News & Events
Tribute to a Warrior Sistah – Taneya Denyelle Gethers Muhammad (11.2.80-11.14.17)
Macon Library-African American Heritage Center, Brooklyn Public Library - June 6, 2018
“The Beginning of Wisdom is Knowledge of Self.” -Kemet
The World is a Better Place because of the Life and Works of Taneya D. Gethers Muhammad. Macon Library-African American Heritage Center better serves this community because of the dedication of Sistah Taneya. Brooklyn Public Library is a better system because of Sistah Taneya.
A bright light in a dark world. Grounded in Africana history.
Proud Black Librarian. A Librarian’s Librarian. Cultural Activist Librarian.
Liberation Librarian. Custodian of Unlimited Knowledge.
Conscious Librarian. Keeper of Our Culture. Rememberer of our rich past.
Contributor to our present and promising future.
Intelligent. Professional. Dynamic. Leader. Teacher. Role Model.
Dedicated servant to her library community.
Loving wife. Proud Mother of three beautiful daughters. Loving family.
Today we celebrate your life and legacy. Your transition to the Spirit World is your final Rite of Passage as you now sit alongside the Ancestors. Dr. Maulana Karenga’s Farewell Statement for Kwanzaa reads in part “Build where you are and dare leave a legacy that will last as long as the sun shines and the waters flow.” Taneya has done this. Her contributions are reflected in the Macon Library’s collections, programs and services, in the lives of those she served and in the lives of her beautiful daughters.
As long as we speak her name, remember her in our thoughts, and keep her in our hearts, Sistah Taneya Danyelle Gethers Muhammad lives on.
Asante Sana Taneya! Thank you for being such a special part of our lives. Peace and Blessings. Sekou Molefi Baako
Celebrating the Life of a Liberation Librarian
Taneya Denyelle Gethers Muhammad (1980-2017)
By Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako)
“I started my career as a journalist but never lost my childhood desire to be a teacher, dancer and an artist. Growing up I envisioned a space where I could combine these loves with transformative social service-and I do that as a librarian. Malcolm X said the library was his alma mater, and still that resonates today. It’s truly the “People’s University.”
The library profession and New York City’s Bedford-Stuyvesant community lost a glowing comet in the untimely passing of Sr. Librarian Taneya Denyelle Gethers Muhammad (Nov. 2, 1980-Nov. 14, 2018). Only 37 years old, this dynamic young woman inspired and served residents of all ages at the Macon Library of the Brooklyn Public Library, but she focused on the youth. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, educated at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., Taneya brought light to her duties and passion, compassion and empathy to the children, tweens, teens and adults of all ages she loved and eagerly served. Her husband, Yusef said, “Taneya came from Los Angeles, but had a Bed-Stuy swagger that endeared her to all.” In a YouTube video interview, Taneya said, “Since childhood, I wanted to be a dancer, teacher and an artist. As a librarian, I get to be all of these.” Her obituary reads in part, “…she danced with abandon, taught the most sacred virtues by example, and made an art of living.”
Taneya earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Spelman College (2002), where she became a Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Eta Kappa Chapter Soror. She earned a Master of Library Science from Drexel University (2007) and was an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and 2015 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. Following her graduation from Spelman, Taneya pursued journalism in various cities before relocating to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn with her husband in 2006 and live and raised a family of four beautiful daughters, Nia Assata, Amina Asantawaa Chinua Anasa and Anisa Ayinde.
Linda Ellis’s classic poem, “The Dash”, speaks of the most important element of a person’s life is not when they are born or die, but what they do and how they live between those two dates. Taneya certainly filled those years as a true servant to her sorority, profession, community, and especially her family. During her undergraduate years, she was a Founding Member of Sociological and Anthropological Sisterhood: Scholar Activists for Reshaping Attitudes at Spelman College, (affectionately called “SASSAFRAS”), was an Independent Scholar (SIS) participating in the SIS Oral History Project, and her essay, Bonding with Mrs. Mabel King was published in Their Memories Our Treasure, Conversations with African American Women of Wisdom. While pledging to be a Delta, number 5 in her line, she was considered the heart and soul of DI.V.IN.E. 35 and referred to as “Spesh” to many, a beloved link in their Delta family chain.
