Poetic Tongues/Fabu

Poetic Tongues

Thank You Ms. Kim

Kimberly Williams has been working in libraries since 1996. She has devoted 26 years to assisting the public in enjoying their local libraries and finding the books that match their interests. I met her years ago at the South Madison branch where patrons fondly call her Kim. Kim. I, and a group of community folks organized Black History Month 2020 just before the country closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was a beautiful, heartfelt series of events that were crowded with people and honored several community events throughout the month.

Kim was a type of poetry in motion to watch. She worked best with groups of teenagers, sharing equal amounts of kindness and discipline. Teenagers would roar into the library, loud and laughing, like only teenagers can do and Kim, while welcoming them, would at the same time remind them that the library was a quiet zone and they had to observe the rules too. Teenagers didn’t tangle long or often with Kim.

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For that matter, library patrons benefited from her knowledge, and her assistance, while understanding that they could not “act out” or “misbehave” with Ms. Kim. I mention all this because I met Kim again at Alicia Ashman branch on Tuesday. I was there with writers Sherry Lucille and Catrina Sparkman because we were presenting “Hidden Voices: African American Writers of Resistance.”  As writers, we are connecting our careers with other Black writers, some from Wisconsin and others whose writings resisted racism just like ours. Kim met us with the news that she was leaving the library forever and was starting a new career. We were there on her last day of work. I couldn’t help but feel sad that both the library system and our community were losing her, and her new career choice would mean she was no longer interacting with members of the public. I’d like to use this column to say a public thank you to Kimberly Williams for all her years of hard work and for being the friendly, welcoming face in so many of our libraries as she moved around.

Another quiet person who did good in our community is the late Mrs. Stephanie Bernard who taught for 38 years in Madison Metropolitan School District. She also had a wonderful love for children that was equal part kindness and equal part discipline. I know personally about her caring ways with children because my son was fortunate to be in her second-grade class at Midvale. She cared for each child personally and collectively, yet no one was going to misbehave in her classroom because she taught children healthy discipline.  Schools sent the most difficult children to her, and parents found her legendary in changing their children’s attitude for the better. There is currently a petition to change Elvehjem Elementary School to rename it Stephanie A. Bernard Elementary School. Conrad Elvehjem is reported to be a white supremist who publicly supported banning Blacks from the Nakoma neighborhood.

Among her “behind the scenes” accomplishments were STARS Summer Program educator, member of Black Teachers Caucus, (renamed African American Teachers Educators Associations), Read Your Heart Out Leadership member, several MMSD committees, member of Church Children’s Ministry at Fountain of Life Church and a mentor to numerous children, student teachers and fellow educators. Our community didn’t show enough appreciation for her amazing work with children while Mrs. Bernard lived, but renaming the school in her honor is a chance to repair that wrong.  Please sign this petition or call the district office in support of renaming the school. Ms. Kim still lives in Madison, so we can all take the opportunity when we see her to thank her most sincerely for just doing a job well done.

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