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Indigenous library, ‘Sudden Little’ clues, and Wawa everywhere

Plus, what to do with your eclipse glasses.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

April 12, 2024
Inside this edition: Concert call, wedding crashers, free coffee, old movies, good books, and WrestleVania. Thanks for checking in.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Which of these people was not a guest at Wrestlemania 40 in Philadelphia last weekend?
A. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
B. Snoop Dogg
C. Jason Kelce
D. Sylvester Stallone

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)
Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One lineup worth watching for: Pittsburgh's new Sudden Little Thrills music festival, from the makers of Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, happens this fall. The "pop and rock"-heavy lineup has yet to be announced, but the festival's Instagram account hints The Killers will be on it.

» One story worth sharing: Imagine you’re attending a 50th birthday party that turns into a wedding. A York couple planned out their big day to be the ultimate surprise for friends and family, per YDR.

» One thing worth sharing: The eclipse may be over in Pennsylvania (for better or worse), but your safety glasses can still come in handy for kids watching the South American eclipse in October.

» One giveaway worth getting: Wawa will be giving away free coffee on Tuesday, April 16 to celebrate its 60th anniversary. There will also be gifts of customer appreciation as its customer base expands aggressively.

» One film fest worth trying: A Montgomery County theater is going old school with its annual 35mm Film Festival this weekend. Films like The Wizard of Oz and Evil Down II will be shown in the nostalgic format.

🗞️ KNOW YOUR NEWS? Prove it with this week's Great PA News Quiz: Next eclipse, 2024 protest votes, and a 'Big Oil' lawsuit.
The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Voting rights groups appeal undated mail ballot ruling

» Why independents can’t vote in the 2024 Pa. primary

» Top PA election official answers your questions

» Partisan primaries fuel political divide, book says
» Public defenders turned away from opioid windfall

🗳️ Election Essentials

» CANDIDATE QUIZ: Find the best AG candidate for you
» Find key dates and answers to voter FAQs here
» Guides to state attorney generalauditor generaltreasurer
» Guias de fiscal general del estadoauditor general y tesorero
» Races to watch: state Housestate Senate
» Elections 101: poll watcherspollbooksvoting machines
A person clothed in traditional Native American attire while singing.
A scene from the 2014 Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Powwow, which drew people from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and beyond. (Flickr / Larry Wilder)

When Amanda Funk went to restock her organization’s Little Free Library in early April and saw only one book inside, she knew her work was having an impact.

The bijou wooden box, which looks like a miniature house, was placed in downtown Reading by the Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge, which aims to highlight Native Americans’ presence and history in Berks County through education, leadership, and activism.

Last year, Funk, the executive director of the group, applied to the Little Free Library program for a grant to fund the library. The national nonprofit promotes free neighborhood exchanges where readers can take or leave books from custom displays.

Its Indigenous Library Program, launched in 2022, aims to improve Native access to books in the United States and Canada.

The Widoktadwen Center chose the location — 237 Court St. — purposefully, Funk told PA Local. The area has a high poverty rate and is considered a book desert by the national advocacy group Unite for Literacy. Unite defines a book desert as a place where reading materials are difficult to obtain.

Such communities, Funk argued, especially need resources.

“Narratives are so important. Access to stories and books is so important,” she said.

Funk considers the work personal.

She recalls seeing little Native representation in Berks County during her childhood despite the Lenape being the historic residents of the area, and many towns and cities, such as Wyomissing and Maxatawny, stemming from Indigenous languages.

The most recent U.S. census counted 31,052 people in the “American Indian and Alaska Native alone” demographic across Pennsylvania, and 2,252 in Berks County. Thousands more people in Berks County claim partial American Indian ancestry, which includes the original peoples of North, South, and Central America under Office of Management and Budget guidelines.

“When I was young and growing up in this area, I did not see Native people in my community except for our Indian American festival,” Funk said, adding, "there has been nothing locally to connect with."

She credits her dad for ensuring she knew her Potawatomi roots, but she notes not all Indigenous Americans have access to their heritage. The United States’ efforts to assimilate them into American culture disconnected many from their history. 

Funk cites American Indian boarding schools and the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 as examples of Native erasure. The former forced children into schools where they were separated from their families and made to adopt American beliefs, and the latter enticed them to leave reservations for cities.

“Now we live in a world where so many Native people don’t know about their cultural background and think … ‘Does that mean I am not a Native person?’” Funk said.

She co-founded the Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge in 2020 to help restore these lost ties.

Funk sees improving access to resources like books as part of that mission.

“That is how we build back our cultural identity,” she said.

She applied for a Little Free Library grant in January 2023 and by December, the library was up and running. In April, the Widoktadwen Center held an open house to introduce the library to the community.

She hopes people donate books and support Native access to reading.

“We have been able to keep it supplied with these books that promote these diverse perspectives and introduce books to people that they may have not read before,” Funk said.

“We are making sure Native people are represented in these selections.”

Tanisha Thomas, newsletter writer

Anyone looking to donate a book can drop it off at the library. Bigger donations can be given to the Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge. The center seeks books for K-12 readers that include diverse perspectives and focus on Native Americans. 

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A quote from a Pennsylvanian that we found interesting this week.

“We weren’t in the trenches, but we built everything that our fighting men needed. And I thought that they should at least give us credit for what we did.”

Bucks County resident Mae Krier, one of the women who inspired 'Rosie the Riveter,' on being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal this week

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
Eclipse watchers in Pittsburgh, as seen by your postmaster. Have a photo you want to share with the whole state? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
people looking up at the sky in a grass field
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

The answer is "D. Sylvester Stallone." A planned Stallone WrestleMania appearance reportedly "fizzled out" due to a scheduling conflict.

WrestleMania weekend in Philly started with a literal earthquake and continued with wrestling rings on South Street, the "greatest 5 minutes in WrestleMania history," and lots of Philly being phunny

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.

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