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Literacy effort to replace King luncheon

OBSERVER file photo More than 150 people attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event has been canceled.

The Northern Chautauqua County Juneteenth Celebration Committee has canceled its annual Martin Luther King Luncheon due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, to celebrate the day, the group is holding the “See me” literacy drive.

“We’re having a book drive and asking people to donate African American books not only on Martin Luther King, but also to honor Black History Month,” Committee Member Frank Torain stated. “Anything will help. If they want to donate books, if they want to donate money so we can buy books that’s great.”

The group will then hold a book giveaway where individuals can come in and just take a book of their choice.

“This will benefit children of color, one of the things we discussed both from Latino members and African American members that they don’t see many books about people that look like them,” Torain said. “So what we wanted to do was to provide that for them and let them get books with characters that look like them. With some books these kids may open them and see kids with straight hair and think ‘well I want my hair to be straight because to me that’s the idea of what beauty looks like,’ and we want to break that and say ‘look it doesn’t matter’ if they can see somebody proud of how they look no matter who they are.”

Torain also mentioned kids seeing characters that are lawyers, doctors and business people to name a few that are successful and are people of color would be beneficial to these developing young minds.

“It’s important for all children to see themselves in literature and sometimes it’s very hard for children of color to find books with characters that look like them,” Committee organizer Loretta Torain added. “Reading is so important, students may be more apt to read if they can see themselves in literature.”

The group would like to receive donations by Martin Luther King Day, which is Jan. 18 and they are planning to begin giving away books that afternoon. To donate or with questions they ask people to call 363-1102 or to mail donations to Northern Chautauqua County Juneteenth Celebration Committee 415 Mullet St. Dunkirk, NY 14048.

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