I wrote this for a schoolassighnment as a speech and i wanted to know what you guys think!
This story begins with a slasher: a cold heartless man who would brutally mutilate his victims in ways you don’t want to even imagine. The twist is that he wasn’t doing this to people; he was doing this to books. This is mainly a story of healing, though; a story of a community drawn together to turn violence into beauty.
In this story, I will tell you of a horrible crime committed in the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, an outcry against mindless destruction, and a community brought together to defeat evil with unbridled passion and imagination. This tale is actually many tales. It is a story of hope, a story of peace, and a story of transformation. This is a story of art.
It all started in early 2001 in the San Francisco Public Library. Books started turning up with slashes through the covers and holes torn in them. Christian religious material was found stuffed into some and others had cover of other books stuck in them. Other books were simply hidden from view by being concealed behind shelves. The common theme was that all the books had to do with women’s rights issues, HIV and AIDS, and, most frequently, books on gay topics. The vandal went so far as to damage books whose authors’ last name was Gay, and a book about the WWII plane, the Enola Gay. The librarians were absolutely puzzled as to why someone would have so much hatred for a group of people that they would resort to tearing, shredding, and hiding these books.
One day a librarian who had been staking out the library on her day off saw someone behaving suspiciously. He was carrying a book with a pink cover and wearing a trench coat. She followed him, and sure enough she found him stashing freshly slashed books. The man was 48 year old John Perkyns, a security guard for a local apartment building. He was found with a box cutter and was arrested and charged with a hate crime. He pleaded no contest and was put on probation and had to attend counseling. He also had to pay $9,600 to replace the books. However, many of the books were out of print and could not be replaced.
The librarians were reluctant to throw out the damaged books. They felt that by doing that, Perkyns would have won. They thought and thought and eventually, Jim Van Buskirk, who ran the library’s James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center, thought of an idea to give the books life again. He put out a call to all of the Bay Area and asked for artists to make works of art out of the ruined books. Word of this spread around the community like wild fire and soon people from as far away as Japan were on this project, turning destruction into art. The art spoke out against hate-related violence and showed how a community could come together to help an institution in need. The art is still on display in sections of the library for all to see.
This is my story. I tell this because it needs to be heard. I feel this is what a community is. As the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Indeed, the people of San Francisco acted on those words and made sure that injustice was not rewarded. They made sure that a community could band together to turn violence into peace. They took ugliness, vulgarity, and bigotry and twisted it into beauty, elegance, and most of all, love. I think we should follow the words of the late Mahatma Gandhi: “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”