By Nancy Aravecz
Jefferson Market Library’s political discussion group, Current Events Café, has resumed its monthly meetings in the branch’s newly reopened space. The popular program, which meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 6:00 p.m., was on a brief hiatus during the library’s temporary closing this past spring. A part of the New York Public Library’s Community Conversations series, Current Events Café invites West Villagers to come together to exercise their rights to free speech while talking about politics and the news in a safe, moderated environment—with snacks! The meeting always begins with members suggesting which topics in the national or local news they would like to discuss, and then selecting a topic democratically by voting. The moderator then sets the ground rules, to keep the conversation civil, and invites members to speak their minds on the issue at hand. These lively and informative conversations typically last an hour and a half, and may cover one or many subjects of interest to Villagers. The conversations are free and open to the public.
The first Current Events Café discussion of 2019 was held on August 13th. The twelve participants came prepared with a laundry list of topics in the news they were anxious to discuss, ranging from local issues like the empty storefronts in Greenwich Village to national news like gun violence and the immigrant crisis at the southern border. The room was quite lively during a discussion of the vast field of candidates hoping to win the Democratic presidential primary election, during which participants weighed the weaknesses and strengths of the national figures.
Perspectives on these matters were animated and ideologically varied. Besides being diverse in points of view, the attendees of the program were also diverse in age, race, and gender, which added a great deal of depth to the conversation. Though the vast majority of community conversation participants are local to the Greenwich Village area, one was a tourist from Italy eager to hear authentic perspectives of New Yorkers and share her experience of the political climate at home and abroad. The goals of the Current Events Café are to foster an open and respectful environment for self-expression, encourage participants to think out loud, and help people “unplug” from the constant and sometimes overwhelming stream of online and cable news content.
Current Events Café will continue through the end of 2019. Upcoming sessions are scheduled for September 10th, October 8th, November 12th, and December 10th in the Willa Cather Community Room on the first floor of the library. No registration is necessary, and refreshments will be served.
Nancy Aravecz is the Senior Adult Librarian at the Jefferson Market Library.