The CANVAS Institute and St. John’s University celebrated Black History Month with the launch of a Pan-African Library and Pan-African Library Book Catalogue on Saturday, February 24, 2018 at 3 p.m. on the Staten Island campus. The launch of the library provides the Staten Island community with a unique resource to explore Pan-Africanism, and to celebrate Black history.
The Pan-African Library of CANVAS Institute is the only collection of books on Staten Island devoted to the experiences of people of African descent. The collection began with a donation by the Givens family of more than 800 books that reflect a wide-ranging, erudite, and cosmopolitan interest in the ever-evolving experience of Black life. William Jefferson Givens, Jr. spoke at the event about the importance of the library resources: “When it comes to our history, read them all; read everything and then when you think you are finished, read some more."
CANVAS founder and Staten Island community leader Bobby Digi called the library an accomplishment not only for CANVAS, but for the community as well: “The Pan African Library at Canvas Institute is an opportunity for the community to learn about the impact of the African Diaspora in America and on Staten Island. It is a solution to the absence of this history in schools.”
St. John’s University has been an ongoing partner in developing the Pan-African Library. The partnership began with a spring 2017 Academic Service-Learning project undertaken by Dr. Robert Fanuzzi’s African-American Literature course that continued throughout the summer and fall with SJU student volunteers working under Dr. Fanuzzi’s supervision. The partnership reflects St. John’s commitment to campus community partnerships on Staten Island and the University’s Mission of social justice, diversity, and inclusion.
Dr. Fanuzzi, who was previously awarded a Humanities New York grant for educational outreach in local Black history, embraced the partnership with CANVAS: “The chance to see years of scholarship and learning come to life is precious. The experience of creating the library catalogue has convinced me more than ever that the life that books provide us is real. Yes, the books are real. The bookcases are real. But the goals and ideals inspired by those books are also real now.”