Commissioner Questions Read Woke Program

Commissioner Questions Read Woke Program
The teen reading program "Read Woke" was funded through a microgrant through Beanstack Black Voices. File Image

BERLIN – A county official raised questions about a library program this week, citing potential political connections.

Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino expressed concerns this week about the Read Woke program currently offered at the Worcester County Library. He said the program had been funded by a group that appeared to be connected to Black Lives Matter.

“I don’t believe our library should be endorsing any political organization one way or the other,” Bertino said.

During budget discussions Tuesday, Bertino told his peers a constituent had brought the library program to his attention after seeing it promoted at various branches. He said it seemed that the library was endorsing a Black Lives Matter grant reading program.

“The library I believe should be an apolitical organization,” Bertino said.

He said he wanted representatives from the library to provide additional information.

“That’s all I’m asking for right now,” he said.

When contacted after the meeting, Rachael Stein, assistant director of the Worcester County Library, said the library had not received a grant from Black Lives Matter. She said the library was one of 39 throughout the country that received a Black Voices Microgrant from Beanstack, a Black-owned company that provides the software the library uses for its summer reading program as well as other initiatives.

“They awarded us a $1,000 grant to help fund our Read Woke teen reading challenge, in which teens read books by authors from a variety of backgrounds (disabled authors, women authors, Black authors, etc.) in order to see the world from a variety of perspectives,” Stein said. “The program does not represent a particular political point of view. It does meet the Black Voices criteria to ‘elevate Black voices’ — the library seeks to elevate all of the voices that make up our community.”

According to its website, Beanstack Black Voices Microgrants are “in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.