After Taneya and Yusef settled in his home community of Bed-Stuy, she began making her mark in her new profession. After her tenure in an administrative capacity in the executive office of Brooklyn Library Administration, she became a Sr. Librarian and transferred to the Macon Library-an original Carnegie Library built in 1907, not far from their residence. There Taneya fused effective literacy practices with cultural celebration and community empowerment. She became known for making every moment a teachable moment. She galvanized a library fundraiser for victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, emphasized the importance of global thinking and the connectivity of life experiences across the African Diaspora. She organized a community based commemoration of Henrietta Lacke’s indelible contributions to the advancement of modern day science and promoted campaigns to raise more than $10,000 through grants and fundraising to buy books for the library. The people of Brooklyn loved her. At her June 6th memorial, NYC Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. referred to Taneya and Yusef as “family”, not just a local librarian and husband. He spoke of her passion and tenacity in pushing him to direct more city funds to the Macon Library for improved collections, expanded programs and increased services.
Taneya took her Macon Library staff and customers, especially the children, worlds beyond Bed-Stuy through books and history. She was an integral part of the community and used effective outreach strategies to bring the library to the people by reaching out to families, local businesses, elected officials, schools and religious institutions and promoting the library and its services to gain their trust, fellowship and support. She was affectionately known throughout the community as “Ms. T, and helped to build a cultural collection at Macon Library, the Dionne Mack-Harvin African American Heritage Center. Ms. T believed everyone had gifts they must use to uplift themselves and their community and especially loved working with the children at the library with lively and creative story hours, cultural children’s programs and encouraging reading with a dazzling smile. She had a knack for remembering the names of those she met only once. She was true people person, small in stature but a giant in service to her library and community. Taneya ingrained her passion for her culture and history into her interaction with the youth to promote self-pride, positive identity and making a difference in their family, community and in life. She was a social justice activist and agitated for change and the betterment of life in her community for the future of those she served and loved as family.
In 2010, Taneya’s essay, “The 21st Century Black Librarian: Renewing Our Commitment to Liberation and Cultural Activism” was published in the award winning book, The 21st Century Black Librarian: Issues and Challenges. In 2014, her essay, Knowledge My Public Library Kept Secret: The Urgent Need for Culturally-Responsive Library Services was published in the anthology Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond. A prolific writer, she was published in the Kansas-City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Belleville News-Democrat and on AUCAlumni.com.
Taneya was a scholar, a story teller, a culture keeper, mentor, writer and community educator, wife, mother and librarian’s librarian, all in one small but dynamic package. The Macon Library will honor her contributions by dedicating a children’s book collection, a children’s program and annual celebration in her name. Her June 6th memorial was attended by more than two hundred library patrons, community residents, members of the New York Black Librarians Caucus, Inc., personal friends and in and out-of-state family members.
The memorial celebration opened with the Pouring of Libation in tribute to the Ancestors by Imani Fisher and a heartwarming remembrance by Library President Linda E. Johnson. BCALA Past President and Queens Library Trustee Andrew ‘Sekou’ Jackson offered Tribute to a Warrior Sistah, (included in this article). The evening also included African drumming and dance by Tamara & Co., tributes by library staff, a DC-37 Union representative and local residents. The YouTube interview entitled ‘Taneya Gethers’ was screened before the event ended with a soul stirring rendition of Taneya’s favorite song, Ribbon in the Sky (Stevie Wonder) by vocalist Stacia Hobdy.
You will be missed, Taneya, but your passion for serving your community and love of librarianship will be remembered. We are blessed to have had you in our lives. Thank you Yusef, Nia, Amina, Chinua and Anisa for sharing Taneya with us. Our lives are mo’ betta for having known and worked with her.
(details in this narrative are taken from the Obituary from Taneya’s Homegoing Service held in the Sisters Chapel on the campus of Spelman College, Atlanta, GA. on Nov. 27, 2017)
Our next General meeting will be held on Saturday, July 21, 2018 11AM- 1PM
The New York Black Librarians’ Caucus had a wonderful time at the Harlem Book Fair, as part of the CSPAN Diversity in Books event. Panelists included Sandra Michele Echols, president of the New York Black Librarians' Caucus; Stacy Whitman, publisher of Tu Books; children’s book author and illustrator Javaka Steptoe; Syntychia Kendrick-Samuels, secretary of the New York Black Librarians' Caucus; and Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, founder of African American Children’s Book Project. Click here to view the discussion.