The Book Lovers’ Annual May Brunch was held on Saturday, May 14, 2022, at the Center for Visual & Performing Arts in the Monet Meeting Room. This was the closing activity for the Club, which has a season that begins in September and ends in May.
The Brunch was tastefully decorated in blue and yellow, with decorations of paper flowers and chains made from newsprint, coasters, and napkins from the 100th year of the book club’s founding. The brunch was hosted by Shirley Thomas, who meticulously arranged the intimate setting for fifty guests. She explained that the 100th year napkins were from last year which was not held because of the pandemic. The celebration this year marked the 101st year of the club’s founding.
The annual brunch event was carried out as outlined in the program. Program participants included Connie Winfrey, President of the Book Lovers Club giving a welcome followed by the Hostess Shirley Thomas, who also welcomed the members and guests. Other participants included Anne Eldridge, who asked each guest to introduce themselves; Loretta Piggee gave a comprehensive club history; Carolyn Dillon spoke about the banned books and Barbara Taliaferro gave reflections on books shared over the years.
In a brief history of the club, Mrs. Thomas included a written history of her becoming a member in 1982 in the program. She said there were three members who accepted the invitation to join that year. Those three members were Attorney Phyllis Senegal, Ethel Bone-Moses (sister to book club member Dr. Georgia Mitchell), and herself. They were officially accepted as members of the Book Lovers Club by then club president, Felicia Childress.
Childress decided not to join them on Saturday, but she was acclaimed for her longevity at 104 years old, she would within the next few days turn 105. In the May 21, 2022 edition of the Gary Crusader newspaper, Crusader Reporter Stephanie Gadlin interviewed Mrs. Childress by telephone and shares her life story and commitment to teaching.
A delicious and plentiful brunch was enjoyed after Jacky Gholson gave the grace.
Shirley Thomas introduced the presenter Dorothy R. Leavell, Editor and Publisher of the Gary and Chicago Crusader newspapers by highlighting her bio. As Leavell stood in a casual posture, she captivated the audience as she recounted her early life in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and her personal experience with racism that prepared her for the role of publisher, as well as the recent controversy of The Reader newspaper. Leavell began by describing how separate libraries were used for Blacks and whites in her hometown and brought the listeners to her recent controversy of The Reader newspaper, which she said was based on the principles of freedom of the speech, press, and her opposition to any form of censorship.
Leavell said how ironic was the fact that the program listed a number of banned books including the “Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald; “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison; “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou; “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee; “The Catcher In The Rye” by J.D. Salinger and several more well-known books and authors.
Leavell elicited laughter from her audience when she spoke jokingly that her mother was a psychiatrist, although she only went to the third grade. Her mother’s form of parental psychology worked in shaping Leavell’s character into the person she is today. Leavell’s mom kept her in line by not telling her not to do things, but instead, she would tell her, “If I were you, I would not do….” Allowing her to learn from the consequences of her actions when things did not turn out well after the youthful Leavell did not do what her mother suggested. She laughingly talked about how she would have nightmares about her acts and soon she learned that when her mother gave her that admonition, she would not do it.
Among Mrs. Thomas’ guests were four generations of her family, a daughter, two granddaughters, and her infant great-grandson; Dr. Danita Hughes, Earline Douglas, Mrs. Taliaferro’s daughter, Judi and Dorothy Leavell, who was accompanied by her daughter, Genice Leavell. It was a wonderful afternoon of a conversation-style brunch with goodies to take home. Thomas closed the program by presenting Leavell with a gift and a birthday presentation.