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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Longtime library patron spearheads engraving project

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Dr. Michael Twyman has gone to Central Library since he was a child. Around 20 years ago, he noticed all of the engraved names of authors throughout the building were those of white men and just a handful of women.

Now in his mid-50s and a financial backer of Indianapolis Public Library, Twyman is looking to make Central Library more inclusive. Through June 30, community members can nominate Black authors to be memorialized in the walls of the library.

“I think as we evolve as a country, we have not only an opportunity but an obligation to create spaces that are inclusive and are historically accurate in terms of how we both recognize and memorialize the contributions of so many Americans,” Twyman said. “Particularly the contributions of those from the African diaspora and others who are part of non-white groups that have been instrumental in their contributions and under-valued.”

Through his library endowment, Twyman will match up to $9,000 raised to engrave the names. The names will be unveiled later this year during the fourth anniversary celebration for the Center for Black Literature and Culture. While he wants to leave it up to the public, Twyman imagines several authors, including James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes, will be among the names proposed.

While engraving names of African American authors won’t play a huge role in combating racism, Tywman said it will not only make Central Library more inclusive, but help the people feel welcome in an “anchor of the community.”

“I grew up in a library … and it’s so important for people in the community to experience the depth of what a healthy public library system provides by ways of knowledge and information,” Twyman said. “But it’s more than that. It’s a gathering place, a community center that everyone in the community should be able to experience and enjoy. The more people we can get in the library, I think, makes for a stronger, healthier community.”

Through celebrating the literary works of authors such as Baldwin and Angelou, Twyman said diverse audiences can learn more about the human condition and the Black American experience, even if it’s through fictional work.

“Oftentimes art imitates life,” Twyman said. “I believe people of color, because of their unique experience, particularly the American experience, find a way in their fiction writing to speak to their personal life experience. … There isn’t anything that’s truly fictional because it’s grounded in some reality.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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