By Dean MacDonald, First District Director for YDAR and an A-State Young Democrat. Watch Dean on the HRC Arkansas Live Video talking about the CCJPL!
Since June of this year, the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library (CCJPL) has been under attack. Local elected officials from state representative Brandt Smith to state senator Dan Sullivan to Craighead County Judge Marvin Day have done just about everything in their power to punish an outstanding local library for having an inclusive Pride display this past June.
Every step of the way, the Young Democrats of Arkansas's 1st Congressional District have been fighting back bigotry and censorship. Whether it was Dan Sullivan requesting our county quorum court to slash funding to the library in June, Brandt Smith brazenly threatening to cut state funding in the next fiscal session in August, or Judge Day nominating a slew of pro-censorship, anti-LGBTQ+, and racially-insensitive individuals to the library board in October, we have been there.
Every single vote for censorship over the past several months has failed.
Earlier this month, Judge Day regrettably nominated Brandt Smith's daughter, Whitney Hicks, to the CCJPL Board. Not only did we put pressure on the Craighead County Quorum Court through a large email campaign; it actually worked!
Hicks's nomination was not seconded by a single Quorum Court member. For perspective, Craighead County's Quorum Court is made up of 9 Republicans, 2 independents, 1 Democrat, and a Republican Judge. The fact that a judge's nomination was rocked and not brought back up is a major win for those that care about the library.
While we enjoyed this unexpected victory, Judge Day would go on to nominate a lesser-known figure in Mrs. Kailey Holt Luster, and even though she also had receipts displaying putrid views regarding the LGBTQ+ community as well as a penchant for censorship, she was easily approved by our Quorum Court. Additionally, Judge Day had convened a special meeting of the Public Service Committee with barely 24 hours notice. Regardless, we were there to oppose. In less than five minutes, her nomination was moved forward with no public comment allowed. She would go on to be approved by the full Quorum Court the following week 10-0-2 (2 abstaining).
This battle is far from over. CCJPL Board member Mark Nichols, another Day appointment, has relentlessly pushed a far-right agenda in every board meeting since August. He, along with the Jonesboro Tea Party and former Board member Amanda Escue (another Day appointment who resigned after it was revealed that she didn't even live in the county), have blatantly misrepresented and spread demonstrably false characterizations of books that have LGBTQ+ characters/perspectives.
At the Oct.. board meeting, the pro-censorship gang put their sights on sex education books that they have continued to brazenly lie about and depict as "child pornography". Sex education is necessary, and the library should not be defamed over housing books about all sorts of subjects- that's what they're supposed to do.
At the November library board meeting, a resolution was put forward by Mark Nichols that would require all future book purchases to be approved by the board if the books fell under categories that covered “topics of sexual and/or romantic attraction, topics of gender fluidity and other gender theories, and topics of family planning.”
Not only did Mr. Nichols want to go after LGBTQ+ and sex education literature; he also wanted to have the power to regulate any literature that discusses reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. This resolution would have essentially stripped the wonderful and outstanding librarians and staff from being able to bring new literature to the library, which would have transferred that discretion to the board. Thankfully, this power grab failed 4-2!
At this point, we have no doubt that they will soon attack black, brown, and indigenous perspectives in the predictable, manufactured outrage otherwise known as attacking anything related to critical race theory. The Democrats in Northeast Arkansas have been prepared to fight back against censorship- we've been doing it since June.
It’s a shame that our local politicians continue to pour vitriol into an outstanding establishment full of wonderful people. They should be held accountable at the ballot box. Run for office. Campaign. Vote. Thousands in our community and state are ready for leaders who have better things to do than bully libraries for allowing diversity to exist. It is a genuine shame that our local politicians and an angry mob have made it their goal to make this library’s life a living hell, and it’s an even greater shame that they pretend as if they are protecting minors when 5-10% of LGBTQ+ and 52% of transgender and non-binary youth will contemplate and attempt suicide.
While fighting bigotry in your own backyard can be outright exhausting and damned traumatizing, it is extremely rewarding to see the hundreds in our community who have banded together to speak out against hatred.
Read the full summary from Citizens Defending the Craighead County Public Library:
A-State Young Democrats as well as Northeast Arkansas Young Professionals is buzzing. Not only are we ready to continue the fight; we are also prepared to run several people for local office and get anyone who wants to put their name on this brazen bigotry voted the hell out!
Join us at our upcoming event in Paragould to meet candidates for governor Dr. Chris Jones, James Russell, Lt. Gov candidate Kelly Krout, Attorney general candidate Jesse Gibson, Secretary of State Candidate Josh Price, candidates for Senate Natalie James and Dan Whitfield! Special guest Jimmie Lou Fisher will be there!
If you're interested in contributing to the Young Democrats working hard in the first Congressional District, contribute here.