Breaking Free

This spring, Johnson County Library charts a new path, exploring issues facing our community and honoring the bravery it takes to venture forward with no road map. Our theme comes from the editors of our teen literary magazine, elementia. One of them chose “breaking free” as an homage to the difficulties of breaking out of your shell and standing up for what you believe in, and the resulting poem is featured below. Our teens are asking their peers, “How do you break free?”

Making these kinds of changes doesn’t stop at the end of one’s teenage years. We are each on a lifelong journey to look critically at self and community and ask what it is that holds us back – what it is we want and need. Figuring out how to empower others and make necessary changes in the world around us is a task that never ends. Inspired by the growing urgency those in our community feel to speak out, be heard and take action the Library invites you to join us in finding your own way this spring.

Our teen and youth programs focus on individuality and expression, cultivating a sense of self in our young people. Our adult programs explore one significant issue impacting our community and the world around us – food insecurity.

The launch of our teen magazine’s 16th volume will bring Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, to the Library for our reception. We’ll gather young writers and artists from the KC metro area and beyond who have taken to thinking about how they stand up and speak out. Partnerships with the Food Policy Council of Johnson County and Johnson County K-State Research and Extension, as well as a series of events with author Leann Brown work to educate our public about food security and sustainability. A city-wide event with Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Book Award winner, will allow us to break free of our city and county lines to come together and build understanding about systems that were built to keep us apart. Our art exhibitions examine how art and information interact, providing food for the body and the mind in special performances by m.o.i. aka Minister of Information and Sarah Star Wilkinson.

Join us and explore the ways we stand up, speak out, break free and create our own road maps every day. See our Breaking Free programming »



Stained Glass by Oli Ray

I feel like a shattered stained glass window.

The few truths I had lie shattered into the dirt and while half of me leaks sorrow for them,
another part desperately wants to smash my bare feet into them, swirling them into the dirt with
my metallic honesty as I accept the fallacy my life has been.

I was put together at one point, I know that much. I also know that my insides were scotch taped
with ragged edges to keep the outside beautiful. I know happiness twirled and danced until
being kicked into submission, pushed into a box and kept under lock and key. Confusion took
over then, trying to keep up with the tears in our facade.

Thank god they only used scotch tape on my glass like insides.

I wonder if churches do the same: I wonder if they scotch tape the parts of themselves they
would rather the outside not see. Most would see this as ethically relevant but I think some go
as far as to resort to scissors, cutting off excess parts despite all the bleeding.

I wonder how much blood sits beneath the pew seats.

I wonder at exactly which time I was slaughtered there, carried into the back and stored in the
wardrobe where we keep baptism robes, because only our ghosts are as white as those sheets.

I always loved the quiet of an empty sanctuary: the times where it’s dark and silent and it feels
like your mind can touch the ceiling as your thoughts drift and dry through the air lazily, it’s so

I think that’s as close to God as I have ever gotten.

I love those that surround me there, but the silence in smiles reminds me of the dripping sound
beneath my pew that only a few of us ever seem to hear, those I fellowship with have thoughts
much louder than I’d ever let mine dare to be.

Maybe that’s why I always wanted to break that god forsaken stain glass window. Maybe that’s
how I realized how alone I felt while surrounded by family, because I didn’t want to be the only
shattered art piece in the room!

And when I ever finally decide to put myself on display, maybe I will break that window, so when
they decide to reach for the scissors, at least my blood will land on something beautiful.

Because that green carpet turns scarlet translucent, the bathroom stall walls muffle cries better
than an empty desert and hugs are always followed by thoughts of what if they knew.
What if they knew I wasn’t blind and deaf to the tragedies occurring in that building the way they
are? What if they knew I had hard time coming through those doors not because I don’t feel at
home there but because their homely hospitality isn’t for me.

It’s for a girl I can’t be.

Because I’m a shattered stained glass window, and they like their pieces put together in delicate
patterns by dollar store scotch tape and hands holding scissors, but I much prefer mine in the
dirt if that’s the only way to find myself.

I think maybe one day I’ll put myself together, though I’m not sure what I’ll build. I only have
these torn bits of scotch tape repression and a box my depression keeps a tight hold on.

I still think the glass is beautiful though; cracks and shatters create a mosaic that at least isn’t
trying to hide.

Maybe one day it will form a self portrait.

One day, I won’t feel the need to break stained glass windows.

Maybe one day, they’ll see the blood on the floor.