By Darlene L. Williams | Feature Writer

Bakersfield, Calif. — The One Book Project (A partnership between Beale Memorial Library and California State Bakersfield) is helping to educate and raise awareness about issues and concerns that have affected BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities) for centuries.  A panel discussion, “Redistricting and Redlining Effects on BIPOC”, was held Thursday, October 18, in the Beale Library auditorium, 701 Truxtun Ave.

Long gone are the days when extreme silence is enforced in the library and audible conversation of any kind discouraged. Thanks to Beale Memorial Library and One Book project, platforms for panel discussions are welcomed and encouraged in hopes of igniting meaningful conversations for change in Kern County. 

Lynne Kemmer, Community Outreach, Workforce Veterans, Local History Librarian, as well as the County Coordinator of the Kern County One Book Project, has for 3 years been an integral driving force in helping to educate and unite communities in Kern County.

The One Book Project is a countywide effort that invites everyone to read a book title and discuss the themes found in the book through programming.  This year the book title is A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls LaNier, and the themes we are exploring are civil rights, racial discrimination, diversity, tolerance and courage, Kemmer said. 

The panel discussion was led by CSUB archive specialist, Donato Cruz. Panelists included: Traco Matthews, chief program officer for Community Action Partnership of Kern; Eileen Diaz, CSUB master’s student;  Jesus Garcia, demographer/statistician; Lori Pesante, educational and political consultant; and Harveen Kaur, community organizer of Jakara Movement. 

Panelist, Donato Cruz spoke about the importance of redistricting research. Cruz stated that housing research is also important because of the legacies associated with them. 

 “We can see patterns of shifting demographics of population, where we see what we historians call, “white flight”, where whites leave older and more aging neighborhoods and that becomes affordable housing where people of color will more likely live”. 

“We also see the shifting of power as the population shifts” he said. 

The effects of redistricting and redlining were personal for Traco Matthews.  

“I had no idea that I was a victim of redlining until I turned 40-years old”, Matthews said. “It’s one thing to see data onscreen about redistricting, housing and etcetera, but these stories affected real people and I am one of them.”

Matthews recalled reading the book “The Color of Law” as a four-year old. “Much of the research Donato spoke to, was explicated in the book”, he said.  “As I read the book, I remember literally crying because I recognized for the first time so much of this happened, not in some other state, but in the state of California”. 

 “The impacts of disparities have trickled down for generations and continue to me, my direct family, and to my circle of friends and frankly the black communities that I have lived in and around all my life”, Matthews said.

“All the panelists have an integral working knowledge of the topic of Redistricting and Redlining Effects in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Kern County”, Kemmer said.  

The panel discussion sparked questions and comments from those in attendance well past the libraries closing hour. 

Bakersfield News Observer coverage of local news in Kern County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.