Press Release

Remarks by Pennie Holmes-Brinson at Council’s April 27 Benefit Luncheon

If you are anything like me, you go into the library for one book and you leave with several. If you are anything like I am, you know that that’s a good thing because you can’t afford to go into a store for one book and leave out with those same several books — for free [Free is my favorite word!] There have been times when I have had the limit of 30 books checked out from a library.

The Chicago Public Library is a perfect, quiet place to hold writers’ groups. I have attended one since the spring of 1999 at the Mabel Manning branch library at the corner of Hoyne and Madison. As far as I know it is the only library on the Westside that holds a writers’ group.

Sometimes the library is the only place to find a book. You might not know this, but you can get out printed sheet music from the library, like Anita Baker’s song, "No One in the World," at the Harold Washington Library. I was going to buy the book, but couldn’t find it. But when I called the library, there it was. One book left, but there it was. It’s going to be treasured.

When my neighbors see me leaving home, they don’t ask me if I’m going shopping, they know I am going to the library. I’m teased often by one of my brothers and by my mother. They say if you can’t find me, go to the library.

Actually one of those places I used to go when my neighbors saw me leaving home was to my classes in the Odyssey Project. I learned so many things in the program that I should be embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know before, especially since I had an Associate’s degree. But I’m a strong woman and will admit that before the Odyssey Project I didn’t know how to write an essay. I didn’t know my history as a black American until then. As a writer I had never heard of Zora Neale Hurston till then. But I’m so delighted to say that I found out who William Blake was. As an artist and writer, I plan to copy his style of making books with poems and pictures (I love it).

I am also happy to say I am now quite able to present an argument, even about the elusive Socrates, who I am not sure I would have wanted to meet. I remember saying to Charles Elder, our philosophy instructor once after he told us we had to present an argument that I don’t like to argue. He explained to me by and by that an argument was not what I do with my husband everyday. I actually was slightly embarrassed but I get over being embarrassed easily.

When I am asked why the Odyssey Project and humanities studies mean so much to me, all I can say is you come out feeling so much better about who you are. You are the same person when people see you, but you know you’re not. And it doesn’t even matter that people don’t know how you feel. You remain the same race, you have the same health issues, you might have the same financial problems, but the one thing that constantly changes is your mind. Every day and with every person you meet. Life itself becomes the learning experience that it should be no matter who you are and where you live.

And you love better. You love life, and people and you take every obstacle as a challenge to fix. Somebody told me that it sounded like I was saying I was more open-minded. I said "that’s it." The humanities enable one to become more open minded and when you are more open-minded you are a better person within.I wish people would take advantage of the opportunities in the world, especially the free ones. Such as the Odyssey Project and the libraries. Because I know how much happier, enlightened, and relaxed they would be if they expanded their spirits and minds with knowledge.