to use it as a tool to educate people, and they wanted to have a safe place to put books that are written by authors who identify as BIPOC individuals, or just books that talk about racism or homophobia,” said Lola Kahate-Desouza, junior and president of Shorewood High School’s art club.

The book club was looking to find a way to raise awareness and bring attention to social justice issues that could reach every member of the Shorewood community.

“We really just want to increase the visibility and [overall] conversation about racial justice issues. It’s all about making sure everyone feels welcome and a sense of belonging in our community,” said Sharon Grinker, co-chair of the book club.

The project originally was and continues to be student-led, giving students the opportunity to decide which designs would best fit the theme and overall goal of the library.

“How do they see people educating themselves? What visuals do you want on the outside that would help people understand the world and every perspective, and not just see the world through one lens?” said Jessica Mohagen, Shorewood art teacher.

Kahate-Desouza hopes to see many children’s books available in the library to help educate younger students about these issues early on.

“Hopefully, this generation walking down the street to go to school will see this social justice free library, and maybe it will become a part of their lives in a way that it hasn’t been [in ours],” Kahate-Desouza said.

Mohagen was proud to have the outside community of Shorewood work together with students from Shorewood High School to produce the end result.

“Students were able to meet with Shorewood community members and Shorewood Moving Forward and they were able to meet with the students and work through ideas,” Mohagen said.

Kahate-Desouza is looking forward to having the club’s art piece portrayed out in the open.

“I think people, once they see [the little library], they’ll inquire about us and get to know us a little more,” Kahate-Desouza said. “I’m definitely excited for this library to become a part of the general community of Shorewood,” 

Grinker is excited to see all the different parts of the project come together to create what she hopes will celebrate Shorewood’s diversity.

“The more you learn, the more you understand that people come from different places and you can relate to people from different backgrounds, so I think that’s what it’s all about,” Grinker said.

The book club hopes to have an opening ceremony for the little free library soon that will be located on the corner across from Oakland avenue. It is encouraged that only social justice themed books and resources will be placed in the library.

“The key is education and listening to other people’s stories and experiences and learning through that,” Mohagen said.