“Everybody has a story. What’s yours?”
That’s the tagline for an event at Cal State Bakersfield Thursday in which students and the public are invited to probe volunteers about their life experiences with issues such as domestic violence, ethnicity, gender, body shaming and how to be yourself.
The interactions are intended to create dialogue and understanding between people, according to Haley Schlechta, graduate student leader for the Multicultural Alliance Gender Equity Center, known as MAGEC, which is putting on the event for the second time this year.
"We had a lot of feedback from the first event and students requested we do it again," Schlechta said.
During the event, each volunteer, or "book," starts by telling their story, an experience they have had in life on a certain topic. Last time around those topics included gender discrimination, gender identity and lifestyle choices. Once the stories are told, attendees are encouraged to ask questions, for which there are no rules.
In fact, difficult questions are encouraged and expected.
Schlechta recalled an engaging conversation between a female University Police officer who volunteered to be a "book" the first time around and some students.
"A few things came up about body cameras and how she felt about that because she was wearing one," Schlechta said, adding that the officer replied by saying she does her job the appropriate way so wearing a camera makes little difference to her.
The exchanges that happen during the Human Library are in keeping with the mission of MAGEC, which aims to "uplift, validate and support students of all cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities."
The "books" for Thursday's event are being kept under wraps for now but Schlechta said five of the six are new to the event while one is returning from last time